Step-by-step process to use abstract metaphors with clients

Ask the client: “Close your eyes, take 3 deep breaths and then just think about what you would like to discuss with me. Think about the thoughts, the emotions, the events, or the things that made you realize that this need to connect with me.”

Remember you are just asking the client to think and not asking them to verbalise their thoughts or their feelings or their problems yet.


Draw something abstract on a piece of paper or a board while the client is thinking with their eyes closed. If you are working via online video meeting software, share your screen and draw something on the whiteboard of the software you are using.

Remember the drawing needs to be abstract. So what I do is I randomly draw lines and curves on the screen in a way that some of the lines and curves overlap.


Ask the client “open your eyes and identify at least 3 things, maybe shapes or items or objects, in the drawing.” What you are asking them to do is very similar to what children do when they see shapes in clouds.

Once the client identifies 3 things, objects or shapes, ask them to identify two more and request them to mark the things they have identified.


After the client creates the story, ask them “if you were a part of this story what would you be doing or what role are you playing in this story.”

Ask the client “I would like you to create a story that contains all these 5 things that you have identified.”


Ask them “think about this story and help me understand how this story relates to what is happening in your life and the problem that you would like to work with”.

After the client is able to relate the story to their current problems, you can use the I feel .... about ..... when ..... Statement from summarizing the problem


That’s it. You have helped the client define their problem clearly and effectively with the help of abstract metaphors. Simple isn’t it? It’s not only simple but highly effective.

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