I like the idea of using metaphors in therapy, so that I can think in different and creative ways about the situations facing me or my relationship. But I’m wondering — what are some metaphors for therapy itself?
The experienced counselors and therapist at Emily Cook Therapy definitely know the power of a good metaphor, and we often use illustrative language in our work with people in therapy. Here are four different metaphors for therapy from four of our practice’s marriage and family therapists in Bethesda, MD:
**This post is the second in our new monthly series, “Ask Our Therapists”! Even though each therapist at Emily Cook Therapy works from a similar overall counseling philosophy, we are also each unique in how we think about problems and offer support. We hope by reading our different answers to the same question, you get a better sense of who we are as individuals and how we each could help!**
Emily Cook, licensed marriage and family therapist: One of the metaphors I use to describe the experience of therapy is renovating a house. There are any number of reasons to do renovations, from preventative maintenance, to minor updates and improvements, to the aftermath of a disaster that flooded the basement or blew off the roof. Through therapy, we’ll explore questions like “what’s working about the current house, and what isn’t working anymore?” “how did you come to live in this house and do you want to stay on the same plot of land?” “what do we need to pay attention to that may be lurking under the surface — are prepared to take down a wall and find out the plumbing needs replacing too?” “how much scaffolding does the house need to stay stable and inhabitable while we’re renovating?” “what sorts of changes can we make to prevent damage in the future?” House renovations are hard, and require effort and investment from every one. At the end, though, it should be a worthy endeavor and substantially improve the quality of your life, and your relationships.
Caryn Malkus, licensed marriage and family therapist: I like to think of therapy as tending a garden. Clients come to therapy because their inner self or their relationship feels like it is withered and dying, like a fallow garden. They have neglected the soil (their heart), which is telling them to seek help. Instead, they bury the anxious and depressed feelings deep down, into the soil. It is only when they come to therapy that we can begin the process of tilling the soil and uncovering the buried feelings that need to be expressed. By exploring and releasing past hurts, we pull those old weeds out, and are able to make space in the garden for new seeds to be planted. These new seeds represent novel ways of being and interacting in the world, and over time, the seeds grow into beautiful, confident plants and flowers. The garden will grow wild without perimeters, so we work on creating just the right boundaries to keep the garden healthy and safe. Lastly, by exuding warmth and compassion during the therapy process, we provide ample sunlight and water to the garden, which keeps it growing and thriving.
Jocylynn Stephenson, licensed marriage and family therapist: To me, therapy is a glacier expedition. Exploring a glacier can be a daunting undertaking. Having proper equipment for the trip is vitally important to prevent serious injury. Even with proper equipment, accidents can happen that make you want to turn back and give up on the adventure. In therapy, motivation to change is the only equipment needed to get started. As the process continues, we may face setbacks in the way of uncovered traumas, raw emotions, and feelings of discouragement. But as with the glacier, should you choose to continue, therapy offers the opportunity to discover uncharted territory and claim victory over the challenge.
Kaitlin Doyle, licensed marriage and family therapist: There is a verb in Spanish that I often call to mind when thinking about therapy, desahogar, a word I’m honored to have learned from a client. Although there isn’t really a direct translation to English, the closest definition would be “to vent.” Importantly however, desahogar has a connotation of relief. Oftentimes, therapy can be just that- a place to open the vent and let out what has been burdening you in order to feel some relief.