Category Archives: Published articles

How to succeed as a therapist

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On Wednesday 22 March I was interviewed by Nick Bolton of the Animas Institute on the practical side of starting and running a therapy business.  Listening in were 100 coaches and therapists in training.  I don’t claim to be any kind of marketing guru but this is my perspective:

Video (presentation + audio)

On the couch PDF transcript

Richard is a psychotherapist in East London.  If you have found this post interesting or useful please help others find it by pressing the G+1 button below

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Relationships: Becoming aligned

This article was first published in humanHi magazine in January 2009.

An hour or so ago I was hard at work … in bed, with my eyes shut, awake but dreaming. Dreaming that my job for the day was over; that this article was already written; and that I was pleased with it. As I imagined reviewing the completed pages I noticed the warm glow of achievement in my belly and allowed a smile to move over my lips. An idea for some content landed with me. As if on their own, my eyes opened, and I had the urge to get up and start doing.

The benefit of alignment

Is it possible for you to be with the partner of your dreams? If you live all alone and never meet anyone else then the answer to this question will certainly be a ‘no’. If you live around people but never interact with the people you fancy then the answer will also be a ‘no’. If you interact but in a way that seems to scare other people away; if you are always rejected, can’t have what you want or plane don’t deserve it; if you are ugly, stupid or bad; if you being with that person does not serve society / please god or happen with love; if any of these things are true then you probably and quite rightly can’t be with the partner of your dreams. And you will probably continue to prove yourself right … just as you have been so far in your life.

In order for something to happen easily and effortlessly we need to have a sense of it being right at all levels … a sense of alignment. Just as you line the 2 sights of a rifle up with the target before you shoot it is important to align our sense of purpose, who we are, what we believe, what we are capable of, what we are doing and where we are doing it in order to set a compelling goal. In the context of meeting the partner of your dreams it can be useful to consider this outcome from a number of different perspectives or ‘logical levels’. After we have considered what these levels are I will walk you through an exercise which is designed to align them and increase the chances of you achieving the outcome you desire.

Environment Where do you live, work and go out? What kind
of people do you meet there? Where do the kind
of people you would like to be with hang out?
Behaviour What are you doing to meet the partner of your
dreams? Anything you would like to be doing more
of less of?
Capability In the context of relationships what are you
really good at? What skills, abilities and capacities
do you have already and what areas could you develop
further?
Beliefs / Values What do you believe about the world, the opposite
sex and relationships in general? Brainstorm endings
to statements such as: “The world is …”;
“men / women are …”; “relationships
are …”; “I always …”;
“I never …”; “It’s
wrong to …”, “It’s bad
to …”, “I must …”;
etc. 

In the context of a relationship / partner what
is important to you? (This is the list we worked
on a couple of months ago.)

Identity What kind of person are you? Who were you in
the past and who would you like to be in the future? 

Complete the statement “I am” with
as many answers as you can think of. For example:
‘shy’, ‘desperate’, ‘afraid’,
‘loved’, ‘beautiful’,
‘arrogant’, ‘independent’,
‘unworthy’, ‘unlovable’,
‘submissive’, ‘dominant’,
‘a rescuer’, ‘a victim’,
‘a persecutor’, etc.

Purpose When you have the relationship of your dreams
what does that do for you or get for you that
you don’t already have? What would being
in that kind of relationship with you do for your
partner? What differences would that sense of
togetherness make? How would it affect your lives
and those of the people around you?

Increasing your sense of alignment

The following technique will help you to become more aligned.

1 – Find a space where you have room to take 5 paces forwards. If possible work with someone else who can ask you questions and hear your responses. Stand up and ready yourself to consider the ‘logical levels’ of your desire for a relationship.

2 – Starting where you are begin thinking about all the ‘Environmental’ considerations as described in the previous table. Where do you go and who else is there when you arrive? Spend about a minute doing this. If you have a friend there with you they could ask you questions that help you think about the space around you and you could tell them what comes to mind.

