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DBM® Psychology, Change and Transitions

All of us have a viewpoint on the world around us. We create this throughout our lives. The shared reality of our culture can obscure the uniqueness of each individual.

We can say that each of us creates our own model of the world. By a model we mean “an organised dynamic representation of our world”. We do not respond to the world as it is. We respond to how we have made sense of it, how it is “meaningful” to us. We then respond to new things based on what we already “know”. Instincts build in responses for animals but human beings need to learn how to respond in our cultures, organisations, countries and families. This learning, the building of a model, is a process of Modelling.

Psychology is generally accepted as being “the scientific study of the human mind and its functions, esp. those affecting behaviour in a given context” (Oxford Dictionary).


psychology // n. (pl. -ies)
1. the scientific study of the human mind and its functions, esp. those affecting behaviour in a given context.
2. a treatise on or theory of this.
3 a. the mental characteristics or attitude of a person or group. b. the mental factors governing a situation or activity (the psychology of crime).
psychologist n.
psychologize v.tr. & intr. (also -ise).
[modern Latin psychologia (as psycho-, -logy)]
Oxford English Dictionary

Over the last three thousand years there have been many documented ideas, thoughts and theories about the human mind. Many of our current thinking is still influenced through the developments of the early work of Aristotle and Plato and how it influenced philosophy from the middle ages through to today.

Psychology is comparatively new as a separate science. With approximately 150 years of existence it has an impressive range of theories and models. These have been based on a number of different epistemologies. They have also set out to explain different aspects of mind and behaviour. As a result there is no single theory or model that draws them together in a similar way to Physics, Chemistry and other so-called hard sciences.

The unique difficulties with the subject matter of psychology (eg mind not being externally objectively verifiable) has led to limitations in the scope of psychological investigations. Parts or components of psychology have been isolated for study, for example external behaviour and cognitive tasks with external evidence. These have not been easily re-connected to psychology in the fullest sense. Some of these simplifying solutions while making short-term experimentation easier has reduced the need to construct a more precise technology for investigating the complexities of the human mind and behaviour.

These limitations become more apparent in the applied areas of psychology where much of the laboratory work can seem irrelevant through to simplistic nonsense.

Outside of the laboratory a wide range of psychological theories have been created by practitioners including Freud, Jung, Adler, Horney, Fromm, O’Sullivan and Perls. These theories have led to varying degrees of research while independently influencing the practice of psychotherapy and education.

Two contrasting demands underlie the different groups involved. These are “Truthfulness” and “Usefulness.”

Interestingly when NASA sends spacecraft in near Earth orbits they use equations from Newton’s theory rather than the accepted “truthful” theory of Einstien. There reason for this is that it is more “useful” because of its simpler functioning over (relatively) short distances. They then make corrections for the “mistakes” that they know they are making. This is very different form using Newton’s equations as the “truth”.

In practice, many professional use theories, models and techniques without believing them to be true. Many researchers also do research without believing it to be true (or even useful).

If we take a developmental approach then these two issues can be balanced and form the basis for a committed approach to psychology without the traps of dogma and irrelevance. To do this we need to investigate and develop our understanding of our practice, our methodology and epistemology. These may be informal or formal. They will be there in all our practice.

As individuals we also build understandings of the world and think and behave on the basis of these understandings. We build and use models; our clients build and use models. As professional we are more likely to build formal models (including theories) to extend our informal or “naturalistic” modelling.

Both informal understanding and the formal understanding of science are models (and theories) built through the process of modelling. No matter what the epistemology underlying a theory both the epistemology and the theory require to be created in the first place.

Developmental Behavioural Modelling DBM® is the formal studying of the complete range of modelling. This includes the structure and function of models, how models are formally and informally constructed and applied.

What is DBM®?

Developmental Behavioural Modelling DBM® is a new field that offers a unique set of skills. The uniqueness lies in that it operates at a deeper level than the usual techniques and ready-made answers and solutions. DBM®is a methodology not a fixed method. It offers a set of behavioural modelling skills to apply in any situation. DBM ® modelling skills are used to identify the specific needs of the situation and to create answers that fit the particular circumstances rather than applying a pre-packaged solution. This makes DBM® a very practical approach. It also means that there is a greater need for skills and appropriate models.

Over fifteen years of development and practical applications in Social Services, Education, psychotherapy and Business have gone into the development of DBM®. John McWhirter, the developer and Master Trainer of NLP, has drawn upon the most effective approaches in therapy, education and business together with skills and approaches of Neuro-linguistic Programming, Ericksonian hypnotherapy, Gestalt therapy, General Semantics, all within a framework developed from the work of Gregory Bateson, Cybernetics and Systems theory. The result is a constantly developing field that works with the total situation applies modelling technology through a systems methodology and the developmental modelling to ‘re-model’ the situation.

Developmental Behavioural Modelling is a revolutionary approach to understanding human behaviour and learning. One of the achievements of this modelling was the creation of a methodology for NLP – an explanation of how NLP works. By integrating his developments of NLP with Systems Theory, Cybernetics and the work of Gregory Bateson, he has been developing a model that explains why change occurs.

