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Most of the material on the ‘modeling’ and the Meta model is based on the book ‘The Structure of Magic’ written by Richard Bandler & John Grinder in 1975.


Atypical behavior is usually defined by professionals as an ‘illness’, although the salience of this contention in the public mind is not strong. Society’s sympathy for children with atypical behavior varies according to whom the children have offended. Those children with externalizing behaviors are likely to be considered ‘problems’ and are shunned and rejected. Those children with internalizing behaviors may be more tolerated, but there often remains a residual sense that ‘they brought it on themselves’ or, at the very least, they should ‘snap out of it’. The failure of the helping services to actually demonstrate outcomes of improved behavior and diminished disruption adds to the commonly accepted sense that perhaps the whole group should be moved out of the social consciousness. Responses of this type of thought have led to various methods of institutionalization to improve the social landscape.

No doubt it would be nice to live in a world with less disruption to social sensibilities, but we cannot automatically conclude from this fact that public intervention is warranted. We often determine that a child should be assessed to determine whether such intervention is necessary. This process of assessment is a dangerous one. Regardless of the components being assessed, there is a tendency to find what you are looking for. The influence of confirmatory evidence is particularly strong when both variables are asymmetric because information about the nonoccurrence of one the variables is likely to be ignored. Such negative or null instances have been shown to be particularly difficult to process according to Gilovich [1991].

Assessment often results in a process in which the child is asked to change his/her behavior without the slightest notion or, perhaps, even interest of whether the child actually wants to change. In most cases, the child, if asked, is likely to indicate that it is not s/he, but others, who need to change if the world is to be a better place. Human service workers tend to reject this ‘other’ notion, even when they know that it is true. The problems of dealing with an ecosystem seem simply much too difficult, are not a funded category, and, by the way, are really not ‘in my job description’.

The dilemma, of course, is how to effect change where no preference for change is attained; or it is achieved through persuasion and coercion rather than choice. Clinical service is not an ordinary consumer purchase. Most risk is borne by the client and payment is not contingent on the successful outcome of the service or intervention. Payment for services is often the responsibility of third parties [insurers or government]. Within this unusual market, particularly as we examine the public system, the market for mental health and substance abuse services are unique. In many cases, the purchase of such public services is a direct response to activity by the customer that has caused others in society some discomfort. Sometimes the purchase is voluntary, though it is commonly coerced, either implicitly [through threats of loss] or explicitly [through court action] on the theory that the person is ‘ill’ and, therefore, not capable of making correct decisions.

Presently, professionals assume a stance that posits that a child will receive services if s/he needs such services , whether s/he want them or not. The notion of need is an interesting and often disturbing one. It is based upon a social judgement of a person who is usually quite unlike the child. The result is often a reinforcement of the child’s assumptions that those ‘others’ are truly the problem, and we end up with a power struggle rather than a service. Because this is such a prevalent experience, the entirety of human service delivery is pivoted on the assumption of the need to control those who would prefer not to be in the system. Words such as compliance and resistance are common to the system. And substantive outcome is at best, extremely limited.

One of the changes that is required to make human services more effective is to find a method of developing the revealed preferences of the child and designing a way to provide services to enable the child to attain these goals. The shift from needs to goals is profound, and must start with the first assessment contact.

“Optimism, the conviction that you can change, is a necessary first step in the process of all change” [Seligman – 1994].

It is often difficult to get a desire to change expressed by the child. Part of this is the concern that it is the ‘other’ who needs to change and part may be based on the child’s lack of conviction that such change can actually occur. The Meta Model technique is oriented toward the development of personal preferences or articulated change goals by directing the changeworker in ways to identify the child’s pain even when the child chooses not to participate.


Assessment is a function, not a role. This means that although there may be assessment specialists who do entry assessments on a regular basis, any person working with another person, particularly when in a helping role, is, or should be, constantly assessing the client in order to a) determine the client’s revealed preferences, b) determine baseline behavior, c) determine new and better ways to enable change, and d) identify and affirm positive change. If a human service worker, or changeworker, desires to improve the quality of life for a child, s/he needs to accept the records received from prior assessment or intervention with a degree of distance. S/he must develop a ‘beginner’s mind’ and remain in a state of ‘not knowing’ for as long as possible. To fail to do so means that s/he is operating on a self fulfilling prophecy based on preconceptions [filters] about who the child is, what the child does, and what the child wants.

What often adds to the frustration is when the child refuses to participate, or at least to participate effectively, and is relatively nonresponsive to the inquiries of the worker. While it is known intellectually that you cannot help anyone unless they want help, helpers often get stuck in trying to help the child see the worker’s vision of the future and to understand how wonderful it would be if the child would abide by it. This coercive, though often ‘well intended’, notion leads to failure in almost all systems. The complaint of the professional is that the child was resistive, ‘shut down’, would not participate, or worse yet, is so ‘ill’ that s/he doesn’t understand what is good for him/her and needs to be forced to accept help.

Economists, who are not generally thought of as ‘people oriented’ are reluctant to prescribe what is good for a person. The reverence for customer sovereignty is natural when consumers are well informed and preferences are stable. Further, economists are typically wary of social decisions to overrule individual preferences, for they fear that this opens the door to the worst kind of paternalistic excess.

Psychologists and other human service professionals, on the other hand, study why it is that people do not do ‘what is best for them’. The ‘medical need’ paradigm overrules individual preferences entirely, replacing them with a determination by physicians of the amount of care a person should have to obtain the highest state of health possible within the constraints of current medical knowledge. Despite these objections, most economists remain un-persuaded that the government can do better than individuals in determining what is good. Why is it that human service people believe differently?

The model of revealed preference versus the model of coerced services should not be one of contention, even by the most ardent ‘mental illness’ advocate. Meeting the goals of a client, assuming those goals are socially acceptable, is likely to receive support from all contingents. The most likely concerns raised would be whether such dysfunctional children can express and be motivated to achieve acceptable goals. This may demand a ‘leap of faith’ by practitioners as well as an inquiry process that looks not for indications of pathology, defect, or lethality, but seeks to uncover personal preferences of the child.

The process that is outlined here is based on an inquiry process that approaches the client from a totally different perspective than the assessments of traditional human services. One of the first tasks is to understand the client’s model of the world, especially those portions that are impoverished. To do so will help dramatically in understanding the client’s preferences for change. To do so through the ‘Meta Model’ provides an avenue to gather information about the client, even in the client’s resistance to exposing him/herself to the process. This should not be taken as a statement that digital communication is all that a changeworker needs to know about.


This process called ‘modeling ’ was originally devised by John Grinder and Richard Bandler as a way of codifying excellence. Joseph O’Connor and John Seymour define modeling as “The process of discerning the sequence of ideas and behaviors that enable someone to accomplish a task.” Robert Dilts has another definition, “The process of observing and mapping the successful behaviors of other people.”

If we combine these two definitions we can conclude that modeling is a process, something that happens over a period of time and, at the very least, involves:

(a) Observing someone who is achieving something; and
(b) Establishing a map or sequence (a model) of what they are doing.

To make life interesting you may note the word ‘model’ can be used three ways. There is ‘to model,’ which is the process defined above and for which the founders use the word ‘modeling.’ There is ‘a model’ who is the person from whom the information is being elicited. And finally there is ‘the model’ which is the end result of the modeling process.

It is important to understand that a model is an ideal to be imitated and patterned – the goal is not to find defects. The original models for Grinder and Bandler were people who were outstanding in their field. The purpose was to find out as much as possible about what they knew [consciously and nonconsciously] and did, to be able to imitate their excellence.

It was soon realized that the same process could be used to model how people with problems in living ‘do their problems’. The leap from modeling states of excellence to modeling problem states is not so large when clients are regarded as excellent at replicating their unwanted behavioral patterns. There is nothing wrong with their replicating mechanism (the process). It works perfectly. It is the output that is the problem for the client. Often the slightest change to the input or alteration to the process will produce significant changes to the output, i.e., behavior.

But is the output a problem; and if so, to whom? Part of the process of modeling is to gather data about the individual and in that process determine what, if anything, the person would like to change about themselves. Most of the things that we do, we do for nonconscious reasons. Everything we do, we do with positive intent. When it turns out badly, the issue is not that the person does not want a better outcome, but that the person usually believes that s/he is doing everything possible to achieve a positive goal. It must, therefore, be what ‘other’ people are doing that is causing the difficulty.

