Is NLP pseudoscientific baloney or an effective tool for personal development?

Neuro-Linguistic Programming is often the subject of heated debate between believers, critics and crazies. Much like every conversation on the ‘net, it usually disintegrates into screaming insults and ad hominem attacks, which is great fun to read, so let’s get another one started.

What is the definition of NLP?

Cogs are turning: Did he take too much off the back?

“Neuro-Linguistic Programming n. 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; 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.” – [Oxford English Dictionary]

NLP could be described the application of the placebo effect. It involves doing whatever you can to make a person believe they’re going to change, and as such relies heavily upon your combined preconceptions. It uses some cunning quirks of language and exploits behavioural patterns to deepen a person’s responsiveness to suggestion. Really, it’s a model for learning.

Pseudoscience Vs Science

Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference

Pseudoscience separates itself from ordinary science based mainly on the element of falsifiability. Claims of a scientific nature must be tested in a way that makes it possible to be proven wrong, and NLP avoids that by being the practice of ‘doing what works’ – which makes it unfalsifiable.

Another element of pseudoscience is the habit of starting with a conclusion and moving towards a solution. One of the central beliefs of NLP is that everyone can be ‘reprogrammed’, it will just requires the right intervention. That also makes it pseudoscience, because if a practitioner has an ineffective interaction with a client, it can be disregarded as ‘just not right for them’.

Both of those beliefs are very useful, but they are also anatomically similar to most pseudosciences.

But: The art of developing hypotheses, critically evaluating them and discarding those that are false, is science. Guessing and testing is what NLP is all about.

How does NLP work?

The core of NLP is ‘modelling’ – which is the practice of recognising someone’s excellence (perhaps at selling things or being funny), finding out how they achieve that excellence, then working at replicating those results for yourself. It’s pretty obvious that we all do that. That’s how we learned to speak and do all of the other things we do so well – NLP just gives a structure to that learning.

But the ‘Field of NLP’ or FoNLP as it’s sometimes called, are ideas or tools that are the fruit that was borne from Richard Bandler and John Grinder modelling psychotherapists and hypnotherapists (Virginia Satir, Fritz Perls, Milton Erickson, Frank Farrelly and more). It includes an ever increasing range of hypotheses that do make testable claims.

Research on NLP

Here’s where NLP starts looking dodgy, because since Bandler and Grinder invented it in the 70’s, small amounts of sketchy research have produced mixed results.

Mirroring Policemen:

Some dude called Vrij wrote a report after watching two policemen ‘acting strangely’ in an interrogation with a suspect and wrote a paper about his observations of mirroring in “Neuro-linguistic programming and the police: Worthwhile or not?

I poke my cheek then I poke you

Mirroring is the practice of matching someone else’s posture to build rapport with them – but it’s often sold cheaply as something simple. In reality, rapport-building is about matching someone in a way that feels comfortable and genuine and causes them to think ‘I like this person because they’re like me’.

But if you’re a cop trying to develop rapport with a criminal by sitting silently in an interrogation room with them and copying their body language, hoping that they’ll spontaneously confess, then you’re a flaming moron.

If you’ve ever noticed that someone is copying your posture and movements exactly, you’ll know that it’s creepy as hell. It does not develop rapport, it destroys it. Not surprisingly, the suspect just sat there in silence. Worst. Research. Ever.

Sharpley’s research on Preferred Prepresentational Systems

A major elements of the field of NLP is the ‘Meta Model’, which is the belief that we process information through a variety of senses (visual, auditory or kinesthetic), and that different people will be biased towards one or other of the senses, clues to those biases will present themselves, and if you interact with a person in a way that matches their preferred sense, your communications will be more effective.

There are heated debates regarding the validity of the paper (which cited 15 studies), with similar methodological complaints. But really, no-one except the proponents of NLP will ever do it right and they’ve been either lazy or scared – and that stinks of quackery. Thankfully now there appears to be some research being done into the efficacy of NLP in the classroom.

Eye Accessing Cues: Too simple to be useful?

Response

Most research has been conducted by skeptics, which is good; but that often means that you’re testing NLP at its worst, where poorly-trained people are making the most outrageous claims and testing them against the least skillful applications.

