Finding the Middle Ground between Therapist-Centred and Client-Centred Metaphor Research in Psychotherapy

  • Dennis Tay


People traditionally view metaphor as a kind of language play where one thing is described in terms of another for literary or rhetorical effect, as when Shakespeare famously wrote Juliet is the sun. In the past decades, however, psychologists and linguists have put forward a very different cognitive theory which claims that metaphors in language reflect a fundamental cognitive tendency to understand one concept in terms of another (Gibbs, 2013; Lakoff & Johnson, 1999). This potential link between language and conceptualisation has motivated some psychotherapists to theorise how metaphors could be used to explore and possibly change clients’ feelings, values, attitudes, and behaviours (Wickman, Daniels, White, & Fesmire, 1999).


Cognitive Behaviour Therapy Middle Ground Target Concept Conceptual Metaphor Discourse Marker 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Ahammed, S. (2010). Applying Qur’anic metaphors in counseling. International Journal for the Advancement of Counselling, 32(4), 248–255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Angus, L. E., & Rennie, D. L. (1988). Therapist participation in metaphor generation: Collaborative and non-collaborative styles. Psychotherapy, 25(4), 552–560.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. —. (1989). Envisioning the representational world: The client’s experience of metaphoric expression in psychotherapy. Psychotherapy, 26(3), 372–379.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Blenkiron, P. (2005). Stories and analogies in cognitive behaviour therapy: A clinical review. Behavioral and Cognitive Psychotherapy, 33(1), 45–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. —. (2010). Stories and analogies in cognitive behaviour therapy. West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons.Google Scholar
  6. Burns, G. W. (2005). 101 healing stories for kids and teens: Using metaphors in therapy. New Jersey/Canada: Wiley.Google Scholar
  7. Cameron, L., Maslen, R., Todd, Z., Maule, J., Stratton, P., & Stanley, N. (2009). The discourse dynamics approach to metaphor and metaphor-led discourse analysis. Metaphor and Symbol, 24(2), 63–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cirillo, L., & Crider, C. (1995). Distinctive therapeutic uses of metaphor. Psychotherapy, 32(4), 511–519.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dwairy, M. (1999). Toward psycho-cultural approach in Middle Eastern societies. Clinical Psychology Review, 19(8), 909–915.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. —. (2009). Culture analysis and metaphor psychotherapy with Arab-Muslim clients. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 65(2), 199–209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dwairy, M., & Van Sickle, T. D. (1996). Western psychotherapy in traditional arabic societies. Clinical Psychology Review, 16(3), 231–249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Erickson, M. H., & Rossi, E. (1976). Two-level communication and the microdynamics of trance and suggestion. In E. Rossi (Ed.), The collected papers of Milton H. Erickson on hypnosis. Vol. I. — The nature of hypnosis and suggestion (pp. 108–132). New York: Irvington.Google Scholar
  13. Ferrara, K. W. (1994). Therapeutic ways with words. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Fox Tree, J. E., & Schrock, J. C. (2002). Basic meanings of you know and I mean. Journal of Pragmatics, 34(6), 727–747.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Freud, S. (1915). The interpretation of dreams. London: Allen & Unwin.Google Scholar
  16. Gelo, O. C. G. (2008). Metaphor and emotional-cognitive regulation in psychotherapy. A single case study. Ulm: Ulmer Textbank.Google Scholar
  17. Gelo, O. C. G., & Mergenthaler, E. (2012). Unconventional metaphors and emotional-cognitive regulation in a metacognitive interpersonal therapy. Psychotherapy Research, 22(2), 159–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gibbs, R. W. (2013). The real complexities of psycholinguistic research on metaphor. Language Sciences, 40, 45–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Goncalves, O. F., & Craine, M. H. (1990). The use of metaphors in cognitive therapy. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy: An International Quarterly, 4(2), 135–149.Google Scholar
  20. Guidano, V. F. (1995). Constructivist psychotherapy: A theoretical framework. In R. A. Neimeyer & M. J. Mahoney (Eds.), Constructivism in psychotherapy (pp. 93–110). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Horvath, A. O., & Luborsky, L. (1993). The role of the therapeutic alliance in psychotherapy. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 61(4), 561–573.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kopp, R. R. (1995). Metaphor therapy: Using client-generated metaphors in psychotherapy. New York: Brunnel/Mazel.Google Scholar
  23. Kopp, R. R., & Craw, M. J. (1998). Metaphoric language, metaphoric cognition, and cognitive therapy. Psychotherapy, 35(3), 306–311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kopp, R. R., & Eckstein, D. (2004). Using early memory metaphors and client-generated metaphors in Adlerian therapy. Journal of Individual Psychology, 60(2), 163–174.Google Scholar
  25. Kövecses, Z. (2005). Metaphor in culture: Universality and variation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lakoff, G., & Johnson, M. (1999). Philosophy in the flesh: The embodied mind and its challenges to western thought. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  27. Lankton, S., & Lankton, C. H. (1983). The answer within: A clinical framework of Ericksonian hypnotherapy. New York: Brunnel/Mazel.Google Scholar
