NLP articles that are written by working professionals in the Neuro Linguistic and Hypnosis fields.

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NLP Associations and Credentials

In the world of NLP training, there is no regulation of standards, syllabus content, duration of training nor levels of competency. At the same time, there are plenty of groups of people purporting to be professional or other NLP associations representing the interests of their members and offering cut price insurance.  This has become possible because John Grinder and Richard Bandler, in the best tradition of revolutionary activity, failed to identify and define the parameters for standards and training practice in NLP when they were in a position to do so.  At that time, the Society of NLP could have become the “official” organ and developed in due course into a statutory body. How bourgeois then, but how much better for the field in the long run.  

Instead, we have, for example, the ABNLP, BBNLP, INLPTA, NLPTRB, ANLP, AINLP, Society of NLP, Professional Guild of NLP and others from time to time, all of which are non-official, non-accredited bodies with the authority of a puff of hot air.  These bodies endorse NLP trainers and the certification of so-called “Practitioners” and “Master Practitioners” and in some cases “Trainers” and “Master Trainers”.

American Pacific University, which is associated with an NLP training organisation and an NLP association, has no charter, no Act of Congress, and is not accredited as a university (see, nor is it recognised in the Academic world. This kind of organisation is known as a “Degree Mill” and is illegal in much of the developed world. As a counter example, NLP University, to its credit, does not claim to be a university and states in its literature that it does not offer educational qualifications.

Many NLP organisations claim “international recognition or accreditation”. The Australian government describes this kind of program as a “hobby course” and requires GST to be paid on their fees.  Here are some definitions:

Accreditation, Endorsed and Internationally accredited

“Accreditation” means that a government has approved the program and training organization and has included them in its list of qualifications and approved institutions.   Universities are accredited under Royal Charter or Act of Parliament or Congress.  Registered training organisations in Australia are accredited nationally, through state training bodies, to offer nationally accredited training.

“Endorsed” means that a non-official, non-government organisation or person approves of a trainer and or their program. Endorsement may be worth more or less according to the expertise and standing of the endorsing entity and the subject of the endorsement. It has no official standing. “Internationally recognised” as used in NLP promotional literature, means that the proponent is trying to make a non-accredited program or organisation look accredited. What they mean is that some non-official person or body has endorsed it.

“Internationally accredited” means the same as “internationally recognised” and neither carries any authority.

You, reader, have the right to designate yourself a master practitioner right now, if you so choose, and no one can stop you. On the other hand, if anyone claims to have a degree when they do not, the full process of law is available to stop them. To have that privilege in NLP, we need worthwhile standards, accredited qualifications and a statutory body.

Twenty years ago, the associations were doing their best to keep NLP training in the hands of experts and to restrict membership to those who had completed 21 days of live training as practitioners and a total of 40 days to become master practitioners and been assessed as competent by association approved assessors. For a while, self-regulation seemed to work. Then the duration of practitioner training started to slip until the lowest was seven days with a distance learning component and scripted formats instead of patterns. The purveyors of short training programs marketed them aggressively, and from 1990 on, the seven day practitioners sought full membership of the associations, which needed members to stay in business. As these people acquired voting rights, the standards fell.

At Inspiritive, before we became a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) and chose the route of government accreditation, we had involvement with three associations. Each one was taken over subsequently by a majority of people who wanted lower standards. In the first case, it was to boost membership, in the second, it was to allow members to compete in the now debased market place and in the third case, it was ignorance of the distinction between patterns and content that prompted the change. One or more of these interests has reduced the capacity of any non-official body we have encountered, not just the above three, to promote accurate, comprehensive NLP that conforms to the descriptions in Grinder and Bostic’s “Whispering in the Wind“. Until there is one that does, we shall not be seeking their endorsement.

Instead, Inspiritive has become a Registered Training Organisation and has had a 450 hour Graduate Certificate in NLP accredited by the Australian government. We also have the honour to be endorsed by Dr. John Grinder, the co-originator of the field. Our course is all NLP, taught in a New Code framework to facilitate unconscious uptake of the patterns and natural, spontaneous behaviour with NLP thereafter. We distinguish between patterns and content, teach patterns and only identify content models that have been placed, erroneously in our opinions, in the field of NLP so that our students can learn to place learning materials in their proper context.

Learn more

Check our 10970NAT Graduate Certificate in Neuro-Linguistic Programming program.

(Note: If you would like to learn more about the New Code of NLP you can get a copy of  our latest Kindle book ‘AEGIS: Patterns for extending your reach in life, work & leisure’ by Jules Collingwood, NLP Trainer. For only $4.99 here).

Learn more about NLP, read our Ultimate NLP Compendium of NLP

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Developing the Coaching Relationship with NLP

When two or more people get together to produce a project, it works best when they all share the same framework. They need to know the outcome for the project, the time allowed to complete it, the resources available to them, the capacities of the other members and what they and the others agree to contribute. Initially, they may be working with strangers whose only reference is their CV, but over time, relationships develop, competencies are demonstrated and each member forms beliefs about the capacities, inclinations and performance levels of the others. Credibility is established through ongoing exposure.

The armed services use training exercises and shakedown cruises to enable new teams to discover each other’s strengths and weaknesses before doing serious work together. This allows relationships to develop in a low risk context so the team can function effectively in real world situations. Low risk means there is no combat and no additional mission. The organisers often include a level of perceived risk specifically to enhance team building and expose the members to pressured conditions. The military can do this with impunity because the members have already accepted its terms of employment and have an existing relationship.

Coaching, especially in personal thinking and communication skills, cannot function in an atmosphere of mistrust or perceived doubt in the ability or intentions of the coach. A coach has to elicit unfamiliar behaviour in a client to enable the client to learn new skills. New behaviour is a product of changes in a person’s thinking process and the client’s thinking will only change by trying out new ideas, beliefs and processes. Therefore the client needs to be willing to experiment, suspend some beliefs, albeit briefly, and take direction of their thinking processes to discover different possibilities.

As a client, would you do this with a stranger? How do you know they have your best interests at heart? How do you know they won’t scramble your faculties? How long does it take you to establish that someone can or cannot coach you effectively?

The Coaching Relationship

The coaching relationship takes time to develop. It requires framing of ideas and clear, step by step instructions for mental process. In my own practice, I often wish I could take a new client through a particular process before I have taught them the basics of it. It only takes two or three sessions to get there, but if I did it too soon, they might not participate and I would lose their trust and my credibility. If I leave it for another time, when I have succeeded at simpler work, they participate willingly and get excellent results.

The technical term is pacing and leading. This means I keep my requests and behaviour within a range that the client can relate to, going with them for as long as necessary for them to begin to extend. It is possible to achieve something worthwhile in the first session while attending to creating the relationship and it pays dividends in the future having unlimited credibility.

Part of relationship building includes training clients to use mental attributes they may not know they possess. Some change processes have prerequisite skills, so the early stages of coaching can require us to assist a client to gain these skills. Internal representation of images is one such skill.

I accept that people visualise internally, seeing mental images from memory and imagination. I also accept that many people use visualisation without experiencing subjective awareness of seeing anything and that some people believe they do not visualise at all. I want clients to be able to visualise anything they choose at will and I can facilitate this without stretching their credulity.