Initially DBM® was used to improve the quality and effectiveness of Sensory Systems’ NLP training. It has been further developed through application in the fields of personal development, therapy, education, and business consultancy.

Art and Science

Art and Science are two of the main areas of human creativity. They are often perceived as very separate; sometimes considered opposites or non-compatible. Unfortunately this can be quite a limiting way to consider them. Instead if we integrate the artistic and the scientific it is possible to gain considerably more than the sum of the parts.

The great benefit of modelling is to identify the best in Art and Science and how best to combine them in all areas of human activity. In this workshop we will be exploring the integration of Art and Science in relation to effective coaching and supervising.

Assisted change

Our culture, education and personal experience are the basis of our models. We cannot learn everything ourselves o we depend on being assisted by others.
There are many ways that we can be assisted by others and give others assistance. These include teaching, training, therapy, counselling, advising and coaching. In DBM® these are all part of a holistic consultancy model.


Every day we experience changes. Not all of the changes are major life changes. We change clothes, we change location from home to work, we digest food, we fall asleep and we awaken. Other changes are more noticeable, relationship changes, career changes, moving home. All of these changes are part of the natural process of life and life can be more enjoyable and easier when we increase our skill in planning and achieving them.

Some transitions we notice and other transitions we fail to notice.

Every minute of everyday we are experience changes. Our bodies are changing; the world around us is changing. These changes are examples of transitions and are often so gradual that we fail to notice them as they are happening.

Some of the time we experience sudden specific changes; changes in school, home, job, friends, relationships. Sometimes the suddenness of these changes can make it appear that they have come from nowhere when in fact they are also the result of transitions.

Unsuccessful Transitions

Ideally the results of major life transitions are joy, happiness, fulfilment, feelings of success. Unfortunately not all our transitions result in success. Sometimes the happiness or the success doesn’t arrive. Sometimes it does but without the intensity we expected. Sometimes we don’t quite complete the transition; we move home or change job but still feel more connected to the old one. Sometimes we find it difficult to move on; from “taking our work worries home” through to the major issues of retirement and bereavement. Again understanding how transitions work in detail enables us to resolve these major transitional problems and increase the quality of our lives.

Traditional Modelling of Change

While it is intellectually easy to accept that the world is a continuous process, in practice we often break up the world into discontinuous steps. The traditional way to do this is through causes and effects. Life changes are then explained and understood as a sequence of isolated causes and effects.

Causal modelling gives us an explanation and a basis for doing things in the world. It does not, however, describe exactly how a cause leads to and effect. For the mechanical world this may not be a big problem. For the world of human communication and relationships it is not so easy to identify specific causes and effects. Saying hello the same way to two different people can get two entirely different responses. This means that we cannot guarantee that the so called “cause” will actually lead to a specific “effect”.

Even when events go as planned we do not know how they have done so. And so when they don’t go as planned we do not know what to do differently.

Causal modelling is also very poor at describing continuous movement. Many of the changes we make in life are designed not to make changes in things but to maintain them; our eating, washing, tidying through to maintaining relationships are continuous processes.

DBM® Modelling of Change and Transitions

To fully understand and appreciate the nature of the transitions made in all life changes we require a model of change that matches the continuity and complexity of the real world. The DBM® Transitional Modelling model is designed for this.

John McWhirter has over twenty five years experience in working with change and transitions. He is the creator of Developmental Behavioural Modelling (DBM®).

In this workshop participants will learn a number of DBM® models and tools that will enable them to work simply with simple transitions through to great detail and subtlety with complex transitions.

The DBM® Transitional Modelling model helps us to distinguish three levels of transition. The first is continuous change including our maintenance changes. We can identify and measure these as examples of “transit”. For example, we are in transit as we sit on a train. We are in a process of change but may not realise it. The second level is when we change how we are moving through the world. We can identify and measure these as “Transfer” changes, for example changing from one train to another. The third is when we change the type of thing we are doing and is called a “transfom” change. For example after travelling to work we arrive and make the transformation from travelling to being at work.

Through this transitional model we can identify and measure changes that are impossible with causal modelling. Together with other DBM® modelling tools and skills we can work much more effectively with the whole range of life transitions.

DBM® and Effective Therapy

DBM® offers a unique set of skills for therapy. The uniqueness lies in that it operates at a deeper level than the usual techniques and ready-made answers and solutions. DBM® is a methodology not a fixed method. It offers a set of behavioural modelling skills to apply in any situation. DBM® modelling skills are used to identify the specific needs of the situation and to create answers that fit the particular circumstances rather than applying a pre-packaged solution. This makes DBM® a very practical approach. It also means that there is a greater need for skills and appropriate models.

DBM® can be used for the complete range of interventions in any therapeutic or organisation change process.
DBM® and Effective Personal and Professional Development

DBM® is also an excellent set of skills for personal and professional development.

DBM® can be used with all other types of personal and professional development technologies. It can also be used to model them, identifying how they work and how to improve how they work.

The most effective use of DBM® is as a complete approach to personal and professional change.