The Cognitive Behavior Management focus is predicated on the premise that people are the sum total of their thoughts, and that those thoughts determine how they feel and behave. The process of modeling, because it was focused on really understanding what was going on with the expert was not waylayed by filters that were identifying ‘problems’, but were rather looking for solutions. In outlining the processes, techniques and procedures of modeling, we are seeking to change dramatically the focus of assessment away from diminishing problems to one of supporting achievement.

We must start with a beginner’s mind. The mind of the beginner is empty, free of the habits of the expert, ready to accept, to doubt, and open to all the possibilities. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few. When we say something, our subjective intention or situation is always involved. When you listen to someone, you should give up all your preconceived ideas and your subjective opinions; you should just listen to him, just observe what his way is. …put very little emphasis on right and wrong or good and bad. …just see things as they are with him, and accept them. Usually when you listen to some statement, you hear it as a kind of echo of yourself. You are actually listening to your own opinion. If it agrees with your opinion you may accept it, but if it does not, you will reject it, or you may not even really hear it. [Suzuki]

Modeling consists of using tools that have their origins in Artificial Intelligence [AI] and Cognitive Science research with the goal of making a model of excellent behavior, for transfer to other persons.

Its technology basis comes from combining:

  • the theories of transactional grammar as developed by Chomsky and as represented by people such as professor John Grinder;
  • the area of systems thinking, as started by Korzybski and extended by Bateson;
  • the field of cognitive science with persons such as Miller, whose models have been put into practice for Neuro-Linguistic Modeling.

Modeling will give the answer to the following questions: “How do the perceptual filters of the person work? How does a person address structure, context and process? How does s/he sort and attend to information?”.

Changework is the art of enabling people to make specific changes in themselves. Cognitive Behavior Management is concerned with the question of how and why people change. One can do changework without an assumption that the client is broken – has some disorder. It is sufficient that the client have something about him/herself that s/he wishes to change.

Doing a piece of changework starts out by setting an outcome. The traditional question to get an outcome is “What do you want?” In other words: What do you want to change about yourself? However most of the time the outcome as stated by the client will need modification in certain ways. There are six ‘well-formedness conditions’ that an outcome must satisfy in order to be a useful basis for changework.

An outcome should satisfy the following conditions:

  1. Stated in the positive
  2. Appropriately specific and contextualized
  3. Verifiable (in sensory experience)
  4. Initiated and maintained by the subject
  5. Secondary gain taken care of
  6. Ecological


“How I use my body, my voice, my eyes, my hands, in addition to the words and the way I use words, is my only tool.”
Virginia M. Satir

The central task of psychology, whether experimental or applied, is the understanding of human behavior. To say, however, that our behavior is complex is not to deny that it has structure. It is useful that you distinguish between rule-governed behavior and determined behavior.

People who come to human service professionals typically have pain in their lives and experience little or no choice in matters they consider important. This is true regardless of the coercion they may feel about the process. All changeworkers are confronted with the problem of responding adequately to such issues. Responding adequately in this context means assisting in changing the client’s interpretation of his/her experience in some way that enriches it. Rarely do changeworkers accomplish this by changing the world. The approach is typically to change the client’s experience of the world, or at least his/her interpretation of that experience. People do not operate directly on the world, but operate necessarily on the world through their perception or model of the world.

When humans wish to communicate their experience of the world, they form a complete linguistic representation of their experience in their mind: this is called the Deep Structure. As they begin to speak, they make a series of choices (transformations) about the form in which they will communicate their experiences. These choices are not, in general, conscious choices. The outcome of those choices is the Surface Structure and this is the structure of the person that others in his/her ecosystem perceive.

One of the things that goes on in most assessments and helping relationships is a series of verbal transactions between the client and assessor/changeworker. A common feature of the encounter is that the counselor tries to find out what the client has come for; what the client wants to change. In terms of this process, the counselor is attempting to find out what model of the world the client has. How does s/he see the world and his/her place in it?

As indicated in the introduction, this process may be difficult if the client is not willing to engage us in a discussion of what s/he wants to change. In fact, if s/he is feeling coerced, s/he may specifically resist. As we shall see, what s/he talks about – the content – is not relevant to the meta model. It is the structure of his/her language that will give the changeworker the clues to potential areas for help. At any rate, it is the Surface Structure that we are exposed to and if we are unable to reconnect the Surface Structure to the Deep Structure we are left with a limited perspective or representation of the client and his/her model of the world.

If the model of the client’s experience as articulated through the Surface Structure has pieces missing, it is impoverished. Impoverished models imply limited options for behavior. Since such a limitation of options often leads to problems in living, the changeworker, simply by listening to the client’s responses and identifying areas where there are pieces missing, has a beginning sense of what the child may want to work on were s/he willing to get involved.

The elements

The number of possible sentences in each human language is infinite. The number of human descriptions is limitless. At the same time, the number of forms [syntax] in which this infinite set of meaning [semantics] is represented is highly restricted – has structure – and, therefore, may be described by a set of rules.

To say that human behavior is described by some set of rules is not to warrant that our behavior is determined or predictable. It is important, if we want to understand the client, that we begin to determine the ‘inner logic’ of his/her understanding of the world. It is imperative, therefore, that we use all of the tools available to dig deeper into his/her cognitive structure to gain this preferential knowledge.

People do not operate directly on the world in which they live, but rather create models or maps of the world and use these maps to guide behavior. The individual’s representation of the world determines to a large degree what the person’s experience of the world will be, how they will perceive the world, what choices they will see available to use as they live in the world. It is thought that creates feelings and ultimately behavior. Thought is represented in the mind [memory] by symbols or representations. We interpret or give meaning to the new experience, based in part, by the model or filters we have acquired in previous experiences. The model each person creates to guide him/herself in the world is based in part upon our interpretation of our experiences. Each of us then, representationally through language and symbols, creates a different model of the world we share and thus come to live in a somewhat different reality.

There is a necessary difference between the world and any particular model or representation of the world. The models of the world that each of us creates will themselves be different. We can demonstrate some of the reasons for these differences by examining some of the constraints of perception that affect our modeling processes.

Neurological constraints.

We are aware that our central nervous system is some way designed to limit the amount of information that gets to us. Some examples of these limitations would include sound waves that are below 20 cycles or above 20,000 cycles per second, which we cannot hear although they exist in reality. Visual detection exists only between 380 and 680 milli-microns; above and below are undetectable.

Our ability to perceive being touched at two points on the surface of our skin varies dramatically. If we are touched in two places on the thumb or on the back will determine whether we can even know.

The physical world remains constant but our experience of it shifts dramatically as a function of our nervous system. Thus, one way in which our models of the world will necessarily differ from the world itself is that our nervous system systematically distorts and deletes whole portions of the real world. This has the effect of reducing the range of possible human experience as well as introducing differences between what is actually going on in the world and our experience of it. Our nervous system, then, initially determined genetically, constitutes the first set of filters that distinguish the world – the territory – from our representations of the world – the map.

Social Constraints.

Bandler and Grinder referred to this set of constraints as social genetic filters and it includes all the categories or filters to which we are subject as members of a social system: our language, our accepted ways of perceiving, and the socially agreed upon fictions.

Within any particular language system part of the richness of our experience is associated with the number of distinctions in some area of our sensation. In Maidu, an American Indian language of Northern California, only three words are available to describe the color spectrum. English has eight [specific] color terms.

While human beings are said to be capable of making 7,500,000 different color distinctions in the visible color spectrum (Boring, 1957), the people who are native speakers of Maidu habitually group their experience into the three categories supplied by their language. The person who speaks Maidu is characteristically conscious of only three categories of color experience while the English speaker has more categories and, therefore, more habitual perceptual distinctions.

By adding a ‘thing’ to which sensations are supposed to adhere as attributes, thought commits a very serious error. Where is the sweet that has been ascribed to sugar? It exists only in the act of sensation. Thought not only changes immediate sensation, but withdraws further and further from reality and becomes increasingly entangled in its own forms.

