Hi, I’m Sharon!

I’m the founder and CEO of The Clean Language Institute.

After having trained Clean Language and Symbolic Modeling for over eight years, I created the Clean Language Institute in 2014 to better serve the global community of Clean learners.

The Institute

I wanted a place where people could come and, if they like, become Picassos of Clean.

The thing about Picasso that most people don’t realize is not that he was a master of creativity, which he was, but more so that he had the fundamentals of painting down so pat that it allowed him to create his art with intention and flexibility.

You may not be a fan of Picasso’s later work and what can be said about it is that it is uniquely his – his vision, his taste, his expression of the world he saw and experienced. This idiosyncratic view is what makes his art unique and valuable. 

Working with people is not just a psychological or linguistic science, it is also an art. People are complex and the processes with which we work with them should not add to that complexity, but let people see themselves with clarity and compassion.

Working Cleanly is about bringing each client’s unique vision, desired outcomes, tastes, and experiences to the forefront of their own thinking and knowledge space. This is done through development of idiosyncratic (personal) metaphors of experience and what we call ‘self-modeling’.

I love teaching Clean and sharing it with others and I am constantly amazed at the results that individuals and groups gain from the use of this methodology.

The institute was created to bring greater access to Clean methodologies and principles in the US and other global communities interested in bringing this work to others.

We have worked with individuals from the fields of therapy, coaching, teaching, small business owners, interviewers and corporate leadership.

These are just some of the companies we’ve worked with

Could yours be next?

Our Logo

The Logo for the Clean Language Institute is an Ensō 

In Zen, an Ensō is a circle that is hand-drawn in one or two uninhibited brushstrokes to express a moment when the mind is free to let the body create. 

It symbolizes strength, elegance, the universe, enlightenment and mu (the void) and is a metaphor for a disciplined-creative practice.

An Ensō may be open or closed. I have used the former. The circle is incomplete, allowing for movement and development.

To me, the Ensō represents both simplicity and mastery.

Although the Ensō is one of the easiest strokes in Japanese calligraphy it is one of the most difficult to master. Deceptively simple in its ease of line often those who study calligraphy spend their entire lives mastering this simple circle created by one or, at the most, two stokes.

Just like Clean Language questions. They are simple questions and easy to learn often memorized in a day or less. But mastering this methodology is a life time effort.

And as with the Ensō, you do not need to be a master to create something worthwhile. One can iterate learning from each client, each context, each situation becoming more fluid in ones modeling and application.

The Ensō is intended to represent human creativity and a learning cycle from model to actualize to iterate and around again. Each stroke or iteration being an act of art and inner creativity.

Why Clean Language & Symbolic Modeling?

What Is Clean Language?

Clean Language is a way of asking questions that gives your clients full lateral to answer as they like. It is respectful of their models of the world. It is designed to keep your stuff out and their stuff in, and help you obtain more authentic and accurate information.

It is a skill of using simple questions, cleaned of as much inference and presupposition as possible, to build mental models of another persons experience.

It is used in coaching, therapy, business, interviewing and more recently as a research methodology in higher education.

Clean Language helps clients to discover and develop idiosyncratic symbols and metaphors without any content introduced by the therapist/coach/interviewer.

What Is Symbolic Modeling?

Symbolic Modeling is a facilitation methodology that uses symbols, metaphors, and modeling to create the conditions for positive change.

In Symbolic Modeling (SyM), therapists, coaches, and teachers use Clean Language questions to help people identify their symbolic mind-body experience and to create an internalmodelthey can use for change, to sustain or to build.

What Is Clean Facilitation?

Lets look as the general understanding of what facilitation is first.

Facilitation is an act of assisting or making easier the progress or improvement of something. It is a “content neutral” way of working with others to assist an individual or group to think deeply about their assumptions, beliefs, values, and systemic processes and context (Kraner:2007:xv)

Facilitation is different from coaching and therapy.

