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Everything you wanted to know about
 Metaphors in Mind: Transformation through Symbolic Modelling 
by James Lawley and Penny Tompkins.

 now available as an eBook for under US$10
Apple iTunes

  Published by The Developing Company Press

Below See:

Book reviews:

USA and Canada, from: Crown House Publishing
UK & elsewhere,  from: Anglo American Book Company
Click image for details of the translation into FRENCH: or ITALIAN:
What people have said

Caroline Myss, Ph.D., best selling author of Sacred Contracts, Anatomy of the Spirit and Why People Don't Heal says:

Tompkins and Lawley have written a book that provides people with a tool for profound analysis and insight. The use of metaphors as a means of evaluating how you order your world, your relationships, your occupation, and interpret the experiences of your life is invaluable. This book should be read by everyone who has an interest in expanding their awareness of why they say the things they do, and discovering how the "contents" of their lives are sources of empowerment.

Ernest Rossi, Ph.D. author of Dreams, Consciousness & Spirit, The Symptom Path to Enlightenment and The Psychobiology of Mind-Body Healing says:

Metaphors in Mind presents a broad integration of deep perspectives about helping people learn how to facilitate their own creativity in solving their own problems in their own way. Well done!

David Grove, MS. author of Resolving Traumatic Memories says:

I have tremendous admiration for the innovative work they have developed ... I congratulate Penny and James on completing this valuable book ... a richly stimulating text that gently escorts the reader on a captivating journey. Be prepared for this book to launch you on a personal journey of change and development. The parade of thought provoking concepts, stories and challenges contained within will provide a reliable travelling companion to accompany you along the way.

[For more see: The Foreword]

Charles Faulkner, author of NLP - The New Technology of Achievement, says:

It is a closely reasoned, well-referenced, and articulate contribution to therapeutic practice, the understanding of metaphor, and the importance of applied theory.

Michael Hall, Ph.D. author of Meta-States, The Secrets of Magic, Mind-Lines and many other books, says:

James Lawley and Penny Tompkins have provided an excellent presentation of working with metaphors in order to model human experience. What I really like about this new work is their research in Cognitive Linguistic, Cognitive Psychology and self-organization theory.

[For more see: Meta-States and Symbolic Modeling]

Sue Knight, author of NLP at Work, NLP Solutions and NLP and Leadership, says:

Metaphors in Mind is such a significant piece of work and for me is the essence of what NLP is really about. My admiration for what James and Penny have done is unbounded and it has -- in the modelling tradition -- enhanced what is available in the NLP world for us all to use. And given the complexity and the changing nature of what he [David Grove] is doing, it is even more impressive how simply and elegantly James and Penny have modelled the structure of hgis work using Clean Language for Symbolic Modelling. I do recommend the book.

[For more see: Modelling - a tribute to Simon and David]

Angus I McLeod, Ph.D. says in Performance Coaching: The Handbook for Managers, HR Professionals and Coaches

No contribution to coaching would be complete without reference to the outstanding work of Penny Tompkins and James Lawley. With its basis in Clean Language and its focus on coachee metaphors, Symbolic Modeling offers a powerful skill-set for personal change and development geared to compelling targets. In its overt use, Symbolic Modeling may not appeal to all managements. However, I use several of the interventions and the language patterns of Symbolic Modeling in my work and have never encountered any resistance to them during a coaching session, even though the language seems to many observers to be contrived. Do not be misled by the language constructs: they are powerful keys to unlocking motivated change. The examples of coaching given in this book are highly influenced by such language constructs.

Bob Janes, in NLP World, November 2000, says:

This book is a tour de force, a magnificent contribution to the study of the structure of subjectivity and to the fields of therapy and personal change.

[For more see review in: NLP World]

Eric Robbie, one of the most experienced NLP'ers in the UK wrote (in Rapport 60)

Of all the new stuff to emerge in the last 20 years [in NLP], especially here in the UK, the most significant, the most radical, and the most influential is (to me) the work done by Penny Tompkins and James Lawley in taking the ideas of David Grove, and running with them. Their combined approach is, as they say, a true paradigm shift.  After taking their stuff on board, you can't go back.


What do you do as a therapist, teacher, doctor or manager when your client, student, patient or colleague says "It's like I'm hitting my head against a brick wall," "I've got a knot in my stomach" or "I'm looking for the right path to take"?

Metaphors in Mind describes how to give individuals an opportunity to discover how their symbolic perceptions are organised, what needs to happen for these to change, and how they can develop as a result.

Based on David Grove's pioneering therapeutic approach and use of Clean Language, Symbolic Modelling is an emergent, systemic and iterative way of facilitating the psychotherapeutic process.

This comprehensive book covers the theory of metaphor, self-organising systems, symbolic modelling, the practice of Clean Language, the five-stage therapeutic process, and includes three client transcripts.

