History and founding
Early developmentAccording to Bandler and Grinder, NLP comprises methods that were modeled on the work of Virginia Satir, Milton Erickson and Fritz Perls, which also drew upon theories of Gregory Bateson, Alfred Korzybski and Noam Chomsky, particularly transformational grammar.*Bandler and Grinder say that they studied Perls' utterances on tape and observed a second therapist, Virginia Satir, to produce what they termed the meta model, a model for gathering information and challenging a client's language and underlying thinking.* By challenging linguistic distortions, specifying generalizations, and recovery of deleted information in the client statements, the transformational grammar concepts of surface structure were claimed to yield a more complete representation of the underlying deep structure and to have therapeutic benefit.*
In 1975, Bandler and Grinder wrote The Structure of Magic I: A Book About Language and Therapy and The Structure of Magic II: A Book About Communication and Change. The authors referred to Chomsky's transformational grammar and stated that the therapeutic "magic" as performed in therapy by Perls and Satir, and by performers in any complex human activity, had a structure that could be learned by others given the appropriate models. In contrast, the Milton model was described by Bandler and Grinder as "artfully vague" and metaphoric. They say it was used in combination with the meta model as a softener, to induce "trance" and to deliver indirect therapeutic suggestion. However, adjunct lecturer in linguistics Stollznow, describes Bander and Grinder's reference to such experts as namedropping. Other than Satir, the people they cite as influences did not collaborate with Bandler or Grinder. Chomsky himself has no association with NLP whatsoever and his original work was intended as theory not therapy. “Other than borrowing terminology, NLP does not bear authentic resemblance to any of Chomsky's theories or philosophies - linguistic, cognitive or political.”*
In addition to the first two models, Bandler, Grinder and a group of student followers who joined them during the early period of development of NLP, developed specific techniques they called NLP technologies, and termed them "anchoring", "reframing", "submodalities", "perceptual positions" and "representational systems".
Commercialization and evaluationBy the late 1970s, the human potential movement had developed into an industry and provided a market for some NLP ideas. At the center of this growth was the Esalen Institute at Big Sur, California. Perls had led numerous Gestalt therapy seminars at Esalen. Satir was an early leader and Bateson was a guest teacher. Bandler and Grinder claimed that in addition to being a therapeutic method, NLP was also a study of communication and began marketing it as a business tool, claiming that, "if any human being can do anything, so can you".* After 150 students paid $1,000 each for a ten-day workshop in Santa Cruz, California, Bandler and Grinder gave up academic writing and produced popular books from seminar transcripts, such as Frogs into Princes, which sold more than 270,000 copies. According to court documents relating to an intellectual property dispute between Bandler and Grinder, Bandler made more than $800,000 in 1980 from workshop and book sales.*
A community of psychotherapists and students began to form around Bandler and Grinder's initial works, leading to the growth and spread of NLP as a theory and practice.* For example, Tony Robbins trained with Grinder and utilized a few ideas from NLP as part of his own self-help and motivational speaking programs.* Bandler led several unsuccessful efforts to exclude other parties from using NLP.* Meanwhile, the rising number of practitioners and theorists led NLP to become even less uniform than it was at its foundation.* Prior to the decline of NLP, scientific researchers began testing its theoretical underpinnings empirically, with research indicating a lack of empirical support for NLP's essential theories.*
About a decade after NLP's inception, Grinder recognized the significant limitations of his original work and began collaborating with other practitioners to change his methods, leading to what he called as "New Code". Grinder began promoting "New Code" as a paradigm shift, putting greater emphasis on hypnotic mental states, unconscious versus conscious relationships, and "perceptual filters".* The 1990s were also characterized by fewer scientific studies evaluating the methods of NLP than the previous decade. Witkowski attributes this to a declining interest in the debate as the result of a lack of empirical support for NLP from its proponents.*