Q: What is Coaching? 

Coaching is designed to train, instruct or hold accountability, most often with a focus on the present and/or future. It is different from therapy.  

Q: What is Therapy? 

Therapy is usually applied in a diagnostic manner and intended to treat, relieve or heal a disorder, most often with a focus on how one was affected by the past.

Clean Facilitation uses clean questions to bring attention to the resources and skills that your client or group express towards an end that is by their design, or what we call in Symbolic Modeling, a desired outcome. Clean Facilitation is not designed as a change methodology, but a way of helping your clients create the most generative conditions for change to occur.

The lovely thing about Clean Facilitation is it is a neutral methodology that blends well for coaching, therapeutic, and management frames. It is at its essence a stance of open, neutral curiosity with the added benefit helping the coach/therapist keep their assumptions, presuppositions and suggestions to themselves. Not through good intentions alone, but through the skillful use of Clean Questions and a modeling methodology devised over a 25 year period.

Clean Language and Symbolic Modeling are radical and extremely effective methodologies that can help all kinda of people to achieve what they really want in life and work.

The Clean Language Institute is one of the only providers in the United States that delivers core and advanced clean language training, including an internationally recognized certification as a Clean Facilitator Level 1, through our training courses.

We train therapists, coaches, business and sales professionals, mediators, teachers, counselors, and more.

We are developing a whole new way of delivering training in Clean Language and Symbolic Modeling.

A way that will help you to learn it, to live it and, if you would like, to teach it.  

A way that will give you a community of learners that will help you apply more of what you learn to what you do and love.

A way that, when applied consistently, will be the game-changer youve been looking for.

A Little About Me

I am a language enthusiast – words and semantics – primarily the subjective understanding of a words meaning and influence have intrigued me since I was young. I have also been very curious about what makes people tickand noticed early on that I ticked a bit differently to others. One of the best discoveries in my early 20s was that EVERYONE ticked a bit differently and there was no “normal” – only squished together broadly generalized average behaviors and patterns. I love learning about what makes people tick and what brings meaning to their lives.

I admire people who somehow know just want they want and what they would like to do with their lives. With that said, I am also an an enthusiast for mini-lives. You know, a bit like rub-a-dub-dub….a butcher, a baker, and candlestick maker.

At the center, all I have done has been towards a heart for service.

CV In Shorthand
  • Certified Clean Language Facilitator
  • Clean Language Trainer
  • Clean Interviewing Trainer
  • Clean Language Assessor
  • Degree in Psychology with emphasis in Archetypal Dynamics
  • Diploma in Spiritual direction
  • Certified hypnotherapist
  • Certified MBTI Practitioner
  • NLP Master Practitioner
Interesting Tid-bits
  • Was a lay-midwife and provided wilderness first aid in Montana
  • Sang professionally in LA culminating with a showcase at the Roxy
  • Have summited a 6000 meter peak in India
  • Bumped foreheads with the Dalai Lama in London
  • Studied Spiritual Direction, NLP, Hypnotherapy & Archetypal Psychology
  • Taught Reiki for 3 years with Sister Mary Mebane
  • Mentored 6 years in Spiritual Journey work with Hua Anwa
  • Worked in the Nuclear Industry for 13 years
  • Discovered Clean Language in 2005 and have been facilitating and teaching ever since
  • Have a black belt in Isshun-ryū karate
  • Was a hunting guide in the Gallatine National Forest in Montana
  • Play four instruments, not well, and I do have fun
How I Found Clean

I received a degree in Psychology in 2004. During the time I was getting my degree I was mentored by a Jungian Analyst. It was during this time I had an inkling of the value of symbolic experience that was idiosyncratic rather than archetype in nature. I also spent 10 years under the tutelage of a local Matis Shaman and did journey work with clients. This entailed journeying to a world where I would bring back symbolic ‘gifts’ for the client. These gifts were given to the client wholly and left to their interpretation and experience to incorporate into their new lives and vision. Little did I know that these experiences were setting my up to find Clean.

