Psychological transference as metaphor and with metaphor

Research output: Unpublished conference presentation (presented paper, abstract, poster)Conference presentation (not published in journal/proceeding/book)Academic researchpeer-review


Psychotherapy is a mental health activity where therapists and clients discuss and resolve thoughts, feelings and emotions deemed to affect the latter’s well-being. One of the most complex constructs in psychotherapy is transference, where the client unconsciously makes sense of therapeutically relevant issues in terms of past significant experiences. Transference could lead to negative feelings and maladaptive behaviors, which makes the identification and interpretation of transference an important task in psychotherapy (Grant and Crawley, 2002). Based on transcripts of psychoanalytic sessions in the Chinese context, this study combines psychoanalytic and discourse analytic perspectives to model the transferential process and its relationship to metaphor. Two transferential themes are examined, i.e. the client as a CHILD and as a PATIENT. While previous research has provided valuable insights into transference as a metaphoric conceptualization (Borbely, 2008) and its interpretation as a process of higher- level metaphor construction (Tay, 2016), this study highlights more nuanced relationships between the two: (1) Although transference has been acknowledged as a metaphoric structure of temporal nature (i.e. PRESENT IS PAST), it is possible that more specific and non-temporal conceptualizations, e.g. the client’s as a PATIENT, become productive sources of transferential mappings. (2) An important explanatory function of metaphors is found in both dyad members’ exploration of transference, which seems to build up a linguistic model that is largely isomorphic to the metaphoric transferential model. (3) Instead of using source concepts that are external to the therapeutic sessions, the therapist tends to build his metaphors directly on his inferences about the

ongoing transference and employ source concepts that are subjectively- constructed. More interestingly, while the client shows a strong preference for external sources at the beginning, her use of transference-based sources increases with the progression of transference interpretation. Based on these findings, theoretical, methodological and practical implications are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020
EventThe 13th Conference for the Association for Researching and Applying Metaphor - Hamar, Norway (virtual conference), Hamar, Norway
Duration: 8 Jun 202021 Jun 2020


ConferenceThe 13th Conference for the Association for Researching and Applying Metaphor

Cite this