By the 2000s, some disciplines involving hypnosis and/or influence referenced NLP. However, without any official licensing practices and any ethical or professional limits on who could practice NLP; even proponents of NLP acknowledged that the desire to influence people for purely selfish reasons added to NLP's negative reputation.* In addition to concerns about the motivations of both students and practitioners, ethical concerns have been raised about the supposed benefits promised by NLP practitioners.* After several decades of theory and practice, there is no scientific proof that NLP is effective other than as a placebo effect or confirmation bias, which has led to it being discredited within the scientific community.*
Techniques or set of practicesAccording to one study by Steinbach,* a classic interaction in NLP can be understood in terms of several major stages including establishing rapport, gleaning information about a problem mental state and desired goals, using specific tools and techniques to make interventions, and integrating proposed changes into the client's life. The entire process is guided by the non-verbal responses of the client.* The first is the act of establishing and maintaining rapport between the practitioner and the client which is achieved through pacing and leading the verbal (e.g. sensory predicates and keywords) and non-verbal behavior (e.g. matching and mirroring non-verbal behavior, or responding to eye movements) of the client.*
Once rapport is established, the practitioner may gather information (e.g. using the meta-model questions) about the client's present state as well as help the client define a desired state or goal for the interaction. The practitioner pays particular attention to the verbal and non-verbal responses as the client defines the present state and desired state and any "resources" that may be required to bridge the gap.* The client is typically encouraged to consider the consequences of the desired outcome, and how they may affect his or her personal or professional life and relationships, taking into account any positive intentions of any problems that may arise (i.e. ecological check).* Fourth, the practitioner assists the client in achieving the desired outcomes by using certain tools and techniques to change internal representations and responses to stimuli in the world.* Finally, the changes are "future paced" by helping the client to mentally rehearse and integrate the changes into his or her life.* For example, the client may be asked to "step into the future" and represent (mentally see, hear and feel) what it is like having already achieved the outcome.
According to Stollznow (2010), "NLP also involves fringe discourse analysis and "practical" guidelines for "improved" communication. For example, one text asserts "when you adopt the "but" word, people will remember what you said afterwards. With the "and" word, people remember what you said before and after."
PsychotherapeuticEarly books about NLP had a psychotherapeutic focus given that the early models were psychotherapists. As an approach to psychotherapy, NLP shares similar core assumptions and foundations in common with some contemporary brief and systemic practices,* such as solution focused brief therapy.* NLP has also been acknowledged as having influenced these practices* with its reframing techniques* which seeks to achieve behavior change by shifting its context or meaning,* for example, by finding the positive connotation of a thought or behavior. According to Stollznow (2010) "Bandler and Grinder's infamous Frogs into Princes and other books boast that NLP is a cure-all that treats a broad range of physical and mental conditions and learning difficulties, including epilepsy, myopia and dyslexia. With its promises to cure schizophrenia, depression, and post traumatic stress disorder, NLP shares similarities with Scientology and the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, CCHR."
The two main therapeutic uses of NLP are: (1) as an adjunct by therapists* practicing in other therapeutic disciplines; (2) as a specific therapy called Neurolinguistic Psychotherapy* which is recognized by the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy* with accreditation governed at first by the Association for Neuro Linguistic Programming* and more recently by its daughter organization the Neuro Linguistic Psychotherapy and Counselling Association.*
Other usesWhile the original goals of neuro-linguistic programming were therapeutic, the patterns have also been adapted for use outside psychotherapy for interpersonal communications and persuasion including business communication, management training,* sales,* sports,* and interpersonal influence,* used for coaching, team building, public speaking, negotiation,* and communication. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development|UK Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development included a number of NLP courses, including an application of NLP to coaching, in its 2010 training program.* A range of books have been published related to the application of NLP to coaching.
