Using Metaphors In Psychotherapy

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Is psychotherapy a science, with the subject matter being the dynamics of the client's life, objectively assessed through a variety of replicable procedures, and the treatment administered, chosen rationally based on clear criteria? And are these treatments themselves clearly laid out, and determined to be effective according to objective criteria? Well, sometimes, a little. The whole question of psychotherapy research is beyond the scope of this paper, but efforts are being made to clarify which approaches are better, and for which kinds of patients, which kinds of problems, etc.

On the other hand, some might call therapy more of an art, an interweaving of elusive and unique blends of style, preference, the personality of the therapist, along with an intuitive application of various approaches. This, too, occurs in most cases, and accounts for therapy's not being all that scientific. This role involves a host of helping behaviors, primarily in the area of emotional nurturance, containment, empathic validation, encouragement, at times substantive help.

Not only didactic provision of information is implied here, but a whole range of interactive and experiential approaches. Opportunities for seeing others perform the desired behavior modeling ; opportunities for practice in a fail-safe context; helping patients to review, reconsider, discover for themselves, re-evaluate old cognitions, make discriminations, etc. Discovering a more mutual relationship, an "encounter" with another person, getting realistic feedback.

The idea of constructing a disciplined, authentic meeting appealed especially to the existential psychotherapists. Please do not overreact to this idea; it is not an apology for sexual misconduct between therapist and patient. Rather, it is a recognition of an underlying theme in human relations.

Using Metaphors in Therapy

James Hillman, in his mids book, Re-Visioning Psychology, pointed out that in mythological terms, "eros" awakens "psyche. The most delicious aspect of romance isn't the physical sexuality, but the sense of discovery of self which comes through reflected admiration. It's incredible that someone else admires or enjoys or celebrates aspects of your personality which you had taken for granted or perhaps even devalued.

This kind of love profoundly reorganizes the sense of self, expands it, establishes a stronger and more positive self-representation. In the sense that therapists help patients discover their own value as persons, psychotherapy is erotic, and indeed it works best when the therapist can, as Carl Rogers noted, communicate a feeling of unconditional positive regard.

I suspect that the stronger the genuine feeling of liking of the therapist the more effective the therapy, all other factors being equal. That is, a foolish, shallow, or fawning therapist may not be very effective, and we know that becoming erotically or sexually involved with a patient is actually very counter-therapeutic! This model also partakes of Heinz Kohut's theories of "mirroring" that are part of that school of psychoanalysis called "self psychology. Closer to the old time Herr Professor Doktor role, also drill sergeant, just tell the patient what to do, lay out rules.

Related to this on a more subtle level is the recognition of the power of suggestion, whether formalized in hypnotherapy, disguised as education, or integral to the role of the healer. Therapists must not deny their power in the minds of their patients, and they do better when they use it carefully and consciously.

Using metaphor in psychotherapy | PsychBC

Even if a therapist seeks a more egalitarian relationship, seeks to promote the empowerment of the client, still at least at the outset, clients tend to confer on the therapist many subtle elements of authority. In fact a good deal of therapy involves the act of persuasion, in gently, sometimes directly, often indirectly, encourages, cajoles, sympathizes, and in many other ways manipulates a patient to think about other alternatives to their problems, to continue to work on issues, to take the prescribed medicine, etc. Coordinating care, maneuvering in family therapy, dealing with other care providers, these and a host of other activities often occupy part of the therapist's time.

Teaching patients principles of self-management, using an associated metaphor of helping them to become the manager of the many semi-autonomous parts of themselves, is also a relevant task. The metaphor of management involves a mediating quality, as modern management has come to eschew the earlier authoritarian, "boss" role. A related management metaphor is "Quality Assurance," or "preventive maintenance," an idea that anticipates the needs for active self-assessment and pro-active behavior.

People, like highly complex organizations, are constantly dealing with change, and thus it is useful to anticipate the need to revise obsolete elements in the attitudinal system and behavioral repertoire even before they become highly problematical. Patients are taught to seek areas which might be sources of future difficulty rather than to wait until they become compounded and far harder to repair. Just as these sportscasters or newsmen reflect on replays of the incidents they describe, so it becomes useful to teach the patient to join with the therapist on pausing intermittently and reflecting on the therapeutic interaction itself.

Freud's emphasis on the importance of analyzing the "transference" forshadowed this idea, and the use of video-playback simply makes the process more available and vivid. One doesn't need technology, though. I say to patients, "Let's pretend that we have some observers, something like sportscasters, up in the corner, watching our interaction. Every once in a while we'll go up there and ask them what they observe.

This is a rather unique dimension of psychotherapy. Here the therapist emphasizes a different aspect of the coaching process: As people in our postmodern culture experience the alienating influences of this environment from a host of sources, becoming re-grounded in a framework within one can operate meaningfully becomes a significant underlying theme within every change, growth, and reconstructive process.

5 Minute Therapy Tips - Episode 15: Metaphor - The Use of Metaphor

Spirituality is the activity of developing a relationship with the bigger picture, the larger, living framework within which we all operate. It's an activity, and most people don't take it on consciously. They've learned their philosophy of life, their religious beliefs, and these operate as residues— they need to be rejected, revised, or revitalized, and this process has in it a component also of philosophy. The aura of the Herr Doktor of science also has roots in the more primal archetype of the healer, and in some non-technological cultures, this involves the healer's role in going into the heavenly or otherworldly realms, there to do battle with the spirits who may have invaded or kidnaped aspects of the patient's "soul.

Many aspects of healing have some resonance with a process of redemption, of recognizing that one's power, sexuality, spontaneity, innocence, self-confidence, or some other positive quality has been in a sense "lost. The disadvantage of the role is that it may feed into the expectation that deep change can happen from the outside. However, in certain ways, it is true!


  1. Using metaphor in psychotherapy.
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  3. Standing Outside the Fire.

Find our member blogs by member name here! So often, figures of speech are metaphors and they are so well entrenched that we sometimes forget that they cannot be taken literally! Rather, we are boxing ourselves in using another metaphor! Can you think of others? Use metaphors to your advantage in therapy. Suggest to your clients to bring around an item with them that is metaphorical and soothing for them—in a purse, wallet, and even in their back pocket!

If they are having a challenging time, what metaphor would help them? What small article in their purse or back pocket will represent something soothing and helpful as they cope with challenges? What small visual prop symbolizes strength, courage and self-acceptance? Here are some ideas for using metaphorical items as therapeutic touchstones: A toy soldier reminds you to be brave and fight for what you believe in! A small angel would be an idea to keep in your back pocket to remind yourself that here is hope and you are not alone.

The use of metaphor therapy in psychotherapeutic practice can be accomplished using a six-stage model for working with patient-generated metaphors. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article is an orphan , as no other articles link to it. Please introduce links to this page from related articles ; try the Find link tool for suggestions.


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    Metaphor therapy

    Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. University of California Press Ltd. The role of metaphor in psychotherapy and personality change: Psychotherapy, 25 4 ,