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What is the history and origins of Clean Language?

Clean Language was devised by a New Zealand-born psychotherapist, David Grove (1950-2008), while working with trauma cases such as sexual abuse survivors and war veterans during the 1980s and 1990s.

Grove later extended the fundamental Clean Language method to a number of related concepts, notably Clean Space, Clean Worlds and Emergent Knowledge. The full extent of Grove's work will perhaps take a little while to be interpreted due to his early death at 57.

The term Clean Language represents a distinct 'Clean' questioning method, and also Grove's the over-arching methodology.

In developing Clean Language, David Grove devised a set of 'Clean' questions.

'Clean' in this context meant that the questions introduced as few of Grove's own assumptions and metaphors as possible, giving the client (or patient) maximum freedom for their own thinking.

Grove discovered that the 'Cleaner' the questions were, then the more effectively the patient's metaphors could be developed into powerful resources (awareness, facts, understanding, etc) for healing and change.

While David Grove did not publish widely (Grove's only book was Resolving Traumatic Memories, co-authored with B I Panzer; Irvington, 1989) his methods achieved outstanding results, which attracted worldwide attention in the therapeutic community.

During the 1990s Penny Tompkins and James Lawley (leading figures in the Clean Language community) codified and developed David Grove's work, and wrote about it in their book Metaphors in Mind (2000). Tompkins and Lawley used the term 'Symbolic Modelling' for their blend of Clean Language, metaphor and modelling.

The model is likely to continue to evolve and be adapted and adopted in work, learning, personal development, and no doubt beyond, because it is a powerful, appropriate and useful concept.

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