3 – Take another step forwards and consider your ‘Behaviour’ – the things that you actually do to initiate or maintain a relationship. Continue stepping and considering all the way up to ‘Purpose’.

4 – When you are at ‘Purpose’ ensure that you get a real felt sense of the benefits of being in the relationship you desire. Perhaps you will feel a shifting in your heart or a sense of lightness come over you.

5 – Keeping that felt sense with you now step backwards back into the ‘Identity’ space. Now that you have that sense of purpose what do you know about who you are in that relationship? Consider this for about 30 seconds – notice what has changed now.

6 – Keeping the sense of purpose and the learnings from each previous level step back through all the previous logical levels spending 30 seconds or so in each as you notice what has changed. All the way back to ‘Environment’.

7 – Notice how you are feeling about the possibility of having the relationship of your dreams now. Is it possible? If your answer to this question is ‘yes’ you are ready to begin meditating on this possibility.

Meditating on success

Almost every writer on success that I have read stresses the importance of visualisation. The principle we are hooking into here is the law of attraction – that you get what you focus on, that like attracts like. The idea is to visualise the moment that you know that you have got the relationship that is perfect for you and to make this so realistic that you get the feeling of having what you want. You are meditating on having rather than wanting. (If you meditate on wanting then this is what you will get: wanting!) It is worth adding here that you should not include any specific people in the meditation – if you do this then you are assuming that you know what is best for them and you are trying to manipulate them. Simply imagine someone with all the characteristics that you value in a lover and leave the detail of exactly who this is to the universe. It could be the person you wanted it to be … or maybe someone even better!

So, the important question is ‘How will you know that you have the relationship that you want?’ Is it when you see the person across the room and your heart skips a beat? Probably not – too early … what if you kept on skipping beats like this but it never got further than that? What about when you are repeating your wedding vows to each other? Again, probably not – presumably you ‘knew’ that this was the person you wanted to be with way before this point. What we are after is that first moment of really knowing.
The one that I use is to imagine that I am going out with my partner to a night club. Under ‘normal’ circumstances I would have gone to this place alone with the hope of meeting someone there. In my visualisation I am entering the club with my partner and I am really happy that they are there to enjoy it with me. I feel a sense of trust, connectedness, excitement and freedom. We are an attractive couple and we find that other people come over and talk to us. We are going to have fun tonight!
Simply visualise your version of how you will know 5 minutes every day focussing on the pleasant feelings of having what you want. I’m beginning to use this technique more and more in all areas of life (including article writing!). It seems to work surprisingly well. Why don’t you have a go for a month and see what difference it makes for you?

Relationships: Making space for someone new

This article was first published in humanHi magazine in November 2008.

Being connected

To me being connected with someone means that you have feelings associated with them. Those feelings can either be positive such as love, compassion, trust and pride; or negative such as hate, resentment, blame, loss, fear and guilt. When we are connected to people in a positive way their presence in our lives is enriching and supportive; negative connections drain our energy and distract us from what we really want in life. They are bad for our health, wealth and happiness.

Take a moment now and cast your mind back through your past relationships. Are there any ex-partners who bring up negative feelings when you think about them now? Anyone who you have kind of split up from but are still in your life? Anyone who you no longer see and would like to forget but are reminded of often and for all the wrong reasons? How much of your energy and attention is taken up by these unhealthy connections? What other uses could you find for that energy?

In any relationship there is give and take. To illustrate this I like the metaphor of two people living in separate houses who start having a relationship with each other. To begin with all of their possessions are in their own house and they take it in turns to visit each other. As the relationship develops a certain amount of lending and borrowing begins to happen. He wants to borrow a CD from his partner and she is happy to lend it to him. She plans to do some DIY but needs a specific tool that he has and is happy to lend it to her. He has a small house full of junk and needs some extra space so she offers to store some boxes of junk in her loft. If this process continues then the partners possessions can become quite mixed up and they may even forget who owns what. (In the real world people move in with each other and own things jointly which can make splitting up even more difficult but for the sake of the metaphor lets assume that they keep their separate houses.)

