language patterns of Milton Erickson. It has been described as "a way of using language to induce and maintain trance in order to contact the hidden resources of our personality". The Milton model has three primary aspects: First, to assist in building and maintaining rapport with the client. Second, to overload and distract the conscious mind so that unconscious communication can be cultivated. Third, to allow for interpretation in the words offered to the client. Furthermore, communicating with metaphor was an essential part of Milton's methods providing a platform whereby Erickson could smoothly deliver his therapeutic suggestions.
Sensory representational systems is a model in NLP concerned with how the different sensory modalities are organised to form the conscious representations of experience. For example, pictorial representation must be modality specific to the visual sensory mode. Similarly ideas featuring sound and touch involve the sensory modality which was involved in its perception. When people are thinking, they form images, sounds together with internal feelings. In NLP, this notion is extended to the performance of any task, such as making conversation, talking about a problem, reading a book, kicking a ball or riding a horse, representations consisting of images, sounds, feelings (and possibly smell and taste) are constantly being formed and activated.
It is claimed that the organisation of these representations have a unavoidable impact on performance. It is also claimed that knowledge of the underlying representations, as revealed through the use of spoken predicates, can assist someone in gaining rapport and influence in conversation. In the psychotherapeutic setting, the spoken predicates might be used to gain rapport to influence change. For example, the spoken prediates, "see" and "bright" in "I can see a bright future for myself", such visual language must be modality specific to the visual sensory mode. In "I can feel that we will be comfortable" would involve kinesthetic modality because of the predicates "feel" and "comfortable". In this setting, changes could be thought of as interrupting and replacing representations with more positive and creative alternatives. Some of these ideas of this visual language and alike appear to have been imported from gestalt therapy shortly after its creation.
A submodality in NLP is a distinction of form or structure (rather than content) within a sensory representational system. For example, regardless of the content, both external and mental images of any kind will be either colored or monochrome, and stationary or moving. These parameters are submodalities within the visual modality. Similarly, both remembered and actual sounds will be mono or stereo when experienced internally, so mono/stereo is a submodality of sound. In the late 1970s, the developers of NLP extended the use visual imagery (common in sports psychology and meditation), to submodalities in other sensory modalities. Examples include the relative size, location, brightness of internal images, the volume and direction of internal voices and sounds, and the location, texture, and movement of internally created sensations. A typical submodality intervention involves increasing or decreasing the submodalities of internal representations. This, combined with hypnosis is a feature of Richard Bandler's later work. For example, to increase or decrease the intensity of a certain state, the brightness, colour, or location of the associated internal images are altered. Although NLP did not discover submodalities, it appears that the proponents of NLP may have been the first to systematically use manipulation of submodalities for therapeutic or personal development purposes, particularly phobias, compulsions and addictions.
The map is not the territory. Life and mind are systemic processes Behind every behavior there is a positive intention. Even a seemingly negative thought or behavior has a positive function at some level or in some other context. There is no failure, only feedback. The meaning of the communication is the response it produces, not the intended communication. One cannot not communicate: Every behaviour is a kind of communication. Because behaviour does not have a counterpart (there is no anti-behaviour), it is not possible not to communicate. Choice is better than no choice. An idea from cybernetics that holds the most flexible element in a system will have the most influence or choice in that system. People already have all the internal resources they need to succeed. Multiple descriptions are better than one.
Anchoring is a NLP term for the process by which memory recall, state change or other responses become associated with (anchored to) some stimulus, in such a way that perception of the stimulus (the anchor) leads by reflex to the anchored response occurring. The stimulus may be quite neutral or even out of conscious awareness, and the response may be either positive or negative. Anchors are capable of being formed and reinforced by repeated stimuli, and thus are analogous to classical conditioning.
Additionally NLP holds that anchors can be deliberately set and triggered verbally, through touch, or other unique stimulus, to assist self or others access 'resourceful' or other target states. Anchoring appears to have been imported into NLP from family therapy as part of the 'model' of Virginia Satir.
The swish pattern is a process that is designed to disrupt a pattern of thought from one that used to lead to an unwanted behavior to one that leads to a desired behavior. This involves visualizing a 'cue' that leads into the unwanted behavior, such as a smoker's hand moving towards the face with a cigarette in it, and reprogramming the mind to 'switch' to a visualization of the desired outcome, such as a healthy looking person, energetic and fit. In addition to visualization, auditory sound effects are often imagined to enhance the experience. Swish is one of the techniques that involves the manipulation of submodalities.
