What exactly is Clean Space?

Introductory Articles, Clean Space

One of the most fascinating aspects of Clean Language facilitation is what it reveals about the role of space in our mental processing. As you use the Clean Language questions to find out about a client’s inner world, you’ll discover that most metaphoric symbols (as well as most real-world things) are located in a specific place.

Frequently, the symbols are located in or around the client’s body. Becoming aware of where they are helps the client to sort out the relationships between them, and to get an embodied sense of them. That’s one of the reasons we urge beginners to ‘go for the good stuff’ – it’s a lot more useful and fun to get an embodied sense of how things will be when you’ve achieved your goal, than to wallow in a metaphor for the problem.

During a Clean Language session the client may move around his landscape, exploring how it appears from different perspectives and perhaps ‘visiting’ different symbols to understand new aspects of the situation. The landscape ‘comes to life’ and may well start to change. As the landscape changes the client’s thinking changes, and changes in the client’s life frequently follow.

That’s the use of space in Clean Language. However, ‘Clean Space’ is something rather different. It’s the name of a specific therapeutic process devised by Clean Language originator David Grove a few years before he died.  It tends to produce quite rapid, dramatic change – clients often get surprising insights, find their thinking reconfigures itself usefully and that their behaviour changes as a result.

As in Clean Language, in Clean Space the facilitator introduces as little of his own content, assumptions, presuppositions etc as possible, and uses only a predefined language which is combined with the client’s own words.

However, in Clean Space the facilitator uses a set of ‘directives’ rather than questions. The client is directed to move from one location to another, marking each (usually with a Post-It note) and gradually developing a network of about six named ‘spaces’.  The client revisits different spaces over the course of the session, explores the relationships between spaces and the nature of the network as a whole. And, as the network develops, new insights emerge.

While it is a very distinct approach, Clean Space forms a bridge between Clean Language and the series of new therapeutic techniques devised by David in the last years of his life, called ‘Emergent Knowledge’ or ‘Power of Six’ techniques, containing elements of both approaches.

Clean Space was devised as a therapeutic technique. But as with Clean Language, it has proved to have much wider application. It can be used with individuals and with groups, and (with slight adaptations) to uncover information as well as to promote change.

Perhaps surprisingly, it has been used very effectively in executive coaching. While it requires a certain confidence on the part of the facilitator to suggest something which looks so unusual – what will the staff think about their boss walking round his office sticking post-its on the floor and walls? – it works so well that it is definitely worth any risk.

Clean Space is covered in Module 4 of Clean Change Company’s training programme, and is part of the assessment for Certified Clean Facilitator status.

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