First, I want clients to prove to themselves that they use internal images, so I ask ordinary questions about everyday incidents that require visualisation to answer. Ordinary social questions about a client’s journey to my office work well. I might ask where they left their car and how close it is parked to the next car, or how crowded the station was. I could ask about a family member or a favourite item of clothing, or their house or workplace. Any of these topics elicit internal images, to which I draw their attention. Once they realise that their answers to visually oriented questions required imagery, they discover that they have been doing it for years.

Sometimes, just knowing how we produce answers to visual questions is enough. As long as we act as if we are visualising deliberately and allow the result to remain outside conscious awareness, we can continue to produce accurate descriptions from it and the skill is demonstrably adequate for the job. Over time, most people’s awareness shifts so they start to see their images consciously once they know they are visualising.

For the more literal minded individual, we can bring visualisation to conscious awareness. The idea is more acceptable when someone knows they do visualise already, so I use the above information first.

Then I will ask the client to think of a specific image, maybe their house or their car or a family member; something familiar and preferably pleasing to them. We know from NLP that visual access is most detectable when the eyes are directed above the eye line. I will not specify a direction; merely suggest a slow sweep from left to right and vice versa, so long as the line of sight remains above the eye line. The client will discover where the best quality image is, for themselves and it may be in a different place for different subject matter. This enables most people to see their visualisations.

For the occasional person for whom visualisation remains persistently unconscious, I ask the person to shut their eyes, imagine smelling a rose and to lift their closed eyes above the eye line. If they really get the scent with their eyes closed and lifted, they will see an image of the rose they are smelling. Smell is a fast track to memory, direct from the limbic system of the brain. Smell evokes memories effortlessly, bringing representations of all our senses online instantly.

What does teaching someone to see internal images have to do with the coaching relationship? It enables the client to have an experience of being coached successfully, at their own pace. There is instant evidence to support the coach’s credibility and demonstrate the client’s capacity. It prepares the client for future coaching activity while engaging them in learning in the present and it allows the coach to frame their approach while using it.

If, at the first session, with no framing of the coaching relationship and no staged instruction to pace the client’s experience, you launch a request that the client imagine having their outcome, as if in real time, they may have no idea what to do. They may not even know what they want at this stage; let alone how to represent it. Such a course of action would be demoralising for the client and reduce your credibility for the future. That spells unnecessary effort for both parties and a less rewarding coaching situation.

On the other hand, if you pace the client’s experience and lead them gently in stages, with clear instructions and evidence, they will discover what they can do, and extend it. You can harness their own abilities to assist them identify and achieve what they want. Then coaching becomes fun and a journey of discovery for both parties, enabling the client to dance with their own mind and choose their experiences after trying them on first.

An excerpt from our forthcoming book on Coaching by Jules and Chris Collingwood

Learn more

Check our 10970NAT Graduate Certificate in Neuro-Linguistic Programming program.

(Note: If you would like to learn more about the New Code of NLP you can get a copy of  our latest Kindle book ‘AEGIS: Patterns for extending your reach in life, work & leisure’ by Jules Collingwood, NLP Trainer. For only $4.99 here).

Learn more about NLP, read our Ultimate NLP Compendium of NLP

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Body Language Rapport and Influence

Body language communicates something, regardless of whether we wish to communicate or not. Living systems cannot not communicate. Without wishing to push the bounds of credibility, I include plants as demonstrators of body language. They wilt when short of water, lose the green in their leaves when short of nutrients and turn brown at the edges when they get too cold. These events can be observed by anyone. Of course there are more obscure bodily communications in the plant world too. Recognition of disease or predators or the need for exotic growing conditions is the realm of the trained plant body language expert, the horticulturist.

People and animals have a wider repertoire of nonverbal communication than plants. We can move from place to place and make faster, more visible gestures. As humans we can modify our gestures consciously, making voluntary movements as well as displaying unconscious breathing shifts, skin tone changes and micro-muscle movements. We use our bodies to convey interest or disinterest, to establish rapport with others or to stop them in their tracks. We learn cultural norms about appropriate body language for people of our gender, age and status in our daily lives and sometimes find our habitual presentations elicit markedly different responses in other parts of the world.

What can Body Language teach us about People?

So what can body language teach us about other people? With sufficient exposure to another culture we can learn to recognise its members by their body language, the way they move and gesture, how close they stand to other people and how much eye contact they make and with whom. We can learn to recognise how any individual, whatever their origin, is thinking by watching their eye movements, breathing and posture as they interact. This will not tell us what they are thinking. The subject matter of someone’s thoughts remains private until they describe it.

If we observe some interesting body language and ask the person what it means to them, we gain reliable information. If we observe the same person doing the same thing in a similar context in future, we can ask them if it means what they told us last time. This combination of observing a particular person and asking them for meaning for our future reference, is called calibration. We calibrate an individual against themselves in a particular context. In this way we can learn our employers’ requirements, our partners’ preferences and our pets’ idiosyncrasies with some degree of accuracy.

There is an urban myth that we can attribute accurate meaning to body language without calibrating the particular person. This is not useful. Unfortunately the myth has been enshrined in print with examples of body language. Did you know that if a woman points her toe at a man during a conversation she is supposed to fancy him? And what about the old chestnut of folded arms meaning that person is ‘closed’? Does a lowered brow and pursed lips really mean someone is annoyed, or could they be thinking, straining or doing something else?

Take sexual attraction for example. People do dilate their pupils, flush and lean forward in conversation when they are attracted to someone. They also do it when they are passionately interested in the subject matter, so don’t assume it is you, it may be something you are discussing. Of course, that level of interest is conducive to rapport. You may find friendship developing out of a common interest.

If you assume someone is annoyed with you when they go red or white and jump up and down waving their arms in the air, you may attract abuse from them. This is creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Until you know more from that person, you don’t even know they are annoyed. They might be trying to dislodge an insect from down their front or be desperate to go to the WC, and even if they are angry, you might not be the subject of their wrath. Making assumptions about the meaning of people’s behaviour is called mind reading. We all do it, but some of us have learned to recognise it and use our assumptions to create questions so we can calibrate for the future.

Using Body Language

We can use other people’s body language to help us create rapport with individuals, groups and at parties. Instead of mind reading, if we place our attention on the other person or people, open our peripheral vision and quieten our internal comments we will notice the rhythm of their whole body movements, speech and gestures. If we match these rhythms with our own bodies we will find ourselves being included in what is going on. This is not the same as literal mimicry. Accurate imitation often gets noticed and objected to. The intent is to match the rhythm by making some form of movement in the same rhythm without attracting conscious attention to it. When we feel included we can test the level of rapport by doing something discreetly different and noticing whether the other or others change what they are doing in response. If they do, you can lead them into a different rhythm or influence the discussion more easily.

When entering groups or parties, if we observe with open peripheral vision and internal quietness we may be able to spot the peer group leaders. They are the people with others around them, the ones who’s movements may be slightly ahead of the others and change first. If we want to influence the whole group, these are the people to match. We may want to establish rapport with each peer group leader individually, or simultaneously. We can do it simultaneously if we are within their visual field and matching their rhythm for a few minutes before engaging them. It is possible to change the direction of quite a large gathering by these methods.

