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What is NLP

A Brief Introduction

NLP or Neuro Linguistic Programming was developed primarily by Richard Bandler and John Grinder in the early 1970’s. Bandler was a mathematician and Grinder was a linguist. They were college students studying psychology and wanted to know what talking therapies were most effective in helping people make personal change. To this end they modelled the language, beliefs and behaviours of therapists respected for their ability to effect change. These therapists included Virginia Satir, Fritz Perls and most significantly the psychiatrist and hypnotherapist Milton Erickson.  They modelled very precisely the language and behavioural approaches of these therapists and other uniquely successful people to come up with the model they called Neuro Linguistic Programming or NLP.

The essence of NLP is the development of a curious and positive mind set allied to a set of mental skills and their associated linguistics. Using the analogy of a computer for the brain, what information we put in affects what behaviour comes out? In computer speak “garbage in garbage out”. They correctly perceived brain function as a network of sensory neurons that create our experiences. In using NLP both the undesired behaviour and a positive alternative behaviour are modelled. This modelling is in the realm of the senses utilising memory and imagination.  As an example, to make your self nervous you only have to remember or create a picture in your mind of an event that made you feel uncomfortable.  Taking things further, what thoughts did you have and how does your body feel. By uncovering these sensory memories and experiences we can change the neural network by introducing and having the client associate to a new set of positive pictures, beliefs and thoughts based on what the individual does well, thus activating a different set of neural networks.

NLP is generally a content free way of affecting change and therefore does not require the client to go over a great deal of personal history.  Although history and it’s insights are not ignored, it is not primary to affect the desired change. When we have different sets of neural networks firing on a given stimulus other than the old networks, the person’s attitude and behaviour will change.

NLP is constantly evolving based on what science is telling us and uses structures and patterns in common with hypnotherapy and to some degree cognitive behavioural therapy.

NLP has a scientific underpinning but requires an artful application.


To learn more about how to become an NLP practitioner please see our training page



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