Category Archives: clinical practice

Metaphors in the clinical situation

Sometimes it’s very hard to convey my feelings and thoughts about a specific situation to my clients. In order to clarify my point of view, a metaphor sometimes comes handy, and it’s usually more effective than a technical explanation.

I am currently seeing a 11 year old client brought to therapy by his parents. The parents bring the child to therapy because of certain problematic behaviors they don’t know how to handle (mainly, the child is stealing money from family members). I am convinced that the client’s mother is emotionally unstable, and that my client’s inappropriate behavior is in part a way of coping with his mother’s emotional difficulties. So, during the family interview, I recommended the client’s mother to start individual psychotherapy for herself.

The father is a I.T. guy, a system analist specialized in computer security. He asks me why, if the child is the one who is behaving inappropriately, I am telling the mother to seek help. And I reply:

“A family is a system. The more robust a system is, the better the programs run. But if the system is low in resources, or freezes repeatedly, you can’t expect the programs to run well. Now let’s pretend that your son is Word, and your family is Windows. We need Windows to run smoothly in order to help Word do its job. We can still debug and improve Word and any other programs, and we will do that, but everything will be better if we solve the problems in the OS at the same time.”

I think he understood.