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Publications that make use of David Grove's ideas

Academic and professional publications and research - continued

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Martin, John N.T. (2007). Book Review: Metaphors in Mind: Transformation Through Symbolic Modelling, by James Lawley and Penny Tompkins, Metaphor and Symbol, 22(2):201-211.
Download prepress version: Martin_2007-Metaphors_in_Mind_Review.pdf
It seems odd to be reviewing an excellent book about the practical use of metaphor that is six years old, already has a couple of translations into another language (Italian and French), and has summary papers in several other languages. But conversations at a recent conference  suggested that the work it describes is not yet well known to metaphor researchers. Perhaps this reflects the gulf between the practitioner/trainer world of shared experiences and face-to-face contact versus the academic world of journal articles and statistics. But if I had a research student working on metaphor, experience of Lawley and Tompkins' work would be a key part of the basic training because of its striking capacity to bring our internal metaphorical worlds to life.

Martin, John N.T. & Sullivan, Wendy (2007). "... and good systems practice is [pause] like [pause] what?": 'Clean Language' and 'Metaphor Landscapes' as potential tools in Systems Practice. A revised version of the paper presented at the 11th United Kingdom Systems Society (UKSS) International Conference, Oxford University, 3-5 September 2007, Joined up thinking for a joined up world. Revised version published in Systemist Vol 29, Number 3, November 2007.
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Checkland has referred to the primacy of cognitive processes, and the importance of self-reflection and phenomenology in modern Systems thinking. This paper takes that position at its face value and describes a way of reflecting on one’s sense-making cognitive processes that is well established in its own domain, but, so far as we can tell, not widely known to Systems practitioners. It was developed as
‘clean language’ by David Grove (Grove & Panzer, 1989) and subsequently codified as ‘symbolic modelling’ by James Lawley and Penny Tompkins (Lawley & Tompkins, 2000). This paper provides the underlying rationale.

McGrath, Maureen (1998). A Study in the Use of Symbolism in Counselling. MA thesis: University of Durham, Centre for Studies in Counselling.

Naughton, Linda (2009). Beyond Narrative: Modelling Metaphor in Environmental Discourse. MSc thesis:Cranfield University, School of Applied Sciences innovation and Design for Sustainability.

Needham-Didsbury, Isabelle (2011). The Application of Metaphors in Psychotherapy, a dissertation submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirement for the Masters in Research in Speech, Language & Cognition, University College London, Division of Psychology & Language Sciences.

Needham-Didsbury, Isabelle (2012). The Use of Figurative Language in Psychotherapy, University College London, Working Papers in Linguistics 2012, pp. 75-93
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This paper surveys a proportion of the literature on the use of metaphor in psychotherapy including Grove's work and Symbolic Modelling.

Needham-Didsbury, Isabelle (2014). Metaphor in Psychotherapeutic Discourse: Implications for Utterance. Poznań Studies in Contemporary Linguistics, 50(1), 2014, pp. 75–97.
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This paper examines figurative expressions in two passages from attested psychotherapy exchanges where explicit use is made of metaphor for therapeutic purposes and discusses the use of Clean Language in this context.

Nehyba, Jan & Lanc, Jakub (2013). Koncept čistého jazyka v psychoterapii (The Concept of Clean Language in Psychotherapy), Psychoterapie: praxe – inspirace – konfrontace, 7(2) 123-133 Brno: Masaryk university.
Preprint paper:
The article introduces 'clean language' or a 'clean approach' - one of the post-modern oriented therapeutic approaches, building on the ideas of the late David Grove. The way of facilitating the therapeutic session is specific in the 'cleanness' from the therapists conscious and unconscious contents it strives for in the interaction. This allows the client to immerse himself deeper in his own mind-body processes and their organization. After the theoretical background, the article focuses on the practical example of how is possible to 'let emerge' metaphors, self-reflections, insights or 'aha!' moments for the client. In the concluding part, the text offers a discussion of the principles of the clean approach and the ways it can be inspiring for therapists.

Nixon, Sarah (2013). Using Metaphors to Aid Student Meta-Learning: When You’re Learning at Your Best Your Like What?, Creative Education 2013. Vol.4, No.7A2, 32-36 Published Online July 2013 in SciRes.
This paper adds to the body of knowledge in relation to students using metaphor as a tool to support meta-learning. This project focuses on what students are like when they are “learning at their best” and discusses what knowing this information does for both individual self-awareness and working with others. Six final year students spent half a day exploring, developing and pictorially representing their “learning at best” metaphors.  All six students were positive that the development of personal learning metaphors was beneficial and thought that it was important that these were developed systematically over time. The benefits were highlighted to be both for the individual working on their own and for understanding others in group work situations.