Body Language and Vocal Patterns

Strictly speaking, nonverbal vocal patterns are not body language, but they can be used to establish or break rapport as readily as physical movement. If we match the rate or speed of speech, the resonance, tonality and rhythm used by a person, we will create rapport with them. Again, out and out mimicry is not recommended. Most people will catch it happening. It is more comfortable to match voice patterns at the equivalent pitch in our own range than to attempt note for note matching and to match unfamiliar breathing rhythms with some other emphasis.

Suppose we are voice matching on the telephone and now want to finish the call. The level of rapport is such that it has become hard to disengage. We can change any of the elements we have matched but often the other party simply matches us and carries on. In extreme situations no one minds an abrupt end to a telephone call. How often have we used “there’s a call on the other line”, “someone’s at the door” or “the dog has been sick on the carpet” to end a call without breaking rapport? Then there is the last ditch stand. Cut off the call in the middle of your own speech, not theirs. That way they will assume it was an accident. In person we can make our departure quite firmly and with rapport by doing rapport building with the body and departure with voice patterns or vice versa.

And the quickest and simplest way to use body language to establish rapport? Act as if we are totally fascinated by the person or what they are discussing. All the nonverbal signals we could wish for will come on stream by themselves.

Learn more

Check our 10970NAT Graduate Certificate in Neuro-Linguistic Programming program.

(Note: If you would like to learn more about the New Code of NLP you can get a copy of  our latest Kindle book ‘AEGIS: Patterns for extending your reach in life, work & leisure’ by Jules Collingwood, NLP Trainer. For only $4.99 here).

Learn more about NLP, read our Ultimate NLP Compendium of NLP

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Managing Emotional Responses with NLP

Contrary to popular belief, NLP is not a therapy, although therapy practitioners who use it get spectacular results. It is not a sales training programme, yet sales people who use it also get spectacular results. It is not a personal development medium, yet personal developers who use it get spectacular results too. And it is not a suitable subject for home study. It works too well to be safe in the hands of the untrained, and is best learned with experienced and qualified NLP trainers. Would you attempt to learn scuba diving from a book, or from your neighbour who did a weekend course in the local swimming pool? This article offers insight into one of our cultural assumptions and ways, using NLP information, to learn to manage it ourselves.

NLP studies how we put our thoughts together, how we know what we know and how we construct our own experiences. And yes, our own subjective experiences are different from everyone else’s. And everyone else’s experiences are different from each others’. All of our thoughts, emotions, memories and imaginings are made from pictures, sounds and sensations. The differences between our common experiences come from the myriad sequences and placings we can make with sounds and pictures and sensations and in the choice of subject matter that attracts our attention.


Many people in the west find it easy to see their mental pictures and the rest can be taught quite easily. Everyone makes mental pictures; it is just that some people have not yet learned to notice them. Think about your own mental pictures of something you enjoy, for a moment. Are they coloured or black and white, still or moving, are they close to you or far away, large or small, portrait, landscape or wraparound? Which parts are in focus? Are you watching the scene as if it were live, or are you watching yourself in it, as if on video?

These are examples of how we can do the same thing differently from each other. You can change the meaning of an experience by changing one of these options. If you have chosen something you enjoy, find out what happens if you bring the picture closer to you, or make it bigger. You can move mental pictures simply by intending to do so. If you like the result, keep it. Otherwise put it back as it was and find out what happens if you intensify the colour. Make one change at a time. And remember to put it back the way it was between each change. If you find one or more changes that you like better than the original, keep them. Be careful to keep track of the changes you make to your pictures. If you do anything that you do not like, reverse it immediately. Ensure you finish with an experience at least as pleasant as when you began.

Auditory and Kinaesthetic representation

For most westerners, pictures are the easiest sensory representation to notice and alter deliberately. You can learn to make similar alterations to the sounds you hear and the sensations you feel just as easily. Move sounds from where they are to another location; changing the speed, the tones, the volume, as if you had a sophisticated mixing desk. You can increase or decrease the intensity of sensations, change the texture, heat them up or cool them down, slow the rhythm or speed it up, move them around, make them bigger or smaller or disappear completely.

You may have noticed that if you change a picture in one specific way, the sound and feeling change too, or if you change a particular aspect of the sound, the picture and feeling shift simultaneously. These are known as ‘drivers’. You will also have found that other elements change alone. Finding your particular driver differences is a quick way into your least easily accessed system (sight, hearing or feeling). For example, if your picture is moderately exciting, and it felt more exciting when you made it bigger, you changed the sensations by changing the picture. If your picture were fuzzy and it had distorted sound and scratchy sensations, would the picture come into focus if you clarified the sound and could the sensations become smooth through changing the sound?

Sensory representations and Emotions

There is a commonly held belief in western society that sensation cannot be changed at will and neither can emotion. There is a related myth that anyone who can change their emotions is faking, shallow, uncaring, or untrustworthy, unenlightened, repressed or ‘not ready’ to be ‘authentic’. Most cultures believe that one system (sight, hearing and feeling) is outside their control, but not all find feeling the most difficult. For example, Native American culture has a reputation for changing feelings and sensations with facility.

For Native Americans, visible mental pictures are equated with visions from their gods, and therefore given religious significance. The Sun Dance and Vision Quest rituals are specifically designed to heighten the chance of mental pictures becoming visible. Both rituals involve the initiate in extreme discomfort to a level that most westerners would find unacceptable. For Native Americans the pain control they practise during these rituals shifts their attention and alters their mental state sufficiently for them to see pictures. It works by overloading their preferred system (feeling) for normal purposes so that they have to do something else; in this case, see. As the ritual is framed as religious or spiritual, it is culturally encouraged for them to see mental pictures in that context.

The western equivalent is the personal development market, bungy jumping, adventure training, drug use and religious ritual. Westerners rate peak experiences by the intensity of sensation they experience at the time whether the vehicle is secular or religious. Some call it emotion, but the structure of emotion is … pictures, sounds and sensations, and the most convincing of these in the west is sensation.

Managing Emotions

The ability to feel what we want to, when we want to is a very useful skill. It frees us from the expense of seeking repeated peak experiences. One exposure is sufficient to use as the beginning of a personal library. After that you can alter it, intensify it, customise it in any number of ways by playing with the pictures, sounds and feelings that first went with it. Or you can build your library from scratch, using attractive bits of ordinary pleasure and enhancing and mixing them to your liking. The way in, as described above, is through pictures and sounds. Simply remember a pleasing occasion and make it big, bright, life-like, and maybe slightly slower. Step into it and turn up the sensations. Through practice you can increase your facility with sensation and learn to turn it up and down directly.

The next stage is literally managing emotion. There are two immediate ways of doing this. The first is good for neutralising unwanted emotional responses. If you are laughing at a funeral, crying at work or angry with an innocent person, to neutralise any of them, move the picture a long way from you, or shrink it down to the size of a postage stamp. You can always come back to it later if you want to regardless of what is in it. Make it small enough, or distant enough and for most people it will become less intense.

