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1. Start tour here

Hi, I'm Penny Tompkins and I'd like to welcome you to a guided tour of The Clean Collection. First I'll give you an overview of The Gallery and then we'll begin the tour. As we go around I'll introduce the theme of each room and point you toward some items where you might wish to begin your viewing.

The Gallery holds over 200 items ranging from single-page reports on how someone is using Clean Language to multi-part treaties on emotion and cognition. Something for everyone we hope.

As you'll see from the floor plan, The Gallery has two floors. The ground floor has six rooms. Four are devoted the core components of the work: Clean Language, Metaphor, Clean Space & Emergence, and Modelling. The other rooms include Symbolic Modelling, James Lawley and my way of integrating the components, and The Developing Group, a record of our exploration of new ideas and developments to the model since 2001.

Upstairs you'll find five more rooms. These are dedicated to things further afield. First there are the growing number of Applications of this fascinating work. Then there's the Related Material room which contains transcripts, case studies, personal stories, interviews and in particular a section devoted to the originator of the field, David Grove.

For the more conceptually minded we have gathered together some of the key Models and Theories into one room, and we've collected a lot of material under the heading Classic NLP. This just leaves the fast expanding other-than-English Worldwide resources room.

If you want a printeout of the whole tour, just click 'Print-friendly page' in the right hand panel.

Before we begin, you'll see in the foyer a regularly updated Calendar of Events. It has an extensive listing of trainings, seminars, workshops and practice groups.

All of the material in The Gallery is available for you to read, quote and make personal use of.  All that we ask is that you reference the original source and this web site.  If you'd like to use any of the material commercially, please contact us or the copyright holder. 

As you accompany me on this tour, please note that we have coded the links to help you navigate this site:
If you decide to linger in any one room and research a particular item in detail, you can always re-join the tour by using the Gallery Tour drop-down menu.

We will end the tour back here in the foyer with a summary of what else The Gallery has to offer. Now let's start in the Clean Language Room — please follow me.

2. Clean Language Room
Clean Language
As we enter this room you may be wondering, 'Exactly what is Clean Language?'.

On the surface Clean Language is a set of questions developed by therapist David Grove in the 1980s and 1990s; and it has many hidden depths.

Clean Language is ‘clean’ because it keeps the facilitator from unwittingly introducing their metaphors, assumptions or suggestions into a conversation (no matter how well meaning these may be). Clean questions encourage metaphors, ideas, self-reflections and ah-ha’s to crystallise in awareness. When personal change is the goal, Clean Language invites a client's perceptions to evolve and change organically — one question at a time.

Let me be clear, ‘clean’ does not mean ‘no influence’.  All language influences and Clean Language wouldn’t be much use if it didn’t have an effect. Because of its ability to respectfully invite clients to attend to particular aspects of their inner world, Clean Language influences the direction of a client’s mind-body-spirit process – without contaminating the content of their experience. Other processes may do this too, but none do it so cleanly or in quite the way that Clean Language does, and none are so tailored to work with metaphor.

James Lawley and I (Penny Tompkins) first published our model of David's questions in 1996 in Less is More: the Art of Clean Language. As befits a dynamic process, our model is still developing and for a review of our thinking see: Clean Language Revisited: The Evolution of a Model.

If you are new to Clean Language, and would like a two-page example of how it is used with metaphor, see Conversing with Metaphor; for a more extensive description, see Angelar Dunbar's Using Metaphors with Coaching.

Language is so much more than words, and Clean Language Without Words explains how to ask questions of movements of the body, sounds and other nonverbal behaviour. There can be a lot of information stored in a gesture, a glance, or even a sigh and Clean Language is great for encouraging what’s behind those expressions to reveal itself.

Although Clean Language was originally designed to work therapeutically with clients’ metaphors and symbols, these days it is used more conversationally in hundreds of ways — by researchers, teachers, the police, managers, consultants, health practitioners and many others. You'll have time to view some of these exciting developments when we get to the Applications Room.

When you’ve finished in the Clean Language room we'll proceed to the Metaphor Room.

3. Metaphor Room

Entering the Metaphor Room in the Clean Collection is like entering a parallel universe. Metaphor comes in many forms. The kind of metaphor you'll find exhibited in this room is called ‘autogenic’ – the ‘self-generated’, naturally occurring metaphors people use all the time.  Behind those seemingly throw-away phrases lies a rich symbolic world vital to our health and well-being.

