The effectiveness of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) by William D. Horton, Psy.D. CAC
Licensed Psychologist / Certified Addictions Counselor / Master Hypnosis Trainer / Master NLP Trainer
Is NLP really a pure science or an art?
NLP is the combination of Neuro- how people think, Linguistics-how people communicate and interact without words and Programme- the specific patterns in people’s emotions and behaviors. It is the technology that takes into consideration the guiding principles, techniques and attitudes regarding real life behavior that arise from the evaluation of subjective experience structure, communication and behavior. If certain behavior has a specific structure, NLP captures that in order to learn, interpret and transform. It is Hypnotic in origin and style.
NLP is defined as the art of personal excellence. If more accurately defined, it is the science of understanding behavior patterns of people and transforming those patterns after thorough understanding. Since the concept of NLP is based upon exercising powers or influence over others, it is more popular among marketing and sales people. Because it tends to gain sensitivity to people, is works well for people associated to social work, entrepreneurs and therapists, particularly at the time of conflict resolution. If we could define excellence in the context of effectiveness, then NLP is indeed a means of excellence. For example, Milton Erickson practiced the concept of NLP by monitoring his patients in order to build a bond with them and then tried to influence their behaviors and change their present and future. (Tosey, P. & Mathison, J., 2006)
The hypnosis of Erickson was a medical structure that has always considered the requirement of insightful understanding of human behavior patterns, the psyche and the mind. His model was aimed to be utilized in an association with other psychological and medical therapies that sometimes hold important organic and psychiatric mental disorders. It does not based on the concept to transform any person into a specialized human behavior expert just within a week, a month or a year training session in NLP.
The linguist Gregory Bateson followed the important points of the Erickson’s model and developed it further to NLP, though no significant credit is still associated with him.
The effectiveness of NLP should be judged on the basis of the central concepts it is based upon. The first concept says that there is nothing like failure, rather, there is just feedback. Whatever response you get, is just a means to make you realize and think how effective you are. The second one states that people have all the needed resources at hand. They just need to be able to approach those resources at the right times. They need to make realize that only results matter not problems, in the end. Thirdly, even the most challenging tasks and objectives can be achieved easily if divided into smaller tasks. The accomplishments in bit and pieces keep the people motivated enough to head towards a main objective. The fourth concept is more applicable when a team group is concerned. It states that person in the group having more adaptability than rest, will lead that group. So, people should look at gaining flexibility rather than keeping themselves being surrounded with limitations. (Dilts, R., Grinder, J., Delozier, J., and Bandler, R., 1980).
Studies reveal that some of the NLP techniques are absolutely the results of scientific discoveries, for example; the special case of conditioning, the anchoring, as examined in behaviorist psychology. NLP Peers have developed some techniques like rapport or submodalities that were then autonomously verified by scientific research. Interestingly, in a lot of cases, that verification took place in the absence of the awareness of the NLP observations. (Sharpley C.F., 1987).
The use of the concept of NLP and its techniques in particular situations has really been confirmed by scientific studies. There are studies that have positively endorsed certain NLP claims. However it would be appreciated if more studies could be conducted on it to reach more precise and final judgments. One must keep in mind that a lot of studies based on NLP, conducted particularly during the period between 1970s and 80s have actually tried to validate the claims that were not so related with real NLP claims. NLP is not a science, however it is provable by science and the most initial results of such confirmation have been usually positive. (Sharpley C.F., 1987).
If NLP works, as per stated by its suppliers and disciples, then it is the most simplest way of training people for incorporating the skills of sensitivity and keen observation. It is the basic conflict over astrology: is it a science; is it an art or an institution based divinatory practice? NLP have the potential to grow interpersonal skills without being a science.
A lot of leading organizations, educators, sportsmen, and common people take a help from NLP to greatly boost the performance level of people in their particular fields. By making little behavioral modification, the quality of life can be changed.
Implications of NLP in a wide range of fields endorse its effectiveness!
The increasing application of NLP is being noticed in a number of areas like criminal investigation interviews, sports psychology, formal education and police department and so on. If you notice, these are the fields in which psyche of humans matters a lot to be understand rather just taking into consideration verbal communication. NLP has proved itself a significant contributor in understanding, influencing and transforming people’ behavior process and achieving a desired outcome, which may vary from field from field.