To invoke a particular emotion you want to display, remember or imagine a time when you would do that, and make a big, bright, close picture. Then step into it. This is great for thanking a special person for an awful present, or for producing remorse when you break someone’s favourite ornament that you have hated for years. Have you ever wished you could be more patient when training a child or an animal? Do you want to say ‘No’ to someone and mean it? Find a picture in your memory that has the quality of emotion you want. Make it big, close, bright and life-like, and a suitable state will follow.

The second way to manage emotion involves the feeling more directly. Leslie Cameron Bandler lists seven changeable parts to any emotion in her book ‘The Emotional Hostage’. These include rhythm, tempo, intensity, time frame, and personal involvement. Like the changes we made to pictures at the beginning of this article, Cameron-Bandler suggests making similar changes to the feeling of emotions to change them directly. For example, anxiety commonly has a fast, uneven rhythm, and is always concerned with the future. If you slow down the rhythm to an even 120 beats per minute, the feeling changes to something more comfortable. If you imagine being in a time after the event, anxiety vanishes. Remember a previous occasion when you were anxious about something and how much less alarming the event was in retrospect.

Guilt and shame require personal involvement. Guilt happens if you offend someone else’s values and it matters to you. Shame happens if you offend your own values, without recognising the more important value that you kept. If you imagine you are back before the event, there is no guilt or shame, because you have not done the deed yet. Alternatively you can reduce the intensity and change the rhythm. You may discover that you acted on another value of your own, or that you made a mistake. Mistakes are feedback to learn from. The consequences may be sad or irreversible, but they can become acceptable if you can consider them. For any emotion that you want to change, take the most obvious feature and alter it. Find out what happens. To enhance an emotion, take a feature and increase it. You may build a peak experience all by yourself. Wouldn’t that be something?

Learn more

Check our 10970NAT Graduate Certificate in Neuro-Linguistic Programming program.

(Note: If you would like to learn more about the New Code of NLP you can get a copy of  our latest Kindle book ‘AEGIS: Patterns for extending your reach in life, work & leisure’ by Jules Collingwood, NLP Trainer. For only $4.99 here).

Learn more about NLP, read our Ultimate NLP Compendium of NLP

If you found this article useful, please share it!


The Myth in NLP of the Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic Person

Today, one of the hallmarks of a lack of appreciation of NLP is the notion that we “are” a representational system, as in “you are a visual, he is an auditory and I am a kinaesthetic”. A variation is “you are an auditory to visual to kinaesthetic and he is a visual to kinaesthetic to auditory” but this is just as benighted, only the box is bigger and if the very idea confuses you, that is how its user gets people to believe it. People do not have single, fixed sequences of thinking, however much they try to box ideas. How facile to attempt to identify a person on a single or small sample of expression, but this class of identification does make an excellent criterion to include in seeking a possible source of NLP training or practice.

Representational System Model

Representational systems is the name of a model of the way we code and order our thinking, memory and imagination. The model proposes that people think in combinations and sequences of images, sounds and sensations, tastes and scents. These internal representations match our external senses and when elicited in an associated form, like the sensory experience of being there, use the same neurological circuits as sensory experience. We distinguish linguistically between live sensory experience and internal representation by referring to sensory or representational vision, sound, feeling etc.

Everyone can use all internal representational systems simultaneously when attending internally, just as we can attend externally with all our senses, but often, only one system is in conscious awareness at any given moment. The supporting observations for this rely on personal reporting, choice of sensory specific words, known as “predicates” and the external evidence of eye accessing cues.

Eye Accessing Model

The eye accessing model proposes that people use location to gain access to the content of memory and imagination (this includes patterns). Material in different representations is accessed from particular locations by a flick of the eyes in the appropriate direction. The majority of people access visual representations by flicking their eyes above the eye line. Auditory or sound representations are sourced horizontally and feeling, both sensation and proprioception are found below eye level.

The distinction between accessing memory or constructed ideas is less clear cut. While there is a majority that keeps memory to the left of the body and imagination to the right, there is a sizable minority that does the reverse. Contrary to speculation in some NLP literature, the idea of a “normally organised right handed person” is not reliable. Ideally, to use eye accessing to assist someone retrieve information, we need to know exactly where each class of information resides for that person. We do this by asking questions to elicit deliberate accessing in each representational system and with reference to the past or the future. Questioning for future accessing needs to seek completely fresh ideas to ensure they have not been transferred to memory.

When information is accessed, it can be reviewed with the eyes on its location or it can be brought into our visual and/or auditory field and/or felt, smelled, tasted in the body. We can detect sequences of representation in someone else’s thinking through the sensory predicates they use and the directions of their eye movements.

Using Representational Systems

There is a choice, usually exercised unconsciously, of being aware of one or more representations simultaneously. When a memory or proposed situation is activated, we can become totally engrossed in it as if we were present in real time. Then we can experience all representational systems at once. If we represent the information as if from a distance, we might only see it or hear it, but in both these possibilities, use of more than one representational system is simultaneous.

Synaesthesia is another option. This occurs when we experience a representation, usually in a different system, in response to a sensory input or representation. Examples include, see favourite pet – feel warm glow; hear scratch on blackboard – feel teeth stand to attention; hear piece of music – see selection of colours. Synaesthesia is also the structure of phobias; see or hear phobic stimulus – experience disproportionately nasty feeling. The eye accessing evidence can be a fast flick of the eyes from one system to another, but this is seen with rapid multi-representational thought as well. If the eyes are defocused and facing front, this usually indicates a synaesthesia is happening. Synaesthesia can include more than two representational systems, though most reporting refers to two.

Outside NLP, most people are unaware of the way they use their internal representations or even that they have them. Synaesthesia is commonly defined as a condition a few people exhibit, not a choice. Some people are convinced they do not visualise and cannot learn to do it. In NLP, it is presupposed that we can learn to track our current uses of internal representations and learn to use the parts we have not known before. We can separate unwanted synaesthesias, create new and desirable ones, expand our repertoire of thinking by including habitually ignored representations and facilitate our capacity to learn with deliberate mental photographs and sound recordings. We can change the meaning we attribute to any content we think about by altering the size, volume, bandwidth, clarity, shape, brightness, temperature, distance, speed etc: of our representations of it. This uses a related model called Submodalities, which considers the packaging in which an image, sound or sensation is presented to us.

The myth of the visual, auditory or kinaesthetic person

When Grinder and Bandler first became aware of representational systems and eye accessing cues, it was through observation and listening. Grinder describes in “Whispering in the Wind”, hearing a conversation between two people in a petrol service station and becoming aware that they were using sensory specific words to each other, but from different senses. This did not produce smooth communication and it drew Grinder’s attention.

Grinder and Bandler conducted experiments with training groups, creating sub-groups based on sensory specific language. When they put strangers together according to the representational system used in their greeting, conversations were freer and more spontaneous in the group than when people were placed with others who greeted in different sensory predicates.

Initially, the idea of a preferred representational system was postulated, not to identify or label people, but as the basis for further research, which has been taking place ever since, with excellent results. But, the tendency of most people to take a single example of something, or an open proposal and over generalise from it occurred and the NLP community of the day welcomed the idea with open arms. Regardless of further observation and more discovery in the last 35 years, including evidence that we shift between representations when thinking and use all of them in different sequences or strategies, the original postulate has become an icon.

