Metaphor and guided imagery for psychotherapy and healing

By: Rubin Battino


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Size: 152mm x 229mm
Pages : 384
ISBN : 9781904424925
Format: Paperback
Published: January 2005

This is the comprehensive guide for all those wishing to explore the fascinating potential of metaphor. Conducting a systematic analysis of the effectiveness of metaphor, this work examines:

  • the structure of a metaphor: from its essential elements to its optional components
  • the delivery of metaphor: from rapport-building and communication skills to the art of effective story-telling
  • what makes metaphor work, with examples of poor and good usage.

Forming a complete reference and resource for clinician and therapist, Metaphoria investigates:

  • the application of metaphor for all ages
  • the use of metaphor in specific approaches such as: sleep induction, pain control, trauma, re-framing, art therapy, hypnotherapy, healing, preparation for surgery, narrative therapy, solution-focused therapy and ordeal therapy
  • language forms
  • metaphor in Ericksonian psychotherapy and hypnosis
  • themes and ideas.

Containing sample scripts and suggestions for basic and advanced metaphors, plus a history of the use of metaphor, Metaphoria provides readers with everything they need to fully comprehend the metaphor’s unique properties and to create metaphors for their own unique purposes.

Picture for author Rubin Battino

Rubin Battino

Rubin Battino MS has a private practice in Yellow Springs, Ohio. He is an Adjunct Professor for the Department of Human Services at Wright State University, and has over twenty five years of experience as a facilitator of a support group for people who have life-challenging diseases and for caregivers. He is a Fellow of the National Council for Hypnotherapy (UK), and also a Fellow of two chemistry societies. Other publications by Rubin include: Healing Language. A Guide for Physicians, Dentists, Nurses, Psychologists, Social Workers, and Counselors; Howie and Ruby. Conversations 2000 - 2007;, That's Right, Is it Not? A Play About the Life of Milton H. Erickson, MD, and Using Guided Imagery and Hypnosis in Brief Therapy and Palliative Care.

Click here to listen to Rubin's interview with London School of Clinical Communications and Hypnosis.


  1. Metaphoria: Metaphor and Guided Metaphor for Psychotherapy by Rubin Battino provides the magic mix for all Ericksonian and NLP practitioners with a thoroughly detailed appraisal of language patterns, rapport building, effective client-communication and feedback-monitoring.
    Rubin Battino scrutinises the metaphor as a supremely inspiring, enlightening and healing story and as a tool which will stimulate the client's imagination in an optimum way. The author discusses the power of the metaphor to alter the client's unconscious perception by defying the logical boundaries of the conscious mind and thereby rendering metaphorical imagery as the supreme learning and therapeutic device.
    At the outset the author stresses the importance of delivery of the metaphor with -˜precise use of vague language' thereby underlining the non-logical, open-ended and non-specific value of such a methodology with the practitioner evolving as the ultimate storyteller. When relating the metaphor, it is vital that the therapeutic storyteller relay the message with insight and personal authenticity in order to allow the client to grasp and integrate the deeper structure, rather than merely the surface structure, of the inherent meaning. By this means the true therapeutic purpose of the metaphor will be achieved by allowing the client to interpret the message according to his own unique reality.
    Metaphoria provides a comprehensive guide to the history and development of the metaphor and guided imagery. Rubin Battino also discusses the application of generic metaphors, thematic metaphors, embedded messages and client-tasks based on metaphoric material. The practitioner can thus skilfully assist the client to resolve inner conflict utilising techniques for reframing and purposeful ambiguity. The practitioner will also be guided through the process of gathering information and of constructing a metaphor tailor-made for the client.
    A large section of Metaphoria is devoted to extremely beneficial solution-focused techniques for reality checks, as-if situations, client-narrative assignments, creative art therapy, psychodramatic re-enactment and curative healing all of which incorporate metaphorical methodology rendering this work of even more value to the working professional in the therapeutic fraternity.
  2. An ideal companion to the author's excellent Expectation: The Very Brief Therapy Book, Metaphoria provides an overview of metaphor based therapy. Learned and scholarly, with many references to source materials the book is well written and provides a fascinating insight into a wealth of therapies that have metaphor at their heart. I found the early chapters on the structure, language and delivery of metaphor somewhat heavy going ” perhaps I am too familiar with that territory. The later sections covering the many different approaches to using metaphor in therapy, though, are excellent.

    Many enjoyable metaphors are presented in the text, as examples, but this is not a collection of metaphors as such. There are numerous such collections available including the popular Magic of Metaphor series by Nick Owen, also from Crown House Publishing.