Nixon, Sarah (2014). Teaching and learning pedagogies to enhance practice in Higher Education: a practitioner's perspective: Doctorate by publication, Liverpool John Moores University, Faculty of Education, Health and Community.
This mixed method approach studied the enhancement of the student experience through creating conditions where excellent learning can occur both individually and through working in communities of practice. Includes the application of Clean Language and Systemic Modelling.

Nixon, Sarah & Walker, Caitlin (2009). Personal Development Planning - Inspiring Capability, chapter 11 in Enhancing Student Centred Learning in Business and Management, Hospitality, Leisure, Sport and Tourism, edited by John Buswell and Nina Becket for HLST, Oxford Brookes University, published by Threshold Press.
PDP has been an area of interest within the Sport Development programme at Liverpool John Moores University. The chapter begins with the context for the project and what we wanted to happen. Then outlines the philosophy underpinning our approach and introduce key features including the notion of autogenic metaphors for learning, clean (metaphor-free) questions, clean set-up and clean feedback. It continues with how we went about engaging staff and students, some challenges, learning and the impact so far, and then ends with a summary of how we will do things differently this year, knowing what we know now.

Nixon, S. & Walker, C. (2009). Modelling the curriculum through metaphors: one programme's approach, CETL Journal: Innovations in Practice, 1(2), 3-6.
As part of exploring Personal Development Planning (PDP) across the Sport Development programme we decided to gather the views of staff on the programme to see if we could agree on a common model, philosophy and message. This approach, called Metaphors at Work (Walker 2007), allows individuals and groups to explore their own thoughts and perceptions on a subject, in this case the degree programme, through the development of metaphors [using Clean Language] and their associated meaning. The process has a number of stages which are documented in this paper with the overall objective being to get to a jointly shared view amongst staff.

Open University (1999). Imagery and Metaphor, part of the OU Business and Management postgraduate course B822: Creativity, Innovation and Change produced by John Martin. The course includes three videos related to David Grove's work featuring Caitlin Walker: Engaging the Imagination; Group Metaphor Development; and Clean Language.
How do you address problematic issues at work? This [programme] reveals more creative ways to solve problems, other than relying on rational techniques such as brainstorming and lateral thinking. Employees at a small software company are shown how to access their unconscious minds using the power of imagery, associative thinking, [Clean Language] and metaphor, to find solutions and creative approaches to their work. Meanwhile at a Neuro-Linguistic Programming seminar, participants learn to use metaphor for practical problem-solving. The facilitators also comment and discuss their techniques and observations, including the significance of gesture, body language and breathing in the sessions.

Open University (2004). Practical Thinking: an online course in perception, ideas and action, T185, part of the Technology Faculty’s 'Relevant Knowledge' programme (2004-2006, no longer available) produced by John Martin:
This ten-week course  is presented online and explores the practical role of metaphor in shaping and transforming various areas of imagery, thinking and communication. Application areas include the concept development stages of policy-making and design, the generation of ideas, visualising implementation issues, the communication of complex project ideas, problem-solving, resolving differences, and so on. T185 draws heavily on the ideas of cognitive scientists such as Lakoff and Johnson, classic writers on creative problem solving such as George Prince, management writers such as Gareth Morgan and practitioners such as Lawley and Tompkins.

Owen, Ian R. (1989). Beyond Carl Rogers: The work of David Grove, Journal of Interprofessional Care, 4(4), 186-196.
This article is written with the belief that psychotherapy can be enriched by the addition of ideas from anthropology and holistic health care. This paper introduces the psychotherapy of David Grove. It re-emphasizes the need for therapists, or healers of all kinds, to be aware of the language, therapeutic structure and experience of clients. Clients' experiences are more fully understood in the context of greater awareness of the inter-relationships of language, experience, belief, enculturation and communication. Such awareness is posited as being crucial to holistic practitioners. The case for a phenomenological therapy is put forward.

Owen, Ian R. (1996). Clean Language: A linguistic-experiential phenomenology, in A.-T. Tymieniecka (Ed.) Analecta Husserliana, Vol. 48. pp. 271-297, Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic.
In this study [David Grove's] clean language is applied to make a reproducible method for phenomenologists as this new procedure adheres to many phenomenological first principles. The method reveals the place of metaphor and metonymy as possible connections between language and lived experience.

Pickerden, Anita M (2013) How do older workers in the fire & Rescue service deal with work life balance issues as they plan for, approach and transition through retirement? Thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Leicester.
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The research made use of Clean Language during the interviews (pp. 95-96).

