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Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP)

So much has been written about NLP that it seems almost unnecessary to add any more. You can learn some great things through NLP. I became an NLP Master Practitioner ten years ago and I really enjoyed the learning I did then. I trained with Ian McDermott who runs ITS, and would happily train with him again. I also had the chance to train with Robert Dilts who is world class and one of the best trainers and writers to come out of the NLP tradition. My own language pattens and questioning style have been heavily influenced through the NLP pattens and techniques that I learnt and practiced. NLP also led me into working with Stephen Gilligan and in developing an interest in Milton Erickson and his informal approach to hypnosis. Obviously I think you can get a lot from good NLP training.

However I have never been 100% comfortable with NLP.  It was originally developed as a means to copy and then reproduce human excellence in terms of personal performance. This is what the original meta-model tries to do based on looking at how Fritz Perls and Virginia Satir achieved successful results with their own individual styles of therapy. The Milton model does the same thing for Milton Erickson’s hypnosis. I think this is where NLP began to lose its way. Once Richard Bandler really learnt how to screw with people’s unconscious minds NLP started to become a process for influencing people rather than a modelling technique to make therapy more consistently successful.

Things really got going when the NLP training industry took off. Behind this is what I call the money model, essentially a pyramid selling approach, but don’t worry the market is really big. You train, you then do trainer training, you set up in business and train others. Many have successfully  gone down this path and are very happy and quite a few are very rich. I think NLP has never really grown beyond its own fascination with its self, its own power of reproduction and its own undoubted ability to exercise influence and get people to part with large sums of money for training.

NLP has an amazing ability to morph into the next financially fashionable trend. From its origins in psychotherapy it became the trainer and facilitator’s favourite secret tool kit. It found its way into business and management training and latterly has been reinvented again as a framework for performance coaching. It has enjoyed successful applications in all these spheres. Its great strength is its flexibility - NLP is what works. There is very little that is truly original in NLP. It borrows from lots of earlier approaches. Some explicitly as a result of the early modelling projects, other sources are less obvious but are mostly acknowledged in the original material. These include transformational grammar, psychosynthesis, method acting, Gregory Bateson, Korzybski (the map is not the territory) and Watzlawick et al (reframing) and systems theory.

You may be surprised to learn that the term NLP does not appear at all in the two volumes of the Structure of Magic where the meta model is first explained, in a very technical way, because in 1975 NLP had yet to be invented. The term was first used in 1976 by Bandler and Grinder, although Korzybski had put- neuro linguistic -the first two words, together back in the 1930’s.

When you look at how NLP has evolved and developed it is a bit like looking at the history of one of the martial arts. An emphasis of the importance of lineage, particularly in relation to sanctioning the right to instruct, people setting up their own organisations and developing variations and revisions of the original model that are then sold as a new, improved version. A focus on making money and designing training and accreditation to maximize the financial return. When I trained I did 20 days training at both practitioner and master practitioner level, plus a lot of additional study and reading. A lot of my training focused on both watching demonstrations and actually doing them myself. Under the guise of accelerated learning there are some routes to accreditation that combine home study with much less contact time and mean people are being certificated as master practitioners with less than a total of twenty days training.

For me NLP remains an art form and a skill set. It requires practice to use it effectively and its own lack of a theoretical and ethical framework means that it can probably be used most effectively in combination with other approaches that can provide this missing context. Some of the most dangerous people out there are those who are good at making NLP interventions but who lack the insight and judgement about when it is appropriate to use them.

For comprehensive and well grounded NLP practitioner training my personal first choice remains: