Metaphors of movement in psychotherapy talk

Dennis Zhiming Tay

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Metaphors of physical movement perform both substantive and organizational functions as they can represent things and construct cohesive links in discourse. This paper examines movement metaphors in psychotherapy talk, a context where both functions are equally salient. Categorical data and discourse analytic methods were used to investigate (i) types of target topics and metaphorical movement, (ii) relationships between topics, types of movement, and speaker, and (iii) how the substantive and organizational functions interact in proximity. There was no three-way interaction but all bivariate associations between topics, movement types, and speaker were significant. Key findings include (i) clients were more likely to use movement metaphors to discuss issues while therapists more likely to discuss therapeutic concepts and construct reference links; (ii) forward movement occurred less frequently than expected as a source for issues while backward movement more frequently than expected as a source for reference links; (iii) therapist metaphors were more likely to depict directions of movement associated with progress, while client metaphors were associated with stagnation, regression, or uncertainty. Clinical implications and directions for future research are highlighted.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018


  • Discourse functions
  • Movement metaphors
  • Psychotherapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


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