(Posted by Maarten Aalberse, 7 Apr 2011)
Below are comments posted to the site on the above discussion:
I posted this on my Face-book page, and also want to post it here:
"Good to see that folks of different NLP-related schools can have a
relevant, creative and respectful discusssion... that had become all too
With my thanks to Steve, Andy and James."
(Posted by Maarten Aalberse, 7 Apr 2011)
"Where's the action in the client statement?" Yes, and when we
zoom in to "there", this will "activate" the client. In this context it
may be relevant to remember that in behavior-therapy models "exposure"
and "behavioral activation" are the best established factors of change.
And SyM faciltates both of these processes from the bottom up, I'd say.
There seems to be an interesting difference between "going where the action is in the metaphor" and asking the client:
- And what do you do with.... X?
- What have you done until now when... X?"
- And how did that work out?.
There's probably a place for both styles, and it would be helpful to
specify which approach would suit best in which circumstances.
(Posted by Joe Fobes, 7 Apr 2011)
You said: "Given that I witnessed a client of Frank's suffer a
severe negative reaction both during the session and, they reported, for
several weeks after, I consider Frank's failure to answer this question
unethical. I am not suggesting what Andy is doing is as impositional as
Provocative Therapy, but I am saying that when any method relies on
introducing content the facilitator should have ways to know when that
is inappropriate for the particular client since any method that is
influential enough to get beneficial results must also have the capacity
to produce harmful results."
I wonder about that. If I have a methodology which might indeed harm 1
out of 20 clients, yet gets results in a fifth the time of method B (and
method B presumable doesn't harm any clients), well then that might be a
tradeoff worth making.
We drive cars even though we might very well crash and die...
(Posted by Maarten Aalberse, 8 Apr 2011)
A bit as a follow-up to Joe's post: since there's often no wxay
of knowing beforehand how a client will respond to an "intervention", I
consider it crucial that therapists know how to respect the client's
feedback, (even when this is it times very painful for the therapist,
but that's his pain and for him to take care of) and to proceed from
We also have to weigh in the costs of a "too careful" attitude: costs in
effectiveness, costs in respect - we may treat our clients as more
fragile than they are, and that can be aggravating; prudence can be just
as "offensive" as intrusiveness...
(Posted by Maarten Aalberse, 10 Apr 2011)
Some of this is also related to what's often described under "the
role of therapist's self-disclosure by the therapist". From what I
understand of Clean, this is to be minimalized (of course it is not
possible to not-self-disclose). At heart I think this is related to a
"one-person" model of psychotherapy which, despite all the mentioning of
systemics, seems part of the Clean model "of information" - which in
itself is a metaphor that deserves to be questioned...). But when we
consider us primarily as human beings-in-relationship, the role of
therapist's self-disclosure can be seen in a different perspective.
A nice short article about this: www.aedpinstitute.org/RT20657_Final%20Proof.pdf
(Posted by Maarten Aalberse, 11 Apr 2014)
What I would hope is that we get clearer on "when / with whom" to
do what. Surely more Provocative approaches have their place, as does
Clean. And surely (?), both have their limitations, too...
(Posted by Maarten Aalberse, 11 Apr 2011)
My guess is that, if I dichotomize (and thus oversimplify) a bit,
the "provocative" and the "clean" ways of working with metaphors do
lead to different outcomes, i.e. clients feeling better, but better in
different way... And not only *feeling* better, but *doing* better.
And we'd need good research to get clearer on those differences. Such
research is IMO anyway necessary in the NLP-field, if it doesn't want to
choke in its own "mastery" with each selling their own product. Which
is why this beginning of a discussion between James, Andy and Steve is
so important. But IMO, finally we have to move even further than that,
and really start to do the research.
(Posted by James Lawley, 11 Apr 2011)
Thanks for all your comments Maarten - much appreciated.
Re. comment #6: I agree about getting clearer on "when / with whom" as long as we
remember we are talking about individuals and as Aristotle said: There
is no science of the individual. However, the point I was trying to make
is that we also need criteria that can be applied in real-time for
"when our method is, and particularly, is NOT working".
I'd also strongly agree that "more Provocative approaches have their
place", and I agree that all approaches have their limitations. I would
add: Surely all facilitators have their limitations too. The point is,
can we admit it? And can we seek to identify when those limitations are
Despite several direct questions of Frank and of other leading
Provocative practitioners at the event, the idea of limits and
limitations was not addressed.
Gregory Bateson noted that ANYTHING done to excess will be harmful to
the system. How do we know when we are nearing that threshold?
