I loooooove a good metaphor.
And it’s funny to hear stories of my childhood and that expressing myself through metaphor was something that has always been a part of my life waaayyy before I became a play therapist!
I find that metaphor in therapy can help shift thinking in new ways that just talking about something at face value can’t. AND a lot of play therapy can be thought of in metaphor - the way that emotions, experiences, and thoughts in Child Centered Play Therapy are projected on to the specific toys and play sequences. OR when you read a book about thoughts in which the thoughts areactually colored balloons.
But what about using metaphor to help get stuck sessions unstuck?
Sometimes metaphor can lower defenses, help depersonalize “the stuckness” and difficulty to engage, and get things moving.
I wanted to share one of my favorite metaphors I usually use with middle schoolers and teens when I get hit with resistance in play therapy. Typically when I use this metaphor the resistance looks like saying “I don’t know” over and over, blank stares, and crossed arms.
I call this metaphor *drum roll please* The Tandem Bike of Therapy.
And it goes a little something like this…..
I will ask the teen or tween “If this session were like us riding a tandem bike, together - how would that be working out for us?”
Usually there is enough humor in the metaphor that I at least get a little chuckle or giggle.
Then I go on to explain that therapy is like riding a tandem bike. I want THEM to be at the front steering, having power and autonomy, and deciding where we go. I explain that I might THINK I know the route that is the best for them, but we might go in a direction that feels completely the opposite of what they need.
I then process that if I’m also the only one pedaling our therapy bike is going to fall over. Maybe into the ditch or bushes, but it is definitely not going to be on the smooth path to healing.
Then I pose a question - what do they need to feel like they can get in the driver's seat of this bike and do some pedaling?
And from here? Well…. we can get into a lot of ideas to brainstorm barriers to getting on the bike, what support they need to feel safe, and what direction they want to go!
Hopefully you can store this technique in your toolbox for your resistant and difficult to engage sessions and this metaphor might just be the thing to get you both back on the therapy bike!
Do you need more support with resistance in the playroom? Check out my training Rolling With Resistance: Play Therapy Interventions For Your Most difficult To Engage Clients, with 25+ Play therapy activities to unlock resistance and increase engagement!
I'm Ann Meehan, an LPCC,