While the neurological filters are the same for all humans beings, the social genetic filters are the same only for the members of the same social-linguistic community – but there are a large number of different social-linguistic communities.

Unlike our neurological genetic limitations, those introduced by the social genetic filters are easily overcome. One remarkable way to do so is by simply adding novel concepts and language. The very fact that we raise a question, for example, about goals to one who has never considered the future, may be the spark that opens up the panacea of future expectations in a very different way. Unfortunately, a similar but negative impact can be engendered by the suggestion of ‘illness’ and irreversibility of problems in living. Words matter.

Individual constraints

Our individual experiences begin to differ more radically, giving rise to more dramatically different representations of the world. The third set of constraints – the individual constraints – are the basis for the most far-reaching differences among us as humans.

By individual constraints we refer to all the representation we create as human beings based upon our unique personal history and our interpretation of it. Every human being has a set of experiences that constitute his own personal history and are as unique to him as are his fingerprints.

The individual constraints, constitute the basis for the profound differences among us as humans and the way we create models of the world. These differences in our models can either be ones that alter our prescriptions [socially given] in a way that enriches our experiences and offers us more choices, or ones that impoverish our experience in a way that limits our ability to act effectively. People block themselves from seeing those options and possibilities that are open to them when they are not available in their models of their world.

The difference between these two groups appears to us to be primarily that the people who respond creatively to and cope effectively with, this stress are people who have a rich representation or model of their situation, one in which they perceive a wide range of options in choosing their actions. The other people experience themselves as having few options, none of which are attractive to them.

It is important for us to realize that the people in the second group are not bad, crazy or sick. They are, in fact, making the best choices from those of which they are aware, that is, the best choices available in their own particular model. In other words, human beings’ behavior, no matter how bizarre it may first appear to be, makes sense when it is seen in the context of the choices generated by their model; their ‘inner logic’. The difficulty is not that they are making the wrong choice, but that they do not have enough choices – they don’t have a richly focused image of the world.

So the processes that allow us to accomplish the most extraordinary and unique human activities are the same processes that block our further growth if we commit the error of mistaking the model for reality.

We can identify three general mechanisms by which we do this.

Generalization is the process by which elements or pieces of a person’s model become detached from their original experience and come to represent the entire category of which the experience is an example. Our ability to generalize is essential to coping with the world.

Generalization may lead a human being to establish a rule such as ‘Don’t express feelings’. This rule, in the context of a prisoner-of-war camp, may have a high survival value. However, using the same rule in a marriage, limits the potential for intimacy.

The point here is that the same rule will be useful or not, depending upon the context.

Deletion is a process by which we selectively pay attention to certain dimensions of our experiences and exclude others. An example would be the ability that people have to filter out or exclude all other sound in a room full of people talking in order to listen to one particular person’s voice.

In the structure of the person’s use of language we can identify differing types of deletions that occur regularly. The deletion may simply be a ‘shorthand’ method of responding in which the person is easily able to specify what is missing; or the deletion may confuse the child as well as the changeworker, since the child is unable, when attention is drawn to it, to supply the additional information without help.

Distortion is a process that allows us to make shifts in our experience of sensory data. Fantasy, for example, allows us to prepare for experiences that we may have before they occur. All the great novels, all the revolutionary discoveries of the sciences involve the ability to distort and misrepresent reality.

In understanding the power of individual constraints, we can refer to a classic psychological or expectancy experiment by Postman and Bruner:

Subjects were asked to identify, on short and controlled exposure, a series of play cards. Many of the cards were normal, but some were made anomalous, e.g., a red six of spades and a black four of hearts. Each experimental run was constituted by the display of a single card to a single subject in a series of gradually increased exposures. After each exposure the subject was asked what s/he had seen, and the run was terminated by two successive correct identifications.

For the normal cards these identifications were usually correct, but the anomalous cards were almost always identified, without apparent hesitation or puzzlement, as normal. Without any awareness of trouble, it was immediately fitted to one of the conceptual categories prepared by prior experience. One would not even like to say that the subjects had seen something different from what they identified. With a further increase of exposure to the anomalous cards, subjects did begin to hesitate and display awareness of anomaly. Further increase of exposure resulted in still more hesitation and confusion until finally, and sometimes quite suddenly, most subjects would produce the correct identification without hesitation. Moreover, after doing this with two or three of the anomalous cards, they would have little further difficulty with the others. A few subjects, however, were never able to make the requisite adjustment of their categories. Even at forty times the average exposure required to recognize normal cards for what they were, more than ten [10%] percent of the anomalous cards were not correctly identified. And the subjects who then failed often experienced acute personal distress.

The generalization that the people in the experiment made was that the possible color/shape pair would be the same as they had always experienced: black with clubs and spades, red with hearts and diamonds. They supported their generalizations by distorting either the shape or color dimensions in the anomalous cards.

The human mind, as opposed to the brain, is a very powerful tool that we are just beginning to understand. We know that there are epigenetic rules that help us to structure our experiences, but to a large extent we gather and sort our experiences from a random world. We are who we are because we have decided to be, based on our interpretation of our experiences. Bandler and Grinder have helped us to examine at least one context of the mind in the Meta Model.


We have three structures of the human mind. The first is the experience itself, which includes many stimuli that never become conscious and is called the Reference Structure. We create a model first in see, hear, feel, taste, and/or smell representations called submodalities [See CBT#31 – Cross Mapping Submodalities for more information]. The experience is then represented [coded] in a second structure in the mind by language symbols and this model is called a Deep Structure. When we attempt to convey these representation of the Deep Structure experience to other people through language, we make certain cognitive errors that distort the experience. This third conversational model, the Surface Structure, results in an exchange that can help the clinician or assessor infer more about the Deep Structure and ultimately about the experience itself. The areas of linguistic [cognitive] error are often the places where the individual feels blocked and without choices and are, therefore, possible areas for change.

Since one of the main ways in which clinicians can come to know and understand their clients is through language, and since language is also one of the primary ways all humans represent or model their experiences, the focus of this material is on the assessment of language.

The Assessment of Language and Change

All the accomplishments of the human race, both positive and negative, have involved the use of language. We, as human beings, use our language in two ways. We use it first of all to represent our experience – we call this activity reasoning, thinking, fantasizing, rehearsing. We are creating a model of our experience. This model of the world, which we create by our representational use of language, is based upon our perceptions of the world. Our perceptions are also partially determined by our model or representation.

Since we use language as a representational system, our linguistic representations are subject to the three universal errors of human modeling: Generalization, Deletion and Distortion.

Secondly, we use our language to communicate our model or representation of the world to each other – we call it talking, discussing, writing, lecturing, singing. We are not conscious of the process of selecting words to represent our experience, and we are almost never conscious of the way in which we order and structure the words we select. Language so fills our world that we move through it as a fish swims through water.

To qualify as a native speaker …one must learn… rules…. This is to say, of course, that one must learn to behave as though one knew the rules. [Slobin, 1967]

The theory of transformational grammar was developed to explicitly describe patterning in human language systems. People have consistent intuitions about the structure of their language and its transformational grammar as a formal representations of those intuitions. For example, native speakers of English agree that the sequence of English words in (A) forms a sentence of their language while the sequence of words in (B) does not:

(A) John’s mother called James up.
(B) Called mother James John’s up.

Furthermore, our intuitions are that the words John and mother go together in some way the words mother and called do not. Again, when given sentence (C), a native speaker will recognize it as having a special relationship to (A),

(C) John’s mother called up James.

which s/he will describe as saying the same thing or having the same meaning. Finally, a native speaker of English would identify (D) as a member of a special set of sentences –

(D) Murdering peasants can be dangerous.

which constitutes the set of ambiguous sentences in English. These different classes of intuition can be described as:

• intuitions that allow me to consistently decide which sequences of words in my language constitute sentences [that is well formed sequences] of my language. We will refer to this as well formedness.

• intuitions that allow me consistently to decide which words in a sentence go together to form a higher level unit or constituent. This is called constituent structure.

• intuitions that allow me consistently to decide which sentences have which kind of logical/semantic relations, such as, ‘Which sentences of different structure or form have the same meaning?’ – This is referred to as synonymy. Relations such as, ‘Which sentences have more than one meaning?’ – which is referred to as ambiguity.