On an emotional level there is also give and take. There are certain things that I want to do which I do not do because I believe that they will hurt my partner, for example, not sleeping someone else who you meet on a night out. There are other things that I don’t really want to do but I do anyway because I believe they will please my partner, for example, going with them to see their favourite band. I behave in the way that I do because I believe I know how my actions will emotionally affect my partner and I take responsibility for those effects. I hold an impression of them as a person in my imagination and use this internal model to guess at their reaction and choose my behaviour accordingly. Some of the information I use to build my internal model of them will have been based on their past reactions; others will be assumptions I am bringing into the relationship based on my experience of how other people have reacted in the past (transference) or how I would feel if someone did it to me (projection). Me having this model of them in my imagination is a bit like some of their stuff being in my house. Me guessing at their reactions based on how I would feel is a bit like me putting some of my stuff into their house.

Splitting up

Being in a relationship is sometimes likened to walking hand in hand down a shared path. We keep each other company and support each other along the way. But as we grow and experience life our priorities can shift and our paths can change direction. A good example of this is when one partner decides they want children and the other does not feel ready for this commitment. We find ourselves at a fork in the road and compromises begin to look like neither partner is getting what they want. Rather than trying to hang on sometimes it is better for both partners to let go and move on.

An ideal separation happens with love and compassion. Both partners are honest with each other, decide on the split together and stop taking each other into account when making decisions. In our house metaphor they give back the things that do not belong to them. In emotional terms they stop consulting the model of their ex-partner when deciding what to do and this image gradually fades and recedes into the distance.

Other separations are less ideal. Sudden cutting of ties such as walking out during an argument, leaving home without warning or even an unexpected death give no opportunity for both partners to be open and honest with each other, understand and forgive each other and move on. Emotions such as pride, fear of violence or emotional overwhelm may hold them apart. In the house metaphor he holds onto the CD to piss her off and she is sad and angry because she misses it; she doesn’t want to give the tool back because she is using it and he feels too guilty to demand that she gives back; he doesn’t have room for his boxes of junk and she doesn’t feel able to throw them away. The internal models of the other may be pushed away or blocked out but they are big and powerful, amplified by negative emotions, sapping energy, still exerting control.

The problem perpetuates

If you have not properly disconnected from your previous partners then you are not in a good position to welcome another partner in.

Every time you see something that belongs to them or remember something they have of yours you are reminded of them. Every time you are reminded of them you feel those unresolved negative emotions. When you feel negative you focus on the negative; and then you get what you focus on: a new partner with the same characteristics as your exes.

If a new partner does come along your internal model of them has to live with the internal models of you exes. The models of your exes influence what you expect of your new partner and you transfer these expectations into the model of your new partner rather than building a clean model from scratch based on your experience. You behave according to your flawed model of them and they simply respond to your behaviour … probably in a way that fulfils your negative expectations.

Making imaginary space

In last months article I introduced a way of disconnecting and freeing your energy by talking to the models of people you hold in your imagination. This technique gets the same result but by using energy rather than words.

– Find yourself a comfortable place to sit. Take a few deep breaths to relax and allow your eyes to close.

– Get a sense of the ground beneath you and encourage your awareness down into it. Continue down through the layers of earth until you reach the centre. As you connect with the centre of the earth notice how this sense of groundedness affects the way you feel at the centre of your body – in the area of your navel.

– Remaining connected to this centre now sense up above your head and out into the vastness of the universe. Imagine a source of light and infinite wisdom – a sun or higher form of self – to be there above you, happy and ready to help you when asked.

– Allow the image of your ex-partner to come to you – this is your model of them. Notice what it is like between you … is there anything preventing them from being right there in front of you were you can see them easily? Allow the source of light to heal anything which is preventing you from facing them until you are able to sense them clearly.

– With the support of the light above you accept back anything that they were holding for you. If you are holding anything that belongs to them then give it back.

