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Clean Language and Symbolic Modelling workshops


Find out why the influential cognitive scientist and linguist, Steven Pinker, highlighted (in The Stuff of Thought) “A book on psychotherapy called Metaphors in Mind calls on therapists to work with their patients’ metaphors like: 'I have a sensitive radar for insults' and 'I’m trapped behind a door'.”

What are the training outcomes for the workshops?

Modelling Metaphors for a Change

No change technique is required! Changes emerge spontaneously and are matured organically until the client embodies new metaphors to live by. The role of the coach-therapist-facilitator is therefore to encourage the conditions under which change happens naturally and to follow every potentially serendipitous shift.

Symbolic Modelling uses David Grove’s Clean Language to facilitate profound change by working with metaphoric perceptions of problems and outcomes – and to reveal deep connections to a sense of self.  The process is based on the science of self-organisation and as well as coaching and therapy, it can be applied in a myriad of other ways, including as a research methodology, to make a difference in the world.

What makes this methodology so useful and innovative is its simplicity and its 'clean' philosophy. Ernest Rossi, long time collaborator with Milton Erickson, says this approach "helps people learn how to facilitate their own creativity in solving their own problems in their own way". It is particularly useful for working with those hard-to-get-to and repetitive problems which are not amenable to standard change techniques.

Symbolic Modelling is a new way of thinking about the change process. It combines advances in contemporary psychology with developments in the science of self-organising systems. These developments require a radical new view of how humans change:
  • Humans, individually and collectively, self-organise. Self-organising systems have no central control. Instead they are based on dynamic intelligent networks that are complex, adaptive and emergent.
  • Metaphor is not some figurative icing on the narrative cake, it is intrinsic to language, thought and deed.
  • Knowledge for the most part is not based on abstract concepts and well-defined categories, but embodied with a fuzzy, non-linear logic.
Few approaches implement the new paradigm as congruently as Symbolic Modelling.

This training offers psychotherapists, counsellors, coaches and consultants an opportunity to experience first-hand the benefits now available through these innovations. It will also be of value to individuals who want to gain a deeper appreciation of themselves and to enhance their ability to listen and communicate with clients, colleagues and partners.

Developed by Penny Tompkins and James Lawley, from twelve years of modelling the innovate New Zealand psychotherapist David Grove, Symbolic Modelling integrates the Grovian 'clean' philosophy, the use of client-generated metaphor, the facilitator as modeller, and systemic outcome orientation into one package. The principal focus of this approach is the client's relationship with their own ‘metaphor landscape’ — a psychoactive 4-dimensional, imaginative world existing within and around them. The emergent dynamic feedback loop provides an inherent directionality, often guiding the client to places they didn’t know they needed to go, and to outcomes that surprise and delight both them and their facilitator.

Participants will be offered a highly effective and flexible approach to facilitating people to construct their own desired outcomes and to discover what needs to happen for change to occur naturally. No change technique is required — changes occur spontaneously and are matured organically. This will either reveal the precise processes inhibiting the change or lead to a contagion that reorganise the self-system.

On our training participants will learn how to:
  • Recognise metaphors in everyday speech
  • Understand how metaphors represent the structure of experience
  • Discover their own generative metaphor
  • Identify, develop and evolve others' metaphors
  • Facilitate others using the most common Clean Language questions of David Grove
  • Utilise the Problem-Remedy-Outcome Model
  • Make use of perceptual space and nonverbal metaphor in the change process
  • Encourage the emergent, embodied and psychoactive nature of change
  • Work with a personal development topic of their choosing

Participants will also see Symbolic Modelling client-work demonstrated live, and (if working in English) receive personal coaching-in-the-moment from Penny and James to enhance their facilitation skills.

These events offer coaches, therapists, consultants and others an opportunity to learn from two recognised world leaders in the field. Others who have attended these workshops have found that they are able to immediately apply their learning in their personal life and work setting.


Coaching:  Coaching with Metaphor
Therapy:   Tangled Spaghetti in My Head
Health:     The Mind, Metaphor and Health
Education: Learning Metaphors
Business:  Metaphors of Organisation - part 2
Research: Clean Language in Research Interviews (Tosey, 2014)

Case studies & Videos:

Case studies
Frozen in the Headlights (11-minute Clean Coaching session)
When a Natural Energy Sparks (10-minute Clean Language demonstration)
The Tree of Wisdom (24-minute Symbolic Modelling session)

ALSO by Penny and James:

Book: Metaphors in Mind: Transformation through Symbolic Modelling

DVD: A Strange and Strong Sensation

Lots of articles:


Outside of the workshops,
Penny and James may be available for
private therapy sessions with individuals, couples
or small groups/teams.

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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Clean Language
Symbolic Modelling

James Lawley
Penny Tompkins

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