By consistently decide, we mean both that when presented with the same sentence at any of two points of time our intuitions about its structure will be constant and also that other native speakers will have the same intuitions about the structure of that sentence. It is this consistency that enables both the changeworker and the client to communicate and for the meta model to work effectively.

Some Universals Of The Human Linguistic Process

I. Well-Formedness: the consistent judgement that native speakers make about whether or not groups of words are sentences of their language.

II. Constituent Structure: the consistent judgement that native speakers make about what goes together as a unit or constituent inside a sentence of their language.

III. Logical Semantic Relations [meaning]: The consistent judgements that native speakers make about the logical relations reflected in the sentences of their language.
A. Completeness: Native speakers, when presented with a verb of their language, are able to determine how many and what kinds of things between which this verb connects or describes a relationship.
B. Ambiguity: Native speakers recognize that a sentence such as:
1. Investigating FBI agents can be dangerous.
2. Maxine took Max’s shirt off.
Communicates two distinct meanings.
C. Synonymy: native speakers recognize that both of the following sentences have the same meaning or convey the same message.

1. Sandy looked up the number.
ˇ 2. Sandy looked the number up.

A transformation is an explicit statement of one kind of pattern that native speakers recognize among the sentences of their language. Native speakers recognize that although the Surface Structure is different in the transformation messages communicated, in Deep Structures, the two sentences is the same. The process by which these two sentences are derived is called a derivation. A derivation is a series of transformations that connect the Deep Structure and the Surface Structure.

These three categories of intuitions that human beings have about their language are represented explicitly in the transformational model.

Using these three categories, native speakers can identify Surface Structure in which generalizations, deletions and distortions occur, and Deep Structure, in which generalizations, deletions and distortions can be identified.

Some transformations which specify the way in which word order can differ as a group, are called Permutation Transformations. This, for our purposes is a minor point of interest. These are one of the two major classes of transformations; the other is called Deletion Transformations. For example:

1. Ilene talked to someone a great deal.
2. Ilene talked a great deal.

Linguists distinguish two types of deletion transformations – Free Deletion, or deletion of indefinite elements, and Identity Deletions.

The general rule is that indefinite elements may be deleted from any sentence. There are special conditions that must be met before a definite element may be deleted. Identity deletions, however, create a specific problem. When the child says:

1. Ilene hates me.
2. She hates me.

There is a requirement to solicit who ‘she’ is for the second sentence where there is not the same requirement in the first. When the second type sentence occurs in a series of sentences, we often believe that we know to whom ‘she’ refers, but without asking or affirming, we cannot be sure.

Referential indices, which are specifications of who or what we are referencing, are involved, for our purposes, in the transformation model in one important way. Deletion Transformations are sensitive to referential indices. Words or noun phrases may not be legitimately deleted by a Free Deletion Transformation if they bear a referential index that connects them to some person or thing.

The general rule is that the element being deleted may not have a referential index that connects to some specific part of the speaker’s model of his experience. We, as native speakers, have full intuitions about their general use. Thus, a statement that “John hit me” is quite different than “I have been hit”. John being the specific reference.

So far, Surface Structures may differ from associated Deep Structure by:
• The words may occur in a different order – Permutation Transformation
• Parts of the complete logical semantical representation may fail to appear in Surface structure – Deletion Transformation

A third type of transformation is by the process of Nominalization. Essentially the process of nominalization occurs when the transformations of the language change what occurs in the Deep structure representation as a process word – a verb or predicate – into an event word – a noun or argument – in the Surface Structure representation. For example:

1. Debbie understands that she decides her own life.
2. Debbie understands her decision about her own life.

In the second version what occurs in the first version as a verb or process word appears as a noun or event word. Specifically:

decides ——————————–> decision

Whether Nominalization occurs with or without Deletion and Permutation transformations, its effect is to convert the Deep Structure representation of a process into the Surface Structure representation of an event.

What is important in this presentation is not the technical details nor the terminology that linguists have developed, but rather the fact that the intuitions available to each of us as a native speaker can be honed by identification of these specific rules to allow us to identify and probe for the Deep Structure and, in that process, help the client reform or reframe his/her model of the world.


Another area of interest is that certain sentences imply that certain other sentences must be true in order for them to make sense.

There is a cat on the table.

I may choose to believe that there is a cat on the table on not and, either way, I can make sense out of what you are saying. However, if I hear you say:

Sam sees that there is a cat on the table.

I must assume that there is, in fact, a cat on the table in order to make any sense of this sentence. Otherwise, I would have to assume that Sam is hallucinating.

The critical aspect, of course, is that when the child’s language indicates a presupposition, the changeworker will need to not assume that s/he knows that there is a cat on the table without asking.

When a client’s model has pieces missing, it is impoverished. Deletions, distortions and generalizations in the Surface Structure [what the client says] may be matched by how the client represents the experience to him/herself in the Deep Structure. By the counselor catching and drawing attention to the Surface Structure errors, s/he opens an opportunity to explore with the client his/her own understanding [model] of the experience.

Changeworkers may a) accept the impoverished model, b) ask for the missing piece, or c) guess at it. The first option, which actually occurs quite often when the changeworker is neither intuitively excellent nor trained in the Meta Model, presents the difficulty of making the process slow and tedious, as it places total responsibility for recovering the model’s missing pieces on the client, who is there for assistance in this process in the first place.

The second choice is to ask.

I am scared.
Of what?

Either the client supplies the material in his/her model that has been linguistically deleted or the piece missing from the client’s verbal expression is also missing from his/her Deep Structure model. Clients begin the process of self discovery and change as they begin to work to fill in the missing pieces and become actively involved in this process of self-discovery – expanding themselves by expanding their model of the world.

Finally, the counselor may guess. There is, however, the danger that any form of interpretation may be inaccurate. There is a safeguard included for the client in the Meta Model that must be used whenever a guess suggests the missing piece. The changeworker must have the client tests the interpretation or guess by generating a sentence that includes that material and check their own intuitions to see whether it fits, makes sense, is an accurate representation of his/her model of the world. This test, and the results of the test, allow the counselor to continue to help the client find ways to expand his/her model.

Addressing Distortion: Process —–>Event

As we have stated, one of the ways people become immobilized is to turn an ongoing process into an event. Events are things that occur at one point in time and are finished. Once they occur, their outcomes are fixed and nothing can be done to change them. This way of representing experience is impoverishing in the sense that the client loses control of ongoing processes by representing them as events.

The changeworker can ask the client to check each of the non-verbs in the sentence, asking him/herself whether s/he can think of a verb or adjective that is closely associated with it in appearance/sound and meaning. For example:

I really regret my decision.

The counselor identifies the noun ‘decision’ as being similar to the process word ‘decide’ – thus, there is a nominalization.

The task of the changeworker is to help the client see that what s/he has represented in his/her model as a closed, finished event is an ongoing process that may be influenced by the client, him/herself.

While Deep Structure is the fullest linguistic representation, it is derived from a fuller, richer source – the sum total of the client’s experiences called the Reference Structure. The same universal processes of human modeling provides a systematic way of connecting to the linguistic representation for that person to the set of full experiences from which the full linguistic representation is derived. Having succeeded in involving the client in recovering the Deep Structure the next step is to challenge that Deep Structure in such a way as to enrich it. This is consistent with the notion of returning to the fundamentals and relearning how to do it correctly.

For the changeworker to challenge the Deep Structure is equivalent to demanding that the client mobilize his/her resources to reconnect his/her linguistic model with his/her world of experience. In other words, the counselor is challenging the client’s assumptions that his/her linguistic model is reality.

Challenging generalizations

Check for noun arguments that have no referential index. A noun argument is an non-referenced noun such as ‘thing’ which one can argue about what it actually represents, e.g., “That ‘thing’ is no good”.

Notice that the client may produce a number of responses – none of which have a referential index – they are descriptions of the person’s experience. They represent generalizations that are still not connected to the client’s experience. For in the experience itself, the references were clear. “I was embarrassed by my stumble – in this place, at this time, in front of these people …”.

Without a referential index, the experience is being generalized to embarrassment at stumbling. The demand for full Deep Structure representations that include only words and phrases that have referential indices is a demand that the client re-connect the generalizations with the experience from which they came.