– Notice how you feel as you face them. Allow the source of light to shine on you and heal any negative feelings in you – filling you up with acceptance and compassion.

– When you are healed share this energy with the model of your ex-partner. Allowing the energy to flow where it is welcome and heal what wishes to be healed.

– When you are both healed notice the sense of understanding and forgiveness between you and allow the other person to drift away. When they have gone bring your attention back to your sense of connection with the earth and the light above you. Notice how this strong connection with yourself gives you the freedom and ability to make new and empowering connections with others.

After you have completed this exercise allow yourself some time for reflection. How do you feel about that person now? What has changed? Who are you now and what is important to you? Complete the process with all of your significant exes and then with the less significant ones all together.

Making real space

Now you have cleared space in your imagination it is time to put that freedom into action. My challenge to you now is to go through your possessions and to make a pile of all of those things that belong to ex-partners. Dig out your address book and return them to their rightful owners with a polite note requesting that they do the same for you. While you are at it notice how many other objects such as photos and gifts there are on display. Do these bring back good memories or bad? Is it time to clear them away now and make room for some new memories to begin?

Relationships: Knowing what you want

Originally published in September 2008 by humanHi magasine.

Know what you want and why

If you ask some people what they are looking for in a partner they will often say something like “I don’t have a type, I’m not fussy, I’ll just know him when I meet him.”  For some people this may well be true … they are relaxed with being single and either find someone or they don’t; no problem.  But other people are waiting.  Waiting for Mr or Mrs right to come out of the blue. Waiting for their life to be complete; but not actually being that aware of what it is that they are actually waiting for.  Just that they will know it when they find it and hoping that God, the universe or chance will bring it to them.

The “I’ll know him when I meet him” signal is probably a thrilling and often overwhelming love / lust feeling which puts the pink coloured spectacles on and makes us act in impulsive and sometimes irrational ways.  It feels good but how reliable is it really?  Have you ever felt this feeling and, later on, realised that the person was really not all that?  Or have you found yourself being attracted to partners who, at some level, you know are not good for you; repeating the same patterns again and again.  But what can you do?  It’s just chemistry, right?

While the attraction process is an unconscious one then there is little you can do … except, perhaps, loose confidence in your emotions altogether.  What I am proposing here is that you bring the attraction process into awareness.  When you know what your are attracted to you will know what to look out for and when you have actually found it.  And if you are attracted to ‘the wrong kind’ of partner, perhaps you can make a few changes before the pink spectacles get put on again?

Become aware of the qualities you are looking for in a partner

The first thing I would suggest is to make a list of the qualities you value in a partner.  We are going for a high level view here so keep them abstract.  If there are certain specific things you normally look for then ask yourself what they are an example or indicator of.  “Blonde hair and blue eyes” may be an example of “Good looks”; “Masters degree” may be an indicator of “Intelligence or Education”.  Get the idea?

When you have a good long list of qualities choose your top 8 – 10 and put them into a rough order of importance (most important first).  For example: Kindness, Beauty, Sexiness, Intelligence, Depth, Positivity, Fun, Passion.  To check the order of the list perform a series of thought experiments by asking yourself: “Would I rather have a Kind partner who wasn’t very Beautiful; or a Beautiful partner who wasn’t very kind?” You may find that your list changes somewhat.

When you have completed this process you should be able to describe what it is like as you meet your ‘Ideal Partner’ and find that it pushes all the right buttons!  For example, “I am meeting a sexy, beautiful man.  He is kind and intelligent and I can tell that he has great depth.  He is positive about life, with a great sense of fun and is financially stable.”  There should be no surprises here … more a sense of recognition – you are describing what, at some level, you already knew.

Uncover any lurking negativity

Now comes the really interesting bit.  For each of the qualities you have chosen find a word which describes the opposite … try to get a separate word rather than just putting “un” or “not” in front of what you already have.  When you have the opposites you are going to consider the proportion of yourself which is attracted to the positive aspect, compared to the proportion which is repulsed by the negative aspect.

