How can Clean Language be combined with NLP?

Clean Language and NLP

Many practitioners of Neuro-Linguistic Programming combine Clean Language with their other tools for helping people to change: the two approaches are highly complementary. This can be done in two main ways: by using Clean Language and NLP in separate sessions, and by ‘Cleaning up’ NLP techniques.

Using Clean Language for a whole session, as a stand-alone change technique, can of course produce fantastic results. Using David Grove’s Clean Language questions, the client is assisted to develop a metaphoric landscape: a representation of their desired future state and of the change needed to achieve this. As the session continues, the metaphors may ‘come to life‘ and apparently transform themselves. And when the metaphors change, the client’s real-life experience changes, too. Conducting a full session of perhaps 60 or 90 minutes requires a certain level of skill and of confidence in the process, usually gained in about seven days of live training.

Practitioners who are relatively new to Clean Language, but experienced in NLP, will probably find it easier to start by ‘Cleaning up’ their existing tools and techniques. Some ways of doing this include:

  • Using the Clean Language questions in preference to NLP questions. For example, ask “What would you like to have happen?” rather than “What do you want?” as an opening question – typically, the former will be experienced as less aggressive and harsh than the latter, and will encourage a broader, more contextualised view of the desired change. “Is there anything else about that?” in preference to the traditional “What do you see/hear/feel?” allows the client maximum freedom to mention what is important specifically to them.
  • Using the Clean Language questions to elicit a metaphor from the client which can be used later in another process, such the creation of a personalised hypnotic script. Practitioners may elicit metaphors for all kinds of things: desired states, physical symptoms, problem situations. Our experience is that the process of eliciting a metaphor for a state tends to encourage the person to experience that state more intensely: we would therefore recommend that practitioners “go for the good stuff’ and elicit metaphors for the things that clients like and want more of, rather than problems or problematic symptoms.
  • Taking a ‘Clean’ attitude to the session, by reducing deliberate ‘influencing’ tactics and practitioner-introduced content, metaphors etc while empowering the client to take control of the session as far as possible. This carries the meta-message that the client, not the practitioner, is responsible for themselves and the lives they choose, and responsible for making the change they say that they want. A simple first step in this direction would be to allow the client to select the locations of a set of spatial anchors, rather than the practitioner specifying where they should be (for example, in the SCORE pattern or Disney strategy).

These are just a few suggestions to get you started: it’s up to you as a practitioner to experiment and see what kind of combinations work best for you. We predict that the more you use Clean Language, the more you’ll appreciate its power to facilitate effective and lasting change.

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