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Why and how do we use metaphors in sessions?

In therapy we often use metaphors to help you to realise something about yourself, your situation or your environment. It’s better that they come from you so that they have more meaning for you; learning by doing is more effective because we experience it for ourselves.

In online sessions we can find metaphors anywhere: in the space where we are doing the session, in what we can see through the window, in the weather, in the temperature, in what is happening in the news or in society, in culture or in the story of our life that we have shared with our therapist up until now. Each person can create whatever metaphor has meaning for them.

Here’s an example. In the space where you do your therapy there are some very pretty dried flowers which are covered in dust (which is difficult to clean, because if you clean them well, the flowers will crumble). When you look at them, they remind you of the positive things in your life which you can’t enjoy, because there are other things that are stopping you, and trying to confront them could fail, which is a scary prospect. This is a possible starting point to be able to talk about what you need to be able to understand the matter better and to think about how to change it.

In outdoor sessions we can get metaphors from the same sources, but with the advantage of having nature as an additional ‘assistant therapist’. There is so much variety in nature that there are abundant possible metaphors which can be used to express our emotions or our experiences, and help to make sense of them.

Here’s another example. While you are accompanied by your therapist during outdoor sessions, you notice spring blossoms and how they represent the changes in life, and then how everyone goes through different phases. The fact that this is normal and part of the cycle of life calms you and helps you to begin to have more perspective in relation to your situation.

Another way to use metaphors is by creating your own, by choosing different objects that you find on the way (sticks, leaves, stones, rubbish that has been thrown away etc.), which you can use to express how you feel or to interpret a situation which isn’t clear to you. You can leave the objects in their natural state or even decorate them.

If you don’t use metaphors, that’s ok, because everyone has their own way of going through their process of therapy. However, it’s another tool which can make it flow more easily.

Try using the images above to see if you can find any metaphors in your life. Can you find metaphors in your surroundings or in nature which mean something to you?

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