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Developing Choices about the Emotions we Experience with NLP

What is an emotion?

Most people, if asked, would identify a noticeable set of sensations (feeling) that they experience in response to a sight, sound and or touch from the world, or in response to something they were thinking about (internal representations). They would not necessarily take ownership of their response, nor would they necessarily recognize it as part of their own thinking process, which in fact, it is.

In NLP, we propose that thinking and emoting are accomplished using sequences of sensory representations to carry and frame the content of our thoughts and emotions. These representations include images, sounds and sensations carrying content gleaned from memory as well as our new creations. This assumes that all our life experience is stored in long term memory, otherwise known as the cognitive unconscious, and that links and relationships between units of knowledge or other material already exist along with the represented knowledge itself.

As we progress through the world, we respond to information, other people, our environment, our work and anything else we find. We also have the choice of attending to our internal world to think about whatever we choose, including but not limited to developing ideas, reviewing past events, creating new work and planning future moves. We attend to our internal world to experience emotions, too. These normally constitute thoughts in response to other thoughts or external experiences, but they still require us to access internal representations of units of content and the relationships between these units.

The difference, subjectively, is that emotions include a kinaesthetic component that is strong enough to be detected by us unequivocally. It is clearly present and far more conscious than the pictures, sounds and sensations that gave rise to it, whether they came from the world or from our own internal representations. Hence the common name of ‘feelings’ for emotions. Feelings are the obvious parts of emotional responses.

If we disregard the pictures, sounds and other sensations that contribute to an emotion, and attend exclusively to the strong feeling, it makes perfect sense to identify the strong feeling, name it and attribute its presence to anything that attracts our attention.

So if we have been generating our own emotional responses unconsciously and then noticing just the feeling component, now we can learn to generate emotions to order, changing the representations we find limiting and creating more of the states that serve and please us. This might raise a few eyebrows in mainstream culture, where the belief is that emotions happen to people and anyone who claims to have choice about their states is viewed with suspicion. However, there is no need to make a public spectacle of our choices. Simply enjoy the liberation of discovering that emotional choice is much more comfortable than living on an arbitrary emotional big dipper.

The Meta Model

The Meta Model of language is a set of questions used in NLP to clarify and specify distorted and over generalised thinking and restore missing information. Part of it provides a linguistic frame for identifying our beliefs about who is responsible for our emotions. Remember a common cultural belief that we can be held responsible for other people’s states; ‘Don’t say that, you will upset your aunt’, or ‘You are making your father angry’, ‘You frightened me’.

This presupposes that it is possible for one person to force an emotional state on another and that we live emotionally at the mercy of other people’s conduct. What is really going on is one person says or does something. Another person responds from their own internal resources and model of the world. The response may be habitual or novel, but it is generated by the respondent, not the other person.

To cloud the issue, there is cultural habituation and a level of influence from the previous conversation or relationship. We may believe there will be adverse consequences to ourselves resulting from someone else’s behaviour. The interaction could be construed as a larger system that includes both people. However, these are possible sources of influence only, not requirements or forcing. They are simply circumstances that could mitigate our developing emotional independence if we allow them to stop us. The bottom line remains, we can each learn to have choice in our own emotions if we want to and we can free ourselves from taking responsibility for other people’s emotional responses.

Describing our emotional responses 

Describing our emotional responses in sensory-based terms gives us ready access to changing them. When we become conscious of the images, sounds and sensations we are using, we can identify specific subcomponents. Useful subcomponents include size, brightness, shape, location, clarity of focus, rate and direction of movement, volume, bandwidth, amplitude, texture, temperature, rhythm and intensity. If we use these instead of attributing a name like ‘happiness’, ‘anger’, ‘mortification’, ‘pleasure’, we have something we can change. If we change one of the sensory aspects, we will find which ones lead any others to change simultaneously. When we identify our own specific sensory aspects that change more than just themselves, we have a way into shifting our emotional states quickly and effectively.

The Chain of Excellence

John Grinder proposes a four-step process for changing state, called the ‘Chain of Excellence’. Briefly, if we alter the way we are breathing, our physiology (posture and movement) changes, if we alter our physiology, our state, including emotions, changes and if we alter our state, our performance changes. This does not require any verbal description of a state and can be used in the moment. Most people have experiences of stopping a difficult activity and going for a walk. When they come back, in a different state, the difficulty has resolved itself. This is using physiology to change state.

While physiology can be used to change state, state also influences physiology, but not necessarily in the same way in all of us. Subject to the activity at hand, a resourceful physiology usually shows symmetry between left and right sides, even distribution of weight, an even rhythm in the body, an upright, balanced and symmetrical carriage and the minimal muscle tension required for the task. Alterations in attention, emotion and thought show to an observer as minimal changes in the physiology, but we do not know what the person is thinking, only how they are thinking and that changes are occurring.

Non-verbal communication and ‘body language’

This is non-verbal communication and is differentiated from the so-called study of ‘body language’. The exponents of body language try to put meaning to certain gestures and movements, regardless of differences between every person’s models of the world. One of the most crass is the notion that someone whose foot is pointing at another person is sexually attracted to that person. Another, equally inaccurate, is that sitting or standing with crossed arms means that person is ‘closed’. What happened to ‘cold’, ‘comfortable’, ‘habituated’, ‘resting’, ‘waiting’, and any other purpose that may be served by such a gesture?

Non-verbal communication provides us with ‘news of difference’ or information. Our attention is drawn to changes in posture, movement, rhythm, breathing, skin tone, and other minimal cues during interactions, and if we need to know what the other person is experiencing, we can ask them. It is a great way of discovering that other people really do have different models of the world from us and from each other.

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Body Language Mind Reading and Models of the World

Chris tells a story of an Italian Australian woman’s experience on a bus. She was born in Australia to Italian parents and grew up to become a native speaker of English with good Italian. When she went to Italy as an adult, her Italian became fluent. She engaged naturally in Italian cultural behaviour and thought in Italian.

On her return to Aus, she picked up her life and carried on as usual, or so she thought. One day, she caught a bus with three other passengers on it, all sitting in different seats. She sat next to one of these people and then realized they were all looking at her, particularly her neighbour. Then she realized she had been thinking in Italian and using Italian cultural bus behaviour. In Italy, people sit next to each other on buses and fill the bus outwards from the first person, in contrast to English speaking cultures where people take unoccupied seats if possible.

In ordinary life, we might assume the other people on the bus were disturbed or annoyed by someone gratuitously sitting beside one of them. With a florid imagination, we could impute intent to commit a crime. It is very common for people to interpret the behaviour of others. However, interpreting does not guarantee accuracy.

How do we make interpretations?

We live inside our own models of the world with little experience of others’ world views. Unless we are exposed to clear demonstrations of different ways of thinking and different possible meanings, our attention is not drawn to the shortcomings of our own interpretations.

People who travel and live in other countries rapidly discover different cultural meanings for a particular behaviour. One of the most spectacular examples is burping at the end of a meal. Western parents go to great lengths to stop children from doing this and eyebrows would be raised if someone did it at a dinner party. But in some Arab cultures, not to burp is to deny thanks and appreciation to the hostess. In Japan, it is seriously rude to blow one’s nose in public, while in the west, we expect people to blow their noses whenever necessary and find it disgusting to be exposed to someone sniffing.

