We all struggle with finding the right tools to help change our clients’ behavior.
Throughout my 40 years as a psychotherapist, I’ve found that creating metaphors using everyday objects in life is a powerful strategy for unlocking change.
A penny, a crayon, or even a balloon … there are endless tangible reminders that serve as therapeutic touchstones, reinforcing session lessons.
Here are some examples of how I use everyday items as metaphors:
- A Penny: Points out that we need to embrace change! It also reminds us that even insignificant things add up. To further this point, you can ask your clients if they would take a million dollars or a penny that doubles every day for a 31 day month. The answer: $1,000,000 vs. $5,386,709.12.
- Rubber Band: An elastic band is like stress—we need some “stretch” to thrive. A limp rubber band signifies a lack of engagement and commitment, but too much stretch by not setting limits, for example, will lead to being stretched too thin and even snapping!
- A Small Bouncing Ball: Reminds us that we can bounce back from anything if we have a positive attitude and learn from adversity. It demonstrates the importance of being flexible in order to bounce back!
- An Eraser: Tells us it’s okay to make mistakes! We don’t need to be perfect.
- A Crayon: Reminds us to put color into our worlds by positive thinking, and avoid thinking in “black and white.”
The beauty of these objects is there is no right or wrong meaning; all are subject to various interpretations which are fun for creative brainstorming and engaging for your clients. I suggest my clients carry an item that is soothing for them, right in their purse, wallet or even a back pocket.
I like to take it one step further and create metaphorical toolkits. Some toolkit ideas include anger and stress management, coping skills, positive life, school survival and drug-free toolkit. What I find really handy is that most of these things (and dozens of other potential items) can be found in our household “junk drawer” or purchased inexpensively.
Using familiar items from everyday life that symbolize important life skills offers a great group activity for all ages. For more on the use of metaphors, download this free worksheet, Using Metaphors from Daily Life.
Using metaphors is just one way that you can help your clients change their behavior. You can find over 150 more tips and techniques in my new book: 150 More Group Therapy Activities & TIPS.
Judith A. Belmont, MS LPC, has 40 years of experience in the mental health field as therapist, author, trainer and speaker. She is the author of 6 books designed to provide mental health professionals and their clients valuable life skills resources, including 150 More Group Therapy Activities & TIPS.