Sometimes language is explicitly metaphorical: “I don’t know which path to take in my life,” or “Something’s blocking my development,” or “My heart’s beating like a drum.”  Most of the time, however, our use of metaphor is more subtle and unconsciously embedded in our everyday language: “What’s come between us?” or “Business is on the up” or “I feel upset.

When James Lawley and I (Penny Tompkins) discovered Metaphors we Live By, the book that ignited the cognitive linguistics revolution in 1980, it changed our thinking forever. The authors, George Lakoff and Mark Johnson say "The essence of metaphor is understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another." Metaphors are not just linguistic turns of phrase, they are embodied in our neurology.  They are not arbitrary — they contain a consistency that both reflect and constrain what they represent.  This means that as our metaphors change and evolve, our perceptions of what they represent in our life change and evolve as well.

Recent research showed that in a classroom one word in 40 was a metaphor, one word in 20 in a doctor-patient consultation, and one word in 10 in an emotion-laden conversation.  This means we utter between 2 and 10 metaphors per minute!

David Grove pioneered the use of client-generated metaphor in therapy in the 1980s and continued to innovate right up until his death in 2008. The significance of David's contribution is only just being recognised, and it may be several decades before his clinical research and theories about how people change are fully acknowledged.

As important as metaphors are for psychotherapy, counselling and coaching, they are more than a medium for change. For example, we have used a gallery metaphor to create the kind of experience we want visitors to this web site to have. If you want to see some of the other creative ways people have made use of self-generated metaphor in education, business, health, etc. visit the Applications Room

If you pause in this room you might like to read our Coaching with Metaphor — an introductory article which contains a lot of information in a small package (to use a couple of metaphors!) — or get a sense of how a metaphor changes and evolves in Mind, Metaphor and Health.

And when you're ready, please follow me into the Symbolic Modelling Room.

4. Symbolic Modelling Room
Symbolic Modelling
Welcome to the Symbolic Modelling Room in the Clean Collection.

Symbolic Modelling began when James Lawley and I (Penny Tompkins) undertook an extensive modelling project of the work of psychotherapist David Grove in the mid-1990s. In addition, we devoured books on cognitive linguistics — the academic basis for the significance of metaphor in thought, word and deed. A real breakthrough came when we recognised how the principles of self-organising systems theory and evolutionary dynamics could apply to the way people's metaphor landscapes change and evolve. Our first article on Symbolic Modelling appeared in 1997, and in 2000 a comprehensive guide to the theory and practice was published in our book, Metaphors in Mind. A demonstration DVD, A Strange and Strong Sensation followed in 2003.

Originally, Symbolic Modelling was made up of three components: It is an approach which uses Clean Language to facilitate individuals to become aware of the organisation of their metaphors and symbols through self-modelling. By using their exact metaphors as the raw material for the modelling process, a living, breathing, four-dimensional world within and around the client emerges – a metaphor landscape. During Symbolic Modelling change-work, clients' metaphors begin to evolve. As this happens their everyday thinking, feeling and behaviour correspondingly change as well.

Once a person experiences a 'clean environment' they discover their highly personal metaphor landscape and they come to value their own experience in a new way. Maybe for the first time they come face-to-face with their authentic self – 'uncontaminated' by the other person in the room. It can be a unique and sacred experience.

Naturally, I recommend you spend some time in this room and a good place to start is with the introductory article, Metaphors in Mind: A Case Study.

Over the years, we have found that Symbolic Modelling is especially suited to working with ‘big issues’ and 'higher levels' of experience as well as complex and seemingly intractable binds and double binds not amenable to traditional techniques.  Although Symbolic Modelling is a stand-alone process it can be easily integrated with other therapeutic and coaching models, as described in Tangled Spaghetti in my Head.

While Symbolic Modelling originated as a change process, it is now being used to facilitate individuals and groups to create new metaphors, and by academic and commercial researchers seeking to get beyond the obvious.

After you've had your fill in here, please follow me into the latest addition to the collection, the Clean Space and Emergence Room.