  28. Leahy, R. L. (2008). The therapeutic relationship in cognitive-behaviorial therapy. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy, 36(6), 769–777.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Levitt, H., Korman, Y., & Angus, L. (2000). A metaphor analysis in treatments of depression: Metaphor as a marker of change. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 13(1), 23–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Long, P. S., & Lepper, G. (2008). Metaphor in psychoanalytic psychotherapy: A comparative study of four cases by a practitioner-researcher. British Journal of Psychotherapy, 24(3), 343–364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lyddon, W. J., Clay, A. L., & Sparks, C. L. (2001). Metaphor and change in counselling. Journal of Counseling & Development, 79(3), 269–274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. McMullen, L. M. (1989). Use of figurative language in successful and unsuccessful cases of psychotherapy: Three comparisons. Metaphor and Symbolic Activity, 4(4), 203–225.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. —. (1996). Studying the use of figurative language in psychotherapy: the search for researchable questions. Metaphor and Symbolic Activity, 11(4), 241–255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. —. (2008). Putting it in context: Metaphor and psychotherapy. In R. W. Gibbs (Ed.), The Cambidge handbook of metaphor and thought (pp. 397–411). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Muran, J. C., & DiGuiseppe, R. A. (1990). Towards a cognitive formulation of metaphor use in psychotherapy. Clinical Psychology Review, 10(1), 69–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Neimeyer, R. A., & Mahoney, M. J. (1995). Constructivism in psychotherapy. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Orlinsky, D., Michael, R., & Willutzki, U. (2004). Fifty years of psychotherapy process-outcome research: Continuity and change. In M. J. Lambert (Ed.), Bergin and Garfield’s handbook of psychotherapy and behavior change (pp. 307–389). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.Google Scholar
  38. Peräkylä, A., Antaki, C., Vehviläinen, S., & Leudar, I. (Eds.) (2011). Conversation analysis and psychotherapy. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Prince, E., Frader, J., & Bosk, C. (1982). On hedging in physician-physician discourse. In R. J. di Pietro (Ed.), Linguistics and the professions (pp. 83–97). Norwood, NJ: Ablex.Google Scholar
  40. Rogers, C. R. (1951). Client-centered psychotherapy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.Google Scholar
  41. Rowat, R., De Stefano, J., & Drapeau, M. (2008). The role of patient-generated metaphors on in-session therapeutic processes. Archives of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, 1, 21–27.Google Scholar
  42. Safran, J. D., Crocker, P., McMain, S., & Murray, P. (1990). Therapeutic alliance rupture as a therapy event for empirical investigation. Psychotherapy, 27(2), 154–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Samaritter, R. (2009). The use of metaphors in dance movement therapy. Body, Movement and Dance in Psychotherapy, 4(1), 33–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Sarpavaara, H., & Koski-Jännes, A. (2013). Change as a journey-Clients’ metaphoric change talk as an outcome predictor in initial motivational sessions with probationers. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 10(1), 86–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Schiffrin, D. (2001). Discourse markers: Language, meaning and context. In D. Schiffrin, D. Tannen, & H. E. Hamilton (Eds.), The handbook of discourse analysis (pp. 54–75). Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  46. Sharp, C., Smith, J. V., & Cole, A. (2002). Cinematherapy: Metaphorically promoting therapeutic change. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 15(3), 269–276.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Sims, P. A. (2003). Working with metaphor. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 57(4), 528–536.Google Scholar
  48. Spong, S. (2010). Discourse analysis: Rich pickings for counsellors and therapists. Counselling and Psychotherapy Research, 10(1), 67–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Stott, R., Mansell, W., Salkovskis, P., Lavender, A., & Cartwright-Hatton, S. (2010). Oxford guide to metaphors in CBT. Building cognitive bridges. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  50. Suit, J. L., Paradise, L. V., & Orleans, N. (1985). Effects of metaphors and cognitive complexity on perceived counselor characteristics. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 32(1), 23–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Tay, D. (2011a). Discourse markers as metaphor signalling devices in psychotherapeutic talk. Language & Communication, 31(4), 310–317.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. —. (2011b). THERAPY IS A JOURNEY as a discourse metaphor. Discourse Studies, 13(1), 47–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. —. (2012). Applying the notion of metaphor types to enhance counseling protocols. Journal of Counseling & Development, 90(2), 142–149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. —. (2013). Metaphor in psychotherapy. A descriptive and prescriptive analysis. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. —. (2014a). An analysis of metaphor hedging in psychotherapeutic talk. In M. Yamaguchi, D. Tay, & B. Blount (Eds.), Approaches to language, culture, and cognition (pp. 251–267). Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan.Google Scholar
  56. —. (2014b). Lakoff and the theory of conceptual metaphor. In J. R. Taylor & J. Littlemore (Eds.), Bloomsbury companion to cognitive linguistics (pp. 49–60). London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  57. Taylor, J. R., & MacLaury, R. E. (Eds.) (1995). Language and the cognitive construal of the world. Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  58. Wickman, S. A., Daniels, M. H., White, L. J., & Fesmire, S. A. (1999). A ‘primer’ in conceptual metaphor for counselors. Journal of Counseling & Development, 77(4), 389–394.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Witztum, E., van der Hart, O., & Friedman, B. (1988). The use of metaphors in psychotherapy. Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy, 18(4), 270–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Wohl, J. (1989). Integration of cultural awareness into psychotherapy. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 43, 343–355.Google Scholar
  61. Zuñiga, M. E. (1992). Using metaphors in therapy: Dichos and Latino clients. Social Work, 37(1), 55–60.Google Scholar

Recommended reading

  1. • Peräkylä, A., Antaki, C, Vehviläinen, S., & Leudar, I. (Eds.) (2011). Conversation analysis and psychotherapy. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  2. • Tay, D. (2014). An analysis of metaphor hedging in psychotherapeutic talk. In M. Yamaguchi, D. Tay, & B. Blount (Eds.), Approaches to language, culture, and cognition (pp. 251–267). Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Dennis Tay 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dennis Tay

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations