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Working With Physical Symptoms


Practice Group Report

The topic this evening was ‘working with physical symptoms’. We agreed we would start by asking about the symptom and to develop this into a symbol / metaphor, and then to find out what the symptom (or the client) would like to have happen. We started with a demo, where the symptom was ‘creaky knees’, which reminded the client of a creaky ship.

She was able to use this analogy to draw some conclusions about the relationship between ligaments, muscles and bones. She then went on to establish that, as well as balancing periods of rushing around with periods of relaxation (which she already does), she will (a) note in her journal how her knees feel now when she is sitting, standing, kneeling and walking, (b) research into what else she can do to help her knees feel good (e.g. massage), and (c) check in with how she is doing in three months time, noting again how her knees feel when sitting, standing, kneeling and walking.

After the demo, we split into pairs / threes for practice. I was fortunate enough to take the role of client and got some great insights into my belief system around health and well being, before making a promise to myself to take better care of my legs. Another participant developed a metaphor of a caster which could run up and down her back to relieve her back pain, and another noticed that a pain in her hand completely disappeared.

We also looked at what we had learned about facilitating cleanly:

  • If you choose to ask a question about a word that is ‘wrong’ for the client – they will tell you.
  • It’s important to gesture to the client’s non-verbals in their space, not your own. This helps the space become psychoactive.
  • While we are not doing / saying the things that one normally associates with ‘empathy’, clients still feel that the facilitator is showing empathy, because they are using the client’s language and seem to understand completely how it is for them.
  • The PRO (Problem, remedy, outcome) model can be extended to include other aspects of the facilitation process, e.g. necessary conditions… one facilitator now thinks in terms of ‘PRON’
  • By leaving his notebook behind and focussing on the client’s non-verbals, one facilitator found it was easier to track what was happening. Also, in the past if a client had said ‘no’ or ‘I don’t know’, it was difficult to know what to do next, whereas on this occasion he simply went to another aspect of the client’s landscape and asked about that.
  • One of our newcomers found that during the demo he was listening for the questions and noticing that sometimes they sound odd (not grammatically correct). But when he watched one of the pairs, he paid attention to the client, and the metaphors that were arising, and noticed that he was getting curious about particular words.
  • It’s important to have a clean intention for each question: it is about asking questions that will help the client to gain the information they need. (You can read more about this on James Lawley’s blog)

Image by Wolfgang Claussen from Pixabay

About Marian Way

Marian Way's avatar

A highly skilled facilitator and trainer, Marian, who founded Clean Learning in 2001, has developed and delivered training across the world. She is the author of Clean Approaches for Coaches, co-author, with James Lawley, of Insights in Space and co-author, with Caitlin Walker, of So you want to be… #DramaFree.

Marian is an expert Clean facilitator, an adept modeller, a programme writer and an inspirational trainer. She has a natural ability to model existing structures, find the connections between them and design new ways for people to learn. Marian was a leading innovator within the Weight Watchers organisation, which included developing the “points” strategy, a local idea that went on to become a global innovation. She is a director of both Clean Learning and Training Attention CIC, world leaders in clean applications for corporate, educational and community development. She designs our programmes and workbooks, leads workshops and teaches on all our courses. She’s trained people in Great Britain, Russia, Sweden, Germany, Australia, Japan and the USA. Marian is also a recognised Clean Assessor.

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