5. Clean Space & Emergence Room Clean Space & Emergence

we are, in the Clean Space and Emergence room, where you can wander around to get different perspectives on perceptual space – the canvas on which our thoughts and feelings are painted

This room is dedicated to the ideas that David Grove developed in the last seven years of his life. Soon after the turn of the millennium David began exploring the effects on clients' internal perceptual space as they physically moved around their external space.  He called this process Clean Space.  As well as creating some new Clean Language questions, for the first time Clean Space involved using a set of clean instructions. In 2009 James Lawley and I (Penny Tompkins) revisited the model and produced a Clean Space Lite version listing dozens of facilitator add-ons.

Based on David’s interest in ‘small world’ network theory and the concept of Six Degrees of Separation, Clean Space quickly evolved into Clean Worlds and from there into Emergent Knowledge. The latter facilitates the emergence of new information by iterating through a series of precise routines and six repetitions of particular questions.

Also, this room contains articles on the closely related notions of proximity — the significance of adjacency in perception — and a more advanced piece on psychoactive space which surveys a variety of change processes involving inner and outer spatial perceptions.

Next, the tour will take us deeper inside the gallery, into the Modelling Room.

6. Modelling Room
Ah, modelling — that process that's so tricky to describe and so yet vital to becoming adept at working with people in a clean way.  Put most simply, a model is a representation of a thing or process that can be used to help people do things, have certain experiences or make decisions.  There are mathematical models; model cars for testing aerodynamics; architects' plans of the buildings they envisage; the Underground map of London; and computer-generated models of all sorts – the list is endless.

The kind of modelling we are interested in was first formalised by John Grinder and Richard Bandler in the 1970s. It involves producing models of human behaviour — both external behaviour that can be observed, and internal behaviour that can only be described by the person having the experience.

In modelling, you are the creator of a model — the model maker.  In Symbolic Modelling, we model human perception and experience mainly by listening for the verbal and watching for the nonverbal metaphors people use to express themselves. This tell us how they organise their perceptual time and space.

By asking someone Clean Language questions we enable people to discover for themselves their model of their experience — what James Lawley and I (Penny Tompkins) call 'facilitating a person to self-model'. From their answers and responses we create our model of their model-of-self. This informs our next question, and so it goes on, round and round, wheels within wheels. We call this modelling-in-the-moment. Put simply, we're modelling them modelling themselves.

Modelling-in-the moment is at the core of Therapeutic Modelling. Another way to use Symbolic Modelling is in a more formal modelling project which has as its end point a 'product' — a model which others can acquire. These projects can last a few hours and result in a simple diagram or, like our modelling of David Grove, last many years and culminate in the publication of our book, Metaphors in Mind. If you are involved in a modelling project I think you'll find How to do a Modelling Project an invaluable reference guide.

Apart from David Grove, we have conducted a number of other modelling projects that are displayed in The Gallery. Our extensive report on how we Modelled Robert Dilts Modelling should keep the serious student engaged for a good while. And our modelling of improvisational clown trainer Vivian Gladwell unexpectedly produced a Coaching in the Moment process. Then there's our paper on Modelling the Written Word with its 16 detailed examples. The list goes on.

Once you learn how, you can create models of just about anything. But don't get me started on modelling or we'll be here for a week. Instead let's go to the next room, The Developing Group.


7. Developing Group Room

The developing Group This room contains a historical catalog of the 50+ topics James Lawley and I (Penny Tompkins) have explored and researched since 2001.

Each topic is presented to a group of experience clean practitioners who test and develop our latest ideas in practice, and give us high quality feedback.

The background notes and the participant's input from the day either form the basis for an article that is subsequently published or they remain as a 'work in progress' paper. Over 50 of these are available for you to browse through. That should keep you busy!

Next we move upstairs, to rooms that will shift our attention outward and into the world. We'll start with a room full of the results of people applying the clean approach — the Applications Room.


8. Applications Room
We are now in the Applications Room on the upper floor of The Gallery. James Lawley and I (Penny Tompkins) encourage people write up how they apply and develop this work. In this way the clean community can share its wealth of knowledge and learn from each other.

It is heart warming to see the list grow and grow, and extend into undreamed of areas. In this room you will see that people have applyied clean methods and principles to: Psychotherapy & Counselling, Coaching, Business & Organisations, Education, HealthSport, Reseach & Interviewing and Self-Development.

