What’s the relationship between Clean Language, Clean Space and Modeling?

Introductory Articles, Clean Space

I’m tempted to say: “Come on one of our courses and find out!” Modeling (or modelling) is at the heart of what you will learn as you get to grips with Clean Language (in Modules 1-3) and Clean Space (in Module 4).

At one level, the Clean Language questions are just questions, which can be used in a wide variety of ways. However, the most effective way to use them is as a modeling tool: to find out about another person’s metaphoric landscape. At the same time the client will discover new information about themselves – self-modeling.

The facilitator uses the Clean Language questions to find out about the client’s metaphoric symbols. For each symbol, he elicits a location in space, modeling how the different symbols relate to each other in the space inside and around the client’s body. Gradually, he builds up his own model of the client’s inner world – while the client does the same, in parallel.

This space-modeling has been found to be one of the most effective ways to bring the metaphoric landscape ‘to life’ for the client. This results in a vivid personal experience which in turn results in remarkable new insights and frequently, transformational change.

The combination of David Grove’s Clean Language questions with modeling was called ‘Symbolic Modelling’ by Penny Tompkins and James Lawley, who studied David’s work, wrote the first comprehensive book on his approach (Metaphors in Mind, published in 2000) and who now train on Clean Change Company’s advanced courses.

Space and modeling are also combined in ‘Clean Space’, which is a technique David Grove developed during the late 1990s and early 2000s. Here, client and facilitator are literally ‘space modeling’ – modeling the way the client arranges a series of spaces, usually represented by Post-It notes, and how the spaces themselves relate to each other. The spaces may form a pattern such as a line or a circle, for example, and this pattern helps the client to reach new insights.

The Clean Space facilitator uses a different set of questions from those used in Clean Language, plus a set of ‘directives’ – specific instructions to the client. For those used to the gentle respectfulness of Clean Language questions this can initially be a shock. But facilitators soon discover that in fact the client is still able to lead the process where they need it to go – and that in fact there is no need for the facilitator to know any details of what the client is working on (called working ‘content-free’ in NLP). Clean Space has been truthfully described as “a light way of doing heavy personal change work”.

In both Clean Language and Clean Space, modeling is regarded as a therapeutic technique in its own right: as the client models, they learn about themselves, reach new insights, and change occurs naturally. It is not the facilitator’s responsibility to ‘make’ change happen!

Modeling can also be useful in non-therapeutic contexts, simply to find out how someone (such as an expert) does what they do. For this, Clean Language is generally more effective than Clean Space.

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