A discursive exploration of clients’ and counsellors’ metaphorical talk in counselling sessions.

  • Alexandra Kasozi

Student thesis: PsychD


This thesis presents a discursive analysis of clients’ and counsellors’ metaphorical talk in
counselling sessions. Permission was granted for access to, and the research use of, existing
data originally collected from the Pluralistic Therapy for Depression Clinic at the University
of Strathclyde. This data took the form of audio recordings of counsellors’ and clients’ oneto-
one counselling sessions. Of the data obtained, a total of thirteen counselling sessions
from the therapy of three client-counsellor pairs’ were transcribed using a modified version
of Jeffersonian notation. Transcriptions were then coded to distinguish occasions of
metaphorical talk. Subsequently they were analysed using a discursive psychology approach
which drew on conversation analytic and ethnomethodological principles. This method
considered the consequentiality of metaphorical talk on the surrounding interaction, how
metaphorical constructions were assembled, and what actions were performed with
metaphorical talk in the situated context of the therapeutic discourse. This was followed by
a critical revisiting of some of the findings. The analysis found clients’ and counsellors’
uses of metaphor within the data related to three spheres of activity. The first related to
constructions of identity through metaphorical talk – in particular a) the construction of
relationships by both clients and counsellors using metaphors related to familial role
categories, and b) clients’ metaphorical constructions of past versus present identities. The
second involved clients’ use of metaphor to do topic management and resistance. The third
involved the use of metaphor as a discursive resource in the construction of shared-meaning.
Following this the implications of these findings for counselling psychology practice and
other psychological therapists were discussed. In particular, a greater awareness of the
possible impact of metaphorical talk and claims, and reflection on their impact in both
limiting and freeing what is possible in the discourse was suggested.
Date of Award13 Mar 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Roehampton
SupervisorPaul Dickerson (Supervisor) & Jacqueline Hayes (Supervisor)


  • Discursive, Psychology, Counselling, Metaphor, Psychotherapy, Conversation

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