336 pages
9 x 6 inches (234 x 152 mm)

Published October 2000
ISBN 978-0-9538751-0-8

(ISBN was formerly  0-9538751-0-5)

£ 17.95 (pounds Sterling)

FOREWORD by David Grove


1. Metaphors We Live By
2. Models We Create By


3. Less is More: Basic Clean Language
4. Clean Language Without Words


5. Stage 1: Entering the Symbolic Domain
6. Stage 2: Developing Symbolic Perceptions
7. Stage 3: Modelling Symbolic Patterns
8. Stage 4: Encouraging Transformation
9. Stage 5: Maturing the Evolved Landscape


10. Outside and Beyond


  - Castle Door
  - Jubilee Clip
  - Lozenge

Summary of Clean Language Questions
About the Authors

The Foreword by David Grove

An eighteenth century botanist planted a willow sapling in a barrel after first weighing both the sapling and the soil. After the sapling had grown for five years, he weighed the tree and discovered that it had increased in mass by 195 pounds. Upon weighing the soil he was surprised to find that it had decreased in weight by only 13 ounces. The question is, where did a 195 pound tree come from if not from the soil? The only answer is, out of thin air!

And it is by delving into thin air itself that we discover an explanation for this mystery. During the light of day a tree absorbs carbon dioxide through its leaves. Then at night, during the dark phase of photosynthesis, the carbon dioxide molecule is separated into one carbon atom and two oxygen atoms. The tree releases the oxygen atoms back into the air and forms the carbon atoms into a six carbon simple sugar ring which is a building block for cellulose. The hidden beauty in this system is the deconstruction, release and recombination of basic elements from one structure to another. The mass and structure of the tree is the result of this mysterious process.

Just like building blocks of a carbon atom that have been recombined to form more complex compounds, Penny Tompkins and James Lawley have synthesized elements from a variety of sources such as Neuro-Linguistc Programming, Clean Language and systems thinking - and added both mass and structure. Although my original work was in a therapeutic context, their synthesis has made it available to others who have taken it into the fields of business, education, health and social services. I have tremendous admiration for the innovative work they have developed.

My first encounter with Penny and James appeared to materialize out of thin air. Penny's tenacious "won't take no for an answer" style and James' inquiring, penetrating questions formed my initial introduction to them. My life continues to be enriched by our ongoing interactions. "Developing" is a word that I strongly associate with both of them. Not only is it the name of their company, but it also describes what I have come to recognize as constant theme which they apply to themselves as well as the clients with whom they work.

I congratulate Penny and James on completing this valuable book. The immense degree of dedication and devotion that they steadfastly maintained during the course of this project has resulted in a richly stimulating text that gently escorts the reader on a captivating journey. Be prepared for this book to launch you on a personal journey of change and development. The parade of thought provoking concepts, stories and challenges contained within will provide a reliable travelling companion to accompany you along the way.

David J. Grove, 4 July, 2000

The Introduction from Metaphors in Mind

"James, I know you'll ask a hundred questions about this workshop, and I don't think I'll be able to answer a single one. But I do know this guy David Grove is doing something special. I've just had one of the most profound experiences of my life. Why don't you postpone your holiday and come and see him? Maybe together we can figure out what he's doing."

Unbeknown to Penny, this telephone conversation was to decide the direction of our lives for the next five years.

David J. Grove, M.S.

David Grove is a New Zealander whose unique psychotherapeutic approach, experience and style make him one of today's most skilful and innovative therapists.

In the 1980s he developed clinical methods for resolving clients' traumatic memories, especially those related to child abuse, rape and incest. He realised many clients naturally described their symptoms in metaphor, and found that when he enquired about these using their exact words, their perception of the trauma began to change. This led him to create Clean Language, a way of asking questions of clients' metaphors which neither contaminate nor distort them.

Initially David Grove specialised in 'healing the wounded child within'. These days his interests have widened to include nonverbal behaviour, perceptual space and inter-generational healing. He is constantly developing new ideas and creative methods which continue to fascinate and inspire us.

Our contribution

To "figure out" what David Grove was doing we used a process called modelling. This involved observing him work with clients (including ourselves) and spending hour after hour poring over recordings and transcripts. We looked for patterns in the relationship between what he was doing and the way clients responded that contributed to the changes they experienced. We combined these patterns into a generalised model which was tested and fine tuned - cycling through observation, pattern detection, model construction, testing and revising many times.

While our model is based on David Grove's work and incorporates many of his ideas, he has a different way of describing his approach. Our model was derived more from our observation of him in action than from his explanation of what he does. It was also shaped by our desire for others to learn the process easily and for it to apply to a range of contexts in addition to psychotherapy.

As well as employing many of David Grove's ideas, we have also drawn upon cognitive linguistics, self-organising systems theory and Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). The result is a process called Symbolic Modelling.

Symbolic Modelling in a nutshell

Symbolic Modelling is a method for facilitating individuals to become familiar with the symbolic domain of their experience so that they discover new ways of perceiving themselves and their world. It uses Clean Language to facilitate them to attend to their metaphoric expressions so that they create a model of their symbolic mindbody perceptions. This model exists as a living, breathing, four-dimensional world within and around them.

When clients explore this world and its inherent logic, their metaphors and way of being are honoured. During the therapeutic process their metaphors begin to evolve. As this happens their everyday thinking, feeling and behaviour correspondingly change as well.

