Neuro-Linguistic Programming, or NLP, is an approach to psychotherapy and self-improvement. It was developed in the 1970s and has grown in popularity and acclaim in recent years. Although it is not generally considered a sanctioned field of psychotherapy, many people have had success with NLP training. People have sought out the help of NLP experts to help them change habits, reduce stress, remove phobias, and operate at peak performance. Using NLP to treat or alleviate depression is possible, although somewhat controversial.
The psychological definition of depression is very different from the mild “depression” that nearly everyone feels from time to time. We all feel sad, blue, unhappy, miserable or down-in-the-dumps from time to time. True clinical depression is a diagnosable mood disorder that is characterized by feelings of sadness, loss, anger or frustration with everyday life for a long period of time. Clinical depression should not be taken lightly.
Cognitive therapy and medication have been scientifically proven to help alleviate depression. A truly depressed person’s first move should be to a psychologist or psychiatrist for diagnosis. While NLP can help some people alleviate symptoms of depression, it is a serious enough matter that you should first seek out the scientifically proven remedies. A psychologist or psychiatrist will start you on a series of cognitive therapies and/or medication if they diagnose you with actual clinical depression.
NLP can, however, be helpful. NLP focuses on changing thoughts and behavior. At its core, NLP aims to identify and change the underlying assumptions, or presuppositions, that we all use to live our lives. A depressed person often has serious deficiencies in the way they think about themselves and the world. Working with an NLP practitioner can help the depressed person think more realistically and positively about their situation.
One NLP technique to help people suffering from depression is to help people develop a reason to get out of bed in the morning. By creating a well-defined and achievable project or goal, the world can stop looking so bleak. NLP is a very good system for developing well defined goals. Giving yourself a project as simple as starting to learn a new language, taking a class in physical exercise, or learning how to play a musical instrument can give some structure and goal orientation that many depressives lack.
Changing the way you think about the world and how it fits into your framework for living can directly affect your depression. NLP techniques are very good at identifying the internal processes that are affecting your thinking so profoundly and changing them for the better. Using tools like anchoring positive thoughts to external stimuli and using submodalities to make positive thoughts more vivid and intense in your mind are just a couple of the possibilities that NLP has to offer.
However, please let me reiterate that seeking NLP therapy for true depression should NOT be your first course of action. Depression is a serious medical illness that needs the most rigorous and intense of psychological help available. However, if you’re feeling moderately depressed like everyone does from time to time then investigating what NLP has to offer is a good idea. Or, if you want to work with an NLP practitioner in addition to your own cognitive psychologist or psychiatrist, that is also a good idea. It is possible to find and work with a cognitive psychologist that also has extensive training with NLP. Sometimes NLP and traditional psychology are at odds with each other but an increasing number of psychologists are seeing the benefits of learning about NLP and adding those skills to their therapy “toolboxes.”