I have met a seasoned detective Mark Hamilton. He states that he has been making the most of NLP model, in order to create rapports with the witnesses and criminals. He says he has to understand the non verbal behavior of the people he is interviewing or discussing with so that he can match his own with them. He closely gives attention to the way a person talks, like volume, pitch, speech rate and then builds rapport by matching his style with the person. This way he is able to increase the likelihood of gathering more relevant information, and he considers building rapport with the interviewee as the biggest and foremost requirement of his profession. This is the area where NLP actually comes into an action. (Subtle Skills for Building Rapport-Using Neuro-Linguistic Programming in the Interview Room, A paper issued by Federal Bureau of Investigation)
Furthermore, the study conducted by the Department of Physical Education, psychology and Para psychology, India, has revealed that NLP’s Meta Model linguistic patterns i.e. Distortion, that says attention on mind-reading has an impact to facilitate state sports boxing athlete confidence. The study clarified that language pattern of an individual decides the way he/she thinks. These patterns are the indicators of a person’s mental state and self talk. It is therefore very important to influence the usual communication and cognition to keep it positive and to attain self enhancement. This is one of the objectives NLP holds. If an individual can replace the mind-reading of someone else’s feelings, thoughts, emotions etc by uttering it to himself as a possibility or a guess, then this results in decreasing mind reading distortion and making the person’s self talk more appropriate, logical and accurate with the outcome and thus eventually helps the athlete in a boxing match. The socio-psychological idea of state confidence links to evaluate people’s beliefs in a particular moment, mainly in relation to their capability to that situation. Like an athletic, an athlete possesses a great body language, breathing profound and vivid eyes. (Hardy, J., 2004)
A research paper issued by University of Surrey, has demonstrated the potential of NLP in facilitating teaching and learning in an environment of formal education. The paper mentions that Bandler and Grinder (1975) refer to cybernetic systematic connections between an internal experience of a person (neuro), his language (linguistic) and his behavior patterns (programming). NLP is essentially a type of modeling that offers possibilities for systematic and comprehensive understanding of subjective experience of people. NLP is generally used to present solutions for issues that arise in teaching, for instance, the classroom management. (Lyall, D., 2002)
An NLP’s presence and contribution can be realized in learning and teaching if we consider some of the following mentioned facts.
The relationship of a learner and teacher is a cybernetic loop, an active process the meaning of which is formed by reciprocal feedback; not a diffusion of information from one person to another. People tend to behave in a manner they comprehend and the world is represented to them. It is not based upon how actually the world is. In short, teaching is a procedure of creating conditions that are favorable to learning; facilitating exploration ability of learners and/or improving their internal representations in order to lead them towards their desired objective or result of the context. (Lyall, D., 2002)
An interesting but extremely useful application of NLP has been observed in treating the veterans, almost 30% of which are found to be affected with Post Trauma Stress Disorders (PTSD). The Research and Recognition Project, to carry out a pilot study on a behavior protocol for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was started in 2008 to take clinically efficient mental health treatments by the research stages essential to have them highlighted as evidentiary medication. Most of the stuff was taken from bit unfamiliar medical field, called Neuro- Linguistic Programming (NLP). (Frank Bourke, 2013)
NLP techniques are gaining popularity in law enforcement departments like FBI where the related officials use the concept in unveiling the truths and information during interrogations. The case is similar to the case of Mark Hamilton, a detective, mentioned earlier. Because of the growing utilization of NLP in various sectors, especially the FBI and other similar law enforcement agencies, a number of fields and communities expect the adoption of its application soon.
According to researchers Joseph O’Connor and John Seymour, NLP can be the next invention of psychology. It has been termed as New Language of Psychology or a New Learning Paradigm. As a form of the organization of human experience, it might be as thoughtful step forward as the discovery of language. (Joseph O’Connor and John Seymour, 1994)
NLP can facilitate you to attain those personal and professional objectives you desire, to cope with the leading and most recent technology of change, to handle your own life, and to have the skills and excellence and of the one you seek inspiration from. (Penny Tompkins)
A rigorous research is needed at hand to come to exact conclusions regarding effectiveness of NLP, though primary research portrays it all positive for transforming human behavior. Also, it is to be kept in mind that there are, indeed some terrible, horrific idiocies publicized in the name of NLP in the field by certain groups, and a clear boundary must be drawn to keep NLP away from such negative claims.
1. Sharpley C.F. (1987). “Research Findings on Neuro-linguistic Programming: Non supportive Data or an Untestable Theory”. Communication and Cognition Journal of Counseling Psychology, 1987 Vol. 34, No. 1: 103-107,105
2. Penny Tompkins, The Developing Company. Visit (website)
3. Joseph O’Connor and John Seymour, Introducing NLP, Thorsons, 1994.
4. Tosey, P. & Mathison, J., (2006) “Introducing Neuro-Linguistic Programming, Centre for Management Learning & Development, School of Management, University of Surrey.
5. Dilts, R., Grinder, J., Delozier, J., and Bandler, R. (1980). Neuro-Linguistic Programming: Volume I: The Study of the Structure of Subjective Experience. Cupertino, CA: Meta Publications. p. 2
6. Subtle Skills for Building Rapport-Using Neuro-Linguistic Programming in the Interview Room, A paper issued by Federal Bureau of Investigation, Washington DC.
7. Hardy, J. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, The University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, (2004)
8. Lyall, D (2002) `NLP in Training: the power to facilitate’ Training Journal November 2002, pp. 12 – 19.
9. Frank Bourke, Ph.D. Introduction to the RTM Protocol for PTSD of the Research and Recognition Project, 2013
10. Horton, William, Psy.D. CAC Mind Control 2013
11. Horton, William , Psy.D. CAC Alcohol and Addiction Solution 2012
12. Horton, William, Psy.D. CAC & Hogan, Kevin ,Selling Yourself To Others, The New Psychology of Sales, Pelican Press 2002
13. Horton, William Psy.D. CAC Quantum Psych