David John Grove
Pioneering New Zealand psychotherapist
died suddenly in Kansas City, USA, aged 57.
Born in Tauranga, of Maori and European descent, David took inspiration from his whakapapa and
He graduated from the New Zealand Universities of Canterbury and Otago before taking a Masters in
Counselling Psychology at the State University of Minnesota. David served as a consulting
psychologist with the London Phobic Trust, and published a book with Basil Panzer called Resolving
Traumatic Memories (1989, Irvington). His avant-garde approach took in learning from all aspects of
life: systems theory, physics, literature, ancient Greece, aviation and the web. He was able to synthesise
these ideas into his work and emerge with spectacular new processes.
A brief resume of some of David's early work follows:
In 1986 he presented a keynote address at The International Symposium for Psychotherapists in
London . He spoke at the American Association for the Study of Mental Imagery at the Medical
College of Wisconsin with R.D. Laing and Isaac Marks. Other engagements included speaking at the
London Society for Ericksonian Psychotherapy and Hypnosis, The Vietnam Veteran Administration,
Augusta, Georgia, at conferences held by Virginia Satir, founder of the Mental Research Institute for
Brief and Family Therapies in Palo Alto California, working closely with Caril Lankton, Bill O'Hanlon,
Dr Brian Roet and Charles Whitfield, author of 'Healing the Child Within' and 'Memory and Abuse'.
David was great friends with the playwright and author Willy Russell, author of 'Shirley Valentine' and
toured with other productions of Russell's work - 'Words on the Run' and ' The Wellingborough
The accepted methods of treating trauma 25 years ago were to encourage patients to 'desensitise' by
talking through their experiences; David, however, noticed that this often re-traumatised patients and
instead listened to them describe their symptoms spontaneously in metaphor, for instance 'it feels like a
ton of bricks', and found that exploring these metaphors alleviated their disorders. To encourage this
process, he repeated patients' own exact words back to them and developed a series of simple questions
which would carry the least possible influence from the therapist. Because this honoured the patient's
experience, ideas and values without contaminating them with those of the therapist, he named this
technique 'Clean Language'.
His work stood on the shoulders of Jung's in its use of symbols but a key difference was David's
discovery that the metaphor does not require interpretation, only exploration until it reaches a place of
peace. Then the subject will find that phobias, internal struggles and limiting behaviour patterns of
years have disentangled and become integrated with the whole person. David further developed his
work spatially into 'Clean Space' and 'Emergent Knowledge', where he applied the principles of the
science of emergence to the human psyche.
David's work also sustained its popularity following the establishment of the False Memory Syndrome
Foundation. Therapists who had been in pursuit of uncovering early memories of childhood abuse
found themselves accused of progenerating the memories. Because his work was not to discover
memory but rather to provide symptom relief, it left him clear of the enormous dispute that rocked
Psychotherapy at the time.
had little interest in making a name for himself or even in making a
living, but was entirely focused on developing healing
processes. With complete disregard to his own health, he lived a
peripatetic existence delivering hundreds of workshops, seminars and
personal healing retreats to over 40,000 people in the U.S., France,
Holland, England, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.
fortunate those of us were to have attended David's trainings here in
New Zealand and especially to have attended his healing retreats
on his ancestral Marae, 'Waipapa' in Kawhia.
latter years he amassed a variety of equipment, like a 7 foot tall
fairground whirligig in which he could further his cutting edge spatial
experiments by turning people upside down and in all directions in
between; this was towed behind him from one end of the UK to the other
and was last seen in France. Workshops were always unpredictable because
his insatiable curiosity took the lead over any advertised programme,
but the results were invariably precise, original and spellbinding.
Psychotherapist Ernest Rossi said of him:
A gentle genie has escaped from the lamp. His name is David Grove and his magic Clean Language.
being sternly dedicated to his work, David could indeed be a
mischievous magician and was held in profound and indulgent affection by
all who knew him because the gentle genie showed up in all sorts of
kind gestures, like the infinite, painstaking, psychological help that
was on offer to all comers, a shop for the
soul that never closed.
At his funeral, therapist and co author of 'Metaphors in Mind', James Lawley, posed the question:
Was David Grove a Great man?
If greatness is measured by a man's compassion for others ... then David was a great man.
If greatness is determined by the number of stories told about you, then David Grove, you were a great man.
If greatness is determined by creativity and inventiveness, then David Grove, you were a great man.
If greatness is determined by the number of people whose lives are touched and in whose memories you reside, then David Grove, you were a great man. The affection and regard with which David was held by those he reached are clear from many tributes posted on www.cleanforum.com.
If greatness is determined by generosity of spirit and the amount of knowledge given away, then David Grove, you were a great man.
If greatness is determined by compassion for the pain and suffering the human spirit can endure, then David Grove, you were a great man.
greatness is determined by one's optimism and expectation that people
can heal and transform their lives, then David Grove, you were a great
And, if greatness is determined by taking the path never travelled before
courage and dignity knowing there is a price to pay to yourself and to
your loved ones, then David Grove ... you were truly a great man.
Grove, 1950-2008, was buried at Pyes Pa Cemetery. He leaves behind his
parents, a brother and two sisters. David was predeceased by a