Quality & proportion of me attracted to
this

Opposite quality & proportion of me repulsed
by this

Sexiness 80%

Beauty 90%

Kindness 60%

Intelligence 80%

Passion 30%

Positivity 50%

Fun 40%

Financial stability 20%

Coldness 20%

Ugliness 10%

Nastiness 40%

Stupidity 20%

Boredom 70%

Negativity 50%

Boredom 60%

Brokeness 80%

You get what you focus on

Have you ever ridden a bicycle around a sharp bend in the road?  When you look around the corner towards where you want to be then you tend to get around easily; when you are distracted by the gravel in the gutter that you don’t want to hit, skid on and end up in a horrible nasty mess on the side of the road … yep, you tend to create what you are trying to avoid.

As you can probably guess, the qualities we are interested in are the negatives with more than 50% of your energy going into avoiding them.  Though the person in the example is saying she wants someone Passionate, Fun and Financially stable she means that she is trying to avoid being with someone Boring and Broke.

Given that ‘the energy flows where the focus goes’ the chances are that she will have a pattern of attracting Boring and Broke partners.  Or, perhaps more likely, she attracts partners who appear to be Passionate, Fun and Financially stable but then reveal their ‘true’ nature later in the relationship!

Change the pattern

If you find that there are certain qualities you are avoiding I suggest the following meditation:

1 – Remember all the people who you have known in your life who have the quality you are now trying to avoid.  How did they behave with you? How did that make you feel?

2 – In your imagination invite each of these people in turn to be there with you in the room.  Are they standing or sitting?  What direction are they looking in?  What are they wearing?  Politely explain the impact that their behaviour had on you.  For example, “David, when you sat on the sofa watching TV when I was trying to talk to you I felt ignored and hurt.”; “Jane, when you never offered to pay for dinner I felt exploited and that made me angry.”

3 – When you have said your piece invite them to say anything that they need to say to you.  Really listen to what you imagine they would say.  (Repeat as necessary until you have cleared the air between you.)

4 – Forgive the other person and ask for their forgiveness in return. Then allow them to drift off on their way.

5 – Repeat the process for each other person.

When you have completed the meditation consider how you feel about that quality now.  Do you still find it repulsive or is it different now?  Less emotional charge?  Less important to avoid it?  Revisit your List of values … does it need to change now?  Are other things more important?  What difference does that make?

A temporal conception of higher self

Published by humanHi magasine in 2008.

Isolation and loneliness

When I was about 8 years old I was the only one not to bow my head in assembly when we were told ‘let us pray’.  I felt embarrassed at being the odd one out and yet I forced myself to go against the tide do what I thought was right.  At the time I just couldn’t work out how the stories I had lapped up like everyone else at Sunday School related to the other things I was learning: Where were the dinosaurs in the garden of Eden?  If God is all powerful and all loving then why is there suffering in the world?  If we all ask God to help us come first in the race why do most of us still lose?  I just couldn’t reconcile these things in my head and yet, all around me, were people who seemed quite happy to pray to and praise the Lord.  They had God, Jesus and each other to keep them company; I was alone.

My feelings of loneliness were compounded by many others over the years.  Shame was the one I was best at.  Growing up there was a certain event that happened when I was 13 that I couldn’t even think about – let alone talk about with my friends or parents.  But I coped.  I used my intelligence to build a personality for myself.  I was right about most things and it was important for me to prove that.  I argued my corner passionately; others would loose patience and call me arrogant.  Inside I was collapsing and the feelings of isolation were perpetuated.

