The Therapeutic Use of Metaphor: A Heuristic Study

  • Jonathan Lloyd

Student thesis: Phd


AbstractBackground: This research was designed to explore the experience and understanding of counsellors' and psychotherapists' engagement with metaphors in the therapeutic process. The aim is to reflect on the experience of therapists involved in therapeutic metaphors from differing perspectives. Methodology: In a heuristic study a group of seven therapists (counsellors and psychotherapists) shared their use of metaphors in their therapy practice. Data were collected through an informal conversational interview that supported the participants to share their experiences in a natural dialogue. Findings: The experience of using metaphor in therapy appears to involve a multi-faceted web of generation, construction and development between the therapist and client. Various levels of depth of metaphor in therapy were identified along with links to transferential and cultural issues. Metaphors of hope also appear to be potentially important. Discussion: The findings suggest that the use of metaphors in therapy is pervasive. Metaphors that reflect an empathic connection and encounter between therapist and client were identified. Dualistic thinking around the origination of metaphors in therapy is challenged and the concept of co-creation and the mutual development of moving metaphors is discussed. Environmental and cultural influences are considered alongside transferential aspects. Conclusion: It appears that the use of metaphor in therapy is pervasive and offers an opportunity for therapeutic change. The consideration of the construction of metaphors and their mutual development may be useful for therapists to consider. This research highlights the need for more investigation with regard to client perspectives, the environmental impacts on metaphors in therapy and who the therapist and client stand for metaphorically for each other.
Date of Award31 Dec 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorWilliam West (Supervisor) & Elizabeth Ballinger (Supervisor)


  • Keywords: Metaphor, Therapeutic Metaphor, Deep Metaphor, Cryptophor, Mutuality, Counselling, Psychotherapy, Co-construction, Hope, Deep Encounter.

Cite this