Metaphor Response Categories and Distribution Between Therapists and Clients: a Case Study in the Chinese Context

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8 Citations (Scopus)


There are strong theoretical foundations supporting the use of metaphors in counseling. However, our understanding might become overly idealized without close contextual analysis of different aspects of their use. This paper focuses on one such aspect in the underexplored Chinese-speaking context–how therapists and clients respond to each other’s metaphors, based on 30 hours of transcribed talk from a Chinese university counseling center. A hierarchical set of response categories (repeat, reject, explore, extend) split into ‘non-developmental’ and ‘developmental’ pathways is proposed, reflecting the progressive nature of metaphor response. Differences with categories in previous studies are highlighted, and examples discussed from metaphor theoretical perspectives. A χ2 test of independence revealed a significant association between response categories and initiators (therapist or client) (χ2 (3, N = 178) = 31.05, p < 0.001, Cramer’s V = 0.418, Log (BF10) =11.18), offering further insight into how responses to metaphor relate to counseling objectives. Therapists are more likely to explore and reject metaphors than clients, clients are more likely to repeat metaphors than therapists, and clients and therapists are equally likely to extend metaphors. Implications, limitations, and suggestions for future research are put forward.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Constructivist Psychology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 1 Jan 2019


  • Chinese context
  • discourse analysis
  • Metaphor
  • response to metaphor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language


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