Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Metaphor-Therapeutic use, Psychotherapy, Symbol, Metaphor


This qualitative study explored the use of metaphor in psychotherapy. Fourteen interviews were conducted with psychotherapists with a variety of training and expertise. Each clinician was asked the same six interview questions which attempted to shed light on which metaphors in particular emerged during treatment with patients, whether or not these metaphors reflected the patient's history or diagnosis, the metaphor's relationship to patient affect, the metaphor's influence on the therapeutic alliance, as well as other topics. Primary themes that emerged in multiple interviews included the fact that metaphor may arise from various sources, including dreams as well as spontaneous cocreations in the therapeutic encounter. Furthermore, metaphor was found to be a useful tool in the process of externalization and subsequent integration of parts of the self that have not yet been adequately acknowledged. Metaphor also was found to be conducive to playfulness via language that is capable of bypassing an exclusively cognitive space to connote affect and sensation via stark imagery, and necessitates a stance of openness and receptivity on the part of the clinician who is handling these salient symbols. Finally, therapy itself was conceptualized as metaphorical as it involves the interplay between two individuals via transference and counter-transference so that the patient's experience is filtered through the psychotherapist's.




77 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2012. Includes bibliographical references (p. 67)