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date: 26 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

I explore the role of narrative understanding in recovery from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and personality disorder (PD), and explain why self-autonomy and self-creation, as components of narrative understanding, are central to the recovery process. Drawing on a hypothetical clinical vignette, I show how narrative understanding can impede recovery if it is not harnessed to a patient’s sense of agency for change and hope for the future. I suggest that this risk can be averted by focusing on how narrative is a form of understanding that can surprise us and defy expectations, allowing us to free ourselves from our pasts and treat our futures as open. I conclude by reflecting on the difficult balance that clinicians must strike in supporting patients to develop narratives that genuinely promote recovery: they must hold hope for their patients, yet temper their hope with realism about the genuine constraints and hardships their patients face.

Keywords: agency, freedom, hope, narrative, personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, recovery

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