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NLP - What is it, and Why Should I Care?

NLP or Neuro-Linguistic Programming is a set of concepts, strategies, and techniques that can be used to change behaviors, thought patterns, and feelings. NLP can be often confused with the actual software programming language called Natural Language Processing. This is not the definition of what I am talking about, though both NLP's are about language.

NLP is defined in many different ways. Google NLP on the internet and you will see this. I like to define NLP as a set of techniques that take advantage of the mind/body dynamics.

NLP, as founded by Richard Bandler and John Grinder was a study of excellence. They wanted to see what made the top people in their fields so excellent at what they did and they also wanted to figure out how they could duplicate this excellence with other people. Fortunately for us, they chose:

  • Virginia Satir - a family therapist

  • Fritz Perls – a psychotherapist known for developing Gestalt Therapy

  • Milton Erickson – a hypnotherapist whom some call the father of modern hypnotherapy.

In studying these three they not only came up with some wonderful models of communication but also a rapid form of psychological therapy. Oh, and yes, they did come out with some great strategies for modeling excellence in others.

I’ll simplify it even more. NLP is a map (Program) of how the nervous system (Nuero) communicates (Linguistic) internally and externally. Armed with this knowledge, techniques have been devised that make NLP useful in therapy, counseling, business, sales, relationships, and personal development. NLP is a phenomenal tool.

Sure, like anything, NLP has its disbelievers and detractors as well. If you look it up, you will see that NLP is generally seen as a pseudoscience. Pseudoscience is defined as "a collection of beliefs or practices mistakenly regarded as being based on the scientific method." First, that does not mean it doesn't work. Second, there are arguments that psychology, itself, is a pseudoscience. For instance, predictability is nowhere near what it is in physics or chemistry. Sure, there are plenty of tests and studies but each of us, from a psychological point of view, are so unique in our experiences, values, and beliefs, that our reactions can vary greatly to any psychological approach.

So then, why is NLP different from other psychological approaches? I am so glad that you finally asked! Unlike most therapy, NLP (and hypnosis) works at the level of the unconscious mind (often referred to as the subconscious mind). most therapies work at the conscious level. Most, if not all, of our problems, behavior, beliefs, and habits are in the realm of the unconscious mind. So why not go right to the source? When working with, or in, the unconscious mind, you can affect change quickly and, most often, permanently.

A colleague of mine was telling me about the time he met a psychiatrist (in the UK) in his office building. She was thrilled to hear that he was all about rapid change. She said that she was also about rapid change. She had just updated her 5-year program to a 2-year program. Wow! If I had told her that I helped someone get over a 40-year phobia in just 15 minutes, while I was teaching the technique to others, her jaw would have dropped. (By the way, phobias take up to 16 weeks to get rid of in traditional 'conscious' therapy.)

OK, so I've been talking a lot about therapy. What if you don't need or are not interested in therapy? Did I mention that all behaviors, beliefs, and habits are in the realm of the unconscious mind? What if there is a behavior that you want to tweak or get better at? Say, public speaking, golf, writing, communications, ... What if there is a belief that you have that is limiting you? Perhaps a belief that money is evil, or too much money causes problems, or that you're not good enough for him or her, ... NLP can help in these situations as well. NLP was originally developed to help people excel in what they do? Peak performance is something people often use NLP for. Belief change work is also something that is relatively easy to do in NLP.

So, why should I care about NLP? It is a modality or a set of strategies and techniques that can help you improve in every part of your life. if you want to get better in your career, relationships, emotional stability, or even your physical being, NLP can help you.

Kevin Martin is an author, speaker, coach, and hypnotherapist. To find out more about NLP and Kevin, go to


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