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James Lawley

James LawleyJames Lawley offers psychotherapiy to individuals and couples, and coaching, research and consultancy to organisations. He is a co-developer of Symbolic Modelling and co-author (with Penny Tompkins) of Metaphors in Mind: Transformation through Symbolic Modelling, (with Marian Way) Insights in Space: How to use Clean Space to solve problems, generate ideas and spark creativity and an Online training in Clean Language and Symbolic Modelling. For a more detailed biography see about us and his blog.

Not making decisions for the client
By James Lawley | Published  11 12 2011

The third of four parts of my general feedback to advanced clean facilitators. (See here for the other parts.) 

3. Not making decisions for the client

Suppose a client says:

I can either stop and stay there or move on through the feeling.

What question would you ask, and what would you ask it of?

Whether you ask about “stop”, “stay”, “there” or “move on”, “through” or the “feeling”, you will have made a choice to attend to one ‘side’ of the client’s ‘either/or’ rather the other. Whichever you don’t choose could be more important. Inexperienced facilitators have a tendency to choose one of the options and, once chosen, the path of least resistance is to keep going in the same direction. But then the client does not find out about the other side of their story.

There is an alternative – and it’s much easier. Don’t decide. Why choose when you have so little to base it on? Better to let the client decide. To do this you can simply ask:

a. And when you can either stop and stay there or move on through the feeling,
is there anything else about either stop and stay there or move on through?

In this way you facilitate the client to consider both sides together. Then you notice whether they go one way or the other or stay at the relationship level. If they chose one, always note the the other, and later in the session come back and check the choice not taken – the road not travelled.

There are other questions you could ask which don’t choose for the client, and here are two:

b. And when you can either stop and stay there or you can move on through the feeling, what would you like to have happen?

I would consider this question if it seemed the client didn’t know which choice to take and that gave them a dilemma (i.e. a Problem in the PRO model). If you choose one or the other, you may ‘solve’ this particular dilemma for the moment, but what will they have learned about handling dilemmas? Probably not much. Better to ask 'what would you like to have happen?' of the dilemma.

c. And when you can either stop and stay there or you can move on through the feeling, then what happens?

This is a clever question because by moving time forward the client finds out what happens next. We know they “can” do either, but what do they actually do?

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Next is is probably the most advanced of the four blogs in this series: How to track where the client is perceiving from.


Working Cleanly
James Lawley & Penny Tompkins

17-18 Nov 2018

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