What is Neuro-Linguistic Programming?

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What is NLP?  (Neuro-Linguistic Programming)

NLP is a unique approach to therapy and change. Traditional therapy involved the study of people who displayed particular problems, and studied both the causes of these problems and the explanations for the existence of the problems. NLP on the other hand, chose to study people who had gotten over problems, and utilized a unque set of methods for "modeling" or studying patterns in thinking to create these different coping techniques in others. So instead of studying people with problems, NLP modeled the thinking of pepole who had resolved their problems, and taught people who suffered with an issue to alter the patterns of their thinking and feeling to match the patterns of people who had successfully resolved their issues.

In NLP-based counseling, the "patient" is a partner in creating change. The client is not "told what to do" by the therapist. Instead, a mutually agreed-upon change is targeted, and the client is offered a range of different approaches for altering their thinking and feelings. The word "programming" in NLP is utilized because problems are treated like sequences of thinking and feeling that either produce positive or negative impacts on a person's experience. By "troubleshooting problems," the sequence is changed and the person's experience changes. It is said that NLP models the structure of internal thinking, and then changes the structure of the person's thinking - which automatically changes their experience.

NLP is a unique set of perspectives on human behavior, and a set of models for communicating clearly and effectively.  The original developers modeled some of the best therapists and communicators in the world, watching and listening to them with different filters until they found ways to categorize human thinking styles and behavior patterns into specific "units." These units then could be very strategically manipulated to produce consistent results in different contexts. 

Note: NLP has been evaluated by many people as a "pseudoscience." This is because of several factors:

1. In order for a treatment approach to be considered "scientific," you must apply the same techniques to the same problems in the same way every time. NLP is all about the UNIQUE thinking and communication styles of individuals, and adapting your communication to each individual with whom you are working. Because you adapt the techniques to adjust to the individual, NLP becomes completely "un-studyable" within the scientific method. You would never use "cookie-cutter" techniques with a person if you are utilizing NLP. Instead, you adapt what you do to fit the individual.

2. While it is easy to learn some of the basic NLP techniques, really learning and integrating NLP requires an immense amount of study and practice. Most professional therapists already have some level of success with clients, and they are not willing to spend the time and energy learning new techniques when they already have paying clients.

3. One should keep in mind that the entire field of psychotherapy overall has produced a success rate of one-third of clients reporting getting better, one-third of clients reporting no change, and one-third of clients reporting getting worse. These exact same results happen to the clients on the waiting list who never make it to a therapy session. In short, psychotherapy is not and never has been a science either. What makes most therapists so hostile toward NLP is that it can produce very quick results. I have taught NLP techniques to therapists who actually said to me, "Wait a minute - if all of my clients get better quickly, I will not have any clients! I'm not going to use this stuff!" I find this revolting! I attempt to explain to them that satisfied clients tell their friends how much you helped them, and they can count on referrals when they produce significant results. Many therapists are afraid of this change.

4. NLP does not subscribe to the notion of, "People are broken or diseased." It treats problems as something that happens in the here-and-now. NLP does not believe in "root causes" such as vague concepts like an inferiority complex, being an unbonded baby, having a personality disorder or otherwise having a defect. Instead, groupings and sequences of thoughts, feelings and behavior are examined together with your therapist, and alternative responses are explored. NLP also teaches that if you cannot help your client, it is NOT because the client is resistant - it is because the therapist lacks the skills to help you with your problem. Try convincing other therapists that THEY may be the reason a client is not getting better! This does not go over well.

Let's return to how NLP DOES work: (If you have studied NLP, you should notice that hypnotic sentence)

One of the first areas in which the original developers worked was manipulating these "mental units" in order to produce therapeutic change incredibly quickly.  They applied these classifications of behaviors or "units" to various contexts, producing incredible techniques for alleviating grief, creating motivation, reducing phobias and fears, concentrating on and accomplishing goals, and helping people to feel comfortable during a conversation or public speaking.  While these skills may sound like a list of techniques, the impact such changes have on peoples' individual lives is incredible.

One of the most powerful examples you can have of this change happened to our corporate president, Mr. Larry Westenberg, during his NLP training. By working with other students, he made strategic changes in his thinking and the sequences of his "mental units." After learning how to be happier, more content with his life and more motivated to achieve his goals and aspirations, he began pursuing a career as a full-time professional therapist, with the intent of sharing the incredible information he learned while studying NLP with others. He went on to obtain two Master's degrees, both aimed at assuring that he would be able to share NLP effectively with others. (One as an M.S.W. and Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and then another in Education; an M.S.Ed.)

