What is NLP?

There are many schools of psychotherapy, counselling and hypnotherapy. NLP is very different to most of these, both in theory and practice. Though it is often compared to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, with which it has some similarities, NLP is a much richer and more powerful model of personal change. Dr Richard Bandler, the co-creator of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, defines it as “the study of the structure of subjective experience and what can be calculated from it”. It is a model of how the mind (neurology) and language (linguistics) interact to create stable patterns of behaviour (programming) and how to identify these patterns and change them.

Consider the thousands of thoughts that you think in a single day. Most of them you hardly notice, until you think them again… and again… and again. These thoughts run habitually, or unconsciously: an endless stream of mental chatter, imagery and feelings. This process might be thought of as a form of self-hypnosis that we all practice. People rarely stop and examine the content of their continual thought processes, let alone change it.

Yet these thoughts define your world. They create and sustain your beliefs and attitudes, even your perceptions. They shape your behaviour, how you interact with the world around you, and ultimately the results that you get out of life.

How it works

NLP is the study of these patterns of thought and feeling and it has generated an arsenal of techniques and approaches for making rapid changes in those patterns to generate more useful behaviours and states of mind. Most psychotherapies and much hypnotherapy are ‘insight therapies’. They depend upon the client having insights – verbal understanding – of why they think and act the way they do, to unlock their ability to change. Whilst it can be comforting to understand oneself and help one to cope with problems, there is very little evidence that this model works to produce significant change. NLP works by examining how the client’s thought processes, their beliefs, attitudes, feelings etc, create particular states and behaviours and then retraining the largely unconscious mental patterns to create different results. This kind of change can be rapid and lasting and feels very natural and un-selfconscious.

NLP offers a huge range of techniques for ‘re-programming’ our mental patterns. These techniques are mostly based around the NLP model of hypnosis, and a range of imaginative exercises which generate new perspectives on and feelings about particular issues. These approaches can be conducted in hypnotic trance or in the waking state. NLP is rightly famous for the speed and power with which it effects lasting changes.

Origins of NLP

NLP began when two academics, Richard Bandler (a mathematician) and John Grinder (a linguist), set out to model the behaviour of several geniuses in the field of therapy. They created explicit formal models of the behaviour of some of the most effective therapists of their time; geniuses such as the master hypnotist, Milton Erickson, family therapist, Virginia Satir, and Fritz Perls, the inventor of Gestalt therapy. These were detailed and explicit models of the way in which these people used language and non-verbal communication, without reference to any metaphorical concepts or theoretical psychobabble.

Before NLP, therapists were born not made, and they operated according to intuitions that they often found very hard to teach to others. However, by following the formal models they had developed, Bandler and Grinder found that they could replicate the same extraordinary results that Erickson, Satir and Perls achieved. They could also teach it very effectively.

NLP now

Since then NLP has developed by modelling experts from numerous fields, from law to sales and marketing, and as such it has become known as the study of excellence and how to replicate it. NLP is now a discipline that applies to almost everything.

In practice NLP is a ‘talking cure’. When you book a consultation we’ll sit down and discuss your situation and identify the specific changes you want to make. Then I’ll show you how to make those changes and we will use whatever techniques are most effective to make the process as simple and easy for you as possible. And you will probably be surprised at how easy and effective it can be. Click here for more information about what you can expect from working with me.

Is it scientific?

NLP has been criticised for being unscientific and lacking scientific validation. NLP is not a science – science is about making truth statements about the world, proving things to be true or false, NLP by contrast is about what works, it is a technology and an art form. Indeed no therapy is a science.

The argument that it is unscientific and lacking in validation is simply false. There have been a number of scientific trials of NLP in the UK and the USA, and there has been a considerable body of research carried out in other countries, most notably in Germany, which has shown a very strong positive effect for NLP treatments for a wide range of problems. You can see the European Association of NLP’s research archive at their web site. The University of Surrey also runs a wide-ranging research project on NLP. See also Stever Robbins’ summary of research on his web site.

Having studied Philosophy & Psychology for my undergraduate degree, it is my opinion that NLP is the most logical and rigorous of all the psychological “therapies” yet devised.