Empirical validityIn the early 1980s, NLP was advertised as an important advance in psychotherapy and counseling, and attracted some interest in counseling research and clinical psychology. However, as controlled trials failed to show any benefit from NLP and its advocates made increasingly dubious claims, scientific interest in NLP faded.* In the mid-1980s, reviews in The Journal of Counseling Psychology and by the United States National Research Council|National Research Council (1988; NRC) committee found little or no empirical basis for the claims about preferred representational systems (PRS) or assumptions of NLP.*
The experimental research that does exist was mostly done in the 1980s and 1990s. It consisted of laboratory experimentation testing Bandler and Grinder's hypotheses* that a person's preferred sensory mode of thinking can be revealed by observing eye movement cues and sensory predicates in language use.* A 1984 research review conducted by Christopher Sharpley, which focused on preferred representational systems,* followed by another review in 1987 in response to a critique published by Einspruch and Forman,* concluded that there was little evidence for NLP's usefulness as an effective counseling tool. Reviewing the literature in 1988, Michael Heap also concluded that objective and fair investigations had shown no support for NLP's claims about "preferred representational systems".*A research committee* working for the United States National Research Council led by Daniel Druckman came to two conclusions. First, the committee "found little if any" evidence to support NLP's assumptions or to indicate that it is effective as a strategy for social influence. "It assumes that by tracking another's eye movements and language, an NLP trainer can shape the person's thoughts, feelings, and opinions (Dilts, 1983*). There is no scientific support for these assumptions."* Secondly, the committee members "were impressed with the modeling approach used to develop the technique. The technique was developed from careful observations of the way three master psychotherapists conducted their sessions, emphasizing imitation of verbal and nonverbal behaviors... This then led the committee to take up the topic of expert modeling in the second phase of its work."* Von Bergen et al. (1997) state that "the most telling commentary on NLP may be that in the latest revision of his text on enhancing human performance, Druckman (Druckman & Bjork 1991) omitted all reference to Neurolinguistic Programming."* According to Gelso and Fassinger (1990) Sharpley's literature review, marked a decline in empirical research of NLP, and particularly in matching sensory predicates and its use in the counselor-client relationship in counseling psychology.*NLP practitioners and academics Tosey and Mathison have argued that the experimental approach is not always appropriate for researching NLP, instead proposing that NLP should be researched Phenomenology (science)|phenomenologically.* Gareth Roderique-Davies (2009)*
Scientific criticismThe term "Neuro-linguistic programming" has been characterized as a New Age* pseudoscience. Witkowski (2010) writes that "NLP represents pseudoscientific rubbish, which should be mothballed forever." Roderique-Davies (2009) states that "neuro" in NLP is "effectively fraudulent since NLP offers no explanation at a neuronal level and it could be argued that its use fallaciously feeds into the notion of scientific credibility." Witkowski (2010) also states that at the neuronal level NLP provides no explanation at all and has nothing in common with academic linguistics or programming. Similarly, experimental psychologist Corballis (1999) in his critique of lateralization of brain function (the left/right brain myth), states that "NLP is a thoroughly fake title, designed to give the impression of scientific respectability."*
Witkowski (2010) says that NLP uses impressive sounding yet questionable expressions such as; pragmagraphics, surface structure, deep structure, accessing cues, non-accessing movement etc. Canadian skeptic and psychologist Barry Beyerstein (1995) also says that NLP contains terms such as eye accessing cues, metamodeling, metaprogramming, neurological levels, representational systems, and submodalities, intended to obfuscate and to give the false impression of a scientific discipline. He says, "though it claims neuroscience in its pedigree, NLP's outmoded view of the relationship between cognitive style and brain function ultimately boils down to crude analogies."* Furthermore Beyerstein (1995) believed that NLP has helped popularize myths about the brain and neurology. He believes that the aphorism "you create your own reality" promotes a relativistic perspective and only seeks to gain immunity from scientific testing.
Grant Devilly (2005), a clinical psychologist, identified NLP as an early example of a power therapy, explaining that so-called power therapies share characteristics of pseudo-science including: the promotion of unobtainable goals, rationalization traps, manufactured credibility, a set of specific beliefs, self-generated persuasion, vivid appeals, the use of common misconceptions, and attacks on critics through the use of innuendo.
