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Change as a Journey—Clients' Metaphoric Change Talk as an Outcome Predictor in Initial Motivational Sessions with Probationers

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This article examines the use of metaphors in the context of motivational interviewing (MI)-sessions in Finnish Probation Service. The focus is on substance abusing clients' metaphoric change talk. The analyses are based on videotaped and transcribed data consisting of 41 MI-sessions. This database involves the first two counseling sessions of 21 client-counselor pairs. Sessions were videotaped in nine Probation Service offices in Finland in 2007–2008. The results of the study display that the use of metaphors is common in connection with change talk. The most common conceptual metaphor was Change Is a Journey. This conceptual metaphor was here taken as the focus of our closer analysis. The way clients construct their identity as travelers in initial sessions seemed to be correlated with their treatment outcome during the follow-up year (p = .015). The results of our analysis also displayed that the clients used the conceptual metaphor Change Is a Journey in positive change talk expressions involving the need and wish to change. When talking about their ability to change, however, the clients often used negative change talk expressions displaying basic disbelief in their ability to reach their goal. In general, we conclude that our qualitative analysis provides evidence for the value of the role of metaphors as vehicles of change in substance abuse treatment.
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Keywords: change talk; metaphors; motivational interviewing; outcome; substance abusers

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland

Publication date: January 1, 2013

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