Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is a controversial form of counselling which aims to alter the subconscious assumptions people make in order to help them take control of their brain and change their behaviour. The term has been criticised as being pseudo-scientific, but many people still gain benefits from the approach. It has been used to help with things like stress management, anger management, anxiety disorders and chronic pain. The simplest way to understand this approach to therapy is to look at the components of the term and how they are thought to influence individuals’ behaviour.
The “neuro” portion of NLP is related to our internal emotions and their physical manifestations. Somebody may develop sweaty palms in response to stress, flush red with embarrassment or feel “butterflies” in their stomach when they’re nervous. These responses are related to things processed by the brain, experienced through our senses of touch, smell, taste, sight and hearing. In order to build an accurate picture of the world from the masses of information our senses receive, the brain has to construct a “map” of reality. This map is an invention of our minds, and by identifying that fact (and how our personal map differs from those constructed by others) we can understand ourselves and interpret the behaviour of others more effectively.
The term “linguistic” refers to the language we use to describe our experiences and feelings to others and analyse our map of reality. The specific way in which we do this influences our interpretation of reality, so language can have a marked impact on our behaviour and feelings. For example, if somebody says, “I am a failure” in response to a missed opportunity, they categorise themselves as such within their mental map. This presents issues because the mental map is essentially each individual’s reality, so these negative thoughts can have wide-ranging consequences. An NLP counsellor will work to address these linguistic issues, in quite a similar way as in cognitive behavioural therapy.
“Programming” simply refers to the ways in which our brains have learned to behave. These are patterns of thoughts and actions which continue subconsciously. For example, if somebody sees a parent respond in extreme fear to a small spider, this behaviour is learned, which means that the individual will automatically respond in the same way when confronted with the same stimulus. An NLP therapist works to “re-programme,” or teach, new and more positive behaviours to tackle things like phobias.
The basic principles of NLP psychotherapy drive the actions taken by the counsellor. The aim is to get the individual to understand the neurological and linguistic factors which contribute to their programmed behaviour. By changing the linguistic terms used by the individual, for example, their viewpoint can be shifted and their behaviour will follow suit. Likewise, the counsellor can tackle any inconsistencies in the individual’s world map to promote a better understanding of their surroundings and therefore help them deal with others and manage their emotions more effectively.
Although NLP isn’t a particularly common form of counselling, the process can be very helpful for some individuals. If you or your loved one is looking for psychotherapy, we can help you make the right decision regarding treatment. We’ll explain the different approaches to therapy and suggest the most suitable options for your specific circumstances. Our advice is friendly, professional and absolutely free. Get in touch with us today and see what we can do for you!