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. 

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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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Mastering the Art of Leadership Communication: The Power of Precision Framing and Questioning

Effective communication is undeniably the linchpin for successful leadership within any organisation, particularly for those spearheading startups. The challenge lies in the nature of language itself, a medium fraught with potential for misunderstanding due to the subjective interpretation inherent in verbal and written communication. 

Our thoughts primarily take the form of sensory representations – mental images, sounds, and sensations. However, when these nuanced ideas are translated into words, they inevitably undergo distortion, generalisation, and omission. Take, for instance, the characterization of a report as ‘difficult’. This word serves as a vague descriptor or an ‘unspecified verb’, carrying only as much detail as the listener’s own interpretation of the term. To address this ambiguity, leaders must develop the ability to identify and probe missing information, often verbs and nouns, from a speaker’s statements.

Consider the phrase ‘the decision was made’. This sentence carries double omissions: what the decision specifically entailed, and who made it. Beyond omissions, communication often involves untested generalisations and distortions of information. This is where the art of ‘framing’ becomes an essential tool for leaders.


Framing, in a leadership context, refers to the process of defining situations, objectives, problems, opportunities, and potential solutions. The way leaders frame these facets of their work can significantly impact the effectiveness of team, department, or company leadership. 

Dr. John Grinder, a renowned linguist, conceived an approach to interpersonal communication known as ‘the verbal package’. This method combines the concepts of framing and clarification to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of leadership communication. 

Framing sets the boundaries for an interaction. Skilled leaders frame conversations around outcomes, intentions, present conditions, relevancy, context, and consequences. Prior to a meeting, they define the context and their desired outcomes and intentions. With rapport established, they apply a series of frames related to the meeting’s context and objectives, present conditions, and potential strategies and resources.

Specifier Questions

During the conversation, leaders must challenge distortions, generalisations, and deletions in the language of others. This can be done using two specifier questions: one for nouns and one for verbs. For instance, if a colleague states, ‘We are investigating new markets’, the leader can ask, ‘What markets specifically?’ then ‘Investigating, how specifically?’ to get further clarity.

Implementing the verbal package, through deliberate framing and the use of specification questions, can significantly enhance focus, reduce misunderstandings, and improve overall business communication. As part of our ‘Engage’ program and our postgraduate training in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (10970NAT Graduate Certificate), we teach these communication and leadership patterns, offering a comprehensive toolkit for mastering the art of leadership communication.

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We teach precision framing and questioning on 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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How Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) Can Help Change Your Beliefs

Many people live in psychological cages of their own making! The bars that make up these cages are the limiting beliefs that they have developed or acquired about themselves and the world. Beliefs shape the way we perceive the world, and they can limit our potential for success. However, we have the power to shape our beliefs through an application of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) called the submodalities model, that includes a specific process that can help us examine and restructure our belief systems.

Exceptional Beliefs Lead To Exceptional Effectiveness

Many successful people have held exceptional beliefs that have enabled them to achieve great things. For instance, Mohammed Ali believed that he was “the greatest,” while Elon Musk believes that humanity should expand its reach to Mars and that he and his team at Spacex are capable of succeeding at that. These exceptional beliefs backed by an individual’s capabilities have allowed these individuals to achieve exceptional achievements.

Limiting and Generative Beliefs

In NLP, the submodality belief change is done by contrasting the representation of a limiting belief with the same person’s representation of something they doubt. Then, they recode the content of the old belief to represent it as something they doubt to be true. They then insert the pre-prepared content they want to have as a new belief, giving it the submodality qualities of a belief.

Some people make a distinction between generative or useful beliefs and limiting or unwelcome beliefs, and they represent different classes of beliefs differently. With the submodality model of NLP we can find out how a particular person represents (codes) a doubt, a limiting belief and a generative belief. With that information it becomes a straightforward matter to assist the person in turning the limiting belief into a doubt and then coding what they want to believe with the qualities of a generative belief.

Well-formedness Conditions for New Beliefs

When creating a new belief using NLP, we need to ensure that it meets certain well-formedness conditions. The belief must be expressed in positive terms, and it must be initiated and maintained by the individual themselves so that it appears in their thinking, their states and behaviour. Additionally, the individual must be able to demonstrate the accuracy of the belief using sensory-specific terms and supporting evidence.

Changing Beliefs with NLP

To change a limiting belief with NLP, we must first identify the belief and examine it to determine its structure. We then contrast the representation of the limiting belief with the representation of something the individual doubts. The content of the limiting belief is then represented as a doubt. This creates a shift in the old belief, enabling us to insert a new generative belief modelled on a generative belief that they already hold.

The preparation for creating a new belief involves answering several questions. What do you want to believe? What do you want to have that belief for? In what context will the new belief operate in? What will believing that do for you? What are the likely consequences of having the proposed content as something you believe to be true? These questions help to ensure that the new belief meets the well-formedness conditions.


By using the NLP submodalities model to change our beliefs, we can transform our perception of ourselves and the world around us. By identifying and reprogramming limiting beliefs, we can adopt new generative beliefs that enable us to achieve exceptional effectiveness. Through careful examination and the use of well-formedness conditions, we can ensure that our new beliefs are positive, accurate, and sustainable.

Demonstration of a Belief Change

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We teach the Belief change process on unit 2 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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NLP change processes; What you need to know

NLP change processes; technique or pattern?

Many practitioners focus on the acquisition and use of NLP techniques as examples of NLP change processes without an understanding and appreciation of the difference between a technique and a pattern. First we need to define NLP.

