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Utilizing Metaphors in Solution-Focused Therapy


This article presents possibilities of the utilization of metaphors in solution-focused brief therapy. The first part of the article presents a conceptual background for therapeutic use of metaphors and makes connections with the solution-focused approach. In following parts two ways of working with metaphors are presented—utilization of metaphors offered by client and metaphors offered by therapist. SFBT work with metaphors offered by client consists of four steps: (1) capturing clients’ metaphor, (2) exploration, (3) utilising metaphor for creating new possibilities, and (4) Anchoring metaphors’ contribution in clients‘life. Rarely used stratégy of working with metaphors offered by therapist consists of similar steps: (1) taking client’s experience as our departure point, (2) offering a metaphor to the client, (3) utilising metaphor for creating new possibilities, (4) anchoring metaphor’s contribution in clients’ lives. Guidelines for both types of work are presented and illustrated by case examples from practice of the authors.

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  1. 1.

    In his original work, Battino (2005) uses the terms “client-generated metaphor” and “therapist-generated metaphor”. From our point of view however, metaphors as all meanings are “generated” in conversation (Walter and Peller 2000), so we rather use terms “metaphor offered by client” and “metaphor offered by therapist” to point out the fact who brought the metaphor into some particular conversation.

  2. 2.

    The metaphor of anger as an “inner pressure”, which needs to be released, is very common. At the same time it is only one of the possible scientific metaphors for treating the anger (Kövecses 1986; Harré and Gillett 1994).

  3. 3.

    Translator’s note: The entire conversation took place using elaborate bodily metaphors, which are, at times, untranslatable to English. The translation strives to imitate the tone and the style of the original conversation. The bodily metaphors serve to express various forms of relating—which are, in the Czech language, expressed by locating the point of relating in different body parts. The intention of this intervention was thus, to allow the client to have the ex-boyfriend travel out from her head and look for a more comfortable point of relating. The last expression—literally—“I’d place him next to my bum”—expresses a relationship of indifference in its original meaning.


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Correspondence to Leoš Zatloukal.

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Zatloukal, L., Žákovský, D. & Bezdíčková, E. Utilizing Metaphors in Solution-Focused Therapy. Contemp Fam Ther 41, 24–36 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10591-018-9468-8

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  • Metaphors
  • Solition-focused brief therapy
  • Utilisation
  • Resources