To my mind, both claims are seductively simplistic, and while that makes them easy to digest and sell, they are unlikely to be useful to any degree of significance. The truth of the situation is subtle and nuanced: We encode memories, rich with sensory information that was relevant to them at the time, and while we might have learned or innate preferences, your bias for each of your senses is likely to change dependent on the context.

Effective communication is the art of being receptive while engaging your audience in a compelling way that speaks to them on their terms. Powerful influencers are adept at reading people and responding to them with authenticity. We all do it, but some are better than others. NLP is one way to learn those skills.

One final note on research: As NLP is the placebo effect, it is very hard to test properly. Being in a testing situation will undermine the efficacy of a placebo (because you’re in a situation of active doubt) and even once you’ve done your test group, how do you create a control group? If the control group is given another placebo that works better, then that placebo is just an example of effective NLP.

Further research and responses in favour of NLP can be found here: http://www.bradburyac.mistral.co.uk/nlpfax03.htm

And here: http://www.inspiritive.com.au/nlp-research/academic-summary.htm

Personal Development

One of the most compelling parts of NLP are the ideas that encourage consciousness-raising thought. These are ideas that are stolen from many other fields of endeavour and are held within NLP because they seem to work. One of my favourite ones is ‘If you’ve spot it you’ve got it’ – which is the belief that if you can recognise a quality in someone else then you must, on some level, have that structure within yourself.

The most useful application for this is to pick someone you love that does something you hate. Think of them now, and think about what bothers you. Generalise that behaviour so it’s a quality rather than just an act – perhaps it’s selfishness or laziness or my personal favourite: Intolerance.

Now ask yourself: “How is that true of me?”

If you see a quality in someone else that you don’t connect with, you’re likely to feel disconnected or confused. An emotional reaction, feeling upset or angry at someone, is often a result of you being upset or angry with yourself in some way. It is not a scientific claim, it’s just a useful way of getting perspective on things.

Now that you’ve read of this, you’ll start to see it everywhere, that selfish people abhor selfishness in others, or for me, I can’t stand people who are up themselves. The best one: Everyone, including you, hates intolerant people.

The controversy

Bandler: Should 'model' fashion sense and healthy living

Richard Bandler, the co-creator of NLP is a thoroughly unlikeable chap that has a gravelly voice and looks like a bullfrog. He’s overweight and wears leather vests and says icky, conceited things like “I’ve cured more people than anyone else in history” (Did I mention that I dislike conceited people?) There was also an unfortunate incident in his past that apparently ended with his prostitute being shot dead with his gun. Incidentally, he was acquitted after 5 1/2 hours of deliberation.

He’s worked hard to damage the validity of his own creation, particularly by loudly insulting the field of psychology and challenging them to dismiss him. Bandler also dismisses the application of the scientifc method, claiming that people are more than statistics, despite claiming to have healed a statistically significant number of them.

But he probably has cured a lot of people of a lot of conditions, and he has done some great work. Had he decided to be reasonable about it, NLP could quite possibly be where Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is at: Studied, validated, and funded by the government.

Problems with NLP

People claim it’s a panacea – I have one friend and colleague who claims it helped him restore his eyesight to 20-20 vision – that sounds crazy but I have ideas that it may be plausible. NLP definitely does have incredibly effective quick-fixes to quit smoking or curing phobias. But unfortunately anything that sells a magic potion is bound to be flocked to by the crazies, and scoffed at by the scientists.

It’s totally unregulated – so gaining a qualification in NLP can sometimes involve little more than paying your fees and remaining in the room until the certificates are handed out. ‘Practitioners’ can range from compelling businesspeople to raving lunatics, and nothing is ever done to find out whether what trainers are doing is accurate or morally responsible (many Pick-Up-Artist courses teach hypnotic language to seduce women).

It is difficult to research and poorly researched, because it’s a panacea, because it’s unregulated, and because it’s a placebo (IMO).

Benefits of NLP

Psychotherapy is a whole lot of science on the structure of going crazy, and nothing but philosophy on the structure of getting well, while NLP has a refreshingly pragmatic approach.

In coaching and therapy, NLP is a rapid and drug free intervention, which makes it cheaper and safer than spending years lying on a psychiatrists couch, being encouraged to cry and talk about your issues and gobble down more dependence-inducing drugs. In personal development, it’s a great structure for success.

Learning about it is cheap and easy – you don’t have to do expensive courses, just buy a book, learn a bit about modelling strategies, and hang around people you admire. Let their brilliance rub off on you. If you are going to do a course, ask around and find a good one. (My suggestions for the UK are: Sue Knight or Toby and Kate)

So which is it!?

You should have your own burden of proof. As Derren Brown asserts, NLP is probably part brilliance, part bullshit. It’s pretty hard to tell – because homeopathy is a great remedy for all psychosomatic conditions, and that’s scientifically bunk. Decide for yourself. I think it’s pretty useful.

Google’s questions

To answer google’s most common questions that begin: “Is NLP…”

Is NLP a cult? – No, cults geographically and socially isolate people, they’ll usually have a single figurehead who makes spiritual claims about their own divinity and the afterlife. NLP shares none of those qualities. NLP is a model for becoming an effective communicator.
Is NLP dangerous? – It’s the art of influence, and yes, influence can be dangerous, but studying NLP is quite safe.
Is NLP effective? – If the techniques within NLP are applied well, it is very effective.
Is NLP bullshit? – NLP is probably good science dressed up to look like bullshit.
Is NLP real? – It is a model for communication. Some of the claims made within NLP are subject to controversy.
Is NLP Christian? – Nope, thank god. It’s not anti-Christian either, unless you use it to de-convert people. But untrained Christians are probably naturally using NLP to convert people to their religion.
Is NLP valid? – That is the subject of major debate, a few studies have produced sketchy results. See the links for papers on NLP.

This Post Has 25 Comments

  1. Sundeep

    For me three things stand out on the negative side of NLP, (bearing in mind these are the impressions of someone almost totally new to the area, with a very small introduction into it via a course)

    1. Correlation does not equal causation. There are a few wild claims here and there about what NLP does, or can do. But there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of detailed study as to the mechanisms of how it works and/or where there are, rather ridiculous claims are made. For example, “eye patterns work in the way they do because you look in the direction of where a memory is stored in the brain”

    2. Pseudo scientific language. For me this was a massive bug bear, and reminiscent of a bad academic paper attempting to create an aura of credibility through often impenetrable pseudo-scientific language. It defeats the purpose of helping people, and serves only the purpose of trying to make it sound credible, or assign credibility to practitioners

    3. Individuals with little or no skills, experience, or practice, getting a certificate and immediately setting themselves up in business as practitioners, coaches, etc.

    On the positive side:
    1. It works. Whether it is the placebo affect (which in itself is no bad thing) despite some grand claims, as a psychotherapeutic tool – or a tool for personal change, I’ve found it to has given me real insight into myself and others, and has affected change

    2. What more do you want! Ok, well apart from it working (in certain circumstances, grand claims aside) it provides an excellent way of challenging the way you and others think of the world. And understanding how to interact, influence, and open minds is wonderful.

    PS-> I’m better at picking out the negatives and the risks than the positives. Through NLP as well as my own self awareness, I understand what this says about me.

    1. Harry

      I share your concerns…

      The placebo effect is wonderful, it’s exactly what we should be devoting our attention to. There has been for too long this negative connotation with a human’s ability to fix themselves, with people ‘boasting’ that placebos wouldn’t work on them because they’re not ‘gullible’; and there has been shoulder-shrugging form the chemists and psychologists because it’s so difficult to patent, therefore impossible to monopolise, therefore a financial waste of time. It seems that everything that uses the placebo effect is dumped in the wastebin of pseudoscience.

      In some cases I am torn – homeopathy is totally bogus, but harnesses the placebo effect so wonderfully I struggle to fault it. Let people get themselves better, I say!

      1. Dave Myers

        Hello

        Just to add a bit of detail, Witkowski has conducted some research into the literature around NLP and has found that the vast majority of research (70%) is unsupportive of NLP and its claims, which is a lot more than the ‘one or two contentious studies’ which you mention. The reference for his work is: Witkowski, T. (2012) A review of research findings on neuro-linguistic programming, The Scientific Review of Mental Health, 9(1), 29-40.

