Document Type


Publication Title

Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy




School of Arts and Humanities




Amorin‐Woods, D., & Saccu, C. (2023). La metafora: the power of metaphors and creative resources in working systemically with families and children with autism—a conversation with Carmine Saccu. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy, 44(3), 393 - 403.


Metaphors are valuable tools of expression, which give meaning to situations and allow the spontaneous processing of feelings and emotions. As therapists, we can support clients to develop and create their individual metaphor to explain their own meaning of experiences or communicate their perception of problems. Creativity provides us with a rich landscape to explore, expand, and enrich ourselves as therapists and consequently our clients. As systemic therapists, we are responsible for the co-creation of a human process, which has at its core safety in allowing expression, connection, and movement. Through a respectful and curious approach, we can develop pathways to tap organically into our ‘creative selves’ while reaching into our clients' creativity and selves as catalysts for connection and positive change. Creative resources and therapies have been successfully used in psychotherapy to enhance the mental and emotional well-being of children, particularly children with autism who have limited verbal capacity or who are non-verbal. These children also wish to be understood in expressing their thoughts and feelings; however, they use other methods of communication – sometimes obvious, sometimes not. Therefore, it is important that a therapist can access diverse ways to support the child through this process. The creative use of animals in therapy neutralises spaces, eliciting calm, safety, and healing. This is particularly the case when working with this group of children. This paper is derived from my conversation with an elder statesman of the family therapy profession, Professor Carmine Saccu. He is a jovial master storyteller who craftfully communicates via metaphors. Through creative means, play, and humour, he has developed a remarkably unique way of working with children, especially non-verbal children with autism. He uses his canine, co-therapist Mafalda, as a powerful resource and intervention strategy to safely elicit engagement and connection in the therapeutic space.



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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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