Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Implications of Research on Metaphors in Supervision
Alwin E. Wagener
Facilitating the development of counselors in supervision is important and challenging. It requires awareness of supervisees’ developmental levels and challenges and supervisory approaches and interventions to assist them. One intervention that has been explored is the use of metaphors in supervision. Though empirical support is limited, there are findings relevant to supervision, summarized below.
Before describing implications of supervision research in counseling, a description of metaphors and brief defining of terminology is required. Metaphors in this context are not solely linguistic devices. Instead, they are recognized and supported by cognitive research as playing an important role in organizing thoughts and emotions, learning new information, and integrating new understandings. Two types of metaphors are described.  Conventional metaphors are the metaphors commonly used and easily understood (e.g. love is a journey), while unconventional metaphors are those not in common use and often requiring some explanation (e.g. love is an apple). Unconventional metaphors may involve combinations of conventional metaphors to create new links with what is being described, such as “love is a canoe journey and you don’t rock the boat”. With that foundation, the following implications can be understood.
·      The introduction of metaphors in supervision may increase both detail and depth of conversations about clients and experiences as a counselor.
·      Telling stories with strong metaphoric themes to supervision groups and initiating a discussion relating the metaphor to counseling may be useful for encouraging supervisee self-reflection.
·      Having the supervisee create a metaphoric drawing of the client and/or counseling experience he or she wants to process in supervision and then spending time processing that drawing has the potential to increase counselor development and bring out important client issues that might not otherwise be recognized or discussed.
·      When supervisees create unconventional metaphors, they often are working on emotional-cognitive integration or developing new perspectives.
·      If supervisees do not create unconventional metaphors, this may indicate that emotional-cognitive integration or developing new perspectives is not happening, which may or may not be appropriate for the situation or developmental level of the supervisee.
·      The co-creation of metaphors between supervisor and supervisee may help in the development of a working alliance by creating a shared language.
These implications are extrapolated from the articles attached to this manuscript. They have preliminary, qualitative, and theoretical support but lack generalizable, empirical support. Therefore, future research is needed to increase understanding of the use of metaphor in supervision. 

For Further Reading
Gelo, O. C. G., & Mergenthaler, E. (2012). Unconventional metaphors and emotional-cognitive regulation in a metacognitive interpersonal therapy. Psychotherapy Research, 22, 159–75. doi:10.1080/10503307.2011.629636
Guiffrida, D. A., Jordan, R., Saiz, S., & Barnes, K. L. (2007). The use of metaphor in clinical supervision. Journal of Counseling & Development, 85, 393–400. doi:10.1002/j.1556-6678.2007.tb00607.x
Long, P., & Lepper, G. (2008). Metaphor in psychoanalytic psychotherapy: A comparative study of four cases by a practitioner-researcher. British Journal of Psychotherapy, 24, 343–364. Retrieved from
Råbu, M., Haavind, H., & Binder, P.-E. (2013). We have travelled a long distance and sorted out the mess in the drawers: Metaphors for moving towards the end in psychotherapy. Counselling and Psychotherapy Research, 13, 71–80. doi:10.1080/14733145.2012.711339
Robert, T., & Kelly, V. (2010). Metaphor as an instrument for orchestrating change in counselor training and the counseling process. Journal of Counseling & Development, 88, 182–189. Retrieved from
Sommer, C., Ward, J., & Scofield, T. (2010). Metaphoric stories in supervision of internship: A qualitative study. Journal of Counseling & Development, 88, 500–508. Retrieved from
Stone, D., & Amundson, N. (1989). Counsellor supervision: An exploratory study of the metaphoric case drawing method of case presentation in a clinical setting. Canadian Journal of Counselling, 23, 360–371. Retrieved from
Tay, D. (2012). Applying the notion of metaphor types to enhance counseling protocols. Journal of Counseling & Development, 90, 142–150.
Young, J. S., & Borders, L. D. (1998). The impact of metaphor on clinical hypothesis formation and perceived supervisor characteristics. Counselor Education and Supervision, 37, 238–256. Retrieved from
Young, J. S., & Borders, L. D. (1999). The intentional use of metaphor in counseling supervision. The Clinical Supervisor, 18, 137–149. Retrieved from

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