Needle insertion is a widely used medical procedure in various minimally invasive surgeries. The estimation of the coupled needle deflection and tissue deformation during the needle insertion procedure is crucial to the success of the surgery. In this work, a novel needle deflection–tissue deformation coupling model is proposed for flexible needle insertion into soft tissue. Based on the assumption that the needle deflection is small comparing to the length of the insertion, the needle–tissue interaction model is developed based on the modified local constraint method, where the interactive forces between the needle and the tissue are balanced through integration of needle–force and tissue–force relationships. A testbed is constructed and the experiments are designed to validate the proposed method using artificial phantom with markers. Based on the experimental analysis, the cutting and friction forces are separated from the force–time curves and used as the inputs into the proposed model. The trajectories of the markers inside the soft tissue are recorded by a CCD camera to compare with the simulation trajectories. The errors between the experimental and simulation trajectories are less than 0.8 mm. The results demonstrate that the proposed method is effective to model the needle insertion procedure.