        Also, some of the outlandish claims made my NLP range from the bizarre (aversive behaviours can be changed within a single seven minute session) to the downright dangerous (it can cure and illness from the common cold to cancer). If it was truly the wonderful invention which it claims to be, it would be in common practice by now, rather than a weird fringe activity entering its fifth decade of existence. All it seems to be is a giant pyramid-selling scheme.

        1. Iab

          Hi to all I have not attended any N L P courses so am not certified but have used it bizzarly to alter peoples hic cups i.e once i used a certain technique which is to do with reducing a persons fear its called the spinning technique created by Richard bandler what you do is point out the direction the hiccups are moving usually from stomach to throat you ask hic cup sufferer to form a circle change its colour change its direction then say as you tap them on shoulder isn’t amassing its gone i have done this with 5 people one it didn’t work with the quickest was about 20 to 30 seconds and there hiccups were gone to you and me this may be a load of shit but how come it worked all i can say is try it for your self the tapping on the shoulder is usually to do with what is known as anchoring but creating an anchor is usually requires repeating may be pressing on the should simply emphasises the release of the fear of hiccups any way who knows for all the sceptics out there who knows all i can say i have told you this works and try it you may be amassed as i am still Dont believe it but it has worked

          1. Em Diar

            The ‘evidence’ for NLP seems to be like the punctuation in your comment. Totally absent. This renders it, like most literature on NLP, utterly unreadable. How is anyone supposed to believe a ‘scientist’ who hasn’t yet grasped the skill of writing coherently?

  2. Joel Connolly

    So, in summary Harry, you don’t need to be trained to help people with this NPS gumbo, you just need to have an opinion and be willing to share it? Sounds like some kind of cult thing to me. I bet you just use it to bed babes. HA WHA BAM!!!

    Love you

    j

    1. Harry

      I love you Joel. I want to pump your neurones.

  3. Joel Connolly

    Neuro Pump Service. Ha

  4. Andy Bradbury

    It ain’t what we don’t know that screws up so much as what we know that just ain’t so. (Unknown origin)

    Opinionated is fine – I’m that way inclined myself. Being opinionated without doing the necessary research is less than useful.

    For example, NLP is a specific, non-analytical modelling procedure. Nothing else. Which you yourself seem to at least partially understand. So why quote from the Oxford English Sictionary rather than from the work of the co-creators of NLP and the FoNLP. Are tyou seriously suggesting that the OED is a reliable authority on the FoNLP?
    Surely not.

    As tio your comments on Sharpley, and other research by skeptics and academics, since you’ve apparently visited my NLP-related website, perhaps you’d like to take a look at my FAQ #28 Project:

    http://www.bradburyac.mistral.co.uk/nlpfax28.htm

    and it’s sub-faqs. It covers both of Sharpley’s reviews, and Heap’s, and over a dozen more – covering the period 1984-2010.
    (A critique of Vrij’s article is in preparation.)

    The point about research by non-NLPers isn’t that they CAN’T do it right, but rather that they DON’T take the time to understand what they’re looking at.
    I’ll give simple example then shut up:

    The most frequently researched NLP-related topics have been “representational systems”, “preferred representational systems”, “eye movements” and “predicate matching”.

    In both 1976 and 1979 Bandler and Grinder clearly stated, in print, that the way to determine someone’s PRS (preferred representational system) was simply to listen to their use of sensory predicates.
    Yet time after time researchers have wasted their efforts by basing their investigations on the idea that there are THREE ways of determining a person’s PRS – eye movements, self-report and verbalization (use of sensory predicates).

    And just to dig the hole deeper, the researchers – and Sharpley and Heap, etc. – all cite the 1976 and 1979 books in their references BUT they never quote the “one way” descriptions. Nor, of course, has anyone provided a quote to show that Bandler and/or Grinder ever suggested that there a three alternative methods to discover this information.

    And finally – because the research does not support a claim that Bandler and Grinder never made – this is taken as evidence that “NLP” doesn’t work!

    BTW, in reality, on all points where the researchers touched on genuine NLP-related claims their results SUPPORTED the NLP-related claims. Like the fact that only “tracking and matching” predicate usage is effective. Like the fact that eye movements, self-report and predicate usage are very unlikely to produce compatible results. And so on.

