What Is the Role of Metaphor in the Counselling Relationship (Literature Review) Essay

What is the role of metaphor in the development of an autonomous client? I’ve been recently reading about the importance of language in Epistemology. Particularly Wittgenstein and his ideas of language and it’s role in our shaping of the world. SLIDE 1: Wittgenstein Thus we turn to the enigmatic realms of Analytic Philosophy, headed up by the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein (1922). His sentence that “We make to ourselves pictures of facts” is the summarization of the view that; “In the picture and the pictured there must be something identical in order that the one can be a picture of the other at all.

What the picture must have in common with reality in order to be able to represent it after its manner… is its form of representation” (Tractitus.. ) The example he uses to portray this is model cars used in a court case. Although not real cars in a real environment, they, like language, can be used to portray all of the logical circumstances that a real car accident might have; near miss, collision, traffic jam e. t. c. Things have a certain relation to one another in reality, likewise in a photograph, the parts that constitute the picture have a certain relation to one another, as best to represent the experience that is reality.

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When applied to the world of anthropology, in particular the fluid realms of the therapeutic dyad, the limits of induction are recognised as we attempt to deal with social systems, complexity, connectedness, changeability and chance (Robson, 2002). To tie down a definition of such metaphysical things as ‘feeling’, ‘wishing’ or ‘thinking’, we have no external reference, no toy cars to represent our schemas, no pictures to represent that reality.

These words fall outside of what Wittgenstein thought possible to speak of; “whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent”, a phrase he coined in attempt to abolish the metaphysics of philosophy. “If… you wish to give a definition of wishing, i. e, to draw a sharp boundary, then you are free to draw it as you like; and this boundary will never entirely coincide with the actual usage” (Blue Books). In reference to such abstract ideas he goes on to say “Little can be said of such matters, they can only be shown”.

SLIDE 2: Metaphor This is where we, trainees in a profession that is drowned in abstract ideas, turn to metaphor as it allows us to “articulate the unarticulated” (Cooper, 1993: 40). The word metaphor can be broken down into two helpful parts; meta meaning ‘beyond’ and phore meaning ‘things or part bearing’. A bit like Wittgenstein’s cars; the cars are beyond the actual part bearing thing. In the book ‘The Study of Metaphor’, Dr. Randal Holme portrays the idea of metaphor as “a transfer of meaning from one source to another” (Holme 2003). A nonliteral usage of words and an implicit or explicit comparison (Hill & Regan, 1991).

An example of metaphor in therapy could be for example “I’ve lost my marbles”; an image borrowed from the domain of children’s play and super-imposed upon the domain of mental state. Metaphor can take many different shapes within therapeutic practice; Verbal, behavioral, physical or physiological, for example in Roth’s research compulsive eating can be seen as a metaphorical attempt to feed other appetites. Body language is often used as a way to model particular internal processes. To cover all of these types of metaphor would be a rather large task, so I’m going to stick to metaphor in language.

SLIDE 3; Living, Dying & Dead A living metaphor is something that can surprise us into new awareness, such as Rogers’ metaphor of a plant give water, soil, sun and fertilizer, the person would unfold along his or her own unique path. A dying metaphor is one that is bordering on if not simply cliche for example ‘I’m over the moon’. It communicates but is cliched. A dead metaphor is one that no longer retains it’s initial meaning, and is solely used for it’s metaphorical purpose. The word Deadline no longer refers to a perimeter outside of prison where inmates were taken and shot for example.

Awareness of these three types of metaphor in the therapeutic Dyad can open up new opportunities for the counsellor to delve into the world of the client. SLIDE 4; Strong’s Model Strong was a guy who came up with different ways a counsellor could interact with a client using a metaphor. The first was ‘Explicating what is implicit’, i. e using reflective listening to focus the client on their use of words. If the metaphor is to be used, it is important that both client and counsellor gain an understanding of what is trying to be impressed. e. , Client: “I feel like a doormat” Counsellor: “You feel walked all over” The second is extending or modifying the metaphor. Counsellor: “What would it be like to get up off the floor? ” The Third is responding with a therapeutic metaphor. Counsellor: “Perhaps you are playing a victim role, and he is playing a persecutor role” You can almost see the different responses to client metaphor underlying three types of therapy, the first person centered, the second CBT and the third TA. SLIDE 5; Narrative in Counselling Indeed concepts of story telling can be found across the theoretical approaches of counselling.

Berne (1972) developed the idea of a life “script” of the client in Transactional Analysis. The story of the client is a means of pulling together various themes within the Gestalt approach (Polster, 1987). In Narrative CBT for Psychosis Rhodes & Jakes write “Our work is narrative in that it pays attention to the client’s use of language, metaphor and complex characterizations of self and other” (Rhodes & Jakes, 2009). And as stated before, the core condition of empathy is seen in the counsellors attempts to saturate themselves within the client’s story.

SLIDE 6; Story Time “The process of counselling and psychotherapy has been recognised as, in the end, relying on the telling of stories” (Santa Rita 1998). This Narrative turn has “entered history, anthropology, folklore, psychology, social linguistics… cultural studies and sociology” (Reissman & Speedy). In the psychological field there has been a vast amount of literature pulling in concepts from a Narrativistic approach of understanding. (Etherington, 2000; Hermans & Hermans-Jansen, 1995; Laird, 1993; Gersie, 1991; Penn & Frankfurt 1994; McLeod, 1997).

The aim of therapy is not to discover the historical truth of the client, but the “narrative” truth as revealed through metaphor (Spence 1982). So we get the idea that therapeutic practice is widely appreciated as the sharing of stories through language and metaphor. SLIDE 7: Client Uses The Client can use metaphor to introduce difficult and painful material at some distance, keeping the emotions present without getting lost or confused by them. It also acts as a kind of short hand approach to communication between client and counsellor.

Sometimes with the use of appropriate metaphor, the client can communicate more clearly these abstractions we talked about Wittgenstein pointing out. A third and to me more interesting thing seems to happen with the use of metaphor. It allows for the client to formulate a kind of story where they envision themselves, their problems, their relationships etc as a story or narrative containing these meaningful images. This allows for a certain kind of process by which new perspectives on their world can come into existence. What this does allow is the ecognition of a space between experience and understanding. This can be seen in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy in regards to Negative Automatic Thoughts (Sanders & Willis, 2005:6) or in Narrative Therapy’s ‘Externalisation’ (White 1989:1). The later approach has been said to allow a client to “notice other possibilities spontaneously. They begin appreciate other selfnarratives” (Zimmerman and Dickson, 1996:77). SLIDE 8: Externalisation The philosopher Jacques Derrida in his work ‘Of Grammatology’ purports an understanding into the way we may use language in order to form these “self-narratives”.

He presented the argument that we understand the world through “an infinite, almost imperceptible number of differences, delays and spaces” (Bradley, 2008:7). These he named “binary oppositions” and are recognisable as ways we might describe our characters. In his book the Ego Trick, Julian Baggini suggests that the way we might understand ourselves is through such oppositions. Certain signs or words may take a more dominant role or presence in our understanding of ourselves (Baggini 2012).

Phrases such as I am an academic, not a thespian, I am generous not mean, I am an episodic not diachronic are examples of metaphorical binary oppositions that form grand narratives or schemas, that are part of the formulation of our identities. McLeod seems to follow this idea when he says “The modern self is not an identity but a construction” McLeod, 1997, pg. 91 Baggini expands on this by quoting the philosopher Christine Korsgaard who says “carving out a personal identity for which we are responsible is one of the inescapable tasks of human life” (Baggini, 2012) SLIDE 9: Summary Okidoke. Abstract things such as feelings, constitution of character and emotional difficulties cannot be said, but must be shown. – Metaphor is the way in which we communicate such abstractions in the counselling relationship. – The formation and collecting of these metaphors is what constitutes to a clients idea of self, feelings, problems. This collection can be described by narrative. – Narrative then seems to allow the client new insight into the identity for which they must take responsibility for. – My question is then to discover ‘How does metaphor aid the clients autonomy? ’


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