In NLP, reframing is the process whereby an element of communication is presented so as to shift an individual's perception of the meanings or "frames" attributed to words, phrases and events. By changing the way the event is perceived "responses and behaviors will also change. Reframing with language allows you to see the world in a different way and this changes the meaning. Reframing is the basis of jokes, myths, legends, fairy tales and most creative ways of thinking." The concept was common to a number of therapies prior to NLP. For example, it appeared in the approaches of Virginia Satir, Fritz Perls and Milton Erickson and in strategic therapy of Paul Watzlawick. There are examples in children's literature. Pollyanna would play The Glad Game whenever she felt down about life, to remind herself of the things that she could do, and not worry about the things she couldn't.
Six step reframe
An example of reframing is found in the six-step reframe which involves distinguishing between an underlying intention and the consequent behaviors for the purpose of achieving the intention by different and more successful behaviors. It is based on the notion that there is a positive intention behind all behaviors, but that the behaviors themselves may be unwanted or counterproductive in other ways. NLP uses this staged process to identify the intention and create alternative choices to satisfy that intention.
In NLP this is one of a number of 'frames' wherein the desired state is considered as to its achievability and effect if achieved. A positive outcome must be defined by the client, be within the client's power to achieve, retain the positive products of the unwanted behaviours and produce an outcome that is appropriate for all circumstances.
Ecology and congruency
Ecology in NLP deals with the relationship between a client and their natural, social and created environments and how a proposed goal or change might relate to their relationships and their environment. It is a frame within which the desired outcome is checked against the consequences in the client's life and relationships. Like gestalt therapy, a goal of NLP is to help the client choose goals and make changes that achieve a sense of personal congruency and integrity with personal and other aspects of the client's life.
Parts Integration is based on the idea that different aspects of ourselves are in conflict due to different perceptions and beliefs. 'Parts integration' is the process of negotiating with and integrating the disparate aspects of the self by identifying and then negotiating with the separate parts to achieve resolution of internal conflict. . Successful parts negotiation occurs by listening to and providing opportunities to meet the needs of each part, and adequately addressing their interests so that they are each satisfied with the desired outcome. It often involves negotiating with the conflicting parts of a person to achieve resolution. Parts integration appears to be modeled on 'parts' from family therapy and has similarities to ego-state therapy in psychoanalysis in that it seeks to resolve conflicts that constitute a "family of self" within a single individual.
History of neuro-linguistic programming
1970s: Founding and early development
NLP was co-founded and developed jointly by Richard Bandler and then UCSC assistant professor of linguistics John Grinder, under the tutelage of noted anthropologist Gregory Bateson, at the University of California, Santa Cruz, during the 1970s. At that time the Californian human potential seminars were developing into a viable industry. Gregory Bateson was influenced by Alfred Korzybski, particularly his ideas about human modeling and that 'the map is not the territory'. These ideas were adopted by Bandler and Grinder.
From 1972, the co-founders of NLP had an interest in the exceptional communications skills of gestalt therapist Fritz Perls, family therapist Virginia Satir and founding president of the American Society for Clinical Hypnosis, Milton H. Erickson. Subsequently Structure of Magic Series (1975) and Patterns of Milton H. Erickson (1976, 1977) were published using those therapists as models. In the late 1970s, Leslie Cameron-Bandler, Judith DeLozier, Robert Dilts, and David Gordon worked with the co-founders and separately to contribute to the development of NLP.
1980s: New developments and scientific assessment
In the 1980s, shortly after publishing Neuro-linguistic Programming Volume 1 with Robert Dilts and Judith Delozier, Grinder and Bandler fell out. Amidst acrimony and intellectual property lawsuits, NLP started to be developed haphazardly by many individuals. Given the multiplicity of developers and trainers, there was to be no single definitive system of NLP.
Since the early 1980s, John Grinder collaborated with various people to develop a form of NLP called the New Code of NLP which attempted to restore a whole mind-body systemic approach to NLP.
Richard Bandler also published new processes based on submodalities and Ericksonian hypnosis.
Anthony Robbins who taught NLP in the late 1970s, mass marketed various motivational products incorporating aspects of NLP (renamed as Neuro Associative Conditioning).
In the late 1980s, Sharpley's (1984, 1987) research reviews in experimental counseling psychology and by the United States National Research Council gave NLP an overall negative assessment marking a decrease in NLP research interest.
