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What is Neuro-Linguistic Programming?

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What is NLP?  (Neuro-Linguistic Programming)

NLP is a unique approach to therapy and change. Traditional therapy involved the study of people who displayed particular problems, and studied both the causes of these problems and the explanations for the existence of the problems. NLP on the other hand, chose to study people who had gotten over problems, and utilized a unque set of methods for "modeling" or studying patterns in thinking to create these different coping techniques in others. So instead of studying people with problems, NLP modeled the thinking of pepole who had resolved their problems, and taught people who suffered with an issue to alter the patterns of their thinking and feeling to match the patterns of people who had successfully resolved their issues. In NLP-based counseling, the "patient" is a partner in creating change. The client is not "told what to do" by the therapist. Instead, a mutually agreed-upon change is targeted, and the client is offered a range of different approaches for altering their thinking and feelings. The word "programming" in NLP is utilized because problems are treated like sequences of thinking and feeling that either produce positive or negative impacts on a person's experience. By "troubleshooting problems," the sequence is changed and the person's experience changes. It is said that NLP models the structure of internal thinking, and then changes the structure of the person's thinking - which automatically changes their experience.

NLP is also a unique set of perspectives on human behavior, and a set of models for communicating clearly and effectively.  The original developers modeled some of the best therapists and communicators in the world, watching and listening to them with different filters until they found ways to categorize human thinking styles and behavior patterns into specific "units." These units then could be very strategically manipulated to produce consistent results in different contexts. 

Note: NLP has been evaluated by many people as a "pseudoscience." This is because of several factors:

1. In order for a treatment approach to be considered "scientific," you must apply the same techniques to the same problems in the same way every time. NLP is all about the UNIQUE thinking and communication styles of individuals, and adapting your communication to each individual with whom you are working. Because you adapt the techniques to adjust to the individual, NLP becomes completely "un-studyable" within the scientific method. You would never use "cookie-cutter" techniques with a person if you are utilizing NLP. Instead, you adapt what you do to fit the individual.

2. While it is easy to learn some of the basic NLP techniques, really learning and integrating NLP requires an immense amount of study and practice. Most professional therapists already have some level of success with clients, and they are not willing to spend the time and energy learning new techniques when they already have paying clients.

3. One should keep in mind that the entire field of psychotherapy overall has produced a success rate of one-third of clients reporting getting better, one-third of clients reporting no change, and one-third of clients reporting getting worse. These exact same results happen to the clients on the waiting list who never make it to a therapy session. In short, psychotherapy is not a science either. What makes most therapists so hostile toward NLP is that it can produce very quick results. I have taught NLP techniques to therapists who actually said to me, "Wait a minute - if all of my clients get better quickly, I will not have any clients! I'm not going to use this stuff!" I find this revolting! I attempt to explain to them that satisfied clients tell their friends how much you helped them, and they can count on referrals when they produce significant results. Many therapists are afraid of this change.

4. NLP does not subscribe to the notion of, "People are broken or diseased." It treats problems as something that happens in the here-and-now. NLP does not believe in "root causes" such as vague concepts like an inferiority complex, being an unbonded baby, having a personality disorder or otherwise having a defect. Instead, groupings and sequences of thoughts, feelings and behavior are examined together with your therapist, and alternative responses are explored. NLP also teaches that if you cannot help your client, it is NOT because the client is resistant - it is because the therapist lacks the skills to help you with your problem. Try convincing other therapists that THEY may be the reason a client is not getting better! This does not go over well.

Let's return to how NLP DOES work:

One of the first areas in which the original developers worked was manipulating these "mental units" in order to produce therapeutic change incredibly quickly.  They applied these classifications of behaviors or "units" to various contexts, producing incredible techniques for alleviating grief, creating motivation, reducing phobias and fears, concentrating on and accomplishing goals, and helping people to feel comfortable during a conversation or public speaking.  While these skills sound like just a list of techniques, the impact such changes have on peoples' individual lives is incredible.

One of the most powerful examples you can have of this change happened to our corporate president, Mr. Larry Westenberg, during his NLP training. By working with other students, he made strategic changes in his thinking and the sequences of his "mental units." After learning how to be happier, more content with his life and more motivated to achieve his goals and aspirations, he began pursuing a career as a full-time professional therapist, with the intent of sharing the incredible information he learned while studying NLP with others. He went on to obtain two Masters degrees, both aimed at assuring that he would be able to share NLP effectively with others. (One as an M.S.W. and Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and then another in Education, an M.S.Ed.)