    1. Harry

      Andy – if everyone in the world called trousers ‘bowls’ but I, on my own, called them ‘trousers’ – then who would be wrong? All of us. But who would be most effective? The people who called them bowls.

      So arguing against the OED dictionary is rather futile – that’s the accepted definition standard. Scientologists probably object to the definitions of dianetics, and homoeopaths definitely object to the definitions of homeopathy. The fact that Bandler and Grinder call their baby one thing and we call it another is inconsequential – what matters is making sense out of the description.

      Similarly, your definitions of what NLP is and is not, are specific beyond functionality and shared by few. That habit causes you to stay stuck on form, nitpicking at wording rather than building a compelling case like a master communicator ought. NLP is a model for developing influence – demonstrate its value.

  5. Andy Bradbury

    BTW – I wonder if you know that:

    1. Bandler is TYPE I diabetic
    2. That taking insulin (a daily requirement for TYPE I diabetics) tends to make people put on weight.

    And what on earth does Bandler’s fashion sense have to do with the value or otherwise of NLP and the FoNLP?

    I guess Einstein wasn’t the snappiest dresser in the world. And I gather that some people think his morals weren’t all they could have been. But I’ll be juggered if I can see how that in any way detracts from the value of his work on relativity?

    1. Harry

      Lol trolled.

  6. Andy Bradbury

    Hi Harry

    1. Who says that the OED definition is the “accepted definition standard”? You are the first person I’ve ever seen refer to it. And I get around a fair number of discussions.

    2. “Similarly, your definitions of what NLP is and is not, are specific beyond functionality and shared by few.”

    Huh?

    What I wrote I have discussed with two of the three co-creators of NLP and the FoNLP.

    Your blog, on the other hand, mirrors most academic criticisms in that all of your attacks are on “straw men” of your own devising.

    And what’s the point of posting such inaccurate material rather than taking time to get the facts?

    “I blog because I’m opinionated and enjoy writing.”

    Oops! Silly question.

    And am I really such a poor communicator – given that YOU linked to my website rather than the other way round?

    Andy Bradbury

    1. Harry

      S’cuse Andy – was just trolling. You write very well. Your website is a great and extensive resource.

      I just used that description because of the ones I found, it explained NLP in a way that resonated with me and I figured that people would understand it. The others, like it’s the ‘study of the structure of subjective experience’ just draws blank stares when I say it, so I thought I’d use the outsider’s definition.

      And regarding all the points on pseudoscience vs science: To my mind the difference is as Sundeep puts it, that claiming to know the causal connection between two things is making a larger leap than a critical mind ought. To say ‘we’ve noticed a connection’ is different to saying ‘this makes this’. The woman I trained with (Sue Knight) stating things in that ‘I’ve noticed’ way and I find it quite anostic and clean.

  7. Andy Bradbury

    Right. I’ll take that as an invitation to “play nice”.
    Accepted.

    ;¬)

    In that case, can you please help me out. I’m currently writing a critique of yet another gormless criticism of “NLP” by a Ph.D (psychology). He also claims that “NLP” is a placebo.

    Do you happen to remember where YOU got that from (if it isn’t just your own conclusion)?

    TIA

    1. Harry

      Yes – lets.

      Re Eyesight claim: “It was even alleged (Grinder & Bandler, 1981, p. 166) that a single session of NLP combined with hypnosis can eliminate certain eyesight problems such as myopia, and can even cure a common cold ”

      I first came across the placebo idea when I was deciding whether I wanted to formally start studying NLP, in Derren Brown’s ‘Tricks of the Mind’ – hardly an academic authority on the subject I confess. I enjoy readily accepting that it is the placebo effect, because I think that’s where we can make scientific headway. The placebo effect is too often looked upon as ‘fooling oneself’ into thinking they’re better, but I see it as a powerful indicator of the power of the human mind. It also, to my mind, makes NLP less magical and more credible.

      Doctors, who are bound to honesty through the hippocratic oath, can’t ethically sell placebos through deception. We can, and quite honestly, and with support as some research indicates that placebos can work even if the patient knows it’s a placebo. [http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn19904-placebos-can-work-even-when-you-know-theyre-fakes.html]

      I’ve talked to a guy who’s doing work on the brain and experience of pain at Bristol University, and am keen to do some work towards researching different NLP techniques and their efficacy with pain management – because FMRI’s indicate that it’s not just ‘pretending’ but people actually experience less pain. This month (or was it last?) in New Scientist they were talking about pain management, and it seemed like CBT, really in need of NLP.

