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What is Narrative Exposure Therapy?

Apr 6, 2023

By: Deborah Kuzmin, LCSW – Executive Director of Hanley Center

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), substance use disorders are among the most common mental health disorders in the United States. Unfortunately, many who suffer from substance use and mental health disorders do not receive treatment. One treatment option growing in popularity is narrative exposure therapy (NET). In this article, we will explain what narrative exposure therapy is and discuss how it can help if you or a loved one are affected by a substance use or mental health disorder.

What is Narrative Exposure Therapy (NET)?

NET is a form of trauma therapy that uses the power of storytelling to help you heal from your past experiences. The process involves creating a chronological narrative of life events, integrating all experiences from the traumatic to the positive. NET is unique in its focus on recognizing and creating an account of what happened in your life in a way that serves to recapture your self-respect. NET is an effective treatment for PTSD, substance use disorders, and trauma.

If you or a loved one need help, call our admissions team today at 561-841-1033.

How Does NET Work?

NET is based on the idea that our memories are not static but constantly rewritten by our recent experiences. NET uses imaginative exposure to fill in details of fragmented memories and find context in the network of cognitive, affective, and sensory memories of your trauma. This process is guided by a therapist providing compassionate understanding and active listening to help you refine and understand the memory of the traumatic episode into a coherent autobiographical narrative.

What Are the Benefits of NET?

NET has been shown to help reduce trauma symptoms and improve quality of life. In addition, NET can also help you develop a more positive outlook on life and increase your hope for the future.

What to Expect in a NET Session

If you are considering seeking NET, knowing what to expect is important. In general, each session will last for about 60-90 minutes. During the sessions, your therapist will ask you to share emotions, thoughts, sensory information, and physiological responses. While narrating events of the traumatic experience, the therapist ensures you stay connected to the present by linking emotions and physical responses to chronological details such as time and place. Going over your biography following exposures increases your understanding of experiences and highlights similar emotional and behavioral responses in the “here and now” that came from the traumatic experience “there and then.” By engaging in narrating your entire life story, you have the opportunity to reflect on your experiences and develop a personal identity that includes more than traumatic experience. At the end of treatment, the therapist presents the patient with a documented autobiography.

If you or someone you know is struggling with a substance use disorder, symptoms of a mental health disorder, or trauma, narrative exposure therapy may be a good option. This therapy can help you tell your stories, get support, and develop a plan for healing. Contact our admissions team if you are interested in learning more about NET and the outpatient services offered at Hanley Center Counseling to treat substance use and mental health disorders in West Palm Beach, FL. We would be happy to answer any questions you may have.


Hanley Center is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care for mental illnesses and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting wellness. For information on our programs, call us today: 561-841-1033.

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