1990s: Controversy, division, and marketing
In July of 1996 after many years of legal controversy, Bandler filed a lawsuit against John Grinder et al, claiming retrospective sole ownership of NLP, and the sole right to use the term under trademark. Contemporaneous with Bandler's suits in the Supreme Court of the United States, Tony Clarkson (a UK practitioner) successfully asked the UK High Court to revoke Bandler's UK registered trademark of "NLP", in order to clarify legally that 'NLP' was a generic term rather than intellectual property.
Despite the NLP community being splintered, most NLP material acknowledges the early work of the co-founders, Bandler and Grinder, and the development group that surrounded them in the 1970s.
2000s: Legal settlement and government regulation
In 2001, the law suits were settled with Bandler and Grinder agreeing to be known as co-founders of NLP. Since 1978, a 20 day NLP practitioner certification program had been in existence for training therapists to apply NLP as an adjunct to their professional qualifications. As NLP evolved, and the applications began to be extended beyond therapy - new ways of training were developed and the course structures and design changed. Course lengths and style vary from institute to institute. In the 1990s, following attempts to put NLP on a more formally regulated footing in the UK, other governments began certifying NLP courses and providers, such as in Australia for example, where a graduate certificatein Neuro-linguistic programming is accredited under the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF). However, NLP continues to be an open field of training with no 'official' best practice. With different authors, individual trainers and practitioners having developed their own methods, concepts and labels, often branding them as "NLP", the training standards and quality differ greatly. In Europe, the European NLP therapy associationhas been promoting their training in line with European therapy standards. The multiplicity and general lack of controls has led to difficulty discerning the comparative level of competence, skill and attitude in different NLP trainings.
According to Peter Schütz the length of training in Europe varies from 2-3 days for the hobbyist, to 35-40 days over at least nine months to achieve a professional level of competence.
Counseling psychology research
In 1984, Sharpley, researching for counseling psychology, undertook a literature review of 15 studies on the existence and effectiveness of preferred representational systems (PRS), an important underlying principle of NLP, and found "little research evidence supporting its usefulness as an effective counseling tool" and no reproducible support for preferred representational systems and predicate matching. Einspruch and Forman (1985) broadly agreed with Sharpley (1984) but disputed the conclusions, identifying a failure to address methodological errors in the research reviewed. They stated that "NLP is far more complex than presumed by researchers, and thus, the data are not true evaluations of NLP" adding that NLP is difficult to test under the traditional counseling psychology framework. Moreover the research lacked a necessary understanding of pattern recognition as part of advanced NLP training, there was inadequate control of context, an unfamiliarity with NLP as an approach to therapy, inadequate definitions of rapport and numerous logical mistakes in the research methodology.
Sharpley (1987) responded to Einspruch and Forman (1985) with a review of a further 7 studies on the same basic tenets (totaling 44 including those cited by Einspruch and Forman). This second review included Elich et al (1985), a study that found no support for the proposed relationship between eye movements, spoken predicates, and internal imagery. Elich et al stated that "NLP has achieved something akin to cult status when it may be nothing more than a psychological fad". However, Sharpley (1987) stated that a number of NLP techniques are worthwhile or beneficial in counseling psychology, citing predicate matching, mirroring clients behaviors (e.g.rapport (NLP)), moving sensory modalities, reframing, anchoring and changing history, but said that none of these techniques originated within NLP: "NLP may be seen as a partial compendium rather than as an original contribution to counseling practice and, thereby, has a value distinct from the lack of research data supporting the underlying principles that Bandler and Grinder posited to present NLP as a new and magical theory". He concluded that "if NLP is presented as a theory-less set of procedures gathered from many approaches to counseling, then it may serve as a reference role for therapists who wish to supplement their counseling practice by what may be novel techniques to them."
National Research Council evaluation
In 1988 at the request of the US Army, the National Research Council evaluated several highly marketed "New age" human performance enhancement technologies. Twenty five years later, Druckman stated that "we found little if any evidence to support NLP’s assumptions or to indicate that it is effective as a strategy for social influence. It assumes that by tracking another’s eye movements and language, an NLP trainer can shape the person’s thoughts, feelings, and opinions (Dilts, 1983). There is no scientific support for these assumptions". But he says, "we were impressed with the modeling approach used to develop the technique. The technique was developed from careful observations of the way three master psychotherapists conducted their sessions, emphasizing imitation of verbal and nonverbal behaviors. This then led the committee to take up the topic of expert modeling in the second phase of its work." However, the second phase on expert modeling that followed that were inspired by NLP were done outside the field of NLP.