While it is difficult to pick out a couple of articles from the dozens available, to get an idea of the range of applications I suggest:
  •  Like a Kid in a Sweet Shop, Mike Duckett's example of creative metaphor work with Heston Blumenthal, whose restaurant, The Fat Duck, was named the best in the world.
There are numerous other interesting applications that have not yet been fully written up.  Some are: teaching Clean Language to the Police for interviewing vulnerable witnesses; preparing long-term unemployed for work; training opera students to reach high notes; journalists teaching interviewing skills to other journalists; teaching systems theory in a university; accessing enhanced meditative and spiritual states; teaching the principles of Clean Language and some of the questions to thousands of Weight Watchers group leaders across the world — I could go on and on.

If you would like to let the world know about what you are doing and how you are applying this fascinating work, contact us to find out how to have your work published in this room of The Gallery.

Next we are off to the room full of Related Material.

9. Related Material Room
Related material
If you wondering whether 'related material' is where we put everything that we couldn't find a home for elsewhere; well, yes and no.

In this room have brought together a fantastic range of resources. Here are just a few:

  • Next is the collection of personal stories from people who have first-hand experience of being a client of Symbolic Modelling and other clean approaches – and the difference it has made to their lives.
  • We also have a section dedicated to the much missed man himself; About David Grove. These range from tributes to interviews, to a history of his ideas and to his unfinished summary of his ideas.
  • It would be remiss of me not to mention the interviews with James Lawley and myself (Penny Tompkins) – so I just have!

Perhaps it's time to move swiftly on to the Models and Theory room.

10. Models and Theory Room
Models and Theory Room
Welcome to the Models and Theory Room. If you ideas and concepts you'll be right at home here.  If you have a more experiential nature or are new to this work, you may wish to skip this room and return another time, otherwise, plan to take your time.

Gregory Bateson was fond of saying that we make sense of the world by “punctuating” our experience.  This room displays a number of models where authors describe common metaphors that people use in the punctuating process. These models do two things, they describe:

a. how we create perceptions — in other words, the way we organise experience;
b. how people change their mind-body perceptions.

In this room, for example, you can learn about the function of Scale and Adjacency in perception, as well as learn about the "thinker of the thoughts," the Perceiver.  There is also Philip Harland's impressive five-part paper on the role of the Brain in emotion and cognition.

If you are interested in the change process or your own personal development, you might like to spend some time viewing models James and I (Penny Tompkins) have developed on the cheery topics of Self-Deception, Delusion, Denial and Double Binds.

Even if your only language is English, I think you will find it interesting to see what is going on outside the English-speaking world, so let’s go next door to find out about Symbolic Modelling and Clean Language Worldwide.

11. Worldwide Room
The Worldwide Room is the penultimate room of our tour of the Clean Collection. Our colleagues in other countries have translated the Clean Language questions and a number of our articles into their own language. They have also contributed their own articles.

Currently the Clean Language questions have been translated into Dutch, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Polish, Portuguese Russian, Spanish and Swedish.

James Lawley and I (Penny Tompkins) have been involved in some of the translating of the Clean Language questions and were amazed how exacting this could be.  In France they spent a long time trying to find the most appropriate translation for the “And is there anything else about ...?” question, while in Italy, “And that’s like what?” had translators scratching their heads. The process each group went through to find the words to convey the function of each question would be worthy of displaying in the Applications Room — if only someone had written it down!

While Metaphors in Mind has been published in both French and Italian, many of the translations of the questions are still work-in-progress, so if you have a suggestion or comment please send it to the Worldwide Curator for these pages, Phil Swallow using the contact form.

We welcome relevant articles in other languages and offers to translate existing articles.

Adios, arrivederci, au revoir to this room and on to the last room which features Classic NLP.

12. The NLP Room
Classic NLP
This is where it began for us – with NLP.

NLP stands for Neuro-Linguistic Programming and encompasses three of the most influential components involved in producing human experience: Neurology, Language and Patterning. NLP grew out of the collaboration of John Grinder, Richard Bandler and a group of open-minded individuals based in Santa Cruz, California in the early 1970s. (For an overview of NLP visit:

What most attracted me (Penny Tompkins) to NLP was the saying: “Experience has a structure.”  In 1991 I began training to find out more and became so enthralled that I dedicated much of the next five years to becoming adept at applying NLP processes.  I met James Lawley on that first level training, so I have a lot to be grateful for to NLP!