    Overall Metaphoria is a good, scholarly introduction to the science and practice of metaphor. It will be a useful reference point for therapists of all ilks.
  3. Battino's newest book, Metaphoria, Metaphor and Guided Metaphor for Psychotherapy and Healing, is an addition to his growing contributions to the Ericksonian literature on psychotherapy. For those already familiar with well known Ericksonian theoreticians/clinicians (i.e., the Lanktons, Zeig, and Rossi), this book will be mostly a review, but a finely arranged one that makes the book a potential text for the teacher of metaphor. In fact, the author states that when asked to write this book, he was unsure that he would add anything new to the literature. For those who have no background in hypnosis or guided imagery, this book is not the place to begin. It assumes a level of familiarity with certain concepts that would be confusing to a beginner, and as such requires a teacher to provide the foundation in imagery and hypnotic work. However, for the psychotherapist with some background in imagery work, the book covers many topics and provides a detailed introduction to the definition, structure, formulation and application of metaphors.

    In this compendium, the title may be one of Battino's most creative contributions. As the title suggests, the author has set the horn of plenty on the table amassing a fine array of examples, exercises, and experts which loosely all relate to the topic of metaphors. Interesting that Battino's invented word conveyed to him “euphoria, metamorphosis, passion and moments of delight” (xvii). One might guess that this particular metaphor remained unconscious to Battino, but as he suggests, the “meaning of any communication is the response you get” (p. 23). To this reviewer, Battino communicated breadth more than depth. To wring the last bit from this metaphor, I ate tidbits from a wide variety, but remained un-full yet not unfulfilled in the end.

    It would be a disservice not to mention Battino's passion, however, which is as much for the narrative as for the acted, spoken word. Battino tells us he is an actor, and I am sure the skills culled and condensed from that profession delight and enrapture the listener when he tells his stories. He covers the details of pacing and leading, and at times strays deeply into the Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) literature to cover anchoring and eye cues (p.70), all of which are useful concepts and skills for an astute clinician, but hardly necessary to the use of good metaphors. Battino comments on the difference between the spoken word and the read word (p.2), clearly preferring the spoken, and it is here that the weakness of the hook emerges. This is a hook about metaphors in the context of psychotherapy, yet seems to be a book about psychotherapy in the context of metaphor and guided imagery. This is hardly a criticism, for it implies that Battino simply set out to do too much, and probably has too much experience to limit the focus easily. For example, I would have liked to see Chapter Four expanded, as central to the book's explanations about metaphors and their construction, rather than the author's superficial covering of a broad range of therapeutic techniques, e.g., the arts and psychodrama.

    Of great value in this book are the detailed examples, the therapeutic interventions, and the how to's, which both novice and experienced therapists will find useful. Battino devotes a chapter each to reframing, ambiguous function assignments, ordeal therapy, and as-if or miracle questions, referring to each as a kind of metaphor. In Chapter Seventeen, Battino deflnes what he means by guided imagery and guided metaphor: “In individual guided-imagery work a healing metaphor is developed collaboratively with the client” (p. 289). A guided metaphor is also developed collaboratively but uses the “client's story of her life as well as her personalized healing metaphor” (p. 289). (l am not convinced there is a distinction, since imagery can summon a client's entire “story”.) What is useful are the questions he provides in order to gather the information needed and the steps to follow to then create healing metaphors for clients. These steps are easy to follow, although as Battino reminds the reader, making metaphors is a complex task. Just having the ingredients does not a gourmet meal make.

    Consciously designing metaphors (p.84) is an important learning tool, and one Battino recommends. I wish that the author had spent some time discussing the therapist's sum of unconscious experience which often permeates our work, allowing, for example, the image (the metaphor) to float into consciousness that ultimately relates our understanding and work with a client.

    Battino reminds us that the so!ution-focused-brief-therapists perceive three kinds of clients: The workers, the complainants and the visitors (p.205). I would guess that the “workers” make up the smallest percentage of people in therapy, and that moving the other two groups towards “working” is the real challenge of therapy, and that requires relationship skills, patience, and a well integrated conceptual framework on the part of the therapist. For some, metaphor will be part of that framework, for others it will be the framework. See Battino's all too brief mention of Batesonian Perspective (p.6) to appreciate metaphoric meta structure and the notion that in the mind all is metaphor.

    Pairing action with metaphor to achieve change is crucial to work with children, and really is another way to define play therapy. Battino credits Ordeal Therapy to Erickson and Haley (p.228). These are not new ideas; they are old ones with a new name.

    Herein lies the crux of my disappointment in this book- it covers many of the techniques, the theories, the concepts that are the common ground to all good therapy, and yet, fails to note that connection. It is a strength to be so inclusive, it is a weakness to not call it such, and in this Metaphoria fails. The book might have been better titled: Multiple Interventions for Healing.

