Responding within the metaphor: A theoretical exploration in the healing of trauma

Mary M. Gillespie (1997)

The purpose of this study was to theoretically explore client-constructed metaphorical communication in the transformation of traumatic experiences. An integrative application of therapeutic material from a single case study serves to highlight and elucidate the proposed theoretical ideas. As a significant social problem, trauma is devastating both in terms of its prevalence and its effects. Individuals who have been vulnerable to trauma demonstrate serious and chronic problems such as fear, anxiety, depression, powerlessness and substance abuse. Metaphor is a unique, powerful, and curative method that a client can utilize to heal from the devastating effects of trauma. In addition, it provides a special manner in which a client can voice and transform a history of traumatic experiences. A central tenet proposed in this theoretical study is that it is imperative for the therapist to respond within the metaphors that are offered by the client. The therapeutic process of responding within and following the metaphors can allow the client to re-create and reclaim her life. In so doing, both client and therapist mutually join on a journey involving a profound transcendence of pain with a movement towards psychological health. This study provides directions for the building of the therapeutic relationship fostering the client's healing process. The results of this study will add to the existing literature on trauma and metaphor as well as help psychologists and clinicians to more effectively provide therapeutic services to individuals who have been vulnerable to trauma.