Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is an approach to psychotherapy and organizational change based on "a model of interpersonal communication chiefly concerned with the relationship between successful patterns of behaviour and the subjective experiences (esp. patterns of thought) underlying them" and "a system of alternative therapy based on this which seeks to educate people in self-awareness and effective communication, and to change their patterns of mental and emotional behaviour". The term "Neuro-Linguistic Programming" refers to a stated connection between the neurological processes ("neuro"), language ("linguistic") and behavioral patterns that have been learned through experience ("programming") and can be organized to achieve specific goals in life.
Bandler and Grinder say that NLP is capable of addressing problems such as phobias, depression, habit disorder, psychosomatic illnesses, and learning disorders, and helps people attain fuller and richer lives". Bandler and Grinder claimed that if the effective patterns of behaviour of exceptional people could be modeled then these patterns could be acquired by others. NLP has been adopted by private therapists, including hypnotherapists, and those who undertake training in NLP and apply it to their practice. It has also been promoted as a "science of excellence", and applied within management training, life coaching, alternative medicine, large group awareness training, and the self-help industry.
According to one study by Steinbach (1984), a classic interaction in NLP can be understood in terms of several major stages including establishing rapport, gathering information about a problem state and desired goals, using specific tools and techniques to make interventions, and integrating proposed changes into the client's life. The entire process is guided by the non-verbal responses of the client. The first is the act of establishing and maintaining rapport between the practitioner and the client which is achieved through pacing and leading the verbal (e.g. sensory predicates and keywords) and non-verbal behaviour (e.g. matching and mirroring non-verbal behavior, or responding to eye movements - see chart) of the client.
An "eye accessing cue chart" as it appears in Bandler & Grinder's Frog into Princes (1979)
Once rapport is established, the practitioner may gather information (e.g. using the meta model questions) about the client's present state as well help the client define a desired state or goal for the interaction. The practitioner pays particular attention to the verbal and non-verbal responses as the client defines the present state and desired state and any resources that may be required to bridge the gap. The client is typically encouraged to consider the consequences of the desired outcome may have on his or her personal or professional life and relationships taking into account any positive intentions of any problems that may arise (i.e. ecological check). Fourth, assisting the client in achieving the desired outcomes by using certain tools and techniques to change internal representations and responses to stimuli in the world. Other tools and techniques include indirect suggestion from the Milton model, reframing, and submodalities. Finally, the changes are "future paced" by helping the client to mentally rehearse and integrate the changes into the his or her life. For example, the client may be asked to "step into the future" and represent (mentally see, hear and feel) what it is like having already achieved the outcome.
According to Stollznow (2010), "NLP also involves fringe discourse analysis and “practical” guidelines for “improved” communication. For example, one text asserts “when you adopt the “but” word, people will remember what you said afterwards. With the “and” word, people remember what you said before and after”.
Applications - Psychotherapeutic
The early books about NLP had a psychotherapeutic focus especially given that the early models were psychotherapists. As an approach to psychotherapy, NLP shares similar core assumptions and foundations in common with some contemporary brief and systemic practices, such as solution focused brief therapy. NLP has also been acknowledged as having influenced these practices with its reframing techniques which seeks to achieve behaviour change by shifting its context or meaning, for example, by finding the positive connotation of a thought or behaviour. According to Stollznow (2010) “Bandler and Grinder’s infamous Frogs into Princes and other books boast that NLP is a cure-all that treats a broad range of physical and mental conditions and learning difficulties, including epilepsy, myopia and dyslexia. With its promises to cure schizophrenia, depression, and post traumatic stress disorder, NLP shares similarities with Scientology and the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, CCHR.”
The two main therapeutic uses of NLP are: (1) use as an adjunct by therapists practicing in other therapeutic disciplines, and (2) as a specific therapy called Neurolinguistic Psychotherapy which is recognized by the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy with accreditation governed at first by the Association for Neuro Linguistic Programming and more recently by its daughter organization the Neuro Linguistic Psychotherapy and Counselling Association.
While the original goals of neuro-linguistic programming were therapeutic, the patterns have also been adapted for use outside psychotherapy for interpersonal communications and persuasion including business communication, management training, sales, sports, and interpersonal influence, used for coaching, team building, public speaking, negotiation, and communication. The UK Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development includes a number of NLP courses including an application of NLP to coaching in its 2010 training programme. A range of books have been published related to the application of NLP to coaching.
Interpreting Media NLP Neuro-linguistic programming
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