GLC~NS held this seminar on on June 29th. Our focus was split between considering language and metaphor generally in the therapeutic process, and considering the Harry Potter series as a specific source of metaphor.

Some key ideas we discussed included the power of metaphor and labeling, and the intentional shared building of metaphor to open up new ways of thinking about old problems. An old paper of mine was relevant here, as we discussed the metaphors around mental health and mental illness (references below).

The fun part, of course, was geeking out about Harry Potter as a coherent source of metaphor. Given that Harry Potter has become a cultural staple in many circles, it becomes a new language that we can use to talk about common experiences. For example, if dementors represent depression, then what is your patronus charm? What shape does it take, and what memory activates it? Or if bogarts are anxiety, then what form does your bogart take, and what do you have to imagine in your riddikulus spell? We can also talk about how you are sorted in your life, and whether you feel you belong in your house; when you feel like a wizard, and when you feel like a muggle; what is your prophecy, and how can you take charge of your destiny?

It was an enjoyable and thought-provoking conversation; please contact me if you are interested in any of the material we discussed. And for those who want to delve into thoughtful discussion of Harry Potter and haven’t discovered it yet, you should check out the podcast Harry Potter and the Sacred Text.


Bergen, B. (2012). Louder than words: The new science of how the mind makes meaning. New York: Basic Books.

Goldberg, R.M. & Stephenson, J. B. (2016). Staying with the metaphor: Applying reality therapy’s use of metaphors to grief counseling. Journal of creativity in mental health, 11 (1), 105-117.

Ishibashi, N. (2005). Barrier or bridge? The language of diagnosis in clinical social work. Smith College Studies in Social Work, 75 (1), 65-80.

Komasi, S., Zakiei, A., Saeidi, M., & Moghani, M.B. (2016). Effectiveness of individual metaphor therapy in irrational beliefs of substance abuse dependents. Fundamentals of Mental health, 18 (4), 189-195.

McGuinty, E., Armstrong, D., & Carriere, A. (2014). A clinical treatment intervention for dysphoria: Externaliing metaphors in therapy. Clinical Psychology and Psychotehrapy, 21, 381-393.

Tay, D. (2011). Therapy is a journey as a discourse metaphor. Discourse studies, 13 (1), 47-68.