Mental Health Attempting to Treat ‘Suffering’

All too often in counselling and therapy, the sessions will consist of little more than exploring the client’s model of suffering with the hope of offering a panacea.  A panacea doesn’t change anything, it just makes it a little more tolerable.

By the end of therapy, the client has a better model and better set of distinctions by which they understand their suffering. They may have more words and be more articulate in their description and thus are better able to explain how they feel and how they suffer.But they don’t necessarily suffer less. They simply learn to suffer it better.

If the person is exposed to a diagnosing clinician, they may well explain their suffering in phrases and terms that fit diagnostic models and so emerge with a name for their suffering – a label, a diagnosis. Suitably armed with a diagnosis, this diagnostic frame can be cross-matched against prescription protocols, so the appropriate medicament or therapeutic process can be prescribed with the hope of providing some relief.

When this process is applied to behaviour or to psychological and emotional suffering, what this translates to is very simple:

The client is entirely passive and does not need to do anything different in order to be healed. The relief comes not through a change in behavior, but rather in being able to describe their pain properly and then to take the appropriate medication.

Most contemporary analysis involves an exploration of four common themes:

  •   Emotional responses to the problem (how we feel about what happens)
  •  The consequences of the problem (the effects of what happens)
  •  Examples of the problem (what happens)
  • The diagnosis of the problem (cause and effect relationship and what we call it)

But here’s the thing – all of these, are explorations of what the problem is not.

Let me explain.  Imagine I hold in my hand a nice shiny new pen.

– I could tell you how I feel about the pen.  But this isn’t anything to do with the pen, only my feelings towards it.

– I could tell you about the consequences of having or not having a pen.  But this doesn’t tell you anything about this pen.

– I could give you examples of pens.  But that doesn’t tell you about the pen that I am holding.

– I could give you the reason that pens exist.  But that doesn’t tell you about this pen in my hand.

This then is the realm of so many therapeutic methods – a discussion of everything that isn’t the problem.

Introducing ‘Metaphors of Movement’

metaphors of movement


Metaphors of Movement is a field of study of the symbolism and structure of autogenic metaphor and their influence upon reasoning processes. Autogenic metaphors are the metaphors that naturally arise in the language and communication of individuals that may, or may not, be shared by other people.  Metaphors of Movement primarily concerns itself with metaphors that indicate movement, or lack thereof, and so has its greatest application in the remedy of “stuck states.”

In the pit of despair:



What can we very basically tell about the person in the above experience?

  • he isn’t going anywhere.
  •  he is very low
  • he is helpless in this situation
  •  he’s down
  • he’s alone
  •  he is beneath everyone else
  • it is as if the earth has swallow him up
  • he’s in the dark
  • he’s climbing the walls
  •  he bounces off the walls
  •  he’s trapped
  •  he’s at rock bottom

Metaphors of Movement work aims to explore an entirely different area than that of human misery; it aims to strategically transform the fundamental coping behaviors inherent in the client’s behavioral system.

The work does this by:

– Connecting the client to behaviours that commonly occur outside of their conscious awareness

– Exploring the mental landscape (“the map”)

–  Examining the coping behaviours employed within this mental map

– Testing the effectiveness of these behaviours in the real world (“the territory”)

–  Designing and teaching more suitable behaviors to be applied in the client’s map and territory

Metaphors of Movement takes the guess work out of change work. It is a precision tool that helps home in on the client’s exact stuck point and how they are maintaining their problem state.

Unlike other approaches that are intrusive, or covert, or discursive, once we understand the client’s unique metaphors, MoM gives lots of room for creative engagement. How far you go with ‘directing’ is entirely up to you, your style, and your comfort level.

This type of work tends to be very empowering and effective for the client. Once past the initial work of unearthing their metaphors and directing them, clients awaken to their own beliefs, metaphors and stuck points, which triggers a series of rapid, self-induced results. They get the ‘hang of it,’ and fast.

MoM workshop

You are invited to join the (registration necessary) Metaphors of Movement 4 day seminar which will be presented by Andrew T.  Austin at the Leonardo City Tower Hotel in Tel Aviv from July 6th – 9th

About the Author
Menachem Schloss grew up in Stamford Hill, London, lives currently in Beit Shemesh, Israel. He has a private therapy practice and blogs on thought provoking ideas in psychotherapy.