The Fascinating History of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP)

Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) has become an increasingly popular approach in personal development, communication, and therapy. But where did it come from?

NLP was developed in the early 1970s by John Grinder, an assistant professor of linguistics at the University of California, Santa Cruz, Richard Bandler, an undergraduate psychology student and another undergraduate student, Frank Pucelik. They started by modelling the skills of Fritz Perls, the founder of Gestalt therapy. Bandler’s intuitive skills in Gestalt therapy were unconscious, so he couldn’t pass them on explicitly to others. The goal was to make the implicit skills explicit so they could be taught.

Grinder was able to achieve similar results to Bandler with clients and identified specific language patterns that Bandler was using unconsciously. Grinder, with his academic background in linguistics, recognised these patterns as belonging to a particular class of language patterns in linguistics, and was able to extend the collection of patterns to include others from the same class. Bandler and Grinder then tested the patterns and formulated the first model of NLP, the Meta Model.

The Meta Model provides a way of obtaining high-quality information from clients by responding to the form of their language. This model has proven useful in contexts such as business consulting, management, and any other context where obtaining high-quality information in human communication is critical.

Bandler and Grinder continued their modelling work and developed the representational system model, the eye accessing cue model, and the Milton model. The representational system model states that we represent our experience in the world with visual images, auditory representations, and sensations. By understanding the processes of how people use their representations, we can help others (and ourselves) create change. The Milton model, a linguistic model of the language patterns used by psychiatrist Milton H. Erickson MD to do therapeutic hypnosis, provides a method for communicating with the unconscious mind.

In the early 1980s, Bandler and NLP developers Connirae and Steve Andreas did significant work on developing the submodality model of NLP. Submodalities are the sensory elements that make up our representations, and this model has become an integral part of NLP.

Recent developments in the field of NLP have seen a major shift in emphasis towards a more balanced relationship between the conscious and unconscious mind, with the advent of the new code of NLP. This reorganisation was spearheaded by the co-creator of NLP, John Grinder, and his partners Judith DeLozier and then Carmen Bostic St Clair in the 1980s and through to the 2020s. Their work resulted in a new code that places an explicit focus on the separation of NLP modelling from NLP applications and recommendations for research methodology, with an emphasis on harnessing the capabilities of the unconscious mind.

One of the key features of the new code of NLP is its recognition of different roles for the conscious and unconscious minds in achieving change. While the conscious mind is responsible for gathering and arranging information for potential change, the unconscious mind provides the resources for implementing that change. Researchers are now recognizing the benefits of this approach, with recent studies published in a leading scientific journal highlighting the importance of the unconscious mind in making major decisions (Dijksterhuis et al, 2006).

Moreover, the new code of NLP places a greater focus on working with the influencer of behaviour: a person’s state of mind. By assisting individuals to achieve states of high performance and resourcefulness, their unconscious mind becomes more able to develop greater range and flexibility in their behaviour. The situation where change is desired becomes part of the process. The development of the new code of NLP has thus opened up exciting new avenues for understanding the workings of the human mind and creating positive change in individuals, organisations and society at large.

In conclusion, the history of NLP is a fascinating one. It started with the simple goal of making implicit skills explicit in the context of psychotherapy and has developed into a comprehensive approach for personal development, communication, management, coaching and therapy. By understanding the different models of NLP and their applications, individuals can achieve success and make meaningful changes in their lives.


Dijksterhuis, A., Bos, M. W., Nordgren, L. F., & van Baaren, R. B. (2006). On making the right choice: The deliberation-without-attention effect. Science, 311, 1005–1007.

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NLP, Psychology and Psychologists

Today too few Psychologists are enjoying applying their knowledge by finding out about NLP, as a field of knowledge, a methodology for modelling excellence, and a collection of advanced communication models which are increasingly finding support in the cognitive sciences. Those practising psychologists who do choose to augment their professional and career development with accredited, graduate-standard NLP training significantly improve their personal and professional results.

Clinical Psychologists

For clinical psychologists, NLP has immediate and specific applications to high quality psychotherapy. Graduates are able to achieve more effective, longer-lasting results by using applications of NLP as a valuable addition to their existing psychotherapy skills. Through applying NLP in the context of brief, solution-focussed therapy, students improve their abilities to read and utilise clients’ non-verbal communication and subtle cues, and increase their flexibility to respond using multiple methods for interventions.

One element of utmost importance that NLP brings to clinical applications is the use of generative and aesthetic frames. Graduates of our programs have the ability to naturally implement therapeutic frameworks which encourage generative change and ensure that the positive benefits created within a person’s life are acceptable not only to the person themselves, but also in terms of their entire environment and wider social networks. Applying NLP to clinical psychology attains results through accomplishing not just technically skilful work, but also through creating a real artistry in the work you do.

Social, Economic and Organisational Psychologists

The skills attained through training in NLP with Inspiritive are specifically applicable to organisational and cultural change processes, the process of managing others, coaching managers and staff and importantly, the ability to train others to do what you and other models of excellence can do.

Rather than providing simply a handful of techniques or giving students limiting and fixed scripts, we teach the underlying patterning and principles of NLP so that students are able to creatively apply NLP with the skill, artistry and behavioural flexibility which are demanded by the increasingly complex workplace today, to effectively meet an organisation’s specific needs.

Psychologist Ambrose Mckinnery has been applying NLP to his practice in organisational and personal change with great success over the last five years.

Cognitive & Other Academic Psychologists

The attraction of the Graduate Certificate to academic psychologists lies in the opportunity you have to learn a practical model of applied psychology, and to gain an additional level of description by getting to grips with the practical applications of cognitive psychology.

NLP training offers the possibility of seeing in action the impact and influence of effects which psychologists have known about for years, through the experience of getting to grips with them personally. Inspiritive is committed to enhancing the relationship between psychology and NLP, exemplified by our current research efforts. The Graduate Certificate offers the possibility of tying together the theoretical and practical issues of psychology and communication while exploring the intellectual antecedents of NLP and the cognitive sciences; linguistics, neuroscience, cognitive psychology and anthropology within a learning environment structured using the most modern principles from the cognitive psychology of instructional design.

“Some of the most recent research and theories in the cognitive sciences in the areas of neural learning and mental representation directly supports the way that Inspiritive teaches. My representations of the field of Cognitive Science are highly enriched as a direct result of my training in NLP on the Graduate Certificate, and this allows me a whole new perspective for my research.”
– Richard Thompson, Cognitive Science (BSc)

The Graduate Certificate NLP

Our students are some of the most successful at applying NLP in the world. Qualified psychologists appreciate that the development of worthwhile skills takes exposure, quality teaching and significant practice. The Graduate Certificate is the only formally recognised post-graduate qualification in NLP available in Australia, and among the very few available internationally. It represents a legitimate addition to your professional and career development; you are guaranteed the quality that comes assured with the formal requirements of a structured and modularised course which is accredited within the Australian Qualifications Framework.

The Graduate Certificate in NLP is not just a one-off training course. Inspiritive is committed to teaching our students to high standards of excellence. We encourage and offer the opportunity for our students to repeat the course multiple times, charging only nominal administrative fees each time you repeat (find out more about this unique aspect of the Graduate Certificate). Graduates tell us that they learn at least as much the second time through as the first!

Our graduates come from a variety of backgrounds including management, NLP, psychology and business, among others,

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

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