  8. Ian Pears

    Hi Harry

    Nice article

    I think its always interesting investigating placebo therapies. I don’t believe there is innate power in placebo. I would rather say that we do have resources that we tend to reserve because our evolution dictated that.

    We can sometimes benefit by an authority figure or a set of rituals that allow us to use our resources to heal when it is safe to do so.

    There is also evidence that using neurological explanations for things makes them all the more plausible (even when they are total neurobabble in the case of NLP)

    Scientology and homeopathy have similarly interesting approaches to healing, and like the pseudo-science of neuro-linguistic programming, they have a pretty vociferous following and financial interest.

    Of course we do need to identify the woo and make it plain to the public. I believe there will always be some people who feel better due to applied homeopathy, dianetics, neuro-linguistic programming or other placebos. Even if you explain to them the total lack of connection with science and neuroscience, they will still report feeling better.

    There will also be some who will feel let down by realizing that they are all pseudoscience. But thats just the way “placebo works”. For some, there will be the nocebo power of knowing something is bunkum.

    The evidence based therapists would generally say that its always best to use well founded treatments, then you get a real effect plus the placebo, plus knowing its evidence based.

    But there is generally always some value in knowing that some coloured placebos are more powerful for some effects, that injected placebos are more powerful than ingested, that the more impactful rituals are also more effective.

    If nothing else, it will allow evidence based practitioners to develop a better “bedside manner” without having to resort to neurobabble.

    Cheers
    Ian

  9. Bob Mushroom

    I got the answer.

    NLP is a self-pfulfilling proficiency.

    Its bullshit but often times if you believe something will work, then it will. So it becomes not bullshit.

    The problem with me is that I feel like I’m TOO SMART for this stuff. I wish I could be stupid and gullible because then it may very well be able to help me with things. But I know its bullshit so it doesn’t work on me.

    So on some people it works and on others it doesn’t. Thats what makes it hard to study and causes debate.

    1. Harry

      I challenge that belief, even in myself – the idea that ‘I’m too smart for this to work on me’, but what I think I’m encountering is two-fold: One, we are entrenched in a pattern, and finding excuses to remain stuck there; and two, it makes us feel clever to think “I recognise what you’re doing, therefore it doesn’t work”

      The only objection to it is this: NLP is the art of finding out what works, so obvious (and often clumsy) swish patterns and fiddling with submodalities and all that frankly ‘magical’ part might not work unless they slip under the radar. So change up your strategy, try blunt honesty or humour, weave in some nuanced hypnotic language, whatever you do, continually change your approach and you’ll likely reach a valid conclusion.

  10. Anonymous

    Wow! NLP is so fucking bad thing! It is like a Scientoloy! Unfortunally, lots of people have done these awful courses. The beyond the shadow of a doubt the NLP is satanism!

  11. Kumar

    I really agree with the blogger.

    NLP makes you believe what not u are! It is purely a placebo effect. I wonder, if NLP works well everybody whoever attended the program would have been in the summit of success.

    Recently, I have attended a program conducted by Only success http://www.onlysuccess.net/ in Duabi, two Indian guys who claims they are the best in NLP. I found the programm what they conducted Influence and Mastery is really a scarp.

    Actually, I have been gone as a coach for that! Alass! These two chaps does not have even any diploma in degree in Psychology or Behavioural science. I wonder how dare these people are ready to play with the emotions of people.

    My dear friends how can a walk on hanging log which is continously kicked and shaken will represent your life? For this itself they took one and half day! Do you think that this is NLP? I rather tell it is Bull Shit.

    NLP is merely a Copporate Way of Making Money in this Corporate world. Please save the world from the so called NLP.

    I beg the proponents of NLP please go and study behavioural science and cognitive therapy before you if you really want to improve other person’s life. Or if you want just make money, then go for it teaching the scrap NLP

  12. Merlin

    Is NLP Bullshit?

