Postgraduate Dissertation

Is Metaphor Magic?: effective use of metaphor within coaching and mentoring


This conceptual research study sought to explore the effective use of metaphor within coaching and mentoring using primary literature research evidence collected from within the combined and related ‘helping professions’ fields of coaching and mentoring, counselling and psychotherapy and adult learning. The focus of this study was on metaphor use in coaching and mentoring but also considered metaphor in therapy and adult education to support the development of an understanding of what’s happening in coaching and mentoring without being the focus of the study. It was anticipated that that knowledge generated from this research would provide new insights and inform and benefit coaching and mentoring practice. The research employed a combination of 3 linked qualitative techniques: (i) a thematic network analysis (TNA) to organise the coded data; (ii) a qualitative meta-synthesis (QMS) to synthesise new understandings from the network data; and (iii) a critical realist analysis (CRA) to enable development of a model for practical metaphor use. The source data for this study was a broad selection of topically-related primary literature identified via systematic search and selection. TNA suggested that use of metaphor in these related fields could be best understood in terms of 6 interacting themes. What was surprising was just how strong the emphasis was on relationship and figurative safe space for metaphor use in the coded data. Building on these results the subsequent QMS reinterpreted the thematic data from across the network and suggested that 7 additional supra-themes or highly desired outcomes were important aspects of coaching and mentoring when using metaphor, and these were not apparent in the initial thematic analysis – they came from higher-order combinations (synthesis) of themes and codes. The CRA attempted to answer how these desired outcomes could possibly come about and proposed a model for this type of metaphorbased coaching.

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Thompson, Russ


Rights Holders: Thompson, Russ
Supervisors: Jackson, Peter

Oxford Brookes departments

Oxford Brookes Business School

Degree programme

MA Coaching and Mentoring Practice



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