Time Line Therapy for shame

My first experience of therapy came when I was 27 years old. Things were really getting on top of me at work and it was finally bad enough for me to ask for help.  I went to see an NLP therapist and he explained that we were going to do ‘Time Line Therapy’ together.  ‘Imagine that your whole life could be represented as a line of experiences, one after another’, he explained.  ‘And that you can float up above that line all the way back to the first time that you ever experienced the emotion of shame.’  As he said the words it was as if I was being dragged back above my Time Line and down into the event at 13 that I had tried to block out for so long.  It was intense and I started sobbing uncontrollably.  ‘Float higher; float way up above’ came the instructions from my therapist and, with some difficulty, I did as I was told and the feelings became more distant.  ‘And as you look down on the event you can learn whatever you need to learn that will allow you to let go of the shame easily and effortlessly’ he continued.  I don’t remember exactly what I learned at this point but something seemed to be shifting deep inside.  The next instruction was to float back further, to a point above and before the event had ever happened – and then to turn around and look back to now.  As I did this and looked down on the memory of the event that had dominated my life the strangest thing happened: the shame that had been there disappeared.  Completely gone.  Even when I went back into the memory and looked through my own 13 year old eyes the feeling had evaporated and all that was left was a feeling of calmness and a new level of understanding.  Somehow when I was up there I had done something that affected the 13 year old me down here.  As I came back along my Time Line, back to now, things seemed to continue to clear and I was left with a profound sense of lightness and relief.  I reacted in a different way to situations. I was a new person.

Connecting with my ‘Higher Self’

Much learning and therapy later it is me who is the therapist helping others to discover themselves.  In the course of this study I have grappled with a number of spiritual philosophies which talk of the existence of a ‘Higher Self’.  The Higher Self has been described as a ‘guardian spirit’ which is the source of insight and inspiration; a non-judgemental all-forgiving and absolute love that does not make mistakes and does not interfere with free will.  This is an idea I have had a lot of trouble connecting with.  Perhaps because it seemed like just a different name for the God that I had rejected as irrational so many years ago?  Perhaps because my ego is still too arrogant to accept the existence of something higher?

But as I reflect on my experience of Time Line Therapy some new ideas are coming to me.  The process was completed in my imagination and yet had a permanent real world effect. As I floated above the line and allowed learnings to come to me I was, in some sense, accessing a wisdom that I wasn’t able to when I was 13.  It’s as if that 13 year old was able to accept the help of the me who was floating above the Time Line and was, in turn, able to access the wisdom that originally he could not.  By accepting the help of this ‘Higher Self’ the 13 year old was able to resolve and let go of his feelings of shame in the moment and, in a parallel universe (!), the events of the rest of his life played out differently.  Big ideas I know but this is how it helps me: I can now conceive of my Higher Self as an ‘older and wiser me’ who has come back in time to help my ‘younger self’ out.  I can be grateful without being subservient.  I can accept help without being indebted.  By accepting his help, I, in turn help that higher me to resolve things in his reality.  My Higher Self can be here with me always and I can turn to him and greet him with a humanHi!

 

Writing ‘Sex in Mind’

In 2003 I had the bright idea of combining a hypnotic induction with an erotic story to put the listener in the role of the hero / heroine.  I called this a ‘hypnofantasy’ and with the help of some friends I put together some demo CDs.  I sent these out to publishers and to my delight one of them was interested … on the proviso that there was a book to go with the CD (some rule about VAT being put on CDs but not books).  Writing a book was not in my plan but this sounded like a great opportunity.  One meeting later a female friend and I had a book deal!  (All we needed to do now was to write the book.)

Writing the book was a challenge for me in many ways.  I had limiting beliefs about my ability to write as I had always considered myself to be poor at English (probably due to my terrible spelling and possible undiagnosed dyslexia).  A second challenge was how difficult I found co-writing the book.  I wanted everything to be very structured and planned and felt like I was getting more work done; my friend had a much more relaxed style of writing and many more commitments in her life.  The upshot was that I ended up buying my friend out of her side of the contract and writing the book on my own.

It was a lot of work.  But I did it.  On reflection it was fairly solid (I was strongly motivated away from exposing myself to criticism) but didn’t really contain a lot of me (almost certainly for the same reason).  More of an application of other people’s ideas than a communication of my own.  Nevertheless it was a great experience to go through and one that opens my mind to the possibility of writing more books in future.