While travellers cannot avoid discovering different cultural meanings for behaviour, it is harder to arrange for people to discover that we do not know the meaning of any demonstrated behaviour, unless we have observed that individual doing the same thing before or we ask their intention for doing it.

There are cultural beliefs that make it difficult for some people to learn not to act on their interpretations. In previous generations, many women were taught that nurturing was their primary function. In practice it meant trying to anticipate their husbands’ and children’s demands before these were articulated and achieving a high degree of success. Not to do so made them bad wives and mothers in the eyes of their peers and critics. Frequent accuracy with interpretation is often called intuition and is highly prized in some circles as an estimable personal quality.

Psychotherapists used to be trained to interpret their clients’ responses and dreams according to the model used in their philosophy. Even now, people labelled with Asperger’s Syndrome are assumed not to notice other people’s expressions of emotion and are taught to label specific states so they can learn appropriate looking responses.

There is still a strong, cultural encouragement to impose our own world view on others, especially if we think of ourselves as intuitive, empathic or therapeutically literate.

When interpretation does not fit, it may be described as “laying a trip” on someone or in NLP as “mind reading”. Worse, when we become the subject of someone’s trip, they often lay another trip when we object to the first one. For example, I like high quality fresh food and I do not like shortbread. When offered a choice of shortbread or oatcakes at someone’s house, I chose oatcakes. I like them. These were fresh and crunchy with delectable oats in them. My hostess told me how she approved of my taking the healthy option and nothing would persuade her it was a sensual preference. The trip continued: First, I was being polite, then modest, but my desire to convey taste and texture was brushed aside.

How is interpretation possible?

Everyone has a model of the world. Everyone makes internal pictures, sounds and sensations that represent schemata or maps of how things are. We each develop our maps by watching, listening and interacting in the world, refining and adding and changing our ideas. When we encounter something new, we give it special attention; we copy and mimic and ask questions until we think we can do it ourselves.

Recently, scientists have discovered we are hard wired to learn this way. Our brains contain mirror neurons that fire in time with others as they take actions, when we are interested, engaged and not talking to ourselves. Psychological experiments have also demonstrated reliably that intermittent reinforcement of any behaviour is more compelling than constant reinforcement for eliciting more of the same. Gambling slot machine owners rely on this and the same pattern of intermittent success reinforces people’s belief in their interpretive intuition.

If our new knowledge works in practice, we fix it in place and start to interpret from it. If our interpretations work some of the time, we receive intermittent reinforcement; so then we interpret more and trust our own interpretations more. In extreme cases, where interpretation is both encouraged by our culture and reinforced in real time, our maps can become so dominant that they override what is in front of us in our senses.

While it is necessary for our functioning to be able to draw on existing knowledge and imagination from our internal maps, it is equally necessary to attend to input through our senses to keep up to date and in touch with our environment. We need to be able to have completely external experience as well as internal and mixed experience and to distinguish between our observations of the world and our opinions about it. This is where we separate interpretation from what is actually going on in front of us.

Ideally, we would all learn to have any or all internal representations running or to attend completely to the outside or to run different combinations of internal and external attention by choice. This is possible and useful. It is also quite usual in people with advanced New Code of NLP training. This would be a big leap to take all at once, but like eating an elephant, we can learn it one bite at a time. The reward is genuine intuition; based on repeated exposure to behaviour patterns, voice patterns and language patterns verified in real time.

The first task is to enable our mind reader to distinguish between verifiable activity in front of them and their own interpretive internal representations about it. We are not trying to deprive them of continuous internal representations; merely to give them an experience of knowing when they are interpreting. We ask them to describe another person in sensory terms. This means telling us what they can see, hear and feel and nothing else. It precludes words like “happy” “interested” “bored” and “comfortable”, which require the listener to interpret. Sensory terms can be followed like a set of instructions where there is no need to imagine how to do it. Here is an example:

“Susie is sitting on an office chair with her left heel on the floor and her right leg crossed over the left at the ankles. The lace on her left shoe is untied. She is wearing a matched pair of red, egg-shaped earrings and a yellow metal watch. Susie’s focal length is currently about two meters in front of her and she is breathing from her abdomen about 14 times per minute”. Contrast this with an interpretation: “Susie is bored out of her mind and is wondering how soon the next tea break will be, or should she go to the loo now, just to be able to get up and move”.

When we use the exercise above with questions to mind readers, people begin to differentiate their own interpretation from verifiable sensory input. The questions are variations on “How do you know that” and “What is your evidence to support your statement” and “is that a criterion you would use”. The intent is to invite the mind reader to find out if they do ‘know that’ or not and to discover the difference. Outside training, questioning mind reading often takes time and patience. Eventually people do become aware of the difference between mind reading and engaging with someone else.

When we can tell the difference between our own interpretations and evidence based knowledge, we can stop mind reading instantly. Interpretation still happens, but now we recognize it and do not have to act on it. We can use it to cue our next questions. We can verify or update our information, or make offers: For example, in the oatcake story, if my hostess had been with me often enough to be familiar with our distinction, she might ask if I chose oat cakes on health grounds instead of assuming I did.

This is enough to give us the capacity to discover how different our models of the world are from those of other people, and how different other people’s models are from each other’s.

In the next article in this series, we shall find out how to describe emotions in sensory terms and who creates each of our states. We shall find that we have far more choice than most of our cultures assume and discover how the notion of a meaning based “body language” is a misleading concept.

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(Note: If you would like to learn more about the New Code of NLP you can get a copy of  our latest Kindle book ‘AEGIS: Patterns for extending your reach in life, work & leisure’ by Jules Collingwood, NLP Trainer. For only $4.99 here).

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Why Choose the Graduate Certificate in NLP?

Unlocking Proficiency: Unveiling the Graduate Certificate in NLP

Among those seeking a renewed grounding in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), the allure of the Graduate Certificate in NLP proves irresistible. Individuals who have previously completed a practitioner course often express a common sentiment – a dearth of practical proficiency. Anticipating the ability to seamlessly navigate the intricate patterns of NLP, inquire intuitively in response to non-verbal cues, and deftly administer change processes, they are frequently disillusioned. This expectation, far from fanciful, should indeed be the hallmark of reputable NLP training. It is exactly what distinguishes holders of the 10970NAT Graduate Certificate in Neuro-Linguistic Programming.

The Challenge of Fluency: Navigating Patterns with Skill

The deficiency in fluency often bemoaned by practitioners isn’t unexpected, given the brevity of many practitioner training programs. Mastery necessitates encountering NLP patterns in diverse amalgamations, practised with varied individuals under supervision. This process unveils nuanced responses and strategies for quandaries that may arise when instructing others.

Embracing Natural Interaction: Mastery Beyond Script

A holistic grasp of the patterns underscoring acquired formats empowers fluid interactions in any context. This proves impossible when reading and performing simultaneously, a split focus that impedes effective learning. Acquiring astute observation and listening skills is an investment, especially when mastering the decoding of verbal and non-verbal cues in others.

