Therapeutic metaphors

Therapeutic metaphors

A metaphor is like a special way of talking or expressing ideas. It has two parts: one that's easy to understand, and another that represents something deeper. Metaphors can be in words, like stories, myths, and sayings, or they can be in things like art and music. They are short but full of hidden meanings. For example, saying "he doesn't bend" in a tough situation can mean he's strong, stubborn, or assertive. The word "metaphor" comes from Greek and means "to transfer" or "to bring beyond." It's about expressing something beyond the obvious and opening up new ideas and feelings inside a person.

Metaphors are very helpful in counseling because they give structure, explain ideas, bring out emotions, and affect attitudes. They let us talk about things indirectly and without making clients uncomfortable. Metaphors also make ideas easier to remember. Clients might use metaphors to describe emotions or experiences they can't put into words. Metaphors take therapy to a deeper level, helping clients understand their issues better than just talking about them. They create a strong foundation for discussing ideas. They allow clients to step back from their problems and work with the therapist to find solutions. Talking about metaphors can help clients express thoughts and feelings they've kept hidden. 
Benefits of  therapeutic metaphors
1. Metaphor overcomes resistance and reluctance to discuss complex, uncomfortable, and unpleasant things. It doesn't impose a single understanding and provides room for interpretations and options. Understanding metaphors requires that one looks at things differently than one did before. Metaphors activate the imagination and help us break out of our ordinary thinking. It provides a deeper explanation, helps clarify ideas, generates insights better than words. It's much more memorable and motivating than any rational verbal instructions and explanations, or abstract ideas

2. It works simultaneously on a conscious and unconscious level, delving deeper into emotions. Transforming emotions affects and activates deep brain structures. Yet another way embodied metaphors are said to work is because they trigger sensomotor responses, as captured by some of the embodied proposals Therefore, metaphors work well for people dealing with burnout, anxiety, depression, or those who find it hard to focus. 
3. The universality of a metaphor is that its meaning can be easily transferred from imagination to real actions. However, what makes metaphors effective in therapy? The conventional conceptual theory of metaphors suggests that metaphoric thinking involves a conscious departure from established categories and a mapping of ideas from one domain (the source) to another (the target). According to this linguistic framework, metaphors facilitate the "transfer of meaning," enabling us to contemplate one thing in terms of another.

4. There are universal cross-cultural sets of metaphors that are close to people from different cultures and common to certain conditions and psychological problems. Therefore, in the future we are planning specialized sets of carefully selected therapeutic metaphors for depression, anxiety, and ADHD. 
5. Classical conceptual theory of metaphor proposes that metaphoric thinking is based on conscious violation of established categories and mapping from source to target domains. Following this linguistic framework, metaphors allow for a “transfer of meaning,” or thinking through one thing in terms of another. In this paper, we propose to answer this question from a different perspective 

In Rewellme we make extensive use of therapeutic metaphors. On the first side of the card is the original state that you want to transform with a short text. You must get used to it and then turn the card over, moving to a new state. The psychological contrast between cards, the difference between states gives rise to motivation and energy to move.

Metaphor Usage Algorithm: 
1. Find a metaphor, either from the presets we provide. We offer carefully selected metaphor examples in our paid version. Many metaphors are cross-cultural. Choose a metaphor that resonates with you. Sometimes, it's challenging to understand your feelings, and a metaphor often better reflects your state than a lengthy description in words.
2. Describe the metaphor and immerse yourself in it. Focus on the imagery, not the verbal description of the metaphor. Feel yourself in the metaphor's place. We intentionally use simplified images; color them with your imagination.
Transform the metaphor. Modify the metaphor and guide yourself towards a solution. Embed the transformation in the metaphor, shifting it in a constructive direction. Describe the changes in your body, emotions, feelings, and thoughts within the new metaphor.
3. Pay attention to contrast. Experience and live the contrast, the change in emotions, the change in direction. Feel the changes in your body, emotions, feelings, and thoughts "if – then," "before and after."
4. Practice. The next time you encounter something similar, apply this metaphor (you can find it in the app to activate it). Then, implement this metaphor in real life. Ideally, create an "actions" card for the situation, with a before-action photo, an after-action photo, and a brief description. Documenting your experience in a separate card makes it part of your personal experience.
5. Seek new powerful metaphors that resonate with you and add them to your cards. In version 2.0, send your metaphors to our email or social media, and if they pass the selection, we'll include them in the next package (with your name if you wish).


Therapeutic Metaphor. Feeling Imprisoned and Breaking Free 


1. Identification: Begin by helping the client identify a metaphor that represents their feeling of being imprisoned. For example, the client might describe feeling "trapped in a cage" or "imprisoned in a dark tunnel."

2. Exploration: Encourage the client to vividly describe and visualize this metaphor. Ask them to imagine the surroundings, their emotions, and the constraints of this "prison."

3. Transforming the Metaphor: Guide the client to transform the metaphor. Explore with them how they can break free or find an escape within the metaphorical world. For instance, if they are in a "dark tunnel," they could imagine a path leading to light.

4. Sensory Engagement: Encourage the client to engage their senses during this transformation. What do they see, hear, and feel as they work toward liberation within the metaphor?

5. Emotional Exploration: Prompt the client to reflect on their emotions as they navigate this transformation. Are they feeling relief, empowerment, or courage as they break free?

6. Real-Life Application: Discuss how the insights gained from this metaphorical experience can be applied to real-life situations. Help the client identify practical steps they can take to break free from any constraints or challenges they face.

7. Encourage Reflection: Finally, encourage the client to reflect on their metaphorical journey and the lessons learned. Ask them how they can use this newfound sense of freedom to overcome real-world obstacles and improve their well-being.

This therapeutic action with metaphors can help clients gain a deeper understanding of their feelings of confinement and empower them to take meaningful steps towards personal growth and positive change.

«For empirical research, a majority of studies focused on whether adding metaphors to a certain therapy (mostly CBT) could improve the effects of treatment, and as a result, some studies found that therapies with metaphors have greater intervention effects compared with conventional ones, while some others found that the two kinds of therapies are equally efficient.

These studies generally demonstrate that metaphor use in psychotherapy is overall efficient, as the potential mechanisms proposed in theories had also been observed. Studies have shown that metaphor-triggered creative insight (with significant activation of amygdala, hippocampus and fusiform gyrus), enhanced long-term memory, and greater cognitive involvement could play important roles between metaphor use and therapeutic effects.» from Therapeutic metaphors: Theories, empirical efficacy and underlying mechanisms Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2022, Vol. 30 ›› Issue (7): 1546-1560.

1. Therapeutic metaphors: Theories, empirical efficacy and underlying mechanisms  Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2022, Vol. 30 ›› Issue (7): 1546-1560.