Sex in Mind was published by New Holland and is available from well stocked bookshops or online at Amazon (click the picture above).  If you have trouble finding the book contact the publisher directly on: enquiries@nhpub.co.uk.

Forum Magasine said:

‘I loved this book and will be recommending it to all my clients. It’s both intelligent and erotic.’ Denise Collins (Professional hypnotherapist and NLP Master Practitioner)

The Independent on Sunday said:

‘The most explosive (s*xual scene) I have ever experienced without actually moving a muscle.’ Emma Gold

Gaydar Nation said:

‘At first glance, Sex in Mind: A Woman’s Guide to Sexual Discovery looks like one of the many sex books that have been published in the wake of Sex and the City. You know the kind of thing: it comes with a bold cover design with nice, smart, modern graphics that looks as though it was written by a nice, smart, modern woman. These books are designed to appeal to a readership that wishes they were nice, smart and modern women too, especially where sex is concerned.

‘But then something caught my eye. The author is credited as R.E. Lacey on the cover, but inside on the back flyleaf all becomes clear. The R stands for Richard.

‘Now I don’t know if this is just me, but I think it’s a little bit sketchy to alter the truth of a name like Richard on the front of a book. On a novel or a textbook it would be no big deal, but on a “Woman’s Guide to Sexual Discovery” it feels a bit sneaky on the part of the publishers because the author is not a woman and probably has no idea how it feels to be a woman either.

‘And there’s more: Sex in Mind is the victim of a publicity department that hasn’t done it’s homework. They send out books willy-nilly to anyone they think will review their book and give it publicity, but my spider sense tells me that lesbians in general aren’t going to go a bundle on this one. Why? Perhaps it’s the opposing male and female symbols printed on every page, emphasising the book’s assumption that sex is a man/woman thing. And then there are the passages that talk about holding your guy’s dick in your vag (my language, not Richard’s). This will probably do it for you if you like that kind of thing but, strangely enough, a lot of lesbians do not.

‘But look, I’m an open-minded kind of gal and I’ll review anything that comes my way (I’ll probably regret saying that) so I’ve given Sex in Mind a go.

‘Basically it’s a vaguely new age-y book introducing the principles of tantric sex. These include chapters on relaxation, finding out what it is that you want from sex, connecting with partners, and learning communication skills. It’s written in a clear, no-nonsense way that’s accessible and lacking in the hippy excess often associated with eastern philosophies. Despite the awful male/female graphics, Sex in Mind is fairly gender neutral when referring to partnered sex, which makes it (mostly) relevant to lesbians. Even though he’s – eek! – a man, Lacey is a sympathetic guide, no thanks to the mess his publishers have made of his work, and his book is open, informative and never tacky. I ended up liking it a lot and I think it would be a useful addition to any sex library.

‘What’s more, Sex in Mind comes with a “HypnoFantasy” CD that includes a guided relaxation and a fantasy thingummybob session. The talk of chakras and flowers blossoming in “the space between your sex and your anus” might be a little off-putting for those more cynical than I, but it’s heart is in the right place. Who knows, at the right moment it could be exactly what you fancy.

‘Don’t worry, this book is not going to turn you into Sting but give it a chance, you never know, you might like it.’  Charlotte Cooper

Clean Language

Published in ANLP’s Conference Special 4 April 2004

For the first 3 sessions of the day Penny Tompkins and James Lawley presented a ‘clean language’ approach to outcome oriented therapy / coaching. I had seen them for their ‘clean space’ taster at the autumn conference and was keen to learn more about the ‘clean’ approach.

When thinking of outcomes many NLP practitioners may be inclined to guide a client through a list of questions to ascertain a goal’s ‘well formedness’. While doing this we may also be holding in our minds the question ‘How is it that this person is not achieving this already? ‘in order to identify limiting beliefs, conflicts, etc to ‘zap’ with an NLP technique.

There is no doubt that this approach can yield great insights and results but isn’t always the smoothest of processes: ‘What do you mean “is it initiated and maintained by me?”‘ Perhaps these types of ‘lists’ are best kept in a therapist’s unconscious mind while they put their full conscious attention on the issue as the client is experiencing it.

Penny and James advocate a different approach – one that is not client centred (therapist is flexible with their approach to work with the client’s ego or sense of self) or solution centred (client fits in around the therapist’s chosen approach / metaphor for change) – but rather information centred.

Asking questions of the issue as it is perceived by the client it is genuinely honouring their model of the world.

The ‘clean language’ element is about the therapist using the simplest questions possible to draw out the client’s model without guiding them with presuppositions (which all come from the therapist’s model of the world). By continuing to ask questions of the outcome which is desired it is assumed that the client will gain sufficient understanding such that the boundary of the ‘problem’ will collapse – often without the need for a specific intervention. Entirely consistent with the principles of focusing on what you want and everyone having the resources within them to achieve the outcome they desire.

The session started with some distinctions. In response to the question ‘And what would you like to have happen’ the client will reply with an answer which may be classified as either a ‘Problem’, a ‘Proposed solution’ or a ‘Desired outcome’.

A problem is something which exists now and which the client does not like – e.g. ‘I’m annoyed I have a deck with only 51 cards’. A solution references the problem and what they think needs to

happen in the future – it also includes all ‘away froms’ – e.g. ‘I want to find the missing card’ or ‘I don’t want an incomplete pack of cards’. The desired outcome is what they want in the future instead – e.g. ‘I want to play a game of cards’.

When a client comes to see you with an issue their natural tendency is often to talk about ‘their’ problem. In traditional ‘therapy’ and counselling they may be encouraged to come back week after week to do this. This approach allows them to do this – once – and then gently guides them towards thinking about the solution (this is something that many clients may not have given much thought to before).

When the client talks about the problem the therapist asks ‘And when [repeat clients description of the problem], what would you like to have happen?’ If the client talks about a desired solution the therapist asks ‘And when [repeat client’s description of desired solution], then what happens?’

After one or 2 questions the client has shifted away from the problem and is thinking about what they want instead.

Once the client is thinking about their outcome it is ‘developed’ by asking questions like: ‘And is there anything else about …?’, ‘And what kind of …?’, ‘And whereabouts is …?’, ‘And that’s … like what?’

The therapist’s job is to ask the question which naturally flows from the client’s previous answer – opening up more understanding for them and making the outcome more and more alive in their neurology. The whole process is, as you can imagine, pretty free form at this point- sometimes looping back into a problem or solution.

The therapist keeps it on course and may reach a point when they can ask a question like ‘And when [outcome], what happens to [problem]?’

If the positive, resourceful state of the outcome is alive in the neurology this seems to me to act like a collapse anchors and, hey presto, the person experiences a change in their perception of the problem – right there and then.

If this all sounds complicated then the demo really brought it to life.

Our volunteer came to the stage with the outcome of wanting to sell some property. After a few questions it became clear that this was about much more than a house sale with some relationship issues coming up as a problem which prevented the outcome from happening. The emotion which went with these issues were clear in the client’s physiology – she was running the problem right there in the room.

In addition to the content it was interesting to note that certain directions of life, blocks, issues, etc had positions and directions in relation to the client as indicated by unconscious looks and gestures. These were noted and referred to by the therapist – further honouring of the client’s model of the world.

The session was short and interrupted by explanations (which allowed time for the client to come out of state) but it became clear how powerful the technique was to allow the underlying issues to surface and, therefore, facilitate change at a deep level.

Having a go ourselves we soon found that the identification of problem / solution / outcome was actually quite intuitive and that the questions started to flow quite easily. Though tempting to fall back on standard meta-model type questions like ‘what prevents you?’ sticking to the clean language provided surprisingly good results.

As James explained: he is constantly surprised by the answer to the next question. The trick, of course, is having an idea about the most effective question to ask next- something that James and Penny do very well and one which I think all NLPers in general should make a priority to develop.