How Does NLP Work?

Neuro-Linguistic Programming is an approach to personal development, organizational change, and psychotherapy. It focuses on the relationship between neurological processes, language, and human behavior. NLP covers a very broad range of disciplines so therefore it is often difficult to give a succinct definition as to what it is. It is predominately used in personal development, management training, sales training, life coaching, and any other discipline where sustained change in human behavior is desired. While its efficacy has been largely unproven scientifically, it has been popular for many years. Certification and licensure movements have gained momentum recently as NLP improves its reputation in therapy circles.

Neuro-Linguistic Programming uses attitude and self image towards illness to promote healing. NLP places great emphasis on the power of hope. The well documented placebo effect and the success of prayer when combined with faith and hope all speak toward that end. As a discipline, NLP is based on several useful presuppositions. A presupposition is are assumptions or beliefs that a person will find useful in trying to create change in themselves and/or the world.

A few of the most important NLP presuppositions are:

1. Communication is more than what you are saying.
2. No one is wrong or broken. People work perfectly to accomplish what they are currently accomplishing.
3. People already have all the resources they need.
4. Behind every behavior is a positive intention.
5. Every behavior is useful in some context.
6. The meaning of a communication is the response you get.
7. If you are’t getting the response you want, try something different.
8. There is no such thing as failure. There is only feedback.
9. Having choice is better than having no choice at all.
10. In any system, the element with the most flexibility exerts the most influence.
11. The map is not the territory.
12. If someone can do something, anyone can learn it.
13. You cannot fail to communicate.

An NLP practitioner will work with the client to make these presuppositions an integral part of their thought process.

NLP is also built around the concepts of submodalities, various models, and sensory acuity. Modalities are the representations and attributes you make using your five sense. Different people will think about the same object in very different ways, depending on which modalities are most important or prevalent to them. Adjusting your submodalities will often change the reaction you experience from certain events.

One model that NLP focuses on is known as the meta-model. Within this model, a set of questions is designed to find the explicit meaning in a person’s communication. The therapist must make no assumptions retarding the communication. They ask probing questions to find out what the person who is being treated is truly thinking about. Another model is called the Milton Model and it focuses on using deliberately vague language so that the client will have the opportunity to shape it in his or her own mind. By using models that are modeled from the behavior and actions of successful people NLP enables us to create better “maps of reality”.

Reality is not universal or concrete. Each person experiences reality in their own way. NLP seeks to help people create better maps for understand the reality they are experiencing. A good map will give someone more options to make better decisions. At its core, that’s what NLP does. It gives people options and avenues to improve their lives, thoughts, and behaviors. With the help of a trained NLP practitioner, people can create more vibrant, accurate, and detailed maps to help them live their lives.


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