Clean Language

Clean language is a set of questions developed by David Grove, a New Zealand psychotherapist who worked with clients with traumatic memories, especially those related to child abuse, rape and incest. What he realised, through many client sessions, was that that many clients described their symptoms in metaphor and found that when he enquired about these using their exact words, their perception of the trauma began to change.

David began to research other therapists work via transcripts and discovered that they were subtly changing their clients words and felt that this was robbing them of some of their experience. So David changed to repeating his clients’ words verbatim. He also wondered what would happen if he used questions that contained as few presuppositions as possible while still directing attention to aspects of their experience that seemed to warrant exploration.

For example the question “What are you thinking?” Presupposes that a person is thinking something and limits possible responses. David cleaned it up to “Are you thinking anything?” and further still to “Is there anything else about X?”

David saw Clean Language as facilitatory i.e. it helps a client to “internally access his experience and explore the structure of there own reality.” In clean language facilitation the ‘grunt’ work is done by 9 basic questions, they are:

• And is there anything else about ......?

• And what kind of ...... is that ......?

• And where is ......?

• And whereabouts?

• And what happens next?

• And then what happens?

• And what happens just before ......?

• And where does/could ...... come from?

• And that's ...... like what?

Where '......' is (some of) the exact words of the client.

Two questions request information about symbol's attributes and two ask for locational information. There are two questions which reference the past and two which reference the future (from the client's perceptual present). This leaves the odd-one-out which offers the client the opportunity to make a lateral and therefore metaphorical shift in perception.

For more on Clean Language and Symbolic Modeling see Penny and James’ website www.cleanlangauge.co.uk

And and to see clean language in action;




Quote of the Week

“When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.” 


Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

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