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Problem Domains and Non-Traumatic Resolution Through Metaphor Therapy

David Grove (1998)

(Edited from notes provided by David Grove and partially written by Rob McGavock)


One purpose of this handout is to convey a sense that the problems people experience over and over again, that replicate, take up physical space in the realm of the person's 'psychescape'. One might think of a psychescape as a landscape in which all experiences of influence reside for an individual. Each problem that a person is experiencing takes up a certain amount of space physically, psychologically, cognitively and 'affectively'.  The space that a particular replicating problem requires is the 'problem domain'. Elements of the problem to be healed can be carried inside and/or outside of the person's body.

As you will discover in this workshop, the locus of information can be found by noticing where the client looks, what gestures they use, what phrases  are spoken and even what sounds are made just before they speak.  It is intriguing to note that the entire history of a particular problem can be unfolded from one glance, one gesture or one expression.

Developing questions that help information take form can be asked to begin the process of locating experiences in space thereby illuminating the client's psychescape.  As information is developed the client can then be invited to  'map' the information by drawing on paper. As this map becomes 'psycho-active' its elements begin to evolve and once the mapping process has started it may continue with very little interaction by the therapist.  The map becomes the co-therapist or guide illustrating not only what needs to be done, but also what healing has taken place.  Some people may choose to sculpt.  Others may be requested to physically walk to the area from which they are sourcing information in order to explore what is there for them.  All of these methods can reveal pertinent information that exposes the mechanisms of the problem ultimately leading to a healing.

Another intention of this handout is to demonstrate that there are at least four realms within which the problem domain can co-exist. They are integrated but can be separated by distinct characteristics and features. These four realms, or 'quadrants', can be very useful for gathering specific information which becomes a guide to a solution that is exactly right for the problem.

The quadrants provide a sense of the holographic nature of problem domains and provide a context for understanding how the mechanisms function in a matrix of space and time. The objective of this therapy is to find a solution to a particular problem domain by tracing the undesirable symptom back through time to its originator. A powerful 'redemptive metaphor' can then be discovered prior to the origination that can be utilized to heal the etiology and its entire evolution into the client's life.

Clean Language

The primary medium for the delivery of the healing art is language.  Therapeutic language must be a sacred language in the sense that it has to be bracketed off from the profane language of everyday speech.  Clean language asks questions that do not contaminate or attribute or characterize a client's experience.  It is a language that enables the therapist to enter the client's unique model of the world.  It is the therapist's job to get the questions right. Every question is based on the client's last response.

Clean language is used as a tool to:

  • Prevent contamination of the client's own experience by the therapist's own assumptions and biases.
  • Minimize resistance.
  • Translate feelings out of words into physiological imagery.
  • Accurately pinpoint questions and statements that reflect the client's model of the world.
  • Communicate effectively and efficiently with non-conscious processes.
  • Work effectively with 'childwithin' symptoms using the child's primary processing language (Quadrant II).

Clean Language guidelines:

  • Ask questions that can be accepted or rejected equally.
  • Use the same verb forms and tense as the client.
  • Do not use the definite article 'the'.
  • Use pronouns only in keeping with the client's usage.
  • Ask questions that allow choices and solutions to come from the true source of the information.

(Note: for a fuller description see: The Philosophy and Principles of Clean Language by David Grove)





Perceptual Space















Child Within



Quadrant I

Quadrant I is dealing with information that is conveyed in words.  Words carry meaning and in everyday language the meaning is conveyed horizontally across time -- that is diachronic -- so that stories and ideas are told. The locus of attention is out in the space between the two people, and the information given is used to express ideas or symptoms. Examples of Quadrant I ways of working would be various cognitive therapies.  The insights gained may help the 'inner child' get out of his/her hole but does not heal the wound. We hear the words one at a time and then reform them so that we can make sense of them. Simply stated, Quadrant I includes all that is in the cognitive realm; semantics, words, meanings. In Quadrant I ideas are discussed, information can be attained and there can be an intellectual understanding. The focus of attention is in the here-and-now.  Past experiences may be discussed in this quadrant, but the emphasis will be on the adult client cognitively.

David Grove
Until his untimely death in 2008 David innovated numerous therapeutic methods and he conducted training seminars in the USA, UK, France and in his country of origin New Zealand. In 1989 he co-authored with B.I. Panzer, Resolving Traumatic Memories: Metaphors and Symbols in Psychotherapy. He was the originator Clean Language, Clean Space, Emergent Knowledge and a host of other processes.
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