Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy

, Volume 41, Issue 3, pp 187–198 | Cite as

Overcoming Problems of Relativism in Postmodern Psychotherapy

  • Henrik Skovlund
Original Paper


Relativism as an ideal of postmodern informed therapy remains a topic of debate. The thesis that no truth in conversation is privileged over and above another appears to leave the impression that a narrator can shape any preferred version of reality. This has often led to accusations of ideological neglect of issues such as power abuse, and cultural or political discrimination. This paper proposes a step towards a solution to this problem, by challenging the postmodern notion that one can speak of historically and culturally situated contingencies of multiple realities, while also stating that no truth is privileged. It shall be argued that the idea of clients’ multiple realities implies that these must be treated as socially reproduced realities, in which many forms of truth may resist the freedom of narrative choice. Further, the different realities of the client call for both a nomothetic and ideographic concept of truth, and correspondingly both strictly scientific and pragmatic ideals within narrative therapy. These aspects shall be combined in an outline of a concept describing ‘Complex Social Realities’, which opens narrative therapy towards integrative and cooperative approaches to therapy.


Relativism Postmodernism Narrative therapy Multiple realities Neutrality Anti-authoritarianism 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of LearningUniversity of AarhusCopenhagen NVDenmark

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