What interests us most about NLP is the way it works directly with people’s internal perceptions; how it give us a language to describe that strange non-physical world called ‘consciousness’; and the dramatic effects it can have on improving people’s lives.

The first articles James and I ever wrote (in 1993) are among the two dozen in this room. You will find several introductory articles (written in the rah-rah style of every convert) and there are also lots of more advanced articles for those of you who already have a grasp of the basics. One notable article is an introduction to ‘New Code NLP’ by one of the originators, Judith DeLozier, entitled Mastery, New Coding and Systemic NLP.

NLP fundamentally influenced our way of thinking and working by introducing us to Modelling — how to study, code and replicate excellent behaviour.  The myriad of techniques NLP is famous for were interesting and wonderfully useful in our personal development, but the process of modelling was where we concentrated our attention.  And thank goodness we did, because it gave us the skills to begin our five-year modelling project of David Grove.

These days James and I consider ourselves professional modellers because modelling is the bedrock of all we do, whether with individuals, groups or consulting to organisations. Perhaps our most important contribution to the field of NLP is our enhancement of the 'how to' of modelling and in particular our explication of a new way of modelling — Symbolic Modelling.

For a more in-depth yet brief description of how NLP and Symbolic Modelling fit together, visit Less Frequently Asked Questions.

We will now return to the entrance hall downstairs where I have some last points to make before we end the tour.

13. End of Tour

Welcome back to where we started – the entrance of The Gallery.

A bit of background before I let you go and explore. Phil Swallow, our web site designer, did a beautiful Clean Language facilitation with James Lawley and me (Penny Tompkins) to help us find an organising metaphor for the new site – now how congruent is that? We liked the metaphor of The Clean Collection and a gallery because it met our desire to have our website be both historical and current, to be a showcase for the field, to be a contribution, and to be our ‘face to the world’. 

If you would like to begin viewing exhibits in the Clean Collection in more detail there are lots of ways to get to a relevant article; via the:
  • Article Categories in the left-hand panel.
  • Advanced Search facility.
  • List of Authors.
  • Site Map which gives a complete list of all articles by category.
If you want to sit down and have a rest you might like to go outside to the Clean Forum Cafe. Here you can participate in discussions, ask questions, or just read what others are thinking and doing.

A great way to be up-to-date with what’s going on in the clean community is to sign up for the monthly Newsletter produced jointly with the Clean Change Company.  This contains tips, success stories, applications, networking and training opportunities. And rest assured, your name and email details are only used to inform you of clean-related news and events.

There are a number of resources not yet covered in the tour. They can be accessed via the drop-down menu bar at the top of the page:
  • A list of services and events that James and I offer can be found here. If you are interested in psychotherapy or coaching with us; or supervision of your practice; or would like to participate in a small group Self-Modelling weekend dedicated to your own personal development; you will find what you need here.
  • A list of products. Apart from our book and DVD, you can earn CEUs from reading Metaphors in Mind, and we will point you to where you can buy books, DVDs and other resources by our colleagues.
  • Other resources include answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and Less Frequently Asked Questions; a selection of our favourite quotes about metaphor; a list of Clean Practice Groups; information about training, certification and research.
  • We also have many links to other sites that feature Clean Language and Symbolic Modelling in some way, and you can set up RSS feeds to keep track of regularly changing content on this site.
If you would like to find out more about our services and products, or give us feedback about the site, or exchange links with us, please let Zannie Barrett know via the Contact Form.

It's been a pleasure having you on this short tour. I do hope you will have many enjoyable and fruitful hours browsing the Clean Collection and come back to visit us over and over as we are always adding new items. If you would like to take the Gallery Tour again, a new group will depart in a few minutes.

[If you have enjoyed the tour, please show your appreciation in the traditional manner on the way out.]


Penny Tompkins is a UKCP registered psychotherapist, coach in business, and certified NLP trainer. She is co-developer of Symbolic Modelling and co-author of Metaphors in Mind: Transformation through Symbolic Modelling.

See about us for a longer biography. 

All information on this web site (unless otherwise stated) is Copyright © 1997- Penny Tompkins and James Lawley of The Developing Company. All rights reserved. You may reproduce and disseminate any of our copyrighted information for personal use only providing the original source is clearly identified. If you wish to use the material for any other reason, please get in touch via our Contact Form