In the area of combined verbal-non-verbal techniques, the client might be asked to enact the specific situation from which s/he generalized and to describe the experience fully as s/he re-lives it. This can be done metaperceptively through imagery/imagining. This can be done in an associated or dissociated fashion with varying levels of dissociation.

Typically, an area in which an impoverishing deletion has occurred is one in which the client’s perception of his/her potential is limited – s/he seems to be blocked, stuck, doomed. Such an area may, in fact, become a preference for change.

Suggestions or advice that fall into the gaps created by deletion in a client’s model are relatively ineffective. The client will either ‘resist’ or not hear the options [just as the subjects in the card experiment could not ‘see’ the cards]. Persuasion is not persuasive for the same reason as the person not being able to correctly identify the card.

How is it that some people are able to trust others but our client is not? We get this directly by asking the client to explain the difference in his/her model that makes this impossible.

What would happen if you trusted people?

It is important to remember that the child may not ever have even have considered this possibility. The imposition of a concept that has not before been considered is comparable to adding a color word to the child’s vocabulary. When you add a new construct to the child’s model, you have expanded the possibilities.

Semantic [Meaning] Well formedness

George forced Mary to weigh 114 pounds.
My father makes me mad.

When the first person, the one doing the causing, is different from the person experiencing the anger, the sentence is said to be semantically ill-formed and unacceptable. Semantics have to do with meaning. Essentially, we are saying that the sentence is illogical in normal logic. Your father cannot make you mad.

The counselor can help to identify situations in which one person does some act and a second person responds by feeling a certain way. The client in this way assigns responsibility for his/her emotions to people or forces outside his control. S/he becomes an object of the experience rather than a subject.

Addressing Presuppositions

Assumptions in a model show up linguistically as presuppositions of the client’s sentences. Presuppositions are what is necessarily true for the statements that the client makes to make sense [not to be true, but just to be meaningful] at all.

There is an explicit test for what, if any, presuppositions a sentence has. The counselor takes the Surface Structure representations and forms a new sentence that is the same as the old one except that it has a negative word in it attached to the first verb:

I realize my mother doesn’t love me.
I don’t realize my mother doesn’t love me.

Any sentence that must be true for both the client’s statement and the new statement, to make sense is a presupposition. Presuppositions are particularly insidious as they are not presented openly for consideration. They identify in the model some of the basic organizing principles that limit the client’s experience.

One way to understand the overall effect of this Meta Model is in terms of well formedness. Here is a set of well formed characteristics of English that we recognize as well formed in counseling. Sentences that:

  • contain no transformational deletions or unexplored deletions in the portion of the model in which the client experiences no choice,
  • contain no nominalizations,
  • contain no words or phrases lacking referential indices,
  • contain no verbs incompletely specified,
  • contain no unexplored presuppositions in the portion of the model in which the client experiences no choice, and
  • contains no sentences that violate the semantic conditions of well formedness.

We are aware that there is a great deal going on in the encounter that is not solely digital [verbal]. What we are saying is that the digital system is important and we are offering an explicit Meta Model technique that can help to enhance the intuitive approaches that assessors and counselors use.

It should also be noted that there is a physical representation as well. Human beings represent their experiences in their body posture, movements, typical muscle contractions, etc.

Finally, it is important to review the techniques concerning submodalities that is the ‘quanta’ information of representational systems. [See CBT#31 – Cross Mapping Submodalities]

The unique aspects of the Meta Model are: first, it is based on the intuitions already available to every native speaker, and second, it is an explicit model that is learnable. It is in large part inspired by the formal model developed in transformational linguistics and was created by ‘modelling’ people like Virginia Satir, Fritz Perls and Milton Erickson. Many good counselors intuitively respond to linguistic structures they don’t even understand. As a tool for interviewing and assessing children with problems in living, it offers an opportunity to consciously use the Surface System to infer issues that the child may, in fact, want to work on.

The Meta Model presented here is a formal model. It is specifically formal in two senses of the word:

  • It is a model that is explicit – that is, it describes what the structure of the process of changework is in a step by step manner.
  • it is a model that deals with form, not content. In other words, the Meta Model is neutral with respect to the content of the encounter.

The first sense in which the Meta Model is formal guarantees that it is available to anyone willing to learn it – that is, since it is an explicit description of a process, it is learnable. The second sense in which the Meta Model is formal guarantees that it will have universal applicability – no matter what the subject or content of the particular changework session, the exchange between the changeworker and the client will involve Surface Structures and these Surface Structures are the material on which the Meta Model is designed to operate.

When a child comes to us, we understand that they have some pain, some dissatisfaction about their present situation and we generally begin by asking what they hope to gain by coming to us – that is, what they want. Their reply, no matter what it is [even, I don’t know] is the form of a Surface Structure and we move into the process by then applying the Meta Model technique.

For the purpose of understanding the components of the Reference Structure for Deep Structure, we can divide them into two categories: the sensations that originate in the world and the contribution that we make with our nervous systems to these sensations as we receive and process them, organizing them into the reference structure of the linguistic Deep Structure of our language. We use our nervous system to model the world, even reaching out with our receptor systems, setting and calibrating them [the concept of forward Feedback – Pribram, 1967], in accordance with the expectations that we derive from our present model of the world.

Leda Cosmides and John Tooby in their article Evolutionary Psychology and the Emotions refer to Forward feedback this way:

Perceptual mechanisms: Perceptual systems may enter emotion-specific modes of operation. When fearful, acuity of hearing may increase. Specialized perceptual inference systems may be mobilized as well. If you’ve heard rustling in the bushes at night, human and predator figure-detection may be particularly boosted, and not simply visual acuity in general. In fact, non-threat interpretations may be depressed, and the same set of shadows will ‘look threatening’ – that is, given a specific threatening interpretation such as ‘a man with a knife’ – or not, depending on emotion-state.

Need we remind you that it is thought that predisposes emotions and behavior. The model that we create is, of course, subject to certain constraints imposed by the world – if the model is too divergent from the world, it will not serve as an adequate guide to behavior in the world. Again, the way that the model each of us develops will differ from the world is in the choices [normally not conscious] that we make as we employ the three principles of modeling. This makes it possible for each of us to entertain a different model of the world and yet live in the same real world.

We receive sensations through the five [minimally] senses of sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell. Thus, one component of the reference structure for which we, as changeworkers, may check is whether the Deep Structure includes descriptions of sensations arriving through each of these five senses – that is, does the full linguistic representation include descriptions that represent the child’s ability to see, hear, touch, taste and smell. If one of these senses is not represented, then we may challenge the representation, requiring the client to reconnect and recover the deleted sensations. We may be sure that the child’s reference structure is incomplete, or not well formed, if the child’s feelings are not represented in the reference structure. This is equivalent to saying that human emotions are a necessary component of the human experience.

How do you feel about your feelings about what is happening?

Consider this question in the light of the Meta Model. This is essentially a request for the client to say how s/he feels about his/her reference structure – his model of the world – focusing on his/her feelings about the image that s/he has of him/herself and his/her model.


Finding personal preference should be an explicit goal of any assessment. We tend to identify ‘problems’ and these problems are often identified by other people in the child’s ecosystem, rather than by the child him/herself. Alternatively, the child may identify the problem in terms of ‘others’ and not own the problem nor the solution. Or, if we are examining for physical or neurological concerns, we may identify problems, but not the preferences. It is the interpretation of experience that creates the difficulty, not the experience itself. Thus, if a child has a learning disability it is important to understand a) how the child interprets this difficulty, and b) what barriers to quality of life the child identifies as caused by the learning disability. If we know that, it should be relatively easy to enlist the child’s energy and cooperation in seeking ways to overcome those barriers.

All help is ultimately self help. Some workers in the field will be so charismatic as to motivate the child to extend him/herself, but most will not. It will be important, therefore, to generate motivation and energy for change elsewhere. When the child who is referred for assessment thinks that the world has lined up to inhibit him/her from achievement, the process becomes quite difficult. It is believed that the understanding and use of the Meta Model as a means of identifying personal preference can help to make the system ‘user friendly’ and productive.

A fuller explanation of the Meta Model process with exercises for practice is contained in The Structure of Magic by Bandler and Grinder. It should be noted that for changework rather than assessment, the addition of submodalities [See Technique #31 – Cross Mapping Submodalities] is an important consideration.

