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First published on, 19 July 2006. Last updated 27 March 2019.

How to do a Modelling Project - Section 1

Penny Tompkins and James Lawley


Section 1: Introduction

Section 2: Learning how to do a Modelling Project

Section 3: Defining a Modelling Project

Section 4: Stage 1: Preparing to do a Modelling Project

Section 5: Stage 2: Gathering Information

Section 6: Stage 3: Constructing a Model

Section 7: Stage 4: Testing Your Model

Section 8: Stage 5: Acquiring the Model

Section 9: References

Some of our other articles about modelling on this site:

Introducing Modelling to Organisations (Rapport Issue 40, Summer 1998)

What is Therapeutic Modelling? (ReSource Magazine Issue 8, April 2006)

Coaching In-the-moment (2007)

Modelling: Top-down and Bottom-up (2010)

Modelling Robert Dilts Modelling (2010)

Modelling the Written Word (2010)

Modelling Shared Reality (Kwalon Vol 3, October 2012)

Pointing to a New Modelling Perspective (Acuity Vol. 4, October 2013)

A Modellers Perspective (2014)


The following is an in-depth summary of over 25 years experience of modelling: formal projects, informally, therapeutically and training modelling. These ideas are presented as background information and a checklist for conducting a full-scale modelling project. There are many, many less formal ways to make use of modelling.

Modelling Methodologies

There is not one way to model. The list below contains over a dozen modelling methodologies that to varying degrees we have had first-hand experience – although we would not claim to be experts in any (ok, maybe Symbolic Modelling!).

We have loosely classified the methodologies under the three headings (Sensory-Physical, Conceptual-Perceptual, Metaphoric-Symbolic). We first introduced these in our article Meta,  Milton and Metaphor: Models of Subjective Experience (1996):


Unconscious Uptake / Assimilation

John Grinder
Book: Whispering in the Wind (Grinder & Bostic St Clair, 2001)

On Modelling (2008) and More about Modelling (2008)
Unconscious Assimilation (2010)
The Know Nothing State (2011)
5 Steps to Modelling Geniuses (2012)

Article: Thompson & Collingwood (2013) NLP Magazine #09
Deep Trance

Steve Gilligan Article: Interview with Steve Gilligan

Book: Generative Trance: The Experience of Creative Flow (Gilligan, 2012)

Judith DeLozier Book: NLP II: The Next Generation: Enriching the Study of the Structure of Subjective Experience (Dilts & Delozier, 2010)


'Teach Me'
Richard Bandler
Book: Magic in Action (Bandler, 1992)
Robert Dilts & Todd Epstein Book: Tools For Dreamers (Dilts & Epstein, 1991)

Books Strategies of Genius Volumes I, II & III (Dilts, 1994/1995)

Book: Modelling with NLP (Dilts, 1998).

Article:Overview of Modeling in NLP (Dilts, 1998).
David Gordon & Graham Dawes Book & DVD: Expanding Your World: Modeling the Structure of Experience (Gordon & Dawes, 2005)

John McWhirter Article: Re-modelling NLP: Part Fourteen: Re-Modelling Modelling (McWhirter, Rapport 59, 2002)
Cognitive Behavioral
Charles Faulkner Article: Modelling an Expert; The missing piece in Knowledge Management (Faulkner & Modrall, 1998)
Meta-Levels L Michael Hall
Book: Going Meta: Advanced Modelling Using Meta-Levels (Hall, 1997/2001)
Advanced Behavioral Modeling
Wyatt Woodsmall
Book: The Science of Advanced Behavioral Modeling (1998) and a set of 16 DVDs from a 2003 training

Article: Modeling With NLP: Capturing and Transferring Expertise in Organizations (Feustel & Woodsmall, 2001)


Richard Bandler Book: Persuasion Engineering: Sales & Business Sales & Behavior (Bandler & La Valle, 1996)
Lucas Derks Book: Social Panoramas: Changing the Unconscious Landscape with NLP and Psychotherapy (Derks, 2005)
James Lawley & Penny Tompkins Book: Metaphors in Mind: Transformation through Symbolic Modelling (Lawley & Tompkins, 2000)

Website: including an extensive report with video clips of their Modelling Robert Dilts Modelling (2010).
Stefan Ouboter Article: Modelling Shared Reality: avoiding unintended influence in qualitative research (van Helsdingen & Lawley, Kwalon Vol 3, October 2012)

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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