Regarding his NLP training, Mr. Westenberg writes:

"On the third day of a 28-day intensive training in NLP (with NLP Comprehensive in Colorado - Notice: just to get certification as a practitioner back then required 28-days of training!), the class watched a tape of Richard Bandler (one of the original developers of NLP) working with a woman who had severe panic attacks when people were late.  I mean late for anything - late getting back from lunch, late for a date, late showing up at her house - anything!  It appeared as if he were almost teasing the woman, and sometimes even making fun of her symptoms.  The "patient" looked quite calm and in no distress, and Richard asked her some totally off-the-wall questions.  (I had done psychiatric assessments for almost ten years when I saw the tape.  I KNEW the RIGHT questions you were supposed to ask to assess someone's phobias and panic attacks, and he had pretty much skipped that whole series of questions!)  He then had her move some pictures around and imagine some things, and then announced she was cured.   The really weird part was the lady didn't even "notice it."  But in her follow up interview, she told of how the panic attacks just "suddenly disappeared."  She had sort of forgotten them, then almost expected them - but they never came back.  It seemed like a "fluke" thing to me.  I mean, he hadn't really done anything, right?

Twenty-four-days later, the class watched the tape again.  By that time, I had spent four weeks learning these "simple, yet complicated" ways of watching and categorizing patterns in people's thinking and behavior.  Once you knew HOW to spot the right sequences in people's words and behavior, you could even figure out how they would tend to have specific "brain short-circuits" like phobias and "panic from nowhere."  And once you could spot the sequence, you could help them change the sequence, and change their thinking patterns.  Then - BOOM!  Their thinking would change, feelings would change, and their behavior would change.  Seriously and massively change!  

Watching the tape after the additional training days, the rest of the class and I sat with our jaws dropped.  Richard was asking incredibly strategic interview questions.  Some of them were asked via jokes, some of them were answered non-verbally.  But every move of his hand, every shift of the images in the patient's "picture world" was absolutely strategic.  And to any graduate of the training, it was a powerful way to encapsulate and capitulate our learning.  I was amazed.  Having seen "talk therapy" done for a decade, I now watched this guy literally make getting rid of your phobia and panic attacks an enjoyable and comfortable experience.  All the patient had to do was just sit and relax and describe the difficulty in response to some VERY strategic questions.  You could even laugh during the process, and Lordy, that appealed to me!!!! 

In the training, we also learned how to carefully sequence or "program" our own thinking, and "BOOM,' our thinking would change, create different feelings, and thus produce different behaviors in a huge variety of contexts!  About a hundred of us had it happen to ourselves, and we created shifts in each other over and over in the training program.  By practicing and experiencing the shifts ourselves, it became easy to make those same mental and emotional shifts happen in other people's thinking.  It is done by very simple but extremely carefully "packaged" questions and statements.  All of them are carefully sequenced and strategic.  (Later, in Master NLP Practitioner Training, we learned to also see and hear how incredibly carefully the word emphasis and word sequences are chosen!) 

In any type of traditional therapy, there may be many sessions of "digging" into the problem.  And hopefully, at some point, there is a particular session where things REALLY begin to shift, and the client has some kind of "Ah-ha!" experience.  What NLP does is strategically create these shifts MUCH more quickly.

I find NLP amazing.  I love teaching it to people, and watching them use it to make their lives better, and make life better for the people around them.  And I usually do this without anybody knowing I am being strategic.  Every conversation becomes an opportunity to support people on their goals or help them solve their problems, and it hardly takes any effort - well, once you master the distinctions and techniques involved!"

A few years later I learned from Charles Faulker in an incredible training entitled, "Perceptual Cybernetics™" that NLP is based on five main models.  Charles suggested thinking of the models as four walls, plus one roof on a house.  Each wall has a window in it.  Inside the house is a family.  There is mom, dad and two young children living inside the house.  As people in a life, they exhibit a million different behaviors and thoughts throughout the day.  Just as we can learn to look through a filter or colored lens, we can look at their behavior and thinking through five possible filters or models.