In many ways, this material only touches the surface of the Meta Modeling technique. The first necessity of anyone attempting to learn the technique is to practice listening to and identifying missing pieces in Surface Structure. You can do this by listening with a new sensitivity to the dialogue around you. One specific way of obtaining Surface Structures to use in applying the technique is to use your own internal voice [inner dialogue] as a source. Grinder and Bandler suggest that you tape your internal voice by speaking it out loud and then use the tape as a source for applying the Meta Model.

Grinder and Bandler also give a series of exercises and anyone who is truly interested should probably read the Structure of Magic itself. We have included here one of the experimental interviews, with some modification, so that the reader may get a feel for how the technique might work.



In order to provide an opportunity to see the Meta Model in operation, Grinder and Bandler have provided a transcript in which the changeworker was specifically restricted to the use of the Meta Model techniques only. The restriction was placed to provide material for the book and should not be taken as a statement that digital communication is all that a changeworker needs to know about. This example describes the responses in the form of Surface Structure and the opportunities provided to the changeworker in terms of process. The running commentary is not to present the way the changeworker is seeing, hearing, feeling and thinking about what is happening, but to explicitly describe the aspects of the Meta Model.

Typically, changeworkers in learning the Meta Model become aware they are going through a step by step process and become quite belabored in this, just as when they first were struggling with the clutch, gas and brakes in learning to drive a car. In similar fashion, as they perfect the technique, it becomes automatic and drops out of their consciousness.

This is an adaptation of the Grinder and Bandler transcript.

Ralph is a 17 year old and has dropped out of school. He is working as a gas station attendant.

Ralph was asked what he hoped to get out of the interview and began:

