Counselling and metaphor
People often describe their feelings by comparing them to how they might experience other life events - "I felt all at sea" - or they might go into more detail about how something has played out - "I felt as though I was in a boat, cast adrift with no sail, drifting with the tide..." etc. It is interesting that a lot of metaphorical detail is to do with water, with what happens in water, or with water, or on water, such as "out of my depth", "swimming against the tide" and these often convey a sense of unease, of being out of control and often of being alone and isolated.
"Walking on thin ice" describes the anxiety of making a mistake in a communication with someone and the danger of drastic consequences. After all, we might be "in hot water" if it does all go wrong! To feel safe and secure people often seem to need to be on dry land, and being "grounded" is an expression used to describe a sense of our thoughts being focused in the present and with reality, rather than with projected fears of the future or with remembered patterns of fear and anxiety from the past. Equally, we can be at a "crossroads" in our life, or not able to see "the wood for the trees", so even when we are on dry land things can feel uncertain.
Counselling itself could be described in metaphorical terms. One way of thinking about the process could be in terms of knitting! At first the client will be invited to decide on what they want from counselling - what they might like to knit - a jumper, to keep them warm and safe? Or to brighten up what feels dull about their life? Maybe they would like to knit some socks, to help them feel "grounded", or some gloves to help them get "in touch". They will agree with the counsellor about how they are going to achieve what they want - what sort of yarn they would like to use (how they would like the therapist to work) the colour they prefer (how they feel about the space the therapist is offering), big needles and swift work, or meticulous work with delicate needles.
The counsellor will stay alongside as the client casts on. Throughout the process of therapy the work will be reviewed - how are we doing? Do we still have the same aim as we started with? Is what we we are creating beginning to feel right? Maybe we decide that we don't want socks after all, we would really prefer to make a hat to help us with our thinking and to become more "grounded". So we might un-pick the stitches and start again, or we add another row and continue with the work we started - until the creation feels completed and it is time to cast off.
Counselling can be whatever you make of it and by using metaphor and making stories, feelings and thoughts previously hidden can be recognised and looked at more clearly, as can the way forward - at your own pace.
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About Lue Glover Wilson
Luella Glover Wilson is in private practice in mid Devon and is very keen for counselling to be affordable for everyone. Main areas of focus include loss and bereavement, relationship issues including abuse, stress, anxiety, and eating difficulties.