    Child therapists are not likely to gain much from this book, although some examples of metaphors to use with children are included. The book is written largely for treating adults (or the child within the adult), and for those comfortable defining therapy as trance and utilizing trance phenomenon to achieve the patient's objectives. As noted earlier, it will also be of interest to teachers and trainers looking for a comprehensive text on metaphors. It is well organized and planned, clear although not always elaborate.

    WhiIe there is no mention of Jung, whose great contribution of the concept of collective unconscious was all about metaphor (Kalsehed, 1996), nor much attention of the old psychotherapy masters who drew heavily from metaphorical reference (e.g., Winnicott, Freud, Horney), it seems more an honest omission due to Battino's passion for Ericksonian thinking. Milton H. Erickson, M.D., was of course, a product of the old masters, and undoubtedly influenced by them, so it seems Battino has honored the memory of his mentor with this book.

    During and since graduate school the biggest criticism I have been given of my professional writing is that it is too poetic. I know now that was a compliment, for this comment recognized my particular framework for conceptualizing therapy. This is what Battino would call the metaphorist (p. 21). In the end, we may remember Battino for introducing the wonderful word metaphoria into the language of psychotherapy.


    Battino, R. (2000). Guided imagery and other approaches to healing. Carmarthen, Wales: Crown House Publishing.
    Kalsched, D. (1996). The inner world of trauma: Archetypal defenses of the personal spirit. London: Routledge 

  4. The thought that this book would just be an introduction to metaphors is an oversimplification. The author has thoroughly researched the topic and exploring his many references could keep us questing for more knowledge for years to come.

    The language for metaphor is important. "The relaxed state, like the hypnotic trance, is a highly suggestible state, and clients are more open to suggestions at that time."This means that your words take on extra meaning, must be chosen carefully, and with conscious intent."

    The art of the language of metaphor is that the listener makes the connections internally, without explanation in order for it to be understood. Open-ended suggestions emphasise choice and are deliberately vague eg "And you don't need to know those cancer cells are being eliminated, just sense their departure."

    The four elements of a metaphor are discussed in detail " gathering information, constructing the metaphor, delivering the metaphor and closing statements. There are some useful words and phrases provided and a helpful section analyses some metaphors available in print form and one in particular being a children's metaphor about being different.

    The author has explained and provided advanced metaphors such as multiple embedded metaphors for psychotherapy and healing that contain a story in a story in a story. Counselling and NLP methods have been incorporated such as Reframing, Ambiguous-Function Assignment, As-if, Solution Focused Therapy and the Miracle Question, Narrative Therapy and Guided Metaphors for Healing.

    Stephen Lankton wrote the foreword and he said "Metaphors (1) provide a cluster or gestalt of associations, (2) resist reduction, (3) facilitate thinking, (4) are more compelling than structured language, and (5) are more easily assimilated." He went on to say that "Metaphoria is the most complete overview and reference book to date on the various approaches to metaphor." He called the book "a chest of golden treasures" and I'm pleased to say that I agree.
  5. Rubin Battino has produced a solid and eminently readable volume that provides a comprehensive guide to the sometimes mystifying subject of metaphor. Designed to appeal to the novice and experienced therapist alike, this book provides a firm foundation in a therapy technique and method of teaching that has been handed down across the centuries. Metaphor is not simply storytelling. It is a subtle, yet effective, means by which ideas can be communicated, associations forged, whilst encouraging change. The effectiveness with which a metaphor can be measured is purely dependent on the skill of the person delivering it: it is not simply a case of telling a tale that may or may not be of interest to the patient. As the author points out, the effectiveness of a metaphor is determined by many things: the language used; sentence construction: grammatical manipulation; delivery; and utilization of the patient's reality. Happily, all of this is discussed in detail and to a depth that allows the reader full comprehension and understanding of these complexities. At this juncture I should point out that this is not just another collection of metaphors to be blindly used by therapists. By defining and exploring the subject, the author positively encourages the appropriate application of metaphor in the therapeutic setting. However. example metaphors are liberally sprinkled throughout the text, and one enjoyable factor is that Battino practises what he preaches by including some that are aimed directly at the reader.

    Metaphoria provides an extremely useful survey of the literature on metaphor. All the example metaphors, many reprinted from other sources, are accompanied by the author's own positive critique. The author reinforces his opinion that these metaphors should not simply be taken and used as is, and to this end he goes into great detail, giving theme, course, and suggested phrases for various therapist generated metaphors. To help those who wish to create their own from scratch, the construction of metaphors is comprehensively covered. Battino details the language used within this frame and explains how to construct direct and indirect suggestions whilst looking at the importance of the manipulation of words. Following on, he discusses the use of implication, the use of confusion, as well as the use of binds. Along with the author, I am firmly of the opinion that when using published metaphors they should be individually adapted to suit both the patient and the particular aspects of their presenting symptom, as well as to the therapist's personal style. Metaphoria goes a long way to helping the novice develop these skills, whilst at the same time allowing the more experienced to revise what they already know and to gain fresh ideas.