Dialogue Commentary

  1. Well…I’m not really sure… The client is experiencing difficulty saying exactly what it is that he wants. Remember, one of the first tasks of the changeworker is to understand the client’s model [especially those portions that are impoverishing]. The changeworker here notices a deletion in the first Surface Structure [SS] the client presents. Specifically, s/he identifies the process or relationship word sure, and that the client has provided only one argument or noun (1) for the predicate sure. The changeworker can determine whether the SS is a full representation of the client’s Deep Structure [DS] by asking him/herself whether s/he can create another well formed SS of English with the predicate sure and that has more than one argument or noun. For example, the SS
    I’m sure of the answer.
    In this SS, there are two arguments or nouns associated with sure: someone who is sure of something [in this case, I] and something that the person is sure of [ in this case, the answer]. Thus, the changeworker knows by intuition as a native speaker of English that the client’s DS contained a portion that does not appear in his SS – it has been deleted. The changeworker chooses to try to recover the deleted material by asking for it.
  2. You’re not sure of what? Changeworker asks for missing portion of the DS.
  3. I’m not sure that this will be helpful. The client has produced a new SS containing the information that has been deleted from his first SS. The changeworker listens to the client and examines his new sentence, noticing, a) an argument or noun (this), associated with the verb will be helpful, which has no referential index; b) that the SS representation is incomplete – this predicate helpful occurs in well formed SS of English with more than one argument or noun [e.g.,
    You are being helpful to me.
    Since helpful can occur with more than one argument noun as it did in the client’s SS, the changeworker knows that a portion of the client’s DS has been deleted; c) that the verb helpful is very incompletely specified; the SS presents the changeworker with no clear image of the kind of help the client wants.
    By recognizing the specific ways in which the client’s SS fails to be well formed the changeworker has made a number of options available to him/herself, such as: 1) s/he may ask for the referential index – You’re not sure that what, specifically, will be helpful, 2) s/he may ask for the deleted material – helpful to whom/what?. 3) s/he may ask the client what specific kind of help he had hoped for – Helpful in what way?
  4. You’re not sure what, specifically will be helpful to whom? The changeworker chose to combine both 1) and 2).
  5. Well, I’m not sure that this experiment will be helpful. You see, when I first went to Dr. G., he asked me if I’d be willing to participate in this experiment …and well, I feel that there’s something I really need help with but this is just an experiment. The client is expressing concern that the experimental conditions – restricting the changeworker to the meta model technique – will not allow him to get the help that he wants. The changeworker is attempting to understand the client’s model and notices the following: a) the client’s first SS contains the nominalization experiment derived from the verb to experiment; it has two noun arguments associated with it that have been deleted – the person doing the experiment and the person or thing being experimented upon; b) in the client’s first SS, one of the arguments of the verb helpful has been deleted [specifically, helpful to whom]; c) also, in the clients first SS, the verb helpful is very incompletely specified – it presents no clear image; d) in the latter part of the client’s second SS, the noun something occurs – this noun has no referential index; e) the SS noun help is a nominalization from the verb help, is very incompletely specified and has two deletions. It presents no clear image of the person or thing helping and the person or thing being helped; f) again, the nominalization experiment occurs with both of the deletions mentioned in a) above; g) the client’s last SS in this section is of the general form X but Y – the Implied Causative. Specifically, the implication is that the client wants something [X = there’s something that I really want help with] and there is something that is preventing him from getting it, [Y = this is just an experiment.]
  6. How will this just being an experiment prevent you from getting the help that you need. The changeworker chooses to challenge the Implied Causative (g)
  7. Experiments are for research, but there is something I really need help with. The client responds with a restatement of the Implied Causative, X but Y. Notice that it still contains a) the old nominalization experiment with two deletions; b) a new nominalization research with two deletions – the person doing the research and the person of thing being researched; c) the noun something, which is missing a referential index; and d) the old nominalization help with its two deletions.
  8. What, specifically, do you really need help with? The changeworker lets the Implied Causative stand unchallenged and chooses to go after the referential index c).
  9. I don’t know how to make a good impression on people. The client presents a SS, which he sees as providing the referential index for the noun something in his last SS. This new SS violates the well formed conditions of a) the nominalization impression with one deletion – the person or thing doing the impressing; b) the adjective good in the phrase good impression is derived from a DS predicate x is good for Y, the X in this form is the impression, the Y has been deleted – i.e., who is the impression good for – who benefits from this action; c) the noun people has no referential index; d) the client’s SS is semantically ill formed as he appears to be mind reading. He states that he doesn’t know how to make a good impression on people but fails to state how he knows that this is true. The way he knows doesn’t make a good impression is not stated.
  10. Let me see if I understand you – you are saying that this being just an experiment will necessarily prevent you from finding out how to make a good impression on people. Is that true? The changeworker chooses to ignore the ill formedness of the client’s new SS. S/he chooses instead to re-connect the answer to the question about the referential index back up with the Implied Causative the client presented earlier by simply substituting the answer s/he received back into his former question. Here s/he is checking with the client to make sure s/he understands the client’s model and also, by strengthening the client’s generalization by inserting a modal operator of necessity, he asks the client to verify or challenge the generalization.
  11. well…I’m not really sure… The challenge of the client’s generalization is successful – the client begins to waver.
  12. [Interrupting] Well, are you willing to find out? The changeworker recognizes that his challenge has succeeded [s/he hears the client’s SS – Well, I’m not really sure …] and moves quickly, asking the client to re-connect his generalization with his actual experience by trying to get the help he needs under these conditions.
  13. Yeah, OK The client agrees to try.
  14. Who, specifically, don’t you know how to make a good impression on? The changeworker now returns to the ill formedness of the client’s former SS above and chooses to go after he referential index missing on people in the phrase a good impression on people.
  15. Well, nobody. The client fails to supply the referential index requested by the changeworker. The word nobody is one of the special class of nouns and phrases that fails to refer as they contain the universal quantifier [logically: nobody = all persons not]. The client is now claiming that in his model there is no one on whom he can make a good impression. Thus the changeworker may choose a) to challenge the generalization, or b) ask again for the referential index.
  16. Nobody? Can you think of anybody on whom you have ever made a good impression. The changeworker mentions the word with the lack of referential index again and the asks the client to challenge the generalization by asking for an exception.
  17. Ah, mmm,… Yeah, well some people, but… Again, the challenge works – the client recognizes some exceptions. His partial answer again a) contains a noun phrase that fails to carry a referential index, and b) includes the beginning of a disqualifying but phrase.
  18. Now then, whom specifically, don’t you know how to make a good impression on? The changeworker has again been successful in asking the client to challenge his generalization but still has not received a referential index for the noun phrase – s/he requests it again.
  19. …I guess what I have been trying to say is that girls don’t like me. The client responds by altering his statement from I don’t know how to make a good impression on people to women don’t like me. These two SS share two well formedness violations: a) they each contain a noun that carries no referential index [people and women], and b) they each claim that the client is able to know the emotional state of some other human being without presenting a description of how the client knows these things. The client’s SS also contains a deletion associated with the verb say – the person to whom the client is saying what he is saying.
  20. Which girl specifically. The changeworker chooses to request the referential index again.
  21. Most girls I meet. The client responds with a noun phrase that also fails to carry out a referential index – notice the term most, which is identified as one of the special set of words and phrases containing quantifiers that therefore fail to refer. The phrase gives no clear image.
  22. Which girls specifically? The changeworker requests the referential index again.
  23. Well, most girls really,,, but as you said that, I just started to think about this one girl – Janet. The client initially failed to provide the referential index requested [i.e., most girls really] and then provides it – the client identifies the girl in question and names her. Notice that the client’s naming a person when the changeworker requests a referential index clarifies and greatly focuses the client’s model for the client but provides much less for the changeworker. In addition, notice there is a deletion of an argument noun associated with the predicate think [i.e., X thinks Y about Z] – specifically, what the client thought about Janet.
  24. Who is Janet? The changeworker has the referential index but request information about who this person is in relations to the client. It would, for example, make a difference if Janet was the client’s mother, daughter,m wife, lover, sister…. The changeworker ignores the deletion in the client’s last SS.
  25. She’s this girl I met at work. The client supplies some additional information.
  26. Now, how do you know that you didn’t make a good impression on Janet? The changeworker is trying to develop a fully focused picture of the client’s model of the world for him/herself. S/he has succeeded in getting a referential index for an argument noun that originally had no connection with the client’s experience. The changeworker now integrates this material – the argument noun with the referential index: Janet, the girl the client has just met at work – with the client’s original generalization I don’t know how to make a good impression on people becomes I don’t know how to make a good impression on Janet. Notice that this SS is connected with a specific experience that the client has had – generalizations block changes; reconnecting the client’s generalizations with [at least] one of the experiences on which the generalization was based. The changeworker, having integrated this material, begins to question the process of how the client knows that he didn’t make a good impression on Janet – this is a choice that the changeworker had previously – s/he now makes this choice and asks the client to describe how he knows that he didn’t make a good impression on Janet – challenging what appears to be mind reading on the part of the client.
  27. Well, I just know… The client fails to specify the process word, the verb, more completely.
  28. How, specifically, do you know? The changeworker again asks the client how he knows, specifically, that he didn’t make a good impression on Janet.
  29. She just didn’t like me. Again, the client presents a SS in which he claims knowledge of another person’s inner experience without specifying how he gained that knowledge – apparently mind reading.
  30. How, specifically, do you know that Janet didn’t like you? The changeworker continues to challenge the client’s reports of mind reading.
  31. She wasn’t interested in me. Again, the client claims knowledge of another’s inner state.
  32. Interested in what way? Again, the changeworker challenges the mind reading. Notice that there are two general forms the changeworker has available for use in challenging semantically ill formed SS that involve mind reading. Either the form a) how do you know X? where X is the client SS [e.g., she wasn’t interested in you]; or, as the changeworker uses in this case the form b) Verb in what way/manner? Where Verb is the verb from the client’s original SS [e.g., interested]. Both questions request that the client specify how the process occurred – essentially, a request to specify the process word or verb more completely.
  33. She didn’t pay attention to me. For the fourth successive time, the client provides a SS that involves mind reading.
  34. How didn’t she pay attention to you? The clinician again challenges the client’s mind reading.
  35. She didn’t look at me. The client finally provides a SS in response to a request to specify a process that appears to be mind reading, which identifies a situation that is verifiable – doesn’t involve a mind reading claim.
  36. Let me see if I understand this. You know that Janet wasn’t interested in you because she didn’t look at you? The changeworker substitutes the new non mind reading material into a SS that identifies it as the basis for the mind reading claims that the client has been making. Here the changeworker is checking to see whether s/he has understood the client’s model of his experience. S/he requests verification from the client.
  37. That’s right! The client verifies the statement about his model.
  38. Is there any way you could imagine Janet not looking at you and her still being interested in you? The changeworker has offered a generalization and the client has verified it. Now notice the form of that SS (36): X because Y. The changeworker, having had the client verify it, may now challenge this generalization, again asking the client to re-connect his generalization with his experience. The changeworker asks the client whether the connection between the X and Y connected by the relation word because always occurs.
  39. Well … I don’t know… The client waivers.
  40. Do you always look at everyone you are interested in? The changeworker challenges the generalization again, using the same technique – this time shifting the referential indices so that the generalization
    | Janet looks at you
    v You look at everyone
    | Janet interested in you
    v You interested in everyoneI guess …not always. But just because Janet is interested in me doesn’t mean that she likes me. The changeworker’s challenge to the client’s SS succeeds – the client admits that his generalization is faulty. The next SS by the client invites the inference that he thinks Janet doesn’t like him. Notice that again the client is claiming knowledge of another’s inner state.
  41. How, specifically, do you know that she doesn’t like you? The changeworker again challenges the client’s mind reading by asking the client to specify the process more completely.
  42. She doesn’t listen to me. The client presents a new SS, again semantically ill formed [mind reading]. Notice that there is a difference – I can determine whether another is looking at me [note, not seeing me, just looking at me] simply by observing her, but I cannot determine whether another is listening to me by simply observing her [nor can I determine whether she hears me by observing alone].
  43. How, specifically, do you know that she doesn’t listen to you? The changeworker challenges the client’s mind reading SS by asking for a more complete specification of the process.
  44. Well, She doesn’t ever look at me [beginning to get angry]. You know how women are! They never let you know if they notice you. The client retreats to the previous well formed SS with, notice, the addition of a universal quantifier ever. The addition of this quantifier results in a generalization that the changeworker may choose to challenge. Furthermore, the client’s next SS presents several options: a) the client’s assertion You know involves mind reading; b) the noun women carries no referential index; c) the SS does not specify how women are – it simply asserts that the changeworker knows. The process word or verb are is completely unspecified. The client’s next SS fails [at least] two conditions: a) the noun they occurs twice in the SS – it has no referential index, and b) the universal quantifier never identifies a generalization that may be challenged.
  45. Like who, specifically. The changeworker chooses to go after the referential index.
  46. [angry] Like my mother …ah, God damn it! She never was interested in me. The client identifies the missing referential index. The client’s next SS has the same form as the previous SS [31, 36, 38, 41] – this time, however, the pronoun she refers to the client’s mother, not Janet. The SS is semantically ill formed, as before, as the process by which the client has come to know that his mother wasn’t interested in him is not specified.
  47. How do you know that your mother was never interested in you? The changeworker challenges the client’s SS, asking for a more fully specific process description.
  48. Every time I tried to show her that I cared about her, she never noticed it [begins to sob] …why didn’t she notice? The client’s SS includes a) two universal quantifiers [every time and never], thus identifying a generalization that the changeworker may choose to challenge, and b) three process words or verbs that are very incompletely specified [show, care about, notice] as they do not present a clear image to the changeworker, and c) one claim to knowledge of another’s inner perception without specifying the process [notice in she never noticed…].
  49. How, specifically did you try to show her that you cared about her? The changeworker now begins to clarify the image for him/herself by asking for a more fully specified description of the process. S/he chooses to ask first about the client’s actions.
  50. [sobbing softly] Like all the time I used to come home from school and do things for her. This SS contains a) a universal quantifier all the time subject to challenge by the changeworker, and b) a noun argument ‘things’, which has no referential index.
  51. What things, specifically, did you do for her? The changeworker continues to explore the client’s model, specifically attempting to get a clear image of the client’s perception of his actions. S/he selects option b).
  52. Well, I always used to clean up the living room and wash the dishes … And she never noticed … And never said anything. The client’s SS offers the following four options: a) three universal quantifiers [always, never, never], identifying three challengeable generalizations in the client’s model; b) the occurrence of the very incompletely specified verb notice; c) a claim by the client of knowledge of another’s perceptions [noticed]; d) a deletion associated with the verb say [i.e., to whom?]. In addition, notice the way the client first states she never noticed, then pauses and says she never said anything. Two successive SS with the same syntactic form [i.e., noun – quantifier – verb…] separated only by a pause, identify two sentences that, for the speaker, are equivalent or nearly equivalent in meaning. As in this case, such equivalences are very useful in coming to understand the connections between the client’s experience and the way that experience is represented. For example, notice that the first of these two statements is a claim that the client has knowledge of another’s perception while the second is semantically well formed, involving no mind reading. If, in fact, the two statements are equivalences, the second one identifies the experience that is represented by the first [as semantically ill formed SS], or in other words, in the client’s model, the client’s mother’s not saying anything is equivalent to her not noticing.
  53. Ralph, does your mother’s not saying anything to you about what you used to do mean that she never noticed what you had done? The changeworker has chosen to ignore the well formed violations in the client’s SS for the time being and checks to see whether the last two SS are, in fact, equivalences. Such generalizations are extremely important in coming to understand the client’s experience.
  54. Yeah, since she never noticed what I did for her, she wasn’t interested in me. The client verifies the equivalence and supplies a third SS that, since it is substituted for one of the other two [specifically, she didn’t say anything] is also equivalent. This third SS is: she wasn’t interested in me. The client’s SS also includes a universal quantifier never.
  55. Let me get this straight: you’re saying that your mother’s not noticing what you did for her means that she wasn’t interested in you. The changeworker decides to verify the equivalences of these two SS.
  56. Yes, that’s right. The client again verifies the generalizations involved.
  57. Ralph, have you ever had the experience of someone’s doing something for you and you didn’t notice until after they pointed it out to you? The changeworker decides to challenge the client’s generalizations – here s/he chooses to begin the challenge by shifting the referential indices and, therefore, the generalizations are transformed:
    | you [the client]
    v someone/they
    | your [client’s] mother
    v you [the client]
    | your mother didn’t notice
    v you didn’t notice and
    | you do something for your mother
    v someone does something for youNotice that the effect of shifting the referential indices in this way is to place the client in the position of the active member of his original generalization – his mother, the person he is criticizing.