Regarding his NLP training, Mr. Westenberg writes:

"On the third day of a 28-day intensive training in NLP (with NLP Comprehensive in Colorado - Notice: just to get certification as a practitioner back then required 28-days of training!), the class watched a tape of Dr. Richard Bandler (one of the original developers of NLP) working with a woman who had severe panic attacks when people were late.  I mean late for anything - late getting back from lunch, late for a date, late showing up at her house - anything!  It appeared as if Dr. Bandler were almost teasing the woman, and sometimes even making fun of her symptoms.  The "patient" looked quite calm and in no distress, and Dr. Bandler asked her some totally off-the-wall questions.  (I had done psychiatric assessments for almost ten years when I saw the tape.  I KNEW the RIGHT questions you were supposed to ask to assess someone's phobias and panic attacks, and he had pretty much skipped that whole series of questions!)  He then had her move some pictures around and imagine some things, and then announced she was cured.   The really weird part was the lady didn't even "notice it."  But in her follow up interview, she told of how the panic attacks just "suddenly disappeared."  She had sort of forgotten them, then almost expected them - but they never came back.  It seemed like a "fluke" thing to me.  I mean, he hadn't really done anything, right?

Twenty-four-days later, the class watched the tape again.  By that time, I had spent four weeks learning these "simple, yet complicated" ways of watching and categorizing patterns in people's thinking and behavior.  Once you knew HOW to spot the right sequences in people's words and behavior, you could even figure out how they would tend to have specific "brain short-circuits" like phobias and "panic from nowhere."  And once you could spot the sequence, you could help them change the sequence, and change their thinking patterns.  Then - BOOM!  Their thinking would change, feelings would change, and their behavior would change.  Seriously and massively change!  

Watching the tape after the additional training days, the rest of the class and I sat with our jaws dropped.  Dr. Bandler was asking incredibly strategic interview questions.  Some of them were asked via jokes, some of them were answered non-verbally.  But every move of his hand, every shift of the images in the patient's "picture world" was absolutely strategic.  And to any graduate of the training, it was a powerful way to encapsulate and capitulate our learning.  I was amazed.  Having seen "talk therapy" done for a decade, I now watched this guy literally make getting rid of your phobia and panic attacks an enjoyable and comfortable experience.  All the patient had to do was just sit and relax and describe the difficulty in response to some VERY strategic questions.  You could even laugh during the process, and Lordy, that appealed to me!!!! 

In the training, we also learned how to carefully sequence or "program" our own thinking, and "BOOM,' our thinking would change, create different feelings, and thus produce different behaviors in a huge variety of contexts!  About a hundred of us had it happen to ourselves, and we created shifts in each other over and over in the training program.  By practicing and experiencing the shifts ourselves, it became easy to make those same mental and emotional shifts happen in other people's thinking.  It is done by very simple but extremely carefully "packaged" questions and statements.  All of them are carefully sequenced and strategic.  (Later, in Master NLP Practitioner Training, we learned to also see and hear how incredibly carefully the word emphasis and word sequences are chosen!) 

In any type of traditional therapy, there may be many sessions of "digging" into the problem.  And hopefully, at some point, there is a particular session where things REALLY begin to shift, and the client has some kind of "Ah-ha!" experience.  What NLP does is strategically create these shifts MUCH more quickly.

I find NLP amazing.  I love teaching it to people, and watching them use it to make their lives better, and make life better for the people around them.  And I usually do this without anybody knowing I am being strategic.  Every conversation becomes an opportunity to support people on their goals or help them solve their problems, and it hardly takes any effort - well, once you master the distinctions and techniques involved!"

Most recently, I went to dinner with some dear friends, and one of them described how he had a new job, and was having trouble sleeping at night, because he was "rehearsing" his job at night in his dreams. He just wanted to be good at his new job. He was losing sleep, and concerned because he was getting to the point where he was tired when he would go to work. Two weeks later, I had dinner with the same friends, and the man who was previously losing sleep smiled at me and said, "Did you 'Do something' when we had dinner last time?" I smiled a Cheshire cat grin and said, 'Why do you ask?' He laughed and said he went home and slept well that night, and every night since. What I had done was a very small yet simple "NLP technique" while we were all chatting during dinner. I utilized a salt shaker as an anchor, and literally moved it around the table a few times, and finished the "technique" in less than five minutes, without ever mentioning that I was "doing anything."

For me, this is the true beauty of NLP - helping people make their lives better, silently, strategically and constantly - most often without them ever knowing I did anything to help. ALWAYS the direction of change is directed by the client! I am very careful to test changes that I offer with the client, to make sure they are a good fit for the person and their life. I get a similar yet greatly expanded opportunity for "Silent service and support" when I work with The Radiance Technique®, which is not only much easier to utilize and apply, but also much, much easier to learn!"

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