We have travelled a long distance and sorted out the mess in the drawers: Metaphors for moving toward the end in psychotherapy


Aim: To explore the process of ending in psychotherapy, in particular how clients and therapists draw on their notions of client improvements and prepare for the upcoming end.

Data: The data comes from an intensive process-outcome study at the University of Oslo, Norway. The study includes audio-recording from all sessions and separate post-therapy interviews with clients and therapists. Twelve psychotherapy dyads were selected because they had reached a ‘good enough’ ending. Therapy duration ranged from 7–43 months. The number of sessions ranged from 10–67.

Method and analysis: A hermeneutical-phenomenological approach analysed and combined the observational and reflexive data. The analysis was carried out using a method for systematic text condensation and through reflexive dialogues with the material and between the researchers.

Findings and discussion: The language of improvement towards the end of treatment seemed packed with metaphors conveying growth in both affective and relational management. Metaphors based on travel (how they have moved); cleaning (how they have cleaned up and sorted out things); sensing (how the clients have grown stronger, got their heads above water and see things differently); and the clients’ feeling of having received something (gifts or tools) are widely used. Such metaphors are created in the interaction with a mutual sensitivity to their capacity to confirm and regulate affect towards the end. In this sense, the metaphors celebrate accomplishments in a way that exceeds therapy, and the client can keep them to use afterwards.

Counselling and Psychotherapy Research: Linking research with practice, 2013, 13 (1), 71-80 

Published Mar. 20, 2013 9:00 AM - Last modified Aug. 24, 2015 2:06 PM