How to use Metaphors

How to use Metaphors


We hear metaphors on a daily basis from our clients, friends and family around us, often without realising it. A metaphor is our insight to a person’s subconscious mind – a picture paints a thousand words, as does a metaphor.


A metaphor helps a person explain a complex process of communication into a more simplified answer that most people can understand “I feel like I’m in hell” “I want to achieve my goal but I feel there is a big barrier in front of me” By asking questions around the clients metaphor, gaining more details, giving new metaphorical options, the clients subconscious will help them find the answers they need to move forward. The solution is often in the problem, somewhere.


As the client explores the metaphor, they will gradually perceive more and more, through the practitioners questioning. All the elements of the metaphor could potentially be a resource to help the client unlock their problem or barrier.


At some point, the client will start to Relax, laugh or even cry-the client will often understand what all the shapes, symbols and elements meant subconsciously, not always what they mean on a conscious level. This does not matter, it only matters that there has been a “shift” as the shift creates change.


  • Clients can often forget they had a problem in the first place, once it has gone
  • As the practitioner you might not get any recognition for helping – that’s ok, as long as the client can move forward
  • The change may increase over the next couple of days for the client


Some quick examples:


Client:            I feel like there is a wall in the way of my path

Practitioner: Can you walk around the wall?

What would happen if you flattened down the wall?

How high is the wall-can you climb over it?




The first set of questions are designed to help your client describe their goal as a metaphor.


1             Do you have a goal you want to achieve or something you want to change? Example answer: I want to be more confident in my workplace


2             How near are you to completing your goal or making the change? Example answer: really far away-I cant even see me achieving this goal


3             How do you feel about that? Example answer: I feel that if I did make an effort my colleagues would laugh at me.


4             When you feel that way, what image do you create in your mind? Example answer: I see my colleagues laughing and I’m sinking into the floor, like you would do in quick sand.


Gain details of the metaphor – don’t add your own details/images this is the clients metaphor not yours.


5             What kind of “client’s words” is that? Example question: is the floor made of quick sand, or is it a floor that feels like quick sand?


Example answer: Erm.. yep the floor looks like quick sand and I’m sinking into it.


6             Whereabouts are you/is “the clients words” example question: where are you and where is the quick sand floor?


Example answer: I’m at work, in the office and the quick sand floor is in the middle of the room.


7             Is there anything else? Example answer: No, just my colleagues pointing and laughing


8             Where did “client’s words” come from Example Question: where did the quick sand come form?


Example answer: It’s mine, I bring it to work.


9             Are there any connections between “client’s words” and “clients words”? Example Question: are there any connections between you sinking and your colleague’s laughter?


Example answer: Yes, if I wasn’t sinking they would be laughing, they just get on with there work and I could get on with mine.


Give options – you need to go with what the client is telling you and test the different options.


10          What would happen if you changed “client’s words” Example Question: What would happen if left the quicksand at home?


Example answer: I would feel good-everything would be ok


11          What would happen if you “did something different”? Example Question: what would happen if you could make the floor solid?


Example answer: that would be good, I can see some strong cement in the corner of the room I could use that to stop the quick sand.


12          What needs to happen for you to achieve your goal? Example answer: Its funny but the company name on the cement is called “go for-it cement” I think I need to just be me when I go into work and not to worry about what people will think-this will make me more confident.


Check reality


13          How would you feel if you made this change/“client’s words”? Example Question: How would you feel if you went into work being you?


Example answer: I think people would like me-I’m easy to talk to


14          Is there anything else you need to think about/look at?


Example answer: No, I just need to take a deep breath on Monday morning and “go for-it” I think people will really like me.


15          What are the consequences of you achieving your outcome?


Example answer: I would feel more confident, people would like me and I would enjoy going to work every day.


With the metaphor technique, you need to listen to what the client is telling you and ask questions that allow the clients unconscious and imaginative mind to work, as it is there subconscious that will give them the answers they need.


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