The first model is called Anchoring.  Anchoring is basically the successful application of Pavlovian or Classical Conditioning from Psychology. While it was discovered over a century ago, it took NLP to utilize it effectively. Anchoring has been used extensively by success guru Tony Robbins, and is the main NLP model he used to build his empire.  We strongly recommend that this be your beginning point for learning all later NLP, as it includes some basic and fundamental distinctions that are crucial to applying ANY NLP techniques effectively.  This is because NLP training usually begins with learning how to shift people's feelings. This is taught in our "Natural Emotional Control Techniques," which is a 2-day Practitioner training, as well as, "Learning How to Enjoy Life More," a 1-day Skills Class.  Almost all of our skill trainings teach skills that generalize easily to other contexts, and so we sometimes teach these same skills in a different context (such as Business Communications) and teach the class under a different name.  Since this skill is so useful in so many contexts, it is also taught in several other training programs we offer, including "Anger Management," a 1-day training, and "Learning to Relax- Quickly!," a half-day class. 

Using our metaphor of a family in a house, this "window" or view on the world of human behavior would be watching how the family feels, and learning to notice sequences in their feelings or "states."  In more advanced forms of acnchoring, you would anchor ideas, plus hypnotic suggestions, plus emotional states, and physical states - into advanced "anchoring packages." And no, no other NLP institute teaches "packaged anchoring" other than Expanding Enterprises, Inc. (If you have studied NLP, you may want to take our "Natural Emotional Control Techniques" training just to learn about "packaged anchoring. It is not at all related to "stacking anchors" which is taught in most Practitioner Training. We can show you how to make your anchors 20x more powerful!)

After you learn to categorize and recognize different types of feelings shifts, you can move on to study how to categorize a set of patterns in thinking.  By using this second model in NLP called Strategies, you will learn to recognize and utilize patterns in people's thinking that create motivation, make decisions and selections, and help them to learn and remember.  These skills are taught in our 2-day Practitioner training entitled "Duplicating Competence." So this second window through which you can filter the family's behavior and thinking called Strategies focuses on internal sequences. This skill and set of distinctions is at the heart of modeling the skills of others. Rather than developing every skill or ability you want to have by yourself, we will show you how to "borrow" successful strategies from other people - so you can learn to duplicate their successes in a variety of contexts, instead of just randomly trying different approaches.

Many very advanced therapy techniques stem from the the third window, called the "Parts Model."  This section is the root of all work with beliefs and the changing of values and beliefs.  If you are a therapist doing counseling or therapy of any kind, our 3-day training in the Parts Model will teach you an enormous number of extremely short, useful, change-producing "techniques" you can use with clients to teach them new coping skills and help them resolve blocks and conflicts. If you are a practicing counselor or therapist interested in our HABT(sm) Certifications, the 3-day course, "Resolving Conflicts - Inside and Out" would be a best transition class to begin utilizing NLP concepts in your own style of therapy.

Using this third filter or window (Parts), we would be looking at the family and their similarities and differences in values and beliefs.  We would be watching the "politics" of the family.  Within ourselves, and always in interactions with others, there is a certain amount of "give and take."  What action you do when give and take are out of balance makes the difference between suffering or changing, coping or adapting.  Negotiating, whining, fighting - they all take place here.  How to deal with each is the subject of this view on the life of the family.  We utilize the parts processes in several of our training programs, including, "Creative Influence, a 5-day Practitioner Integration and Certification Training, "Resolving Conflicts - Inside and Out," a 3-day long focus on the parts model in NLP and the numerous techniques that grew out of this incredible model, and Making Goals More Achievable," a basic 1-day skills class. 

The fourth model in NLP is called Submodalities, and it has been extensively explored by Richard Bandler to an absolutely amazing degree.  Some of his earliest and most "obvious" work was in this model.  Submodalities involves helping people make very strategic moves and changes to pictures and pieces of experiences in their thinking/head/mind.  You will work with an absolutely amazingly powerful model when you learn to play with submodalities within yourself and others.  We teach the basics of this training in a class called, "The Shifting Memories Method." a 3-day Practitioner training.  When you learn this perspective, you watch the family with a filter on their thinking - exploring the STRUCTURE of what the individual family members picture in their heads, say to themselves inside, and how they feel in their bodies.  While strategies explores the sequences of internal processes, submodalities explores the "richness" of the pieces of those sequences.  It is making some pictures brighter and closer and larger, and making others fade off into the distance.   

A similar but unique way of categorizing patterns in people's thinking comes from another model in NLP, Meta-Programs.  This fifth and final set of filters is extremely useful in learning how to make your communications have the most impact and clarity.  This is taught in our training called, "Understanding Other People." When you know the filters through which people view the world, you can match their filters so they will pay careful attention to your communications.  This level of influence offers you a method for helping people to feel like you are attending carefully to their communication, and teaches you to deliver messages with impact and precision.  Watching the family in the house through this filter, you would notice what types of information are most valued by each family member.

