Therapeutic autobiography: what it is and how it works

The autobiographical method is a technique used in psychotherapy approved by several studies, Which has advantages that have to do with the very fact of telling one’s life story, being a practice that is both creative and recreating memories, able to account for something as complex and studied as the human experience.

It allows an approach to the sensitivity and the culture of the subject, combining both observation and reflection, which makes it an ideal tool for the field of psychotherapy.

In 1984, this autobiographical method would be called life stories, in which, through autobiography, an attempt is made to analyze specific psychological aspects. Today, it is used in psychology from different methodologies, either to verify theories, as an evaluation tool, or as a therapeutic instrument alone.

    What is the autobiographical method?

    The autobiography is a story that an individual makes spontaneously, based on his feelings and beliefs, Highlight their subjectivity, their way of seeing the world and therefore their identity.

    It involves going back in time and a moment to reflect on your life, and to relive experiences, crucial moments and others not so much but also important and forgotten.

    Our life is made up of acts and omissions; of everything we’ve done and that other thing that we haven’t done that we would have liked to do, or that we would have thought we should have done. It is made of silences and above all it is made of words, those that we have said, those that we have been told, those that have marked us and constituted in one way or another. Through the autobiographical account, we are rewrite our own history from a new perspective that gives us our present.

    How it works?

    This technique works in two main ways. On the one hand, serving as a basis for dialogue between patient and therapist. The patient must face his memory and his forgetting, in the task that the therapist has collaborated by mobilizing the patient to deepen the concepts already in order to analyze them.

    In addition, he acts by giving information. This information relates to the following aspects:

    • The people who are relevant in our lives, or what role they play or have played in it.
    • What contents regulate the subject’s view of the world.
    • Coping strategies and defense mechanisms used to cope with internal and external demands.
    • The point of view on what happened and how his experience developed under his subjectivity.


    Among the advantages that we can find in the execution of this technique, we have, for example, the ability to explain, understand from a new autobiographical dimension in which the past is made present so that it can be reformulated, Relabeling and redefining. Moreover, it allows you to externalize the problems and move away from them.

    It also facilitates the task of ordering, analyzing and elaborating problematic contents and thus to free oneself, in a way, from the anguish or the discomfort caused by problems not understood or channeled.

    How is it made?

    In order to be able to do therapy, we know that the most important thing is the word, Let the patient speak, therefore, and as we have seen before, with this method we facilitate speaking, asking the patient to speak and tell their story as we all have a story to tell.

    This will be done both in consultation and at home, where you can write about topics related to our biography and then work on them in sessions.

    directives used

    Regarding the guidelines used to orient the patient, we can say that while there are certain guidelines to do so, each topic, as its narrative developed, marked certain guidelines. Among the most important are the following.

    A period of reflection is recommended before beginning the narration, the patient is reminded not to self-criticize and that in the case of writing, he should not worry about spelling or form.

    As for the instructions, we can ask the patient to start sequentially from his first memories or to let him do it as the memories emerge; history can also be broken down into significant periods for some reason or evolution. He is encouraged to support himself in photographs, letters, in landscapes, in places, in significant people. You may be asked to alternate in your story between the first person and the third person experiencing the memory as if it were another.

    On the other hand, the analysis of this life story can contemplate the scheme;

    • Important incidents mentioned therein.
    • Organization of information: language used and depth of narration.
    • Aspects omitted or dealt with more superficially.
    • Possible aspects which are told in a distorted way and on which additional information should be requested.
    • Inconsistencies which imply that a problem is avoided.
    • Other points to ask during the verbal interview.
    • Comments that summarize the content.

    Considerations for the therapist

    The role of the therapist is crucial for this autobiography to assume the role of therapy, their listening and collaboration will make this possible.

    First of all, you have to keep in mind that an autobiographical story is subject to both what we remember and what we do not remember or simply do not want to be remembered and to see that there is room for fiction, sometimes out of shame, or because we think we do not see what to count.

    Thus, it may happen that everything that is said does not correspond to the reality of the facts. But the essential in this case would not be so much to seek the veracity of the story but to find the truth of the subject, what he experiences as real, the meaning which gives to the events of his life, as he explains it. and defines its existence in this world.


    When writing an autobiography in therapy we are in contact with memory, feelings and emotions having the possibility to analyze it with the therapist, To be able to see ourselves from another point of view, from another place, and to be able to narrate questions that we did not know after being nailed in memories without elaborating.

    In this way, we can find new meanings that will help us reconcile with ourselves, with others and with our life in general, we will be able to resolve conflicts and understand ourselves better.

    If you think you have an account on hold with the past, if you need to reaffirm and strengthen your own identity, if you feel you need to forgive and forgive yourself, if you are going through a critical period in your life, remember you about this autobiographical therapy. may be of use to you. You can contact me for more information, and remember that I can help you in person and online.

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