Some clients benefit just from having their metaphors developed with a few clean questions. For some the process leads to a reorganisation of their existing symbolic perceptions, while for others nothing short of a transformation of their entire landscape of metaphors will suffice. As a result clients report that they are more self-aware, more at peace with themselves, have a more defined sense of their place in the world and are more able to enrich the lives of others.

What you will learn from this book

What do you do as a therapist, teacher, doctor or manager when your client, student, patient or colleague says "It's like I'm hitting my head against a brick wall" or "I'm so wound-up I can't see straight" or "Things keep getting on top of me"?

Do you ignore the metaphorical nature of their communication? Do you unwittingly introduce your own metaphors ("Why do you continue punishing yourself?" "I can tell you're stressed." "How does that make you feel?")? Or do you take their metaphors as an accurate description of their way of being in the world and ask questions within the logic of the information - without introducing any metaphors of your own ("And is there anything else about that brick wall?" "And what kind of wound-up is that?" "And whereabouts on top of you?").

This book describes how to do the latter.

When using Symbolic Modelling you give your clients, students, patients or colleagues an opportunity to discover how their symbolic perceptions are organised, what needs to happen for these to change, and how they can develop as a result. In order to do this proficiently, you need to be able to:

  • Attend to client-generated verbal and nonverbal metaphors
  • Communicate via Clean Language
  • Facilitate clients to self-model
  • Be guided by the logic inherent in their symbolic expressions.

Our primary focus in this book is psychotherapy. And while we describe a complete process that can be used in its own right, many therapists and counsellors have found ways to combine Symbolic Modelling with their preferred approach. In addition, in Chapter 10 we describe how Symbolic Modelling is being used in education, health and business.

Structure of the book

We have arranged the book in five parts. Part I provides theoretical and background knowledge about metaphor, modelling and self- organising systems. Part II introduces the basic questions, philosophy and methodology of Clean Language. Part III contains a stage-by-stage description of the Five-Stage Therapeutic Process, with extensive client transcripts to illustrate and explain how the process unfolds. In Part IV we describe a number of applications of Symbolic Modelling outside the field of individual psychotherapy. Finally, Part V contains annotated transcripts of our work with three clients.

How to use this book

We have designed the book to be used iteratively. This means that you will benefit from revisiting each chapter with the accumulated knowledge gained from reading later chapters, and from having put into practice what you have learned. In this way the book is like a travel guide. It gives useful information about the places you are about to visit, what to look out for, and if you reread it after you return, it will mean so much more.

You do not have to begin this book at the beginning. Depending on your preferred learning style there are various entry points. You can start with Part I if you like general concepts and theory first. If you prefer to learn by doing, the information in Part II will enable you to start practising immediately. If you want to find out how you can apply the model in a variety of contexts, go to Part IV. And if you learn best by first seeing an example of the entire process, start with Part V.

And finally

Like learning to play the piano, no amount of theory or observation can substitute for the actual experience of your fingers moving over the keyboard. Our main purpose in writing this book is to encourage you to use Symbolic Modelling because only then will you discover how much your clients can benefit from this approach.

And it is not only your clients who will benefit. As a result of using Symbolic Modelling we have developed acute listening and observation skills, an improved ability to retain and recall information and an increased capacity to think systemically and at multiple levels.

Also, being facilitated to model our metaphors and patterns has been an indispensable part of learning to facilitate others to model theirs - not to mention the gift of our own personal development.

Yet perhaps the most unexpected benefit of regularly facilitating Symbolic Modelling has been learning to become comfortable with 'not knowing', to be in the moment with whatever is happening, and to trust the wisdom in the system.

Earn CEUs

Read Metaphors in Mind and get 15 Continuing Education Units (CEUs):

If you require CEU's in your profession, you can now take a self-study course on "Metaphors in Mind". Licensed clinicians, social workers, nurses and other licensed professionals in USA can visit This self-study course is approved for 15 CEUS by:

- The National Board for Certified Counselors #5803

- MFTs and LCSWs as required by the California Board of Behavioral Science Examiners #2387

- The California Board of Registered Nursing Provider #13258 for 18 contact hours

- NAADAC Provider #389

- TX Board of Social Work Provider #CS3518

Others are being added all the time.

Download Index of Metaphors in Mind as a PDF

Penny Tompkins & James Lawley
Penny and James are supervising neurolinguistic psychotherapists – first registered with the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy in 1993 – coaches in business, certified NLP trainers, and founders of The Developing Company.

They have provided consultancy to organisations as diverse as GlaxoSmithKline, Yale University Child Study Center, NASA Goddard Space Center and the Findhorn Spiritual Community in Northern Scotland.

Their book,
Metaphors in Mind
was the first comprehensive guide to Symbolic Modelling using the Clean Language of David Grove. An annotated training DVD, A Strange and Strong Sensation demonstrates their work in a live session. James has also written (with Marian Way) the first book dedicated to Clean Space: Insights in Space. Between them Penny and James have published over 200 articles and blogs freely available on their website:
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