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Anil Thomas

Master NLP Practitioner & Gestalt Therapist

How does Clean Language work?

The purpose of the questions is to let the client’s own thinking and feeling processes flow without imposing the helper’s interpretation, choice of words or mind-set. David Grove found that when he persisted with the use of Clean Language, clients tended to find metaphors and symbols to describe their experiences. The metaphors and symbols could be very ordinary things (a pie, a flower, a knife, an orange, a brick wall, a cloud) though sometimes (particularly in work with the inner child) they might seem related to myths, imagination or fantasy.

When Clean Language questions were applied to those metaphors, a whole new inner world of information was revealed. The metaphors would come alive in the client’s head, rather like in a waking dream, and things happened in that inner space that gave the client insights, new information, and a sense of moving forward through stuck feelings, making sense out of confusion, escaping from problems or contacting positive states of feeling free, happy or full of energy. Sometimes memories arise and are worked with in the same way. The helper’s job is to keep facilitating the experience by asking the questions and to keep track of the unfolding inner landscape so that each part of it is given a chance to reveal its meaning.

When Clean Language questions were applied to those metaphors, a whole new inner world of information was revealed. The metaphors would come alive in the client’s head, rather like in a waking dream, and things happened in that inner space that gave the client insights, new information, and a sense of moving forward through stuck feelings, making sense out of confusion, escaping from problems or contacting positive states of feeling free, happy or full of energy. Sometimes memories arise and are worked with in the same way. The helper’s job is to keep facilitating the experience by asking the questions and to keep track of the unfolding inner landscape so that each part of it is given a chance to reveal its meaning.

In this work, the metaphors come from the client’s own mind, unlike other forms of “metaphor therapy” that use stories and anecdotes told to the client, or where the therapist selects symbols for the client to visualise. The ability to visualise well is not necessary.

A typical Clean Language and metaphor session can take up to 90 minutes (with breaks as necessary) and if a client is working on a very entrenched problem or issue, a number of sessions may be necessary. Between sessions, the client can revisit the metaphoric scene if it is still ongoing in the imagination, and sometimes the client is asked to draw a map or sketch of the internal landscape as homework.

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