NLP has been criticized alongside theories and practices characterized as questionable, pseudoscience and/or discredited practices in therapy. Sources within therapy and psychology include books such as Crazy Therapies (1997), Science and Pseudo-science in Clinical Psychology (2002), and Tall Tales about the Mind and Brain (2007). Articles critical of NLP also appear in the Encyclopedia of Pseudoscience (2000) and The Skeptic's Dictionary (2003). NLP has more recently been used as a key example of pseudoscience to facilitate the understanding of the importance of rational and critical thinking in a number of academic subjects.*
According to Witkowski (2010), NLP also appears on "the list of discredited therapies" published in the Journal of Professional Psychology: Research and Practice. With reference to work by Carroll (2003), Della Sala (1999), Lilienfeld et al. (2003) and Singer and Lalich (1996) on "pseudoscientific, unvalidated, or "quack" psychotherapies" within clinical psychology, Norcross et al. included NLP for treatment of mental/behavioral disorders in a* survey of the opinions of psychologists who rated NLP between possibly discredited and probably discredited, a rating similar to Animal-assisted_therapy#Dolphin_Therapy|dolphin assisted therapy, Hippotherapy|equine therapy, psychosynthesis, scared straight programs, and emotional freedom technique (EFT). Norcross et al.* listed "neurolinguistic programming for drug and alcohol dependence" seventh out of their list of the ten most discredited drugs and alcohol interventions, and it is listed as "certainly discredited" for addiction treatment in Evidence-based practices in addiction treatment: review and recommendations for public policy*
Intellectual property disputesIn the 1980s, shortly after publishing Neuro-Linguistic Programming: Volume I* with Robert Dilts and Judith Delozier, Grinder and Bandler fell out. Amidst acrimony and intellectual property lawsuits, the NLP brand was adopted by other training organizations.* Some time afterwards, John Grinder collaborated with various people to develop a form of NLP called the New Code of NLP which claimed to restore a whole mind-body systemic approach to NLP* New code of Neuro-linguistic programming (New code of NLP) is a revised framework for the teaching and delivery of NLP patterns. It was developed in the early and mid-1980s. Grinder has described the new code as an attempt to address several design flaws that were observed in the classic coding. Richard Bandler also published new processes based on submodalities and Ericksonian hypnosis.*
Associations, certification, and practitioner standardsSince its beginnings in the 1970s, NLP has been taught in a variety of formats that involve the promotion of associations and the attainment of course certificates. Course lengths and style vary from institute to institute. In the 1990s, following attempts to put NLP on a regulated footing in the UK, other governments began certifying NLP courses and providers; for example, in Australia a Graduate Certificate in Neuro-linguistic programming is accredited under the Australian Qualifications Framework.* In 2001, neuro-linguistic psychotherapy, a form of psychiatry utilizing some techniques from NLP, was recognized by the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy as an experimental constructivist form of Freudian psychotherapy.*By the 2000s, there were numerous competing organizations offering varying forms of NLP training and certification in what could be a very lucrative seminar business. The Guardian newspaper in the United Kingdom reported that in 2006 a seven-day course by Paul McKenna's company for 600 delegates produced £1m in revenue.* Many variants of NLP are found in seminars, workshops, books and audio programs in the form of exercises and principles intended to influence behavioral and emotional changes.
There is great variation in the depth and breadth of training and standards of practitioners, and some disagreement between those in the field about which patterns are, or are not, actual NLP.* However, NLP continues to be an open field of training with no "official" best practice. With different authors, individual trainers and practitioners having developed their own methods, concepts and labels, often branding them as NLP,* the training standards and quality differ greatly.* In 2009, a British television presenter was able to register his pet cat as a member of the British Board of Neuro Linguistic Programming (BBNLP), which subsequently claimed that it existed only to provide benefits to its members and not to certify credentials.*According to Peter Schütz, the length of training in Europe varies from two to three days for the hobbyist and 35 to 40 days over at least nine months to achieve a professional level of competence. He says that the multiplicity and general lack of controls has led to difficulty discerning the comparative level of competence, skill and attitude in different NLP trainings and has resulted in NLP becoming associated with alleged cults such as Scientology and labeled in unfavorable political ways ("nazilinguistic programming").* Sociologists such as Hunt* and Barrett,* describe NLP as an example of a development within the sociology of religion. Hunt (2003) says that NLP is an alternative to Scientology and also similar to some eastern religions which follow a lineage of gurus. Barrett (1998) also describes NLP as a human potential development within the categories of cults, sects and new alternative religions.