There are almost as many applications of Clean Language as there are people using it! Clean Language is a very flexible way of working, which combines well with other tools and techniques in a huge range of contexts.
The most common example of Clean Language being applied is in personal change work – the domain of coaches, counsellors, psychologists and psychotherapists. This is where the technique originated, with counseling psychologist David Grove. In these contexts, clients are seeking to change something about themselves or their lives. They may want help to resolve a historic issue, such as a traumatic experience; they may want to change un-useful behaviours such as smoking; they may want support as they develop a new business, find a new job or relationship, or grow into a new professional role.
In all these example contexts, Clean Language may be used as it was originally intended, as a standalone change technique. The Clean Language questions are used to develop the client’s own metaphor for what she would like, and the client becomes aware of information that was previously unconscious. As the metaphor develops, aspects of it typically change, and as the metaphor changes, then the client’s thinking – and real-life experience – change too.
Clients typically feel respected and heard, while becoming highly-motivated and empowered to take personal action.
Clean Language may also be combined with other techniques such as NLP or CBT in these contexts.
Clean Language may also be used in contexts where there is no specific intention to change things, simply as an information-gathering tool.
For example, Clean Language has been used by:
- Market researchers
- Police interviewers
- Business and systems analysts
- Web developers
- Community development workers.
Clean Language has a number of advantages in these contexts.
- It helps the interviewer or workshop leader to stay ‘Clean’ – to avoid contaminating the information they receive with their own presuppositions or assumptions, or rushing to offer a potentially unsuitable solution
- It directs the interviewee’s attention very precisely, to specific details or to the whole context
- Information may be received in the form of a metaphor, which may help the interviewee to talk about difficult issues, or may be ready-made for onward communication (in an advertisement, for example).
As a side-effect, a Clean Language interview may also motivate the interviewee to change things, where this is appropriate to the circumstances. For example, interviewees in a community project became more committed to helping to improve the situation they had been asked about.