In 2005 I began working for a weight loss company. While attending a mandatory meeting I was introduced to 5 questions. I knew there was something behind the questions, something deeper and more valuable than simps using them with the weight loss participants for 1 minute prior to our meeting times. On my arrival home I began a search and what I found was Clean Language and an entire community that thought like me.

This introduction to Clean Language and Symbolic Modeling changed the trajectory of my life. I became a global fan traveling to and from the UK and France for over two years for training and certification.

Clean Language and Symbolic Modeling epitomized all that I was looking for in a client work methodology. Deeply respectful, based on what the client wanted to have happen, use of idiosyncratic metaphor and symbolic language and helping clients and facilitators get what they want while being non-invasive and non-diagnostic in nature.

Although Clean has been a major moving force in my life for over 12 years, it too has had its mini-iterations. First a learner, then a trainer, then an assessor, and finally, after years of working with the methodology, a life based, as best I can, on its principles. Each training is unique to its participants and each person unique in their style of facilitation and application. To me, this is exciting and keeps me motivated to continue teaching and sharing Clean models, methodologies and principles with others!

With Whom I Have Worked

I was certified as the first Clean Language Facilitator by Penny Tompkins & James Lawley in July 2007 while at a retreat in France, one month prior to the official first certification program run by Wendy Sullivan in Oxford, UK. At the time I was learning there were no trainings in the US.

From 2008 to 2013 I had the pleasure of working with Marian Way of Clean Learning. We worked in parallel supporting each others growth and development in bringing this methodology into greater global awareness.

I have worked with Jennifer DeGaunt, Phil Swallow, Marian Way, Annemeik VanHeldson, Gina Campbell, as well as being mentored, supported by and co-training with Penny Tompkins and James Lawley.

In 2012 I had the joy of running the first Clean Facilitator program in Japan where over 10 people were certified as Clean Facilitators Level 1. Several of those students have gone on to bring Clean Language to their industries and even begin teaching it to others. I have worked in Germany from keynote speeches to Symbolic Modeling training, as well as evening talks with local ICF chapter meetings. For over 5 years I have brought Clean Language to the HPRCT (Human Performance Root Cause Trending conference) in both an introductory capacity and providing 1/2 and full day trainings in clean language fundamentals and Clean Interviewing.

Currently Penny Tompkins, James Lawley, and I run a yearly learning intensive called Clean Convergence. Gina Campbell, of Mining Your Metaphors, joins us as well. This learning conference epitomizes through shared experience, participant support and combined wisdom, what I would like to have happen with Clean Language and the global clean community.

Our Enthusiastic Clean Players

James Lawley

James Lawley

SyM Co-Creator

Super cool dude with a great British accent. Also created, along with Penny Tompkins, Symbolic Modeling. Even co-wrote a book about metaphors – totally worth a read – called Metaphors In Mind.
Penny Tompkins

Penny Tompkins

SyM Co-Creator

Nifty little native Texan who has spent more than half her life in Great Britain. Sharp as a tack, she created (along with James Lawley) The Developing Company which is dedicated to all things Clean.
James Ramirez

James Ramirez

Executive Assistant

Confidently provides assistance to founder, Sharon Small, during annual conferences and throughout the year. Smiles a lot. 🙂
I want to make this easy for you. In ANY type of work or in your own life, discover the power of using Clean Language in your inquiries. You will learn how to keep your stuff out while gathering their stuff in.

Sharon Small

Founder & CEO

Sharon is an independent researcher and internationally recognized Clean Language trainer, assessor and owner of the Clean Language Institute in California. Her love of innovation, creative solutions and diligence in learning makes her a perfect travel companion on your journey to improve your work, your life and your sense of Self. Sharon has been training others in Clean Language and Symbolic Modeling since 2008.

