Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Metaphoric Stories in Supervision of Internship: A Qualitative Study

Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Metaphoric Stories in Supervision of Internship: A Qualitative Study

Article excerpt

Stories contain metaphors that provide opportunities for reflection on many levels. In the present study, we examined how stories might contribute to self-reflection in master's-level counseling interns. Other counselors and counselor educators have also considered the use of stories in supervision and counseling. For example, the metaphor of the hero's journey has been used in counseling-related endeavors to examine career happiness (Henderson, 2000), to process grief and to counsel victims of physical violence (Halstead, 2000), to assist Vietnam veterans with trauma-related concerns (Tick, 1995), to open discussions of chronic illness (Hutchinson, 2000), and to enhance supervision (Sommer & Cox, 2003, 2006). Barclay (2007) pointed to the value of the metaphoric journey in narrative counseling, stating "[a] metaphor such as 'life is a journey' helps me understand my quest for both self-knowledge and the treasure of positive experiences, as well as, perhaps, the confusion and problems that arise" (p. 18).

What makes the story of the hero's journey so useful? Mythologist Joseph Campbell (1988) suggested that cultures from around the world have used stories to help individuals understand experience. He claimed that reflection on such a story allows you to see "its relevance to something happening in your own life. It gives you perspective on what's happening to you" (Campbell, 1988, p. 4). In essence, Campbell (1988) is saying that reflection on stories can contribute to individual meaning making. The hero's journey is one of self-discovery, and it is traditionally presented in three phases: an initial point of departure, an encounter with extreme difficulties or challenging tasks, and a return with a gift or boon (Campbell, 1973). Campbell indicated that most stories have some broad interpretation of this "ubiquitous myth of the hero's passage" (1973, p. 121); he added, "[t]he individual has only to discover his own position with reference to this general human formula, and let it then assist him past his restricting walls" (1973, p. 121). Recently, Lawson (2005) used the hero's journey to illuminate the developmental nature of counseling. He described a process in which life events offer a call to adventure, and he stated that "if the call to adventure is answered, clients, with the assistance of the counselor, learn new ways of seeing the world and ... of living in the world" (Lawson, 2005, p. 140).

Learning new ways of seeing is also important on the supervisee's journey to become a competent counselor. Drawing upon the use of metaphor, Stoltenberg, McNeill, and Delworth (1998) described the progression of skills developed by a rock climber as a means of understanding the stages of counselor development noted in the Integrated Developmental Model (IDM) of supervision. As supervisees develop, they experience changes in perspectives that allow them to view the three core constructs of the IDM--motivation, autonomy, and self- and other awareness--from varying vantage points. The use of metaphor can help to describe supervisees' experience, but supervision techniques that engage metaphor can also be used to promote supervisees' self-reflection and self-understanding. Examples of such techniques include the use of Greek mythology (Sommer & Cox, 2003), metaphoric stories (Young & Borders, 1998, 1999), environmental metaphors (Valadez & Garcia, 1998), and metaphoric drawing activities (Fall & Sutton, 2004; Saiz & Guiffrida, 2001). Duffy (2005) described the use of metaphor in the supervision of group workers and noted that this approach "has the advantage of multiple perspectives" (p. 251). She added that metaphor "is particularly useful when a worker is feeling stuck or puzzled about something" (Duffy, 2005, p. 252).

Anecdotal evidence and limited research have suggested that metaphoric activities help supervisees to understand the process of becoming a counselor. These activities "encourage supervisees to (a) think critically about where they are in relation to their goals and (b) use past learning experiences to conceptualize their own unique developmental processes" (Guiffrida, Jordan, Saiz, & Barnes, 2007, p. …

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