Decrease in research interest
Sharpley's reviews marked the decline in research interest in NLP, in particular matching sensory predicates and its use in counselor-client relationship in counseling psychology.
NLP and variants were influenced by (Gestalt therapy, family systems therapy) and have influenced (eg. brief therapy, Neuro-linguistic psychotherapy, hypnotherapy) number approaches to psychotherapy. NLP has remained an eclectic field with no inherent controls over training or a professional code of ethics. According to Schutz in his guide to NLP training, training varies from very short, esoteric or hyped-up power courses at one extreme to 9 months of professional training under licensed psychotherapists or the equivalent. He advises caution in selection.
NLP has been coordinated within some industry associations, psychotherapy associations, and has been used or suggested as an approach by some mental health bodies. NLP is used as an adjunct by therapists in other disciplines and also as a therapy in its own right as NLPt. NLP has influenced some corporate executive coaches who provide one-on-one training and collaborative relationships to executives interested in development skills in career or business and may help resolve related personal issues. A number of UK NHS regional authorities use NLP for staff training at various levels, for training in rapport and communication in the workplace and with patients and for personal development in management training. The Society of Medical NLP runs courses for health professionals for techniques to be used in clinical practice in consultations. These techniques were originally based on modeling Doctors who communicate successfully with patients. Their courses are accredited for PDP and CPD (formerly Post Graduate Education Allowance). NLP techniques are included in the DOC Guidance Counselors handbook.
Lack of scientific validation
Psychologists, Singer and Lalich, criticized the 'quick-fix' attitude in NLP and the marketing that continues to refer to its originators as scientists and to NLP as a 'science', 'technology' and 'hi-tech psychology'. Drenth (1999) questioned the value and popularity of NLP given that its concepts and conclusions were not based on experimental data and empirical testing. Furthermore the typical retort of proponents that the efficacy of NLP is self-evident or that a therapeutic approach does not have to be entirely scientific is not sufficient for therapeutic practice. He goes on to say that "Unlike diagnosis, prediction of human performance or behavior, and assessment, therapy is not an (applied) scientific activity. Criteria for therapeutic activity is effectiveness, not verity;" ... "But what brings some of these therapeutic approaches into the category of pseudoscience is the claim that their presumptions are predicated on scientific understanding and scientific evidence." Drenth was critical of Harry Adler's 1994 book titled NLP: Neuro Linguistic Programming the New Art and Science of Getting What You Want for its scientific pretence. In response Adler says that NLP is both an art and a science. It has a history even shorter than the young (and soft) science of psychology. He says that the 'science' in his book might imply well-researched rigor, but maintains that he does not claim the models of NLP are in any way formal or predictive models. In contrast, NLP is inherently subjective, involving the unconscious mind, therefore the system is as rigorous as one might expect under the circumstances.
There is a concern about the public's overconfidence in mental health professionals given the general lack of scientific foundation in the mental health professions. Scott Lilienfeld says that "largely untested treatments comprise a major proportion—in some cases a majority—of the interventions delivered by mental health professionals." Further he says that proof of the validity of new practices fall on the proponents of these practices. Scott O. Lilienfeld, Steven J. Lynn and Jeffrey M. Lohr (2002) criticize many unvalidated techniques, including NLP, that are currently being applied in clinical psychology. In particular trauma treatments current taught in workshops—EMDR, TFT, VK/D (a technique derived from NLP), etc.—with little or no empirical support.
Comparison with cognitive behavior therapies
Cognitive behavioral therapy, currently the most prevalent form of psychotherapy for the treatment of mental health disorders, has some conceptual and historical similarities to NLP. Lewis Walker, author of Changing with NLP stated that "NLP and CBT had not only paralleled each other's rise over the years, but also shared similar basic assumptions about in individuals in health and disease. Indeed, it became clear to me that there had also been a major cross-fertilsation of ideas and techniques between the two therapies." Both are based on the idea that people act and feel based on their perception or maps of the world rather than the actual world (the map is not the territory) and involve an information processing perspective of mind. Both Cognitive therapy and NLP seek to identify and change "distorted" or "unrealistic" ways of thinking, and therefore to influence emotion and behavior (compare cognitive distortions of CBT with meta model of NLP). Both involve "reframing" and advise that behaviour change greatly facilitates the integration of new, more beneficial beliefs. But they operate with different definitions of unconscious processes, and CBT assigns them "a less central role in influencing behaviour". In contrast to the little empirical support for NLP in the literature, cognitive behavioral therapy and its forerunner cognitive therapy has been empirically validated and is widely used for the treatment of mental health and behavioral disorders, including major depressive disorders and anxiety disorders.
Popular culture and media
Mind reading and magic
In 2003, English mentalist Derren Brown often performs stunts and magical tricks on British television. One stunt Brown played Russian roulette with 5 players picked from an audience of 100. Skeptical, Glenn Wilson, a psychologist at Kings College London, said it was a magic trick and Brown probably used stooges who acted as if they were from the audience. Wilson doubted Brown's mind reading and influence capability. Others who believed that the stunt was more than mere magic, claim that Brown used NLP, cold reading and indirect suggestion to inform the participants which chamber the bullet was located. Brown has stated that an interest developing skills in reading non-verbal signals reading and indirect suggestion was initially spurred by NLP.
Other television features
In 2005, celebrity hypnotist and television personality Paul McKenna was shown applying NLP and other techniques on his Sky One show, 'I Can Change Your Life' to assist people with phobias, such as agoraphobia and addictions to gambling and shopping. In 2006, another Sky One programme, 'I Can Make You Thin', featured Richard Bandler and used NLP among other techniques to help people lose weight.
Associations with science
NLP's association with science has been complex and controversial. Robert Dilts and Judith Delozier claim "NLP is rooted in the synthesis of three areas of modern science: neurophysiology, linguistics and cybernetics (computer programming)." Grinder & Bostic St Clair (2001) make suggestions about what needs to be done next to "improve the practice [of NLP] and take its rightful place as a scientifically based endeavor with its precise focus on one of the extremes of human behavior: excellence and the high performers who actually do it." They ask those interested to work with researchers in cognitive linguistics and neuroscience to begin to improve the relationship with those fields.
In the introduction to The Structure of Magic Series, Gregory Bateson says that Bandler and Grinder "create the beginnings of an appropriate theoretical base for the describing of human interaction......Grinder and Bandler "have succeeded in making linguistics into a base for theory and simultaneously into a tool for therapy."
However, psycholinguist Willem Levelt (as quoted in Drenth 1999) stated that "NLP is not informed about linguistics literature, it is based on vague insights that were out of date long ago, their linguistics concepts are not properly construed or are mere fabrications, and conclusions are based upon the wrong premises."... "NLP theory and practice has nothing to do with neuroscientific insights or linguistics, nor with informatics or theories of programming". Cognitive neuroscience researcher Michael C Corballis (1999) agrees and says that "NLP is a thoroughly fake title, designed to give the impression of scientific respectability."
Grinder and Delozier (1984) argue that the epistemology of Gregory Bateson (and NLP) attempts to synthesize the overdrawn positions of empiricists and idealists. Robert Dilts and Judith Delozier (2000) say "In considering NLP as a science however, it is important to recognise that the epistemology of NLP is more 'subjective' and 'systematically' oriented than many 'hard' sciences, which tend to be more 'objective' and 'deterministic'. That is the patterns explored and identified by NLP are often necessarily contextual and influenced by the perceptual filters of the observer." ... "As a scientific approach, then, NLP tends to be more 'qualitative' than 'quantitative' and more 'structuralist' than 'materialistic'" ...
NLP critic Margaret Singer quotes Bandler as saying the term NLP was "phrased on the fly from several book titles on the floor of his car one night when a policeman asked his occupation." She also quotes Bandler as saying "it wasn't my job to do theory" and Tony Robbins as saying, "NLP is heavily pragmatic: if a tool works, it's included in the model, even if there's no theory to back it up....None of the current NLP developers have done any research to prove their models correct. The party line is 'pretend it works, try it, and notice the results you get. If you don't get the result you want, try something else'. Labouchere states that "NLP has a very pragmatic, applied focus on what is helpful, what works and how to replicate it (Bandler & Grinder, 1990). While NLP draws on and shares common ground with ‘mainstream’ cognitive psychology, it has, from its inception, continued to develop, refine, and apply its own unique range of concepts, models and techniques."
Partridge (2003) states that "NLP may be best thought of as a system of psychology concerned with the self development of the human being" and "It is concerned with the function of belief rather than its nature. It is not concerned whether a belief is true or not, but whether it is empowering or disempowering". Similarly, Stephen J. Hunt states that NLP "is a technique rather than an organised religion and is used by several different human potential movements". David V. Barrett (2001) also describes NLP as a technique or series of techniques, or a process. He states that that "the balance comes down against it being labeled as a religion."