The Power of Metaphors in Clinical Practice: Gifts of Grace, Empowerment and Transformation


Webinar event date

Oct 31, 2018 1:00 am EDT

Webinar series

Webinar Presenters

Mary Leslie


Mary Leslie is a Registered Clinical Social Worker with the BC College of Social Workers, a member of the BC Association of Social Workers and was the BCASW representative to the former CASW private practice committee. She is a clinical member of, and continues to study with the Satir Institute of the Pacific ( She received her Masters of Social Work from the UBC School of Social Work and was a sessional faculty member there from 2008 to 2013. Mary’s social work career spans over 30 years, primarily in healthcare and private clinical practice. She trained and supervised volunteers for Fraser Health Cancer Centre (BCCA)’s Therapeutic Touch Clinic, 1998-2001.


Mary has had a private social work practice for 15 years, currently in North Vancouver and Burnaby, including EAP clients. She has consulted for nurses, physicians, social workers and counsellors, has presented at a number of conferences and workshops, including UBC Continuing Education, (2005) “Widening the Lens: Deepening the Practice”, integrating spirituality into professional practice. She has co-authored “A Creative Model for a Post-Treatment Group for Women with Cancer”, in The Canadian Journal of Counselling, Vol. 37:1(2003). Her interests include building bridges between conventional and more holistic or complementary care and integrating a spiritual focus in her professional practice. She recently moved to Sidney, BC, but is continuing to travel to the Vancouver area twice monthly to see clients.



This webinar is PART ONE in a TWO PART series offered by the British Columbia Association of Social Workers and the Canadian Association of Social Workers. This webinar will invite audience participation and sharing. 

We encourage you to test your system to ensure a smooth viewing experience.  

This webinar will draw deeply from the wisdom of three ground breaking women: Virginia Satir, who described metaphors as her “adjunct therapists” and used them intentionally in her therapy; Dora Kunz, cofounder of Therapeutic Touch, whose metaphors are very applicable to all who seek to embody intention and compassion in their healing work, and Joan Halifax, Zen Priest, founder of Upaya Zen Retreat Center, teacher and anthropologist, who has infused her teachings on end of life care with potent metaphorical tools.


A metaphor is a figure of speech that can be applied to something to which it is not literally applicable, but may share some commonality, to broaden perspective or meaning. Metaphors can at the same time be vitally simple and yet complex -- and have the potential to be limiting or expanding. Gaining the most power and transformative outcome from using metaphors requires a very attentive focus on client’s own language, world view and images. Metaphors also need to be culturally aligned with the unique value systems, history and life experience of each client to be effective.


The first hour:

The focus of how these can be used in clinical practice will cover the beginning stage of contracting with a client, through to endings, and any times of “stuckness” at any point in our work with clients.  We will explore the potential role of metaphors in empowering clients to be creative actors in their own healing and resolution of challenges, and in lessening potential power imbalance and dependence in the therapeutic relationship.

Participants will be encouraged to share their own examples of where metaphors worked or didn’t, from their own professional experiences and to examine both the ingredients that fostered and/or limited change in these situations. Tools for recognizing and responding to critical aspects of clients’ world views will be explored along with a process of staying alert to when we might be inserting our wisdom over that of the client’s.


The second hour:

The focus will shift to our own challenges as practitioners, both in practice and in our personal lives, and how greater attention to how we language and use metaphors, both consciously and unconsciously, can help us move forward.  We will explore “unfinished business”, regrets, and what we might consider “mistakes” with a goal of using the iceberg metaphor, so prominent in Virginia Satir’s therapeutic approach, to support less self-judgement and greater transformation of these states. The value of “emptying the attic trunk” of such regrets will be stressed.