Introducing Narrative Therapy at NJRC

Introducing Narrative Therapy at NJRC

Every week at our reentry site at Greater Newark Conservancy, Suzanne Herrmann, LCSW, Cathy Germaine, M.Ed, and Veronica Serino, MA, secondary education, volunteer their time to lead a narrative therapy group for our clients.

The modality of narrative therapy is simple and purposeful. Imagine sitting around the table with 13-15 people who have been incarcerated. They are given a notebook and asked to consider a specific question, such as, “What does your name mean to you?” Or, “What strengths do you have that you want others to know?” And then they are asked simply to write. With the oversight of professionals, the clients pen their thoughts and then share.

How can this provide benefits to a reentry program? It encourages individuals to focus on themselves and understand that they have many talents to share with the world.

Dr. Jeremy Nobel from the Harvard Medical School said, “Science has proven that when people write about what is in their mind and hearts, they feel better and get healthier… Moving past negative emotions like guilt and shame, and accessing positive ones like optimism and empathy, makes them feel connected to others.”

Read some of the clients’ writings below, and you will realize that they are reflective and working at moving forward.

This week, we will look at clients’ answers to the following question:

What would you like me to know
about you that I might not ask?


“For one, I’m interesting and I’d like people to know that. I approach people with decency and respect. I owe them that as a human being because I can’t be a whole person in reserve. Experiences humble me and I learn. I know that a lot of things are none of my business and when it comes to others, I will see how they are going to be with me instead of listening to what others might say about them.” —R.

“Incarceration was just a part of my life. I learned a lot in it. I got a GED; I learned to keep my spirit up. I believe my incarceration has grounded me and made me better than I was before. I think idle hands are the devil’s workshop, so we need to use our time well. I learned that misery loves company and in prison people will try to ‘take your date,’ meaning they will try to provoke you into trouble shortly before your release date, so your time gets extended. It’s a trap and the world is full of them, but we don’t need to get caught in them.” —S.

“I have a soft spot for older people. I worked in a nursing home and used to ask the patients, ‘If you weren’t in the hospital, what would you be doing?’ They’d tell me stories and I’d feel like I was in the story with them.”—J.

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