What neurolinguistic programming actually is and how it helps to resolve problems and improve quality of life has been a matter of some debate and divided opinion. The emergence of neurolinguistic programming dates back to the 1970's when Richard Bandler, who was a student at university in California, approached John Grinder, a lecturer in linguistics, with samples of recorded therapy sessions held by Fritz Perls, the well known Gestalt therapist. Bandler felt that he'd identified specific verbal structures used by Perls in the therapy sessions which had heightened the level of effectiveness of the suggestions and comments made to patients by Perls in the therapy sessions.
After studying the session recordings in depth, Bandler and Grinder contacted another prominent therapist, Virginia Satir, who eventually helped to produce what became known as the meta model, a sort of accumulation and marshalling of the key verbal and non verbal communication and interpersonal elements of the therapeutic techniques successfully used by Perls, Satir herself, and also Milton Erickson, a psychotherapist and hypnotherapist and effectively the founder of covert or conversational hypnosis, who had been introduced to Bandler and Grinder by Gregory Bateson, an anthropologist, social scientist and linguist.
Bandler and Grinder and the therapists research evolved into an overall appreciation of the value and relevance of the study of verbal and body language in relation to therapeutic work, culminating in a model which could advance the value and benefit of therapy - and ultimately hypnotherapy - by developing these new insights into verbal and nonverbal communication and using these insights to encourage in patients/individuals an increased level of self awareness and improved communication skills by altering established patterns of negative thought and emotional response. For more about non verbal communication have a look at this page on NLP body language.
The interesting and powerful phenomenon of street hypnosis is also in many ways closely tied to NLP. Alternatively, while it doesn't have any particularly direct connection with NLP, the theory and practice of remote hypnosis would form a useful part of any study of "covert" hypnosis.
The term neurolinguistic programming was developed to describe the conviction that the therapists had arrived at that a connection exists between neurological processes - neuro -, language range and skill - linguistic - and life experience - programming.
The "neuro" element specifically refers to neural activity in the brain through which the nervous system collects, categorizes and stores information. The "linguistic" element refers to how an individual's thought processes - his or her "map of the world" - can be influenced by the structure and range of the language that the individual uses. The "programming" element refers to how a person's learned behavior patterns, i.e. body language, eye movements etc, are influenced by the way that the brain categorizes and stores information/experience.
Broadly speaking, NLP is about examining the factors in human psychology and behavior which lead to success or failure in actions undertaken by individuals. They looked closely at, for example, the reasons and factors behind why two similar individuals may have entirely different reactions to the prospect of, say, going to a job interview or asking someone out on a date. One may be nervous and uncomfortable about it, the other excited and motivated. The therapists were interested in looking at how the factors leading to success could be duplicated.
They studied the verbal language and the body language exercised by successful people and concluded that certain identifiable patterns of thought and behavior were discernible. They went on to conclude that the brain can learn to adapt these positive patterns and behaviors, leading to enhanced life experience and quality. Out of this combination of speech, vocabulary and body language analysis and enhanced therapeutic techniques emerged neurolinguistic programming.
An NLP therapist will closely observe an individual's body language, eye movements and speech/language patterns in order to help determine the nature of the "driver" of their problem. NLP can be combined with hypnotherapy whereby a blend of NLP techniques and positive hypnotic suggestion work together to bring effective and sometimes remarkably speedy resolution of problems caused by deep rooted fears and negative self beliefs. NLP/hypnotherapy has something of a reputation of success in dealing with phobias and depression.
NLP has undoubtedly helped many people to improve and enhance their life quality and communication skills, but owing to the lack of any definable and widely agreed structure of competence measurement and accreditation, NLP practitioners and practitioner training courses have sprung up everywhere, some more professional and genuinely dedicated than others. If you have an interest in learning about the practice of hypnosis have a look at this page on how to learn hypnosis.
In addition to this, periodically since the mid 1980's various reviews by among others the National Research Council found little or no evidence to support claims about the value of NLP and its potential as a "breakthrough" in psychotherapy.
This was due, at least in part, to the above mentioned lack of a credible system of evidence based accreditation, which has led to huge inconsistencies in the claims being made about the value and effectiveness of neurolinguistic programming. Therefore the conclusion that any objective outsider would currently come to about the evidence for and against neurolinguistic programming seems to be that if you look for it you will find evidence supporting both views. Having said that, it's a fascinating subject and there's no doubt that it's been of positive benefit to a lot of people and is worth investigation, especially by people with phobia or depression related problems.
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