Sensing and Making Sense: Embodying Metaphor in Relational-Centered Psychotherapy

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Abstract

The focus of this article is the use of metaphor in psychotherapy. I start with a selective review of the relevant psychotherapeutic literature. In practice, metaphors are used to represent metaphorical images that can clarify or interpret experience; metaphorical stories can be used playfully to elaborate understandings and provide new healing narratives. Next I introduce my embodied relational-centered way of being in my psychotherapy practice, highlighting the metaphors I typically fall back on. Three case examples illustrate the process of how, through metaphor, therapists sense and make sense of their clients' worlds and also how their clients make sense of these interventions. The value of engaging metaphors creatively and reflexively is emphasized, as various meanings of metaphors are often not self-evident. They need to be played with and worked through, both in dialogue and reverie. And they need to be seen in the broader context of individuals' histories, the therapeutic relationship, and the wider culture. The point that metaphors go beyond visual image to engage the different senses in multiple relational ways is highlighted. Although metaphors may be understood as being a function of language, in practice they arise through embodied intersubjective experiencing.

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