Where NLP came from (in brief)
For many years, the only treatment known for mental health problems, from phobias to anxiety and more, was Freudian psychiatry. This is your stereotypical experience where you lie on a couch and talk about your problems while your psychiatrist listens and diagnoses.
Modern psychiatry is very different, because research has taken off in bounds. But there are still many problems, not least being that it can take weeks, months, even years for therapy, sometimes with no progress.
In the 1970’s, two people, Richard Bandler and John Grinder, decided to look carefully into how the brain became “programmed”, and how to take advantage of this to make things better. They also researched therapists who seemed to have above-average success, both in outcomes and in speed of outcomes.
The result was NLP, or neuro-linguistic programming.
Your brain speaks…
The idea behind NLP is that your brain has its own special “language”, and that through this language, throughout your life you acquire “programming” for how you think, behave and react.
NLP seeks to understand this language, and to use it to change your thoughts and your automatic behaviours. Although mostly associated with therapy, NLP is used in sports improvement, for business excellence, to help politicians win elections, and more.
The intention behind NLP is to effect changes quickly and pleasantly.
There are two important sides to NLP:
- Understanding how to speak your brain’s language, and change its behaviours and automatic responses
- A specific toolset for using NLP in therapy
Using NLP for therapy
In therapy, when it’s not a medical problem, NLP assumes that you aren’t “broken”, only that you have learned unhelpful or inappropriate thoughts and behaviours. In other words, NLP considers itself to be not so much a therapy as education. Bandler himself says, “I’m not a therapist. I’m an educator.”
For example, NLP says that a phobia isn’t a sign of a broken brain, but rather of an unconscious process where your body associates a harmless trigger (a spider, say, or public speaking) with severe danger! Rather than take tablets, go for years of therapy, or dig deep into the past, NLP simply changes the way that your brain and body respond to the trigger so that the problem is replaced with something helpful. It gives you the freedom to respond in a way that you feel is appropriate. Above all, NLP seeks to give you choice.
It’s every therapist’s dream to be able help people in the shortest time with the least upset, and NLP is certain one of the tools that often manage to do this. An NLP practitioner will attempt, when possible, to fix the problem without having to relive the unpleasant feelings. In my therapy sessions, I always try to aim at having fun while changing the client’s perceptions, thoughts, and automatic responses. You’re not broken; you just have the wrong “program” inside your head!