Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Metaphor as an Instrument for Orchestrating Change in Counselor Training and the Counseling Process

Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Metaphor as an Instrument for Orchestrating Change in Counselor Training and the Counseling Process

Article excerpt

Metaphors may be used to improve counselor training and the counseling process by fostering client case conceptualization and facilitating counselor-client collaboration in intervention development. Commonly defined as the transfer of meaning from one element to another, metaphors have been used in counseling and psychotherapy since the time of Freud and Jung. They often were the subject of complex analysis and interpretation, requiring years of study for the counselor to understand and connect the meaning of the symbols used to the image presented.

It has even been suggested that there are fixed ways to connect the symbolic and the literal in a reductionist method (Siegelman, 1990). Family therapy, hypnotherapy, and Ericksonian therapy training are infused with therapeutic metaphors to encourage client change to enhance the counseling process (Kopp, 1995; Wickman, Daniels, White, & Fesmire, 1999). Similarly, counselor training can benefit from the use of metaphors.

More recently, intentional use of and attention to metaphors in counselor training have been suggested in the literature (Dennin & Ellis, 2003; Young & Borders, 1998). Amundsen (1988) recommended the intentional use of metaphors in counselor training to foster case conceptualization skills. In two seminal articles, Wickman et al. (1999) cited the potential richness of this tool as a resource in counselor supervision, and Lyddon, Clay, and Sparks (2001) encouraged counselors, both beginning and advanced, to explore how the metaphor can facilitate change during the counseling process. These authors also recommended that counseling supervisors explore the metaphor as a pedagogical tool to enhance the development of the beginning counselor. For example, metaphors can be used to develop interventions collaboratively with the client, thus avoiding imposition of the counselor's perception of the metaphor on the client's thinking (Wickman et al., 1999).

Our focus in this article is to explore the intentional use of metaphors in counselor training to improve counselors' case conceptualization, diagnosis, and treatment planning skills. We hypothesized that the intentional use of metaphors by faculty supervisors during students' first field experience in practicum would enhance their learning and improve their mastery of these skills for use in counseling practice. A case study is included that describes this experience. In addition, counselors' use of metaphors with clients is discussed.

* Counseling Research and Metaphor

An increase in research interest in the use of metaphors in the counseling field (Babits, 2001; Dennin & Ellis, 2003; Lyddon et al., 2001; Wickman et al., 1999) has fostered initiatives to raise awareness of the power of metaphors for new counselors and new methods for integrating them into counselor training. Developing counselors' cognitive abilities for case conceptualization and formulation of treatment plans is critical to counselor training. Amundsen (1988) suggested using metaphor and drawings to help beginning counselors with the case conferencing task during group supervision. He found that case conceptualization and the metaphoric process are similar in the integration process of the cognitive, behavioral, and affective domains. The later work of Wickman et al. (1999) further developed this idea, with their description of the conceptual metaphor as a tool for accessing the client's worldview and connecting all the domains.

Counselors have expressed interest in the power of language, storytelling, and narratives to influence and create change in clients' personal realities and worldviews (Lyddon et al., 2001). Metaphors offer a communication tool for counselors to bring about the conditions for change and growth (Wickman et al., 1999) and for linking fundamental developmental changes that occur in the counseling process (Lyddon et al., 2001). Students often have viewed metaphors solely as interventions or techniques to be learned rather than as an integral part of the communication process. …

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