Beyond Rote Learning: Unveiling NLP Patterns

Numerous brief NLP courses hinge on scripted formats, doled out as classroom aids or endorsed for consistent replication. Yet, this approach thwarts genuine pattern assimilation, mandating rote memorization or continuous reference during sessions. This superficial familiarity hinders fluency and the ability to adapt techniques contextually.

Crafting Proficiency: A Holistic Approach

Within the Graduate Certificate of NLP, patterns are comprehensively demystified while fluency is cultivated. Implicit and explicit learning strategies culminate in personally forged experience maps, rendering NLP an intrinsic tool for navigating life’s challenges. Whether aspiring to personal transformation, enhanced communication, or effective consultancy, this program ensures a reservoir of patterns and resources available on demand. Expectations evolve – a broad repertoire of responses, spontaneous adaptations, and fluid session crafting.

Depth of Understanding: The Art of Integration

In the Graduate Certificate, intellectual and practical depth is augmented through structured readings, strategically sequenced after experiential exposure. As you construct your personal models from direct experiences, readings supplement and consolidate knowledge. This dynamic approach safeguards the ownership of skills while nurturing conscious comprehension.

In the realm of NLP, the Graduate Certificate stands as a testament to mastery forged through experiential learning. It’s not just about learning scripts; it’s about transforming patterns into second nature, crafting conversations with deft precision, and wielding NLP with a finesse that only a comprehensive education can furnish.

Learn more

Check our 10970NAT Graduate Certificate in Neuro-Linguistic Programming program.

(Note: If you would like to learn more about the New Code of NLP you can get a copy of  our latest Kindle book ‘AEGIS: Patterns for extending your reach in life, work & leisure’ by Jules Collingwood, NLP Trainer. For only $4.99 here).

Related articles

Steve Andreas views on NLP training standards in his 2001 interview

Learn more about NLP, read our Ultimate NLP Compendium of NLP

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The Myths of Seven day NLP “practitioner” trainings

In recent years there has been growing controversy within the NLP community regarding qualifications in NLP, standards and quality for training and what constitutes appropriate hours for NLP practitioner courses. In this article we explore some of the myths promoted by some NLP trainers

In the NLP community there has been three levels of certification, Practitioner, Master Practitioner and Trainer of NLP. In the last few years some organisations have added a Master Trainer certification. And recently we had accredited a formal post-graduate qualification in NLP, the Graduate Certificate in Neuro-Linguistic Programming. The Grad Cert NLP is in fact the first formal credential in Neuro-Linguistic Programming. The previous certificates being non-accredited and not recognised as formal qualifications.

To be certified as a Practitioner of NLP a NLP student needed to attend between 20 and 24 days of training. For Master Practitioner an additional 20 days were required and at least 15 days with an apprenticeship period for trainer certification.

In recent years some training organisations have begun to hold short 7 day NLP trainings marketed as “practitioner” certification training. There is a number of myths espoused in their marketing of these short change training programs. Here are some of the myths of the 7 day “accelerated Practitioner” training courses.

Myth 1.” We use ‘Accelerated learning’ so that you can gain NLP certification in only 7 days”.

The unstated subtext they are implying is that trainers of full length Practitioner training don’t use NLP to teach NLP! By its very nature NLP is a technology that when used effectively produces accelerated learning.

Any competent NLP trainer can teach in an accelerated way without the props (coloured pens and music) of accelerated learning rituals. To quote John Grinder (co-creator of NLP) and Judith DeLozier “NLP is an accelerated learning strategy for the detection and utilisation of patterns in the world“.

The accelerated learning argument is just an excuse for a short change training.

Myth 2. “You can listen to a set of course tapes a couple of times and that is adequate instead of a full length training”.

The argument that listening to a set of tapes is as good as being at a live training is nonsense. A fundamental part of NLP is advanced communication with an emphasis on tracking nonverbal behaviour, learning to see subtle shifts in skin colour, muscle tone, posture and gesture. And tracking that in relationship to tone, tempo and words is best learned through live experience. The sequence of training demonstrations followed by supervised exercises is essential for developing skill with NLP.

The argument that tapes are equivalent to live experience is just an excuse for short change training. Even Michael Hall who teaches a 7 day practitioner training advocates full length training and warns against short training!

“Personally, we do not believe in the “correspondence course” approach to NLP or in the short training programs that promise mastery in five days. Instead look for those programs that provide the necessary depth and quality essential for becoming an effective practitioner”. pp. xv-xvi The Sourcebook of Magic by L. Michael Hall and Barbara P. Belnap (1999). It would be excellent if Michael took his own advice.

Myth 3. “Any trainers teaching full length practitioner training are not very good in that if they were good at training NLP then they would do it in 7 days”.

The really excellent trainers in NLP tend to be interested in and committed to NLP and their students. They want their students to be able to apply NLP effectively in their lives. Subsequently they teach comprehensive full length training. The field of NLP is rich in patterns and shortening contact time cuts out essential parts of NLP and reduces skill acquisition. The real question to consider is what is being left out?

The full length trainers are not good at teaching NLP argument is just an excuse for leaving out essential parts of NLP.

Myth 4. “We have the latest development in (or supersedes) NLP. That’s why we can teach the practitioner of NLP in only 7 days. Full length training is out of date”.

Competent NLP trainers are constantly evolving themselves and their comprehensive NLP training. A common strategy used to promote short training is to take some aspect of NLP and market it as a new development. Timelines are repackaged as Time Line Therapy(1), use of logical levels and meta positions is repackaged as meta states(2).

Myth 5. “You can gain 2 or 3 (depends on the NLP training company) certifications in the one 7 day training”.

By carving up NLP into various applications they can be offered as separate certifications that can be obtained during the one short training. “you can have 3 certifications all in just one week”.

These certifications are awarded through organisations / associations owned or controlled by the trainer / “world leader in the field” and have no meaning outside of the particular private company or association. All reputable NLP associations and NLP training providers insist on full length (at least 20 day) programs for practitioner of NLP certification.

In Australia, we have replaced NLP Practitioner and Master Practitioner training with a government accredited professional qualification, the 10970NAT Graduate Certificate in Neuro-Linguistic Programming and has standards with quality control and thorough assessment!

The Real Benefits of short NLP practitioner trainings

  1. An NLP trainer has more time to conduct more training in a year in more places. How many short ‘practitioner’ trainings can be fitted into a year in contrast to comprehensive full length programs?
  2. A trainer can charge more fees for less work as most short NLP trainings are marketed for a similar price to full length comprehensive training.
  3. Because of what is left out of short change training a trainer can market another course of additional material later as an add on for graduates who want more skills in NLP. Too often graduates of short training don’t know that they don’t know.

The Benefits of the Graduate Certificate in Neuro-Linguistic Programming training

  1. Comprehensiveness. A breadth of NLP patterns are learnt through live, hands-on training involving thorough framing of the material, demonstrations, exercises and feedback and discussion sessions.
  2. Elaboration. Through immersion in the NLP experience and through carefully designed sequencing of the training material, the student is able to elaborate the underlying patterns, processes and skills of NLP richly into multiple areas of application in the world.
  3. Generalisation. The NLP skills become usable in every area of life.
  4. Quality Control. Competencies and assessment criteria are incorporated throughout the entire training.
  5. Real Qualification. Students who pass both the experiential and conceptual evaluations receive a formal post-graduate qualification in NLP that reflects their acquisition of skills in NLP.