    Well.. a good NLP question would be “What part of NLP is b.s.?”

    I am a psychologist with over 25 years experience. I did my NLP training to practitioner grade way back in the ’90s. Then, we defined NLP as the study of how people created their internal experiences. Having gained insight into that, we could assist in the changing of unhelpful patterns. We focused on observation of behaviour, patterns of language, enquired about internal language and imagery, sequences that led up to a behaviour or state and the like. Just the sort of thing I would think any good psychologist should be able to do. Where NLP differed from traditional psychology was in the hypnotic, or trance strategies commonly employed. But even then, what is the difference between trance and guided imagery, which many psychologists would readily employ?

    I am aware that NLP has changed over time – unfortulately not for the better. Lots of people have jumped on the bandwagon and you will see NLP for business success, personal development, making friends and influencing people etc etc. (And, often enough, on the basis of a “must read” book or a brief training programme of dubious provenance – no real effort required.) A New Age air has developed , with magical thinking and often a decidedly sleazy side. A good example of the latter is the photo on the site above. If anyone really believes they are going to get laid by doing this, they are seriously deluded! None of the above is helped by Richard Bandler making abrasive and self-agrandising statements. (By the way, John Grinder, co-founder of NLP, was a professor of linguistics.)

    Nowdays, I do not often use NLP, but there are several strategies or methods of enquiry that I find consistently useful and achieve good therapeutic outcomes sometimes with some seriously troubled and traumatised people. Some may claim that this is a placebo effect. Well.. if this is the case, I have discovered a way of delivering a placebo in an elegant, consistent and effective manner and will continue to do so periodically as long as it benefits my clients. (I am employed in the public sector, in a busy mental health service, I do not make money directly from NLP.)

  13. Arjen

    Its an interesting topic. As said, part of what NLP is, is to study what succesful people do and try to copy it. Pretty much everything NLP teaches are things we do naturally. In that aspect it is hard to claim it does not work. If it is good to make yourself concious of everything is however a whole different thing. As the example given, when you are going to conciously copy peoples behaviour, it will be unnatural and people will notice that. But then again, that was the learning process and after you have done things conciously for a while, it should become unconcious behaviour and then it is natural.

    And there is more to NLP than building raport with other people or even manipulating them. An interesting to me is related to something that happened to me about 15 years ago and long before i even heard of NLP. I always had difficulties to pie in public (festivals) One day i was standing before a fence looking at a poster and the details of the actual tought process then are unimportant, but i managed to get into a “who gives a fuck” mindset, probably partly because of the consumed alcohol and i pied. Ever since if i run into any difficulty pieing in public, i recall the image of that poster and i pie. If i think about that poster, i could stand before you and pie on your shoes.

    Later i was reading about NLP and found that this is what they call anchoring. So that surely works for me 🙂

  14. Iab

    Hi to all I have not attended any N L P courses so am not certified but have used it bizzarly to alter peoples hic cups i.e once i used a certain technique which is to do with reducing a persons fear its called the spinning technique created by Richard bandler what you do is point out the direction the hiccups are moving usually from stomach to throat you ask hic cup sufferer to form a circle change its colour change its direction then say as you tap them on shoulder isn’t amassing its gone i have done this with 5 people one it didn’t work with the quickest was about 20 to 30 seconds and there hiccups were gone to you and me this may be a load of shit but how come it worked all i can say is try it for your self the tapping on the shoulder is usually to do with what is known as anchoring but creating an anchor is usually requires repeating may be pressing on the should simply emphasises the release of the fear of hiccups any way who knows for all the sceptics out there who knows all i can say i have told you this works and try it you may be amassed as i am still Dont believe it but it has worked

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  15. Em Diar

    The problems with NLP and its credibility in the scientific community are many and obvious. If it can be empirically demonstrated that NLP works, and how it works, via a meta-analysis of peer reviewed studies, rather than merely ‘claimed’ by people who are either selling it (please come and give me money to convince you I know more about how your mind works than people who have actually gone to school to learn psychology or neurology), or buying it (I just spent valuable time and money on this shit so I want it to be true)then it would be taken out of the world of tea leaf reading and aroma therapy and gain some credibility with people who actually care what’s really true, and what is little more than pseudo profound hippy nonsense.

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