    Well …yeah, I remember one time… The client at first hesitates, then admits that he has been in the position that he described his mother occupying in his original generalization.

  58. Did you not notice what they had done for you because you weren’t interested in them? The clinician, having received the admission by the client that he has had this experience, interrupts him and asks if the equivalences
    X not notice = X not interested when he is the one who did not notice [i.e., X = the client]. Thereby challenging the generalization.
  59. No, I just didn’t notice… The client denies this equivalence when he is the person not noticing.
  60. Ralph, can you imagine that your mother just didn’t notice when…. The changeworker having received a denial of the equivalence
    X not notice = X not interested
    when X = the client, now reverses the referential indices that s/he had shifted earlier. This results in the client’s original equivalence statement: namely, that
    X not noticing = X not interested where X = client’s mother.
  61. No, it’s not the same. The client recognizes the changeworker’s challenge before he completes it, interrupts him and denies that the two cases [where X = the client and where X = the client’s mother] are the same. The SS he uses to deny this fails the well formed conditions: a) the pronoun it has no referential index, and b) the second portion of the comparative has been deleted.
  62. It? What’s not the same as what? The changeworker asks for both the referential index and the missing portion of the comparative.
  63. My not noticing is not the same as my mother not noticing – see, she NEVER noticed what I did for her. The client fills in the information requested. He then goes on to describe the differences between the two cases, namely, that his mother never noticed. This universal quantifier identifies a challengeable generalization.
  64. Never? The counselor challenges the universal quantifier.
  65. Well, not very many times. The client admits that there were exceptions, thereby coming closer to re-connecting his generalization with his experience.
  66. Ralph, tell me about one specific time when your mother noticed what you had done for her. The changeworker attempts to get the client to focus the model by asking for a specific exception to the client’s initial generalization.
  67. Well, once when …yeah [angrily], I even had to tell her. One of the argument nouns associated with the verb ‘tell’ has been deleted [tell what?].
  68. Had to tell her what? The changeworker asks for the missing piece of the SS.
  69. That I had done this thing for her. If she had been interested enough she would have noticed it herself. The first SS includes a noun argument [this thing] and lacks a referential index. The client second SS includes a deletion associated with the word enough [enough for what], and a pronoun it without a referential index.
  70. Interested enough for what? The changeworker asks for the deleted material.
  71. Interested enough to show that she loved me. The client supplies the deleted material requested. This new SS includes a) a violation of the semantic well formedness condition of mind reading – the client claims to know whether his mother loved him without specifying how he got that information; b) the verb love is very incompletely specified.
  72. Ralph, how did you show your mother that you loved her? The changeworker is attempting to gain a clear image of the way that the client and his mother communicated their feelings of caring for one another. He has been informed by the client that his mother wasn’t interested enough to show him that she loved him. The changeworker decides to employ the referential index shift technique. Specifically, s/he makes the substitution
    | your mother | you [the client]
    v you [the client] v your mother
    Thus, the portion of the client’s last SS is transformed
    your mother show you that she loved you
    you show your mother that you loved herHaving made this shift in referential indices, the changeworker asks the client to focus on the image, asking for a more completely specified verb.
  73. By doing things for her. The client presents a further specification of the verb, setting up the equivalence
    X loves Y = X do things for Y
    where X – the client and Y = the client’s mother
  74. Ralph, did your mother ever do things for you? The changeworker now shifts the referential indices back to the original SS (73), and presents one half of the equivalence for the client’s verification.
  75. Yes, but she never really …never let me know for sure. The client agrees that his mother did do things for him, but he denies the equivalence holds. The client’s new SS presents the changeworker with the following options: a) ask for the differences in the two situations that makes the equivalence fail to hold [identified by the cue word but; b) there are two occurrences of the challengeable universal quantifier never; c) a deletion associated with the verb know [i.e., know what?]; d) a very incompletely specified verb know.
  76. She never let me know for sure if she really loved me [still sobbing softly]. The client supplies the missing noun argument. His SS includes a) a challengeable universal quantifier never; b) two very incompletely specified verbs know and love.
  77. Did you ever let her know for sure that you loved her? The changeworker again chooses to use the referential index shift technique. The substitution that s/he uses is the same as the one s/he employed in (74).
  78. She knew… The client’s SS contains a) a deletion associated with the verb know; b) a violation of the semantic well formedness condition, mind reading; c) a very incompletely specified verb know.
  79. How do you know she knew? The changeworker chooses option c).
  80. I…I…I guess I don’t. The client wavers and then admits that he is not able to specify the process by which his mother was supposed to have been able to know that he loved her. This is equivalent to stating that the process in his model is not specified.
  81. What prevents you from telling her? The client has been unable to identify the process by which his mother was supposed to have been able to know that he loved her. The changeworker immediately moves to the technique of asking what is it that prevents the client from using the most direct way he knew of communicating his feelings of love to his mother.
  82. Ummm..umm, maybe nothing. The client wavers, considering the obvious. His SS includes a very qualified maybe and the universal quantifier nothing.
  83. MAYBE? The counselor works to get more of a commitment from the client.
  84. I guess I could. The client admits the possibility.
  85. Ralph, do you guess you could also tell Janet how you feel about her? The changeworker now shifts referential indices again
    | client’s mother
    v Janet
  86. That’s a little scary? The client hesitates; his SS contains a) a noun argument without a referential index that; b) a deletion of the noun argument associated with the verb scary [i.e., scary to whom?].
  87. What is a little scary? The clinician asks for the missing referential index.
  88. That I could just go up and tell her. The client supplies the missing index and expresses doubt about the communication commitment that the changeworker is asking for.
  89. What stops you? The changeworker uses the technique of asking for the generalization, the outcome of the client’s action that he finds scary.
  90. Nothing, that’s what is scary. [laughing] The client recognizes that he has that choice.

The changeworker at this point moves into non meta model techniques, setting up a contract with Ralph to ensure that the new possibilities that he had discovered would be acted upon.