The three framing images

The three framing images presented here, i.e. the building, the plant and the path, represent a body of work formulated from many years of clinical experience. When I began using them I was unaware of conceptual metaphor theory. They arose within the context of working with substance misusers who presented in crisis with complex needs that required immediate attention. I discovered that these basic framing images could provide a clear overview of the client’s current state, indicating where the immediate therapeutic focus should be. And more than this, these concrete representations appeared to make sense to the clients; giving them a way to understand their predicament. It was very rare for me to need to explain how these framing images might map onto their experience. This ease of comprehension also lends weight to the argument that these images are conceptual metaphors arising out of embodied experience of being in the world.

As acknowledged in the introduction to this book, my clinical experience has inevitably shaped the work presented here. My formative clinical experience with complex traumatised clients can be detected in the focus on the importance of stabilisation and containment (as well as the fact that a significant proportion of the vignettes are taken from clinical work with this client group). Readers may also note a psychoeducational tendency in this work. Right from the start, it seemed important to me to convey to the substance-misusing clients that paying attention to their mental imagery could be a helpful resource for their recovery. The potential therapeutic benefits of training clients in imagery skills have been noted by other clinicians, such as Singer (2006). Over time, this notion of imagery as a tool has evolved into a general aim in my clinical work, i.e. to help the client become more able and skilled to see the real and the symbolic at one and the same time.

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