She has written various blogs about the use of Clean Language in highly volatile situations and has trained hundreds of people in the use of Clean Language questions and Symbolic Modeling for therapy, clean coaching, interviewing, management, and auditing.

Sharon believes that human language is one of the most fascinating topics that exists as a key to understanding humans: human knowledge, understanding, and structure of reality, all at the same time. She loves teaching and is well-known among the international Clean Language community.

Clean Language Institute
The Clean Language Institute came from my work as a Clean Language facilitator. I love teaching Clean and sharing it with others and I am constantly amazed at the results that individuals and groups gain from the use of this methodology.

The institute was created to bring greater access to Clean methodologies and principles in the US and other global communities interested in bringing this work to others in fields as divers as therapy, coaching, teaching, management and interviewing.

Sharon's "Why Clean"

With a heart for service, a bit of a stubborn nature, not liking to be told what to do, and desire to keep my stuff out of other peoples stuff, I found my home in Clean.

  • Respectful models

  • Idiosyncratic each person/group/business is modeling towards what they want to have happen in just the way it needs to be for them.

  • Life changing on an identity level

  • Change beliefs without having to label or conceptualize them as such

  • Work with complexity of constraints and personal binds.

Why I Do What I Do

I love to teach coaches, therapists, and managers to listen differently and ask questions based on the other persons model of the world.

I love to help them navigate the complexities of constraints you know those things that are and need to be reworked with. It can be family, work processes and procedures, mutual needs, physical or even energy limitations and more complex binding problems those kinds of problems that dont seem to have a way out, over or throughall without giving suggestion or overlaying their stuff on the other persons stuff.

Initially, learning this methodology may seem a bit slower to learn than ‘cookie-cutter’ models. And as you gain skill you will become a skillful modeler. This means that you will have the capacity to follow what is happening with your clients, co-workers or others you work with in real time and facilitate them to become better self-modelers.

This gives them greater capacity to move towards what they want to have happen and create solutions and strategies that work over the long term.

I love to teach face-to-face in small group format. My trainings are highly experiential, alive meaning we do not use composites or lofty examples, but use one another and what is alive for us in the room they encompass a larger methodology that can be adapted, as needed, to different contexts.

Got Clean?

Get started now.

Many reasons your life and work will be better with Clean Language.

You will become a better listener.

You will have the skills to work with your team, clients or family members in a way that is respectful and gains positive responses.

You will have fun as you begin to hear the symbolic language around you.

You will have greater capacity to model both what is working and what is not, letting you make change where it is most meaningful in your work/life.

You will be joining a small group of Global life long learners.

You will simplify your thinking and work without ‘dumbing” it down.

You will have greater capacity to work with complex issues.

You be a better thinker and increase your current reasoning skills.

You will become better at staying emotionally sane, even when faced with challenges.

You can use it to heat up your sex life, model your children, get along better with co-workers, better understand what your superiors want, model what needs to happen for personal and work desired outcomes.

And by bringing Clean to your life, you will find out more about what you would like to have happen to build a life that brings you success (your way), contentment (your way) and Joy (just the way you like it).

There are many reasons your life and work will be better with Clean Language

(besides it being downright fun).

You will become a better listener.

You will have the skills to work with your team, clients or family members in a way that is respectful and gains positive responses.

You will have fun as you begin to hear the symbolic language around you.

You will have greater capacity to model both what is working and what is not, letting you make change where it is most meaningful in your work/life.

You will be joining a small group of Global life long learners.

You will simplify your thinking and work without ‘dumbing” it down.

You will have greater capacity to work with complex issues.

You be a better thinker and increase your current reasoning skills.

You will become better at staying emotionally sane, even when faced with challenges.

You can use it to heat up your sex life, model your children, get along better with co-workers, better understand what your superiors want, model what needs to happen for personal and work desired outcomes.

And by bringing Clean to your life, you will find out more about what you would like to have happen to build a life that brings you success (your way), contentment (your way) and joy (just the way you like it).