    Having taken the reader through the basic metaphorical approach, Battino moves on to look at the construction and application of advanced metaphor, specifically the multiple embedded metaphor. This complex approach is simply defined and the reader is encouraged, after having practised some of the more simplistic forms, to include these in their repertoire. Here the first half of the book concludes. Up until now, the emphasis has been firmly biased towards hypnotherapeutic approaches. The remainder is now devoted to the use of metaphor within various other therapies. Rubin Battino provides an important and useful overview of each whilst highlighting where metaphor can, and is, applied. It is interesting to note that within some of these approaches, metaphor transcends the oral narrative and enters into the realm of activity.

    The overview of Ambiguous Function Assignments (homework) argues that they can be viewed as an active form of metaphor, whereby the patient carries out a task that will have a metaphorical meaning with regard to the presenting symptom and its resolution. Generic assignments are given that will allow those new to use of Ambiguous Function Assignments to extrapolate and apply them appropriately to their own patients.

    By looking at Solution Focused Therapy, in particular the Miracle Question. Battino hypothesizes that this can be used to create patient-generated metaphors. Further to this he explores the field of Narrative Therapy that couples the patients own account of their life with the beliefs they hold with regard to it, arguing that these beliefs are metaphors in their own right.

    For those therapists working with physical illness, the author provides chapters outlining particular metaphorical approaches to healing and surgery. Here he makes an important distinction between “healing” a patient and “curing” a patient. In this context “healing” refers to the psychological and spiritual changes that accompany the therapeutic journey with regard to illness and its outcome.

    The book concludes by looking at the metaphorical nature of ritual and ceremony and how they have been used throughout the ages to create a healing change. For some, the concept of such approaches as the Navajo Talking Circle may seem a little esoteric. But we must remember that these ceremonies were the forerunner of all the talking therapies, and for many people they still provide an effective path to resolution.

    Rubin Battino has produced a superbly concise, yet wide ranging overview of the field of metaphor. The clarity with which he approaches the subject is refreshing, and with its multitude of references this book is an excellent resource for further study. -˜Metaphoria' works on many levels: as an interesting read: as a story book: as an authoritive review of the subject; and, perhaps, as a personal journey of discovery as our own inner associations are made whilst reading many of the metaphors presented. -˜Metaphoria' will appeal to anyone with an interest in therapy no matter their background, and, as such, is an essential addition to every therapist's personal library.
  6. There have been many books on metaphor, including a number of classic titles, so you might wonder what else there is to say on the subject that would warrant a new volume. Hasn't it all been done before? Well, in a sense yes, and if it's cutting edge thinking you're after then METAPHORIA by Rubin Battino is probably not for you.

    That's not to suggest the book lacks original ideas ” in fact, the author's contributions to the field are threaded throughout.

    But it's in bringing together and integrating many diverse approaches to utilising metaphor where this book scores. Starting with a brief history of metaphor, it goes on to explore language, structure and then delivery.

    Battino says in the introduction that he set out to write a textbook - but don't imagine it's some dry, academic tome. On the contrary, it's engagingly and interestingly written, and most importantly of all, eminently practical. The section on creating a therapeutic metaphor that's tailor-made to the needs of a person particularly gathering information and building the metaphor - is a model of clarity.

    Battino is President of the Milton H Erickson Society in Dayton, Ohio, and has written on the hypnotherapist's approach, so it's no surprise to encounter the spirit of Erickson as you turn the pages. There's also quite a bit of NIP in there as well.

    In fact, Battino goes beyond the narrow bounds of metaphor and provides a valuable framework and perspective for doing therapy with others.

    Many people are keen to make use of metaphor but find it hard to come up with suitable material.

    Beginning with some -˜generic' metaphors drawn from a wide range of sources, and going on to analyse a variety of published metaphors, the author provides a rich starting point for the novice metaphorist and plenty for the more experienced practitioner.

    While no book can be totally comprehensive METAPHORIA comes close to capturing the essence of the subject - and certainly brings it to life. lf you only plan to buy one book on metaphor, this is a good choice. Overall, it's a book you'll find hard to put down and want to keep picking up.
  7. Well Mr Battino has done it again! He manages to convey his ideas and write his books in an easy to read, yet comprehensive way. Metaphoria is a useful addition to both the student and experienced therapist alike. It gives a clear explanation of what metaphor is, how to deliver them effectively and how to structure and tailor them for clients. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this one and found it very informative and interesting. If you are in any way interested in metaphor then this book is for you.

    I would recommend this book

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