The Use of Metaphor and Indirect Suggestion in Addiction Treatment


Inspire Palm Beach utilizes Metaphor Therapy and Indirect Suggestion with its clients as part of it’s psychotherapy and wellness activities.  These are two techniques of many used

within the Inspire Palm Beach treatment programs. When we use metaphors in our counseling sessions, we are basically telling a story (can be fictional) about a subject area with which the client struggles. The story is constructed and told using pause and intonation without actually revealing the problem of which we are talking. This enables the client to formulate a conclusion about the meaning of the has come to the desired conclusion without the Therapist imposing a behavioral directive on the client.

These techniques enable perception change by allowing the client to come to his/her own conclusion about the subject matter. The client’s own conclusions produce a positive change in perception as opposed to a more directive or confrontative approach. The direct or confrontative approaches may produce a defense or block which inhibit the perception change process. Clients are exposed to the use of metaphor (stories) which relate to their problem. The best therapeutic change always occurs when the client is brought to his/her own conclusions.

The use of Metaphor Therapy and indirect suggestion enables this process to take place.

The metaphor is a story that describes the client’s problem. The story also describes how the main character in the story is able to access the information in the story to resolve the problem. Being able to understand the importance of using stories in healing (metaphor) may take some practice on the Therapist’s part. Two excellent resources for understanding and constructing metaphors for healing are 101 Healing Stories using metaphors in therapy by George W. Burns and Tales Of Enchantment: Goal-Oriented Metaphors For Adults And Children In Therapy by Carol H Lankton. These are recommended readings due to the complexity of skill needed to construct a goal and outcome oriented metaphorical approach.

According to George W. Burns in his book, 101 Healing Stories using metaphors in therapy, “When presented with ambiguous stimulus, we search for meaning or relevance. We seek structure, and how it may relate to us. The interpretation most meaningful for the listener is usually the one to which he or she ascribes. From the Therapist’s point of view, the answer should be clear. There should be a solid rationale and sound ethical reasons for telling each and every healing story. The metaphor needs to provide the means for facilitating the client’s movement toward the desired outcome.”

When speaking about Metaphor and Indirect therapies, the name, Milton Erickson is always at the forefront.  Erickson pioneered the use of trance combined with metaphor and indirection to allow the client to experience on an unconscious level. Erickson believed that the unconscious mind was always listening and that, whether or not the patient was in trance, suggestions could be made which would have a hypnotic influence, as long as those suggestions found resonance at the unconscious level.

     ” The subconscious mind may provide answers to effectively treat addictions.”

                                                      Inspire Palm Beach

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