Well Rob, that's a tough question to answer in brief. I wrote several books in which metaphor construction and use was either the entire focus or a main focus. So, all I can think about right now are page and pages of things to say! I don't rewrite much of that here. Maybe you could ask specifically more if you mean something beyond what I'm going to say in reference to that client mentioned above.
I was suggesting that, if the client has a hard time relating in words about his situation, a therapist can help the client express aspect of his or her past by two things happening. 1) the therapist constructs stories of 'other cases' that 2) elicit head nodding or other forms of 'identification' responses from the client-listener. Now, remember that the stories are conversational and the head nodding is not pointed out to the client (like a cop out for talking). You do in fact begin with statements like "your situation almost reminds me of a couple of clients I once knew"...then you attempt to put your best intuition into words concerning the former client's home life and troubles and so on. As the client understands the connection between the client of him or herself, something like head nodding usually begins. When you confabulated character is no longer useful (too much lack of nodding, etc.), introduce another character who will help you get back to more relevant issues for the client in you office. In 10 to 30 minutes of this sort of communication you can often discover very relevant dynamics and/or traumas from the client's family of origin and younger life leading up to the present problems. You can ask them to tell you how similar those things were in their own life or take other direction that are useful depending on the situation that will be most helpful to the client at that time.
BTW, a third 3) thing may happen. It is not infrequently that a client will get the feeling of how you look upon and feel about such 'cases' that are similar to his or hers and may then be comfortable to talk to you openly.
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