An interesting sixth window or view or perspective on the family inside the house is best exemplified by bringing to your attention that we have been explaining these models using the metaphor of a house with four windows, and that viewing a family's behavior through attention filters is being described metaphorically as looking through a window.  But NLP is not a house, and there are no windows to look through at this non-existent family.  But this "story" helps you "get the idea."  Metaphors is another model utilized in NLP.  Everybody has to have values, and our life metaphor helps us know what to make important in our life.  Metaphors is incredibly rich learning territory, especially in the hands of experts like Charles Faulkner.  In our goal to share this delightful information, we offer a training called, "Achieving Your Dreams."    

In addition to the five (or six) models in NLP, the field also offers some pretty amazing tools for personal growth and change.  One of these tools is a set of language and questioning skills called, "The Meta-Model."  Originally developed by Richard Bandler as part of his thesis for his Master's, it is available through a book known as, "The Structure of Magic, Volumes I and II."  by Richard Bandler and John Grinder. (Science and Behavior Books, Palo Alto, CA  94306  1975)  I do not recommend you go race out and buy a copy yet.  Instead, I recommend that you take the training from us entitled, "Inquiry and Influence Skills." It is a 2-day Practitioner training which focuses on therapy and assessment applications of the Meta-Model. I suggest you learn how to USE the tool first.  THEN go buy "The Structure of Magic I & II."  It can make sense and be useful then.  But that book is tricky!  C'mon...  It's somebody's (Bandler's) Master's thesis.  The tool is fantastic.  It helps you clarify communications coming from others, and to hone your own communications to help others get your point exactly and peacefully.  I think Bandler has gone on light-years ahead from The Meta-Model, and yet I still find it a very useful tool for people to learn. 

Another delightful tool that grew out of working in NLP is called, "Perceptual Position."  This very powerful set of techniques is taught in the training entitled, "Maintaining Boundaries in Life."  This 2-day Practitioner training offers parents, therapists, lovers, and divorcing parents the opportunity to develop and strengthen boundaries between themselves and others.  It teaches techniques and concepts you will find useful for the remainder of your life. You do not have to be a therapist to benefit from this training program - or any of the others! But by utilizing Perceptual Positions and teaching them to your therapy clients, you can create and customize a huge number of therapy techniques that will help your clients in a wide variety of situations.

Most of the available training programs from Expanding Enterprises, Inc. utilize or teach NLP and several other cognitive therapy techniques.  The class, "Introduction to Neuro-Linguistic Programming," is described by it's own title.  It is a "cherry pick" of techniques for quick, powerful changes on-the-spot.  "Anger Management" classes teach several techniques taken from several of the above listed NLP models, specifically designed to work as a "cluster" to help reduce anger - both inside and out. The "Beliefs and How to Change Them" training is our 8-day HABTsm Master Practitioner Certification training. It teaches a huge variety of NLP techniques, with a primary focus on beliefs and more subtle forms of influence. 

"Executive Meditation" simply teaches basic meditation without religious overtones.  We recommend that individuals seeking certification in HABTsm (Human Animal Behavior Training) study some form of meditation because of the incredible array of medical and psychological benefits that result from the daily practice of meditation. The more meditation is studied, the more positive benefits are being uncovered. This is a very popular training that we often present to a company or corporation because it is greatly enjoyed by the participants, and also produces very positive "side-effects" such as increased employee concentraion and productivity without placing any pressure on employees.

Finally, there are several applications of an NLP skill called, "Influential Language." It is an amazing set of methods for making your communications have more impact and "fit" the receiver so that your message is well received - or "nudged" into the receiver. These skills are taught in the 2-day Practitioner training entitled, "Inquiry and Influence Skills, or, in a 1-day overview or sort of "Hypnosis 101" class called, "Introduction to Clinical Hypnosis." And again, these language patterns are taught in a completely different way than how they are taught anywhere else in the world. Mr. Westenberg immersed himself for two years in hypnotic language patterns, and began to notice and code patterns within the patterns. This makes learning hypnosis much more enjoyable, and much more approachable/simple.

We take great pride in offering the absolute best training in the world. Over 20 years of editing and improving these materials, re-sequencing of information and exercises - all of this has gone into creating the structured experience that awaits you while attending ANY of our training programs.  We appreciate any feedback you would offer, and we  hope to dazzle you with our products and the usefulness of our training very soon!

Larry Westenberg, MSW, LCSW, MSEd
President of Expanding Enterprises, Inc

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