Tuesday, November 29, 2011


The following is my response to anyone promoting or considering Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP), a relatively recent and controversial technique used in counseling and psychology.  NLP has become a popular style of dealing with issues through the efforts of Tony Robbins, as well as other advocates.  NLP is the child of the old EST of the 70's (now known as the Landmark Forum).

Having had experience with NLP, I believe that it is neither neurological, linguistic, nor programming.  The leader of my first practicum site is a fan (despite being a bright, competent woman working on her doctorate in psychology). I look to this example when reminding myself how insidious NLP is in deceiving even intelligent and trained professionals.

NLP has co-opted methods and theories from many other sources in the field of psychology and succeeded at making it a phenomena that is especially focused on business, sales, and other money goals. 

Though based on other sound theories, NLP is overly  manipulative.  Their theory may sound good but is not substantial.  Training in NLP is also suspect as it encourages an undercurrent of cult-like admiration for its teachers or, as they like to call themselves, "motivators".

Even though therapy generally employs manipulation (in the best sense) to help clients, NLP crosses the line in efforts to control outcomes.  I found the practices of NLP to be deceptive and unethical.  In addition, the hype and promises of NLP are based on fluff that is self-activating. (In other words:  You want to believe it; you then believe it and it becomes true for you--for a while. Later, your old issues plague you once again.)

The foundation of NLP is weak, with its "use whatever works" and "reality is your perception" approach.  It can be destructive, especially to clients who are unstable. This phenomena is exacerbated by clients trusting NLP counselors and motivators who are insufficiently trained, yet often pumped up by ego-boosting false positivity.

I believe the training in NLP is cult-like and most attractive to people with control issues.  Perhaps some people have benefited from some aspects of the NLP process, training, and counseling; however, I cannot condone a preference for a counseling modality that is based on such high levels of control and methods of manipulation (by trainers and, eventually and inadvertently, by the self).

NLP claims they have studied the voice inflections and choice of vocabulary of such noteworthy pioneers as Virginia Satir (pioneer of the family approach to therapy), Fritz Perls (gestalt), and Milton Friedman (hynotist and psychiatrist) in order to reach the client.

That alone seems benign enough.  Words do have power. However, too much emphasis seems to be placed on the superficial for the "quick fix" rather than on the gradual and often painstaking work of genuine therapy.

NLP falls within the area of manufacturing authority by inadvertent consent.  In my opinion, NLP, taken as a whole, is generally unethical. This becomes especially evident when employing "pop" techniques to reach the unconscious.

Furthermore, I find it offensive that the NLP movement passes off their program as being new, unique, and innovative when, in essence, they have stolen theories and techniques from so many other modalities (e.g., those based on strategic, brief, gestalt, cognitive and behavioral theories) without giving them due credit.  In addition, they conveniently leave out NLP's history which is based on the brainwashing techniques of EST--a method that is blamed for many harmful results with their clients.  Deception is the main source of NLP's power.  Could YOU trust it?

To better understand NLP and issues I have with this technique, I have listed three sites that give you exposure to NLP.  There are many more sites to explore.  Tell me what you think.  I would appreciate your feedback!

(notice the slick marketing and overblown promises of this organization)


Kevin Goodman said...

I don’t know the specifics of NLP but it does seem like there is quite a bit of skepticism of NLP amongst scientific researchers of hypnotic phenomena.

PSACHNO said...

Personal research into NLP might be significant to support your thesis. People involved in NLP make some amazing [read: unbelievable] claims.

NLP is used heavily in the sales industry. That might give you a clue re: the ethics of NLP and the type of people attracted by it.

If you want, you can even go to a 3 day seminar conducted by Landmark Forum and check it out for yourself...(Warning: According to my practicum leader, "It's not for the faint of heart.")

...In addition, the personalities and legal battles of the so-called inventors of NLP (Grinder and Bandler) are interesting and revealing, in my opinion.

Kevin Goodman said...

"NLP is used heavily in the sales industry."

You mean used heavily by con artists and control freaks? :)

PSACHNO said...

I'll give them the benefit of the doubt that they are ignorant of what they are doing; however, yes, there must be plenty who are guilty of awareness of baser motivations. :0) You got the picture...