Ever heard of NLP (Neurolinguistic Programming)? Ever heard of the "Landmark Forum?" This type of psychological approach claims to be therapeutic and has become especially popular, in the last decade or so, with not only therapists, but also Life Coaches. However, NLP is losing fans; among them are therapists. The next "new" thing began to prove to be the same old thing with a different face: promises of a quick fix through an intensive program.
The creators of NLP claim that they developed their methods by watching the body-language and speech patterns of well known practitioners and hypnotists: Fritz Perls, Virginia Satir, and Milton Freedman. There's also a little of this 'n that thrown in and, of course, impressive psychological terms.
Tony Robbins was an advocate of NLP; he started inspiring a string of "believers" on their quest for self-improvement and making money. However, despite the testimonies of initial believers, the positive effects of NLP do not seem to last long.
The more I read about NLP, the more I got creeped out. For instance, my NLP-loving practicum director referred me to the "Landmark Forum" (LP), commenting to my doubts that it was not for the "faint of heart". I found out that LF is a revised version of EST of the 1960's-70's (which has been strongly criticized and discontinued). There are cult-like aspects to LF, as many who experienced the intense 3-day weekend "mind makeover" have testified. (I think I'm getting really good at sniffing out cult-stuff, having been raised in one.)
As likeable as my practicum director was, it didn't take long before I started having weird vibes from her. As my practicum progressed, she began instilling what I believe were unethical and substandard practices into the program. I was torn; there were aspects I loved about doing therapy and helping the program as practicum co-ordinator, but when obviously unethical boundaries caused me to hit the wall, I decided to change practicums.
Admittedly, doing therapy requires some manipulation through focusing on points needing attention, asking the right questions, and having good communication and repoire with the client. However, the process is practiced under guidelines of being genuine, authentic, warm, and empathetic--and really caring about the client.
NLP is not only used for positive ends, as in therapy. NLP is often taught to people in sales to help them increase their business. It appears to be a quick, slick way to teach tricks and tactics designed to manipulate the customer.
I saw the same processes at work in my practicum that I found online. It began with a program my director created for decision-making that really contained some great and powerful insights (gathered from other theoretical models in psychology). However, as practicum students, we had little training, were given very questionable advice, and then were thrown into untenable situations with clients. Confidentiality (the bedrock of good therapy!) was often unnecessarily violated. It finally became clear to me that the director, who was raised in a cult, seemed to operate her program in a cult-like way. In my experience, the world of psychotherapy techniques and values I had been taught growing up and in school were crossing into dangerous territory.
I am a staunch proponent of improvement in training and mental health centers and I am very open to considering change. I think she saw my "open door" and agreed to work closely with me in helping her in the organization. However, the director ultimately betrayed her motives by her actions, her comments, and her communication style. Unfortunately, she proved to be manipulative and dishonest at times. I believe, in her exuberance to create and push her program forward and gain credibility, the clients' needs many times came second.
Despite several conversations I had with her regarding serious disagreements with some protocols and procedures, nothing much changed. Serious breaches in therapeutic ethics occurred over a short time. I watched as my director maneuvered between students, clients, and authority figures to keep her practicum students and the program afloat. She worked hard to garner degrees (though not in psychology), certificates--even a ministry diploma--trying to increase the scope of her influence and authority. While I was there, she also became a deputy. She appeared very ambitious with a smattering of Machiavellianism thrown in. It made me very uncomfortable at times.
I liked her at first; then she lost my trust. Without trust, you severely limit your effectiveness with students and clients. She made empty promises, even using deceit, trying to manipulate people and situations to keep her program afloat. Sadly, she really believed in her program and worked diligently at it--often at the price of self-care. As time went on, her actions felt more and more fanatic. Clearly, this woman felt driven to get much power in her life, even at the risk of losing her students (which she eventually did) and damaging the success of her program (which is exactly what happened).
Granted, not all NLP practitioners are alike. (She definitely had her personal issues.) However, if you or someone else you know is considering therapy or Life Coaching with a practitioner who believes wholeheartedly in NLP, be very careful before you drink the Kool-aid!
My director's off-used phrase? "Perception is reality!" I cringe remembering those words. They were half-truths in Existential Psychology she created for highly manipulative clients in deep denial. The thought of giving these especially potentially dangerous clients the "everything is relative" schtick made me shudder. I'm so glad I changed practicums and luckily found myself at a top rate community mental health center.
The picture of the book is called: "The Structure of Magic II"--one of two of the original NLP books. Even the title of the book is creepy, no?