The Essence: The use of symbolic Modelling is very powerful when coaching in general and specifically in times of uncertainty and change – which is so applicable when coaching with climate.

Resource created by: The Clean Language and Symbolic Modelling Community


What is the Seed?: We heard in the political pod in October 2021  of a powerful metaphor – Standing with clients by the window as a companion and opening it together.

This reminded me of the wonderful methodology of Clean Language and Symbolic Modelling I use and have been trained in by Penny Tompkins and James Lawley, Marian Way and Caitlin Walker. Their books ‘Metaphors in Mind’ Penny & James and ‘Clean Approaches for Coaches’ Marian Way are worth reading. Using metaphors related to nature and inviting clients to explore these metaphors bring this model to life in a coaching conversation. For example, looking out of the window to notice changing seasons might invite the clients’ reflection on the cycle of life and e.g. renewal and energy (in spring) or taking stock (in autumn).

What have you done with it and what did you learn?: Clean language and symbolic modelling is highly respectful as it uses the language and world view of the client. It allows the exploration of the topic in a different and creative way and in times of crisis helps to overcome stress, overwhelm, and negative emotions. It often brings the client into their body or something outside of their consciousness which can be very empowering. For example, a client of mine who was struggling to motivate her team decided on an image of a beehive with a sound of irritating buzzing. She then realised that the bees were very focused on the making of honey and when I asked her what she wanted to have happen with her team when they were focused, she replied “oh they can all select a clearly identified role like the bees and working together like this they are so productive. That’s how I’ll explain our project to my team- they’ll be like bees making honey in a hive! I’m sure they’d love it.”

The downside is that it can appear ‘clunky’ (it’s how I described it at first) However, as I became more proficient in the methodology and techniques, I realised how powerful it can be for clients. It is also quite daunting at times to be in a space of complete unknown with the client as you have no idea of their metaphor or where they are going with it. However, that’s where the real magic happens in my view. Metaphors describe one thing in terms of another. People find them less scary, for example a client found his metaphor of his Boss as a ‘rally car’ really helped him focus on his Boss’s considerable strengths and not feel so threatened by him. He saw himself as the navigator and this broke down many barriers when thinking about his interactions at their 1-2-1 meetings.


Seed planted by: Jackie Arnold

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *