As a relative newcomer to the world of Clean Language (I started my training at the end of 2015) I am always interested to hear about new books on the subject. And recent great purchase was Words That Touch: How to Ask Questions Your Body Can Answer by Nick Pole.
This is no ordinary Clean Language book. This is about using Clean Language in combination with body work, such as Shiatsu, Craniosacral therapy, acupuncture or yoga, and includes a section on “Clean Touch” which is when the client guides the therapist as where to touch and what kind of touch is needed.
The book is split into 3 parts:
- The Basics – this covers the basics of Clean Language, 12 essential clean questions, where it all came from and includes a transcript of a clean conversation.
- The Theory – the theory and science behind Clean Language and how brain and body communicate.
- The Practice – how to structure a session, including working with trauma and double binds. This section includes many examples of Nick’s use of Clean Language with Shiatsu bodywork, as well as interviews with other body workers who use Clean Language in their practice.
Of course, every reader will get something different from it, so here are five things that kept me enthralled, and I hope they will encourage you to buy a copy and find the gems between its covers that work for you:
1. It’s a complete shift from other books I’ve read about Clean Language
My study of Clean Language and the books I’ve read so far, has focused on using Clean Language as a coaching methodology with individuals or groups. But Nick is a mind and body therapist with over 25 years of experience, who integrates Eastern and Western approaches. He tells how he takes a shiatsu-based approach and mixes Clean Language with the five elements of Chinese medicine. This different context made it a very interesting read.
2. It is very readable and well written
There is a really good balance of scientific theory, stories and real life examples. Jargon is kept to a minimum and Nick’s writing style is easily accessible as he uses his own metaphors and stories to get his points across. The book is also very tactile with a smooth cover and very flexible pages. It feels as though Nick has thought about touch and made the look and feel of the book congruent with its contents.
3. It uses theory and science to explain how and why Clean Language works
Nick uses research from neuroscience to explain how symptoms are held within the body after trauma. He then goes on to explain how Clean Language can create a bridge between the verbal mind (left hemisphere of brain) and the body mind (right hemisphere of brain). I have often found it hard to explain Clean Language to people who want science and statistics and the information Nick provides is thorough and logical. He has given the most ardent sceptic something to really get their teeth into.
4. Nick shares when Clean Language hasn’t worked and explains what he did instead
Nick gives lots of examples where he resists the temptation to be an expert and just trusts the client and the process. He also shares when he isn’t being clean and the impact this has. He says you can't be clean all the time and gives some great practical examples of what he does instead, including when he uses a pinch of Clean Language with his daughter and when she doesn’t respond he moves away from Clean Language to offer her choices of things to say.
5. The transcripts and case studies are really interesting and a great resource to explore
Nick gives multiple examples and case studies along with a commentary on his use of Clean Language. For me, the valuable gems are Nick’s explanations of what he is inferring and what he does or says next and why. For example, Nick describes working with a businessman in his late 50s who has soft tissue damage in his left ankle. The client says there is something in his ankle. Nick asks, “What kind of something is that in your ankle?” The man responds that it feels tight, that there is a red colour to it and that it vibrates. When Nick asks, “Then what happens?” he gets the response “It’s probably about protecting it.”
Nick shares his own idea of what the client may have meant by this comment but tells the reader, “I don’t need to know, all I need to do is ask a question.” Later, when the client is silent, Nick states, “He’s silent. I’m silent. I can’t think of a question to ask, and I don’t think I need to. He’s just taking his time.”
These kinds of statements are scattered throughout the book and I found them hugely reassuring. I realised it is time for me to stop worrying about finding the right question, and to start trusting the process – and the client – more.
There are some great books out there on Clean Language and Nick's book provides a very different, readable, practical perspective. I’m not a body worker, but I got a lot of value from it; it has lots of information for anyone using Clean Language. I especially liked this paragraph in the ‘Final word’ right at the end of the book:
“The more you learn how to ask clean questions, the more you are learning to think in a different way. You begin to realise that Clean Language is not just another useful tool to add to your therapeutic toolkit, nor is it simply the process that develops between you and your client as you ask these peculiar questions and learn how to respond to the even more peculiar answers they elicit. No, for the therapist who takes Clean Language to heart – who is willing to embody it in the way you have to embody any language to speak it fluently – it becomes more like a practice, in the same way that learning to meditate or learning yoga or qi gong are a practice; they offer a different way of paying attention to the world and our own sense of being in it, and a profoundly different way of being with a client. The way you work with words becomes a natural prelude to the way you work with touch, and involves all the things you do through movement or touch: holding, supporting, listening, focusing, opening, questioning, inviting, connecting.”