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ACA 2018 Conference & Expo Sessions

104 - Metaphors and Counseling: A Potent Combination for Promoting Choice and Change

Apr 27, 2018 7:30am ‐ Apr 27, 2018 8:30am


Metaphors are a powerful force in counseling to problem-set and to problem-solve. Metaphors help counselors and clients gain insight into themselves and into the counseling process. They can be a major source of fostering choice and change. This session will examine the nature of and research on metaphors, and ways counselors can use them to help clients and themselves become more aware, insightful, creative and productive.

Research on metaphors and their use in society, including counseling, is abundant. Published works on metaphors range from recent journal articles such as Baker's 2013 book " Using metaphors in psychotherapy" to Hendrix's classic 1992 Journal of Mental Health Counseling article "Metaphors as nudges toward understanding in mental health counseling." There are literally hundreds of articles and books on using metaphors in counseling and the research on metaphors and their power is helping relationships is extensive. However, many counselors are either not familiar with the data on metaphors or they are unsure how to use these naturally occurring elements of speech therapeutically. This presentation will not only address the topic but the theory and research behind the use of metaphors in counseling.

Learning Objectives:

  • To make participants aware or more aware of the power of metaphors in and outside of counseling to problem set (e.g., I am on a merry-go-round of routine) and problem solve (e.g., If I break up my routine, life will become an adventure).
  • To help participants understand how metaphors may provide insight, creativity, and action in clients as individuals in counseling comprehend how they are describing themselves and their dilemmas. Examples of such metaphors: "I am an island far away from the mainland. I want to become more attached" or "Everyday I rummage through a stack of meaningless papers that seem higher than Mount Everest. I need to find a more fulfilling career."
  • To assist participants in realizing that metaphors are common in most counseling situations and that taking advantage of a common occurrence may help them become more effective with clients and more aware of their conceptualization of counseling sessions, e.g., "I do not have to put a band-aid on clients' wounds. Instead, I can help them find healing and health in other ways."


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