Why is it useful to develop clients metaphors when coaching?

Helping clients to develop metaphors when coaching using Clean Language can be both revealing and insightful. This method is particularly useful when a client’s analytical mind prevents them from exploring the bigger picture. It enables them to delve into hidden areas and allows new perspectives to emerge.

When coaching a client recently she was feeling stuck when it came to a change she needed to make. I suggested she move to a different place in the room that represented this change in order to explore how this felt. I asked her to notice where her feeling about the change was in her body, and then asked her if it had a size or a shape. She was able to embody the change she wanted and to locate a feeling of excitement and slight trepidation. When I asked what this feeling was like, she described being on the deck of a ship travelling in uncharted waters. The feeling she had, came from the excitement of the journey but at the same time her slight sea sickness.

As a coach you are also in ‘unchartered waters’ going with your client into unknown territory. Here you need all your calm presence and a mindful state to stay with your client wherever they choose to go. Asking Clean Questions such as “And is there anything else about eg/ ..”the excitement of this journey?” or “And what kind of journey is that when it’s exciting?” will further develop the metaphor and allow the coachee to continue their journey of exploration.

Once my client was able to consider the change from a different place, link the reality and the feelings she experienced, she was able to work through her decision more easily. Asking further questions such as “And when you make the change then what happens?” and/or “And what happens just before that change and just after?” brings even greater clarity and enables the client to gain useful insights into their unconscious mind.

Angela Dunbar sites in her interesting article on www.cleanlanguage.co.uk
Carl Jung explains the importance of the unconscious mind in his book, Man and his Symbols, Chapter One. At some point of perception, we reach the edge of certainty beyond which conscious knowledge cannot pass. The unconscious, however, has taken note of all events and experiences, and will store this information in forms and symbols that may be somewhat obscure. Jung was convinced that by analysing those symbols that appear through connecting with our unconscious, we have access to a much wider and more comprehensive understanding of ourselves, our relationships and the wider world around us.


Our use of metaphors in everyday language is one such ‘key’ to deciphering our unconscious wisdom.