Learning from transcripts

A method of profession development
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Presented at The Developing Group 3 Dec 2016

There are two main ways we use transcripts as a professional development tool:

  • To model experienced facilitators
  • To provide supervisory and developmental feedback to self and others

Modelling David Grove

A good chunk of our modelling of David Grove came from studying transcripts of his sessions. We would spend hours reviewing them for the way clients’ metaphor landscapes came into being and then transformed in wondrous ways. We would try to figure out David’s purpose for each question, how the client responded and then what David did with that information.

We soon realised that the relationship between the responses of client and facilitator was like a dance where the steps were being improvised at every turn. Looked at step-by-step there sometime seemed little rhyme or reason to the direction of the session. Looked at as a whole there was an uncanny logic to the meanderings.

Further reading about how to review transcripts is available at:


To develop ourselves, we recorded sessions where we were the therapists and reviewed them in a similar way, although with a more evaluative eye. This is a form of self-supervision and peervision. When supervising other therapists and coaches we were frustrated by the traditional forms of supervision since some of the most important information was not available: the exact words used by the client and facilitator and how these changed over the session. This limitation is even more apparent when the facilitator is employing a clean approach. To get round this limitation we asked to see transcripts and used them as the basis of the supervision.  (Note, even a short segment of a session can provide a wealth of information.

When working with a transcript as supervisors we focus on:

  • What the client presents in relation to the facilitator interventions
  • What the facilitator does in relation to the client’s responses
  • Patterns in client responses
  • Patterns in facilitator interventions.

Sample transcripts

To illustrate our method we have provided two transcripts which can be downloaded from the links below. The first transcript was provided by a coach relatively new to Symbolic Modelling and Clean Language who requested supervisory feedback. The second is a session Penny conducted, which James has annotated. (In both cases the client gave permission for the transcript to be made available.)

Transcript 1: “I suck at leadership” – Beginner clean coach.

Transcript 2: “I am blue sky” – Experienced clean facilitator.

We recommend you print off the transcripts and first read them with our comments covered up so you get a sense of the flow of the session and form your own opinions. Then reread the sessions making use of our comments.

You can use the transcripts to:

Enhance your skills a facilitator of Symbolic Modelling and Clean Language

and /or

Learn about our method of reviewing transcripts and the way we provid developmental feedback.

Our comments in Transcript 1 are of a supervisory nature. The detailed comments are based on five frames that point out:

1. The coach’s good practice.

2. What the client seems to be getting out of the session (especially apparent shifts).

3. What the coach did that might be unconscious competence.

4. Salient client information the coach might have missed:
– Was not aware of at all
– Was not aware of the significance
– Seemed aware of but did not utilise.

5.  What the coach could have done that would have been at a higher skill level.

In addition, we provide a summary and recommendations for development.

Afterwards, we reviewed our comments in relation to the five frames. The analysis attached to the transcript shows which comments are related to which frame and the total number of comments per frame.

More on supervision by transcript

Over the years we have reviewed hundreds of transcripts, and we have evolved how we review them and the kinds of supervisory comments we make. We prefer the facilitator to provide their own reflections before we add ours. This enables us to take into account:

a. What the client presents in relation to the facilitator intervention

b. What facilitator does in relation to b.

+ Patterns in (a)
+ Patterns in (b)

c. Facilitator reflections, overall learnings and conclusions

+ Patterns in (c)

d. Supervisor comments

+ Patterns in (d)

Supervision by transcript has some advantages over other methods of supervision:

  • Feedback is based on what is actually said in the session.
  • Transcripts are quicker to review than original recordings and much easier to annotate.
  • Facilitators can provide their own commentary (self-supervision) on the session before we comment.
  • Our comments take into account the client’s process, the facilitator’s interventions and (when provided) the facilitator’s commentary.
  • It is easy to provide clear evidence of client and facilitator patterns emerging over the session.
  • The completed transcripts and our comments can be reviewed several times.
  • Recommendations for next developmental steps can be clearly defined.
  • Development of the facilitator over several sessions can be precisely monitored.

As ever, there are some potential downsides:

  • Client permission and confidentially needs to be very carefully managed.
  • Transcripts take time to produce (although cheap transcription services are available these days).
  • Most nonverbal information is missing.
  • Facilitator issues are not discussed in any great depth (a different kind of supervision is required for these).
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