Recently I've felt inclined to using nature imagery and metaphors in counseling. I think it is helped by a recent trip to California and some time at the beach this summer, among other adventures in the past few years. While I have been in these spaces, it's been a very embodied experience, so these things come back with me and are rekindled when clients share experiences with feelings that resonate viscerally as I empathize with them.
These images arise naturally as I listen to and feel along with clients, and I look to share them as a form of reflection of what the client is sharing. Knowing that not all of my clients have had the privilege of travel or much time in nature, I try to describe the sensations of the natural image, and verbalize the metaphorical connections to the experience they are describing. Sometimes this is a very brief, passing exchange, and sometimes it is something the client hooks onto and that they may even take home with them to reflect on or expand upon.
One of the things about nature images that feels powerful to me is that it provides some concrete images of our human smallness and lack of power: standing in a dark cave, feeling lost and stubbing our toes looking for a tiny light to hint at a way out; being overcome by ocean waves that pull our body here and there, hoping for just a moment to catch our breath while another wave crashes over. These can resonate with experiences of uncertainty and overwhelm, and might even help me and the client recognize where they need care, or maybe something they can do to help themselves cope in their challenges.
Nature also provides us with calm, peaceful images that can help clients center: imagining ourselves under a warm sunbeam, with soft clouds overhead; feeling a gentle waterfall cascade over us to help the stress fall from our muscles.
I wonder if this is one of the benefits that make time in nature beneficial to our wellbeing. Do we implicitly adopt images that can help us recognize how we feel? Do we internalize peaceful moments to benefit from later? Personally, I do, and I hope I can share some of that with my clients with these images and metaphors.