Nick Pole & Peter Cadney
(2016) ‘Very, Very Traumatic’ Working with Trauma with Clean Language and Shiatsu. Shiatsu Society Journal (UK), Winter 2016, Issue 140.
Rees, J., & Manea, A.I. (2016). The Use of Clean Language and Metaphor in Helping Clients Overcoming Procrastination. Journal of Experiential Psychotherapy. 19 (3).
In psychotherapy, coaching and personal development, problems are often framed in terms of metaphor. For example, procrastination might be described as a “mysterious” force, holding the client back from creating the happy, fulfilled life he often dreams of. Clean Language, created by the late David Grove between the 1980s and the 1990s, is a process designed to use such client metaphors as an engine for positive change. In this article, we show how it works in a typical one-on-one session.

Robinson, Fe (2013). How does exploring metaphorical representations of organisational change at its best affect levels of well-being in an ambiguous and rapidly changing public sector work environment?  Paper presented to The Third International Neuro-Linguistic Programming Research Conference, Hertfordshire University, 6-7th July 2012.
A shorter version was published in Acuity, No. 4.
Full paper available at:

This study found that exploring metaphorical representations of organisational change at its best correlated significantly with increasing well-being during a period of organisational change; potentially mitigating deleterious effects and causing a small well-being uplift. Group and one-to-one interventions showed similar well-being correlations over a three-month period. However, the nature of the effect was different, with insights and positive affect the prime outcome for the one-to-one intervention, and workshops additionally leading to experimentation with new skills. There are four implications of this study for clean language practitioners. Firstly, clean language and symbolic modelling interventions are suitable as part of the change management mix to support employee well-being. Secondly, metaphorical interventions have effects over time, undertaking interventions over a period is recommended. Thirdly, creating an open, safe environment for exploration and insight is key to supporting well-being. Finally, teaching clean language will enable application of learning into other contexts. Using one-to-one interventions may require more sessions to lead to behavioural change.

Schenck, Klaus (2013). "So What's a Meta For?" InterAction - The Journal of Solution Focus in Organisations, Volume 5, Number 2, November 2013, pp. 35-53(19), SFCT. br/>
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The approach of “Clean Language” has cultivated a whole set of questions that may be helpful to know about, and useful for extending the toolbox of Solution Focus questions.

Švec, V., Nehyba, J. & Svojanovský, P. (Eds.). (2017). STUDENTI UČITELSTVÍ MEZI TACITNÍMI A EXPLICITNÍMI ZNALOSTMI Brno: Masaryk university MUNI press
The book (in Czech) discusses: metaphors, sharing knowledge, subjective tacit theories of teaching students teachers, unexpected circumstances and Clean Language research interviewing.
Chapter authors: Vlastimil Švec, Jan Nehyba, Petr Svojanovský, James Lawley, Radim Šíp, Eva Minaříková, Blanka Pravdová, Barbora Šimůnková, Jan Slavík.

A preview of the book is available and the full book is available free of charge. Please contact Barbara Šimůnkovou:

An eBook in English version 
is forthcoming, Becoming a teacher: The dance between tacit and explicit knowledge.

Seldon, Bob.
(2010). How Clean Is Our Language? Training and Development in Australia, Vol. 37, No. 4, Jul 2010: 36-37.

Snoddon, Martin (2005). Legacy of War: Experiences of members of the Ulster Defence Regiment, Conflict Trauma Resource Centre, Belfast.
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Research included use of Clean Language in 12 interviews of individuals and four workshops each attended by 20 participants.

van Helsdingen, Annemiek & Lawley, James (2012). Zuiver belevingsonderzoek: het vermijden van onbedoelde beïnvloeding in kwalitatief onderzoek, Kwalon, Aflevering 3 2012.
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Translated from the original Dutch version as Modelling Shared Reality: avoiding unintended influence in qualitative research, Kwalon Vol 3, October 2012. (Journal of the Netherlands Association for Qualitative Research).
Available in English at:
Modelling Shared Reality is a new qualitative research methodology which is rooted in Clean Language and Symbolic Modelling. It minimizes undesired influence of the researcher during all stages of the research: design, interviews, analysis and reporting. The methodology is action oriented: both the process and the results function as a catalyst for action, behavioural and organizational change.

Vanson, Sally (2011). Aligning identity in legal services firms: Do senior partners in legal services firms possess the core characteristics of identity to work in alignment within the firm? Thesis submitted in partial fulfilment for award of the degree of Doctor of Business Administration, University of Portsmouth, June 2011.
The study used clean language techniques to take out presupposition and incorporate narrative spacing in the questions asked of 11 senior partners from large UK law firms working across a range of legal specialisms.

