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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The use of metaphor in counselling : a discourse analysis Chapman, Rochelle Delee


This discourse analysis examined the way metaphor functions in therapy sessions, addressing the question: how do therapists and clients use metaphor? The approach met several needs within the literature: firstly, observing the naturalistic setting of therapy; secondly, engaging in third party observation; thirdly, comparing the metaphors generated by client and therapist, with attention to their roles; and fourthly, looking at therapeutic metaphors at the detailed level of the language itself. Five video-recorded career counselling sessions were analyzed for how the five individual clients and the therapist, Dr. Amundson, used metaphor. Results showed an overarching difference in the function of common and original career metaphors. Common metaphors were everyday words and expressions and revealed not only the client and/or therapist’s conceptualization of career but also the broader culture’s implicit assumptions. Original metaphors were explored in more depth by the therapist and client. These metaphors revealed something unique about the client’s approach to career and provided an alternative to the dominant discourse. A number of career metaphors and emotion metaphors were identified in the analysis. Career metaphors included directional, spatial, capitalist, fittingness, construction, and retirement metaphors. Some emotion metaphors were grouped according to content categories, including metaphors of emotional impact, joyful emotions, and emotion as upwards and downwards movement. Others were grouped according to the therapeutic function of the metaphors: reflecting clients’ emotions and transforming emotions. The therapist relied on metaphor for many therapeutic purposes: to empathize, normalize, communicate immediacy, encourage insight, reframe situations, process emotions, challenge and empower the client, to facilitate change, to introduce and frame interventions, and as a tool in brainstorming. Clients used metaphor to express emotions, to describe situations and to emphasize their meaning, to conceptualize their careers, and to undergo change with the therapist’s help. These findings can be applied in two major ways: Firstly, counsellors can benefit from a heightened awareness of our culture’s common metaphors for conceptualizing both career and the emotional experience of career challenges and transitions. Secondly, practitioners can observe the ways that the therapist used metaphor effectively and can try similar techniques in their own practice.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

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