Client Metaphors


Use Client Metaphors in Hypnotherapy

How to use your client's own words in Client Metaphor Therapy

Metaphor therapy traditionally uses stories and invented metaphors to help clients to release fixed ideas. The more modern approach is to use Client Metaphor Therapy. Listen for metaphors that the client uses, and develop those. For example, if a client says "it is like there is a giant cloud  following me around." then the therapist would say "and what color is that cloud?" The client already has a representation of their problem in the form of the "cloud". So it makes sense to explore the client's metaphor of a cloud, instead of a general metaphor.

If you listen carefully you will find that all clients use metaphors. Client Metaphor Therapy provides an easy and effective way to into your client's mind.

Client metaphor therapy

Dog Metaphor 

This smoker came in and said he was sure that he can give up. But still there is a nagging fear that he will need one and won't have one when he needs it. For example he will not smoke all day, and then worry about 'what if I need one in the night?' So he goes and buys some just in case, and then has the packet in his hand and opens it. So he never really gets the chance to stop.

In the interview we found that his smoking is linked back to feelings of independence and acceptance when he working with older guys as a fencing contractor in his first job. He felt grown up and good to be part of the team.

Get rid of the dog

I asked him the question I ask all smokers: suppose you could never have a cigarette again? He responded that he got a scary feeling. He said smoking was like something nipping at his heels all the time. I asked him to expand on what that 'nipping' was like. He said it was like a little white dog. He said 'Funny, I can actually see the dog'.

He was clearly accessing his unconscious mind, so I got him to visualize kicking the dog away. Really getting rid of it. He said in his mind he had booted it over the hedge. He said he felt like it was gone now. And he said... 'you know, I don't think I have to smoke any more"!

Client metaphor therapy

Box Metaphor

Sometimes the simplest thing is the best thing to do. I had a smoking client  one day. I went through my standard questions with her and when I asked her if there was anything worrying her about stopping smoking she said 'Yes, about falling off after the hypnosis and starting back smoking again like I did before'.

My training in Metaphor Therapy alerted me to the metaphor in 'falling off'. It is a very common form of speech and might have had no special meaning to her, but I decided to explore it anyway.

I asked her to close her eyes and tell me what it was that she might fall off. I prompted her 'What is it like? Is it like a cliff, or a cart? or something else?'. She said 'No, it is like I am standing on a box, and I might fall off and if I do I have to start smoking again'.

Explore the metaphor

I got her to explore the box, its size; its color; what it was made from, and so on. She described it as a plain brown box made of wood, and small enough so that if she moved in any direction she would fall off. That was what she was worried about. Thinking about falling off was making her anxious and the anxiety was making her more likely to smoke. Every time she stopped on her own the anxiety came back.

I asked what would happen if the box wasn't there. She said that she wouldn't be anxious about falling off, and could give up smoking. There could not a more clear indicator of what to do: get rid of the box.

Change the metaphor

I asked if she could imagine the box a little larger, and then took her step by step through imagining it bigger and smaller. I pointed out that this meant that she was controlling the box, the box was not controlling her. I told her that she could make the box so big that she could never find the edge, and she could never fall off. I then asked what would happen if the box became very small. She first joked that she would fall off it, but then said "I could just step off it". I asked her what she would prefer. She said making it smaller, so we worked on making so small that it just didn't seem important any more. I then suggested that she should think about all the problems that box had given her, to put into that box all her frustration about not being able to stop smoking, and all her feelings towards smoking.

Change the feeling

I told her that she could smash the box, now that it was tiny, and she described how she was stamping on it and crushing it into little pieces. We then got the pieces put in a bin, and taken away to be incinerated. Problem solved.

I than asked how she felt about stopping smoking now, and she said 'it doesn't bother me'.

The whole process took less than five minutes to clear a block she had suffered from for years. That wasn't the end of the therapy, but it removed a major issue for her.  Sometimes all you have to do is listen.

Client metaphor therapy

Lawn Metaphor

My office is at the end of a gravel lane along a hillside with steep drop on one side. The client said that the drive up the lane frightened her because she was afraid of heights. She came for smoking, but the first thing I did was to treat her fear of heights.

Because it was so recent I got her to think about the feeling that she got when she drove up the lane. She said the feeling was like a huge green field with rugby posts in it. It went on forever. It was just vast.

We developed the image by getting her to describe it in more detail. It turned into a lawn. And then I suggested that the lawn could change. She said it was like the whole thing was swallowing itself getting smaller and smaller until it disappeared.

And that was the end of her phobia. The whole process took less than five minutes.

I asked her,"What do you think of heights now?" She said "No problem at all. I can look over the edge now, nothing to it."

Client metaphor therapy smoking

Cloud Metaphor

This client said she had been able to give up in the past. Once for a year as a teenager, and another time for four years. She started again when her ex-husband left her. She smokes as a way to deal with stress, but her real problem is smoking when she goes out to socialize. Having a drink gets her smoking.

I asked her the Question: What do you feel when I say 'you will never smoke another cigarette as long as you live'? She said she would feel a bit disappointed, at not being able to socialize the way she used to. She said that when she starts drinking with friends it is like something comes over her and she starts reaching for a cigarette.

Identify the metaphor

I asked what this something was like. I suggested that "some people feel it like a blanket, others like a teddy bear, some like a cloud. How do you feel it?". She said it was more like a cloud. A dark cloud, like a foggy dark night. I got her to develop this and she became aware that it come from the right, over her right shoulder.

She said she would like it to go away, because it made her want to smoke. She had identified her own metaphor. I developed that. I asked her to imagine something in the cloud that would change it, like a lantern or fireworks or something like a pinpoint of light.

Change the metaphor

She came up with a bright light shining through it from the bottom. A blue light that was turning it white. She said that it was just sitting there, not threatening, doing nothing. Then I got her to examine it further and she said that it was full of voices of her friends urging her to stop, encouraging her to give up.

I suggested she might like to move into that cloud, and she said it was like something wrapped around her supporting her. I then got her to imagine being in a bar with friends. She said she felt protected, that she didn't need to smoke to enjoy their company. She was sitting there with her eyes closed, smiling.

Then I finished with some direct suggestions and a finger lift as guarantee from her mind.

Some people just lead you into their metaphors and then change the metaphor themselves.

Smoking Metaphor removal transcript

There are many ways to stop smoking. Using client metaphor therapy is probably the fastest. If you change the smoker's belief, you change the smoker forever. And instantly. Here is an example of using a client metaphor to stop smoking.



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