(1) Timeline Therapy is a trademark of Tad James
(2) Meta States¹ is a trademark of Michael Hall

Relevant Links

Online brochure for the Graduate Certificate in Neuro-Linguistic Programming

Link to Steve Andreas views on NLP training standards in his 2001 interview

Learn more

Check our 10970NAT Graduate Certificate in Neuro-Linguistic Programming program.

(Note: If you would like to learn more about the New Code of NLP you can get a copy of  our latest Kindle book ‘AEGIS: Patterns for extending your reach in life, work & leisure’ by Jules Collingwood, NLP Trainer. For only $4.99 here).

Related articles

Learn more about NLP, read our Ultimate NLP Compendium of NLP

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The Phobia Reduction technique of NLP

Phobias are a significant problem that effect between 7.7% to 12.5% of the population. The bulk of phobias suffered by people are specific phobias, sometimes referred to as simple phobias. These are phobias to specific stimuli such as, heights (Acrophobia), flying (Aerophobia), spiders (Arachnophobia), snakes, thunder and lightning (Astraphobia), fear of water (Aquaphobia), fear of snakes (ophidiophobia), fear of birds (ornithophobia) and fear of the Dentist (Dentophobia). Specific phobias effect between 5% to 9% of the population

So what specifically is a phobia? Phobias are persistent and intense fears of people, animals, objects, activities or situations. They are psychologically debilitating to the individual and typically have negative behavioural and financial consequences on the person’s life in general.

Typical treatments for specific phobias

  1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This is one of the most common treatments for specific phobias. CBT involves identifying and challenging irrational thoughts and fears, helping the person to see their fear from a more rational perspective. Exposure therapy, a form of CBT, involves gradually and repeatedly exposing the person to the fear-provoking object or situation in a safe and controlled environment. The aim is to help the person learn to tolerate the fear and anxiety and, eventually, to decrease their fear response.
  2. Systematic Desensitisation: This involves gradually exposing the person to the feared object or situation in a hierarchical manner, starting with the least fear-provoking scenario and progressing to the most fear-provoking. This is usually combined with relaxation exercises.
  3. Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy (VRET): For some phobias, such as fear of flying or heights, VRET can be a useful tool. It exposes the person to the feared situation in a controlled and safe virtual environment, helping them to face and overcome their fears.
  4. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): This is a type of psychotherapy used to help people process and reduce traumatic memories, which can be useful for treating phobias that stem from traumatic experiences.
  5. Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques: These techniques, such as progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing exercises, and meditation, can help manage the physical symptoms of anxiety that come with phobias.

Most of these methods for treating specific phobias are time consuming and have mixed results in effectiveness. One of the more effect methods is EMDR. EMDR was popularised by the psychologist Francine Shaparo who was not only trained in NLP, she also worked in the co-creator of NLP, John Grinder’s office. The first version of EMDR was created by John Grinder. Interestingly in recent years John Grinder has developed a new process based on patterns of eye-movements called the S-Pattern that is effective in eliminating unresourceful states including traumas, anxieties and simple phobias. It’s a step up from EMDR and can be used to remove any undesired state from the context where it occurs. This is a very exciting development in NLP. I will be writing about the S-Pattern in a future article.

In Neuro-Linguistic Programming there are a number of methods that can be used to eliminate a specific phobia including patterns that use dissociation, anchoring, reframing and utilisation of eye movements. In this article I will focus on one NLP technique.

The phobia reduction technique sometimes referred to as the ‘fast phobia cure’ is a format designed specifically to eliminate specific phobias. The earliest version of this process can be found in Bandler and Grinder’s 1979 book “Frogs into Princess”. It involved a structured regression including a two part dissociation. An example of a two-part dissociation is imagining as if you are watching yourself watching yourself. In the original phobia reduction process the person takes a perceptual position of watching their current adult self watching their younger self going through the original experience of when they first developed the phobia. The dissociation is maintained while the memory of the event is replayed. 

Since 1979 this technique has been updated and significantly improved. I have used this format with many clients with various specific phobias including fear of dogs, pigeons, heights, flying, and interestingly one client who had a fear of immersion in water. I’m going to describe the current format for reducing a specific phobia and then describe how it works. Warning: don’t attempt to do this with yourself or other people unless you have had comprehensive training in this process.

Format for reducing a Specific Phobia

  1. Safety – Identify, establish and anchor a resource state.A resource state is a state of mind where the client is comfortable and has even breathing. They have a sense of agency and capability. A state of relaxation is an example of a resource state. In fact a state of relaxation is the default state used by psychologists when applying behavioural desensitation. However in the NLP phobia reduction process we will use a resource state of the clients choosing. The client will have many potential states of resourcefulness that they could select from. Part of the art of NLP is assisting the client in choosing a suitable state of resourcefulness. Anchoring is the process of connecting a stimulus or trigger to the chosen resource state so that later when cued that resource state reactivates.
  2. Preparation.Imagine that you are in a movie theatre sitting in one of the chairs looking up at the screen.
  3. On the screen place a black & white snapshot of yourself just before any example of a phobic event when you were perfectly fine.
  4. Creating a two-part dissociation.Mentally imagine as if you can step back from yourself and float up to a projection booth. So that you are standing next to the movie projector looking through the glass window down at your adult self who is sitting in the chair who is looking at that black & white snapshot on the screen. From the position in the projection booth you are watching yourself watching yourself. This is referred to as a two-part dissociation.
  5. Run the movie forward in Black & White.Turn the projector on and watch yourself watching your younger self as the black & white snapshot turns into a black & white movie and runs very quickly through the phobic event to a point in time after the event where the younger self had recovered from the event and was in a resourceful state once again. At this moment in time the movie is turned into a snapshot.
  6. Reassociate.Float down from the projection booth and reconnect with your adult self who is looking at the ‘beyond the end’ slide on the screen. Now jump into the beyond the end slide fully associating to the now resourceful younger self.
  7. Run the movie backward in colour.Switch the image into colour and then run the movie very quickly (a second or two) backwards to before the beginning of the event.The key is to fully associate into the position in time beyond the end of the phobic experience where you have recovered from the event and are in a resourceful state once again. Once fully associated in the point in time the movie runs backwards in colour very rapidly to a point in time before the phobic event.
  8. Test.Think of the stimuli that used to trigger a phobic response. You should now feel neutral in response to that stimulus.

I have used this format for reducing phobias with many clients with a variety of simple phobias to great effect. If you are considering consulting with someone purported to be trained in NLP, find out whether they have comprehensive training in NLP and if they have experience in assisting clients with reducing simple phobias with this format. Be through in your research. Unfortunately, there has been a trend for NLP practitioner training programs to become shorter in length and comprehensiveness over the last few years. 

Learn more

We teach the Phobia reduction technique on unit 3 of our Check our 10970NAT Graduate Certificate in Neuro-Linguistic Programming program.

(Note: If you would like to learn more about the New Code of NLP you can get a copy of  our latest Kindle book ‘AEGIS: Patterns for extending your reach in life, work & leisure’ by Jules Collingwood, NLP Trainer. For only $4.99 here).

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