Bandler & Grinder’s Definition of NLP

Richard Bandler once defined NLP as “…an attitude of insatiable curiosity about human beings with a methodology that leaves behind it a trail of techniques…” Bandler, R., DeLozier, J., & Cameron-Bandler, L. (1981). Neuro-Linguistic Programming. Info-Medix.

Bandler, himself, does not use unchanging techniques when working with different people. He asks questions, observes non-verbal responses, listens to verbal and non-verbal responses and uses his body to communicate. He changes what he is doing to fit the other person’s ongoing shifts in behaviour as they unfold in front of him and he uses his own behaviour to facilitate the change. 

One of John Grinder’s definitions reads: “NLP is a meta-discipline which focuses on the discovery and coding of patterns which distinguish the most capable of the practitioners of some particular discipline (managerial practice, medical practice, sport, therapy…) from the average practitioner. These distinguishing patterns are the substance of NLP.” – John Grinder (The NLP Field Guide, Collingwood & Collingwood).

Grinder’s definitions of NLP suggest that applying NLP in daily life is attending to the patterns of organisation that produce excellence when expressed in the world. Bandler is attending to something similar.

“Applying NLP is attending to the patterns of organisation that produce excellence when expressed in the world.”

NLP Change Processes; The Difference Between Patterns & Techniques

When NLP change processes are performed by someone with refined pattern detection and utilisation skills, the consultant works in relationship and response to the responses of the client. Well trained and experienced consultants are not limited to using NLP formats in full, as they appreciate the patterns that frame different parts of a process. Each question or instruction is offered with intent to assist the client to think differently and more productively. Then the client can access, arrange and learn information about their matter, with a view to obtaining systemically satisfactory resolution.

An able NLP consultant’s skills include but are not limited to their sensory acuity, capacity to detect and recognise patterns in themselves and others and their ability to articulate questions, suggestions and requests in terms the other person’s conscious and unconscious minds can appreciate, follow and use. This presupposes that each change work conversation will be unique as the consultant and client communicate with each other and each of their responses is predicated on the previous delivery of the other person.

This approach is quite different from someone repeating a list of questions and instructions they have been told will shift a specific problem. However, Bandler’s choice of the word techniques had an unfortunate effect on the field of NLP training and on the large number of trainers who became comfortable with teaching techniques.

Most people who learn NLP do not have the opportunity to study with Bandler, Grinder, or the small handful of others who teach the patterns of excellence that frame an NLP syllabus.

Therefore the majority of students of NLP learn formatted procedures (techniques). The nature of techniques is such that a technician has learned to perform a particular technique when a specific criterion for using it is apparent. They do it the same way every time, regardless of differences in context, available materials or differing patterns of organisation of the person in front of them.

An NLP technique is a written version of a change process used in the NLP community, which probably came from patterns of excellence modelled or demonstrated by Bandler and or Grinder initially. A change process is an example of one or more patterns in action. The point about patterns is that if you can detect patterns unfolding in front of you, for example in a client’s comments and behaviour, you can respond with functional examples of patterns of excellence that mesh with what you are observing and lead the client’s own process towards a useful conclusion for them. This is personalised change work as opposed to formulaic work.

In its first iteration and certainly before becoming a technique, any change process would have been demonstrated by a practiced NLP trainer or consultant. It would have been that trainer’s expression of a combination of patterns of excellence used on a specific occasion with a particular individual. The change process would have been crafted from patterns of excellence held in the trainer’s neurology, either as a result of extended modelling of someone like Grinder or Bandler, or deriving from in depth training and practice in pattern detection and implementation.

The exact patterns used on any occasion would have been selected unconsciously from first principles. The selection would have been made in light of information gathered from the demonstration subject and the language and behaviour patterns of that specific person in that specific context. There would have been framing and metaphor preceding the change process, to set the scene and engage the subject’s unconscious mind.

Any observers or students would have been expected to model the trainer’s entire presentation, including non-verbal patterns and observations without taking notes, so they would acquire the underpinning unconscious skills and knowledge to work with NLP patterns from first principles.

To have made the shift from modelling and learning first principles into written formats and conventional learning, someone present at such a training program missed the point. They would have ignored the framing that proposed modelling the demonstrator and attended to the exact words only. They would have written the questions and instructions in the change process verbatim and later disseminated that writing as a literal format or technique. Then they passed that version on to others and the others applied it as written. 

A Recommended Way of Learning: Use Your Unconscious Mind

In the education system, people learn by attending consciously to the content of a lecture and taking copious notes. They read relevant material before and after a topic is presented and use conscious attention to engage with the material. If anyone suggested they silence their internal dialogue, open their peripheral vision and soak up the experience directly to the unconscious mind, they would be horrified. They would imagine that leaving a lecture with no notes and little conscious awareness of the material would place them at a severe disadvantage.

Unconscious uptake can feel as if one is not learning in the early stages. Yet the material is available for application, even though someone learning this way may not be able to find and access it consciously until some time has elapsed. When learning NLP this way, the evidence that learning is happening is in the practical exercises and future experiences when the student hears themselves say something that expresses a pattern learned in class.

“Unconscious uptake can feel as if one is not learning in the early stages.”

A student described the experience of using unconscious uptake in NLP training very clearly. She said she appreciated the framing and metaphors that carried the patterns without trying to understand them consciously. Then she modelled the demonstration, again without trying to record or understand consciously. When the exercise was given, she had no idea what to do, so she sat with her partner and allowed her unconscious mind to run the exercise. She found that she had all the right questions in a functional order to accommodate her partner’s responses and fulfil the intention for the exercise.

We teach a postgraduate program in NLP accredited within the Australian Qualifications Framework. Find out more about the 10970NAT Graduate Certificate in Neuro-Linguistic Programming.

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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).

By Jules Collingwood, NLP Trainer

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