Tompkins, Penny, & James Lawley (2006). Coaching with Metaphor, in Cutting Edge Coaching Techniques Handbook, Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, Coaching at Work, September 2006

Tompkins, Penny, Wendy Sullivan & James Lawley (2005). Tangled Spaghetti in My Head: Making use of metaphor, Therapy Today, Journal of the British Association for Counselling and Pychotherapy, October 2005.
Tosey, Paul (2011). 'Symbolic Modelling' as an innovative phenomenological method in HRD research: the work-life balance project, presented at the 12th International Conference on HRD Research and Practice across Europe, University of Gloucestershire, 25th–27th May 2011.
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This project applied symbolic modelling in order to elicit the naturally occurring metaphors of six mid-career managers in the UK, relating to the way they experienced work-life balance. The analysis yielded a unique metaphor landscape for each manager. A key finding is that, although the ‘work-life balance’ metaphor is widespread, not one of the interviewees’ main metaphors overtly involved ‘a balance’. However, a number of their metaphors implied some form of balancing, for example ‘juggling’, ‘surfing’, or being in ‘equality’. The study illustrates potential enhancements that symbolic modelling and the clean language questioning technique can bring to phenomenological interviewing and analysis in HRD research. The results also have implications for the understanding of work-life balance, and for managers and human resource professionals who are dealing with work-life balance issues in the workplace.

Tosey, Paul (2014). Clean Language in Research Interviews. Rapport 40 pp.44-46.
Download: Tosey-2014-Clean_Language_Interviews-Rapport40pp44-46.pdf
This introductory article outlines applications of Clean Language to research interviewing. Interviewers are likely to find Clean Language accessible and of potential use as an approach to data gathering.

Tosey, Paul (2015). And what kind of question is that? Thinking about the function of questions in qualitative interviewing. Chapter 14 in Handbook of Research Methods on Human Resource Development. Editors, Saunders, M. N. K. & Tosey, P. Edward Elgar Publishing.
Look inside the book:
This chapter explores qualitative interviewing, drawing from a project that investigated managers' metaphors of work-life balance, informed by a practice called Clean Language. The chapter highlights the function of questions in interviews and considers how to design and ask questions in order to elicit data of good quality.

Tosey, P., Lawley, J. and Meese, R. (2014). Eliciting Metaphor through Clean Language: an Innovation in Qualitative Research, British Journal of Management. Vol. 25, 629–646. doi: 10.1111/1467-8551.12042. Purchase at:
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This paper shows how an innovative method of questioning called Clean Language can enhance the authenticity and rigour of interview-based qualitative research. We investigate the specific potential of Clean Language as a method for eliciting naturally occurring metaphors in order to provide in-depth understanding of a person's symbolic world; despite substantial interest in metaphors in the field of organizational and management research there is a lack of explicit, systematic methods for eliciting naturally occurring metaphors. We also demonstrate how Clean Language can improve qualitative research more widely by addressing the propensity for researchers inadvertently to introduce extraneous metaphors into an interviewee's account at both data collection and interpretation stages. Data are presented from a collaborative academic–practitioner project in which Clean Language was used as a method of interviewing to elicit the metaphors of six mid-career managers, relating to the way they experienced work–life balance. The first contribution of this paper is to demonstrate the potential of Clean Language for eliciting naturally occurring metaphors in order to provide in-depth understanding of a person's symbolic world. The second contribution is to show how Clean Language can enhance the rigour and authenticity of interview-based qualitative research more widely.

Walker, Caitlin (2006). Breathing in Blue by Clapton Duck Pond, British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy, Counselling Children and Young People, Dec 2006, pp.2-5.

Walsh, B. , Nixon, S. , Walker, C. and Doyle, N. (2015). Using a Clean Feedback Model to Facilitate the Learning Process. Creative Education, 6, 953-960.
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in this article we examine the “clean feedback” model developed by Walker and Doyle (2006) and explore its impact on the learning experiences of a purposeful sample of eleven beginning physical education teachers. The findings indicate that the model has improved the students’ ability to give and receive both positive and negative feedback and to improve students self awareness and understanding of their own learning and teaching styles.

Ward, C., Tosey, P. & Cairns-Lee, H. (2013). 'A Strange Route to Get Here': Metaphors of Leadership Development and Leadership. Presented at 14th International Conference on Human Resource Development Research and Practice across Europe, 5-7 June 2013: HRD in Turbulent Seas-Continued Global Economic Uncertainty: Challenges and Opportunities. University of Brighton, Brighton Business School, UK.
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The purpose of this paper is to explore leaders’ naturally occurring metaphors of leadership development and leadership. It reports a secondary analysis of interview transcripts from a study (Ward and Preece, 2012) of seven leaders.

Wing, Suzanne Brown (1994) David Grove Metaphor Therapy and traumatic memory resolution with incarcerated sex offenders. A dissertation submitted in partial fulfilment for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology, The Union Institute & University, Ohio. March 1994.

  • Comment #1 (Posted by Caitlin Walker, 6 Jan 2017)

    Following research trails while writing about Clean Language Interviewing I've come across a few articles I hadn't seen before and in their references are links to others - all downloadable.

    DAVID PINCUS Chapman University, Orange, California
    ANEES A. SHEIKH Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
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