(Posted by Maarten Aalberse, 11 Apr 2011)
I love the Aristotle quote and... would add that there is a science of
(developmental/ therapeutic) process-patterns. Which makes it possible
to have this knowledge of key-processes somewhere in the background, and
the individual person in the foreground. This as a basis for hypotheses
about "which key-processes need to be catalysed with this unique
person"? This could also serve as a basis for evaluating the ongoing
process, similar to what you mention as the need for clearer criteria.
One way of building bridges between "Andy-land" and "James-country"
which I find helpful is to ask, when the therapist has chosen to respond
in a confrontive/ provocative/ self-disclosing way,: "and when
hearing... (the therapist's statement), that is like what...?" And then
to develop the metaphor that comes as a response to that question. If
necessary, this can lead to good "repair" after an unintended "rupture".
Can be challenging though, to hear that it was for instance "like a
rattlesnake", as once happened to me. At those precise moments I find
the Clean approach very helpful, as it also helps me to (not necessarily
consciously) digest my own responses and differentiate between my
subjective response and that of the client.
(Posted by Jennifer de Gant, 1 Aug 2012)
Inspired by Metaphors of Movement and Symbolic Modelling: a
discussion of differences and similarities by James Lawley, Andrew
Austin and Steve Andreas, I would like to add my thoughts to the
discussion. I come from a background in NLP in the 80's in the USA with
Steve and Connirae Andreas and in France with Gene Early then after
helping to launch NLP in France and enjoying many years as an NLP
Trainer, in the late 90's I met David Grove and then James Lawley and
Penny Tompkins who launched Clean Language and Symbolic Modelling in
In looking back over the continuum of 'getting down and dirty' with a
client's language and behaviour and 'staying clean and content-free' so
my client can find his own thinking and acting, I have certainly
experimented across a wide spectrum, starting with my excitement at the
daring of the early NLPers to challenge long therapeutic processes that
seemed to stop at insight without caring for behavioural change, to my
present awareness of the effectiveness of minimalist interventions
through the power of six downloads! I too am interested in the wisdom
of Bateson's remark that anything taken to excess is harmful to the
system and so James's question 'How do we know when we are nearing this
One answer that comes to mind is, it depends on the environment the
facilitator has lived and worked in. I have a lot of respect for those
who, like Andrew, have worked extensively in the milieu of "difficult,
uncooperative and chronic patients". Like many people I met in the USA
in the first Sub-Modalities Course in Boston with Steve and Connirae,
who were ex-drug addicts or alcoholics and who were turning back to the
environment they knew so well with the power of what NLP had brought
them. The power of the belief that anyone could learn to change was a
unique gift from America at that time. The environment of struggle and
challenge understood and surpassed is the unique field for a
facilitator's success. What is learned deeply and personally can be
coded and handed on to others. All of this was enormously inspiring.
My own field was less dramatic a path through family constraints,
insecurities about jobs and relationships and yearnings for a spiritual
path to a better world. In the work of David Grove, I found the
sensitivity and depths of Jungian Therapy matched with much clearer and
more direct ways to accompany a troubled mind through the traps of
dissociation, fantasy and illusion. Working with David was always
working with presence, we were far from 'staying out to avoid
contamination': the closeness to the client was energetic, electric,
all-encompassing and all we used were questions directing their
attention to their metaphors, their body movements, their sudden
silences. This way they met themselves and those lost and forsaken parts
they needed to grow.
So when I think of for whom this 'clean' facilitation would be useful, I
think of all the people who have been bullied by other people's
interference in their thinking and feeling by abusive or well-meaning
parents and educators, all those who have learned to be compliant and to
seek advice from anyone rather than face their own processes, those who
got lost in dissociative fantasies in lonely childhoods, those who do
not even know they have an inner world to balance with all the outer
activity that is pushed upon them.
I am thinking of the example of a woman who had always been bullied by
her parent's opinions and who inevitably chose a husband to do the same
and who taught her children to bully her too. Maybe she would have
responded to a 'dirty challenge' from a therapist, we will never know,
but she certainly did respond to the perhaps slower and more winding
road of only having her own thoughts to deal with in her interaction
with her therapist. Feldenkrais has put this rather well I think, the
moment when a person is no longer firing off their anxiety driven
dependency pattern has an immediate effect on the body-mind which allows
the environment to be experienced as present and actual instead of as
remembered threat. In my experience this removal of threat is taught by
the discipline of clean language.