The history of NLP

In the seventies, the young researchers John Grinder and Richard Bandler were brought into contact by famous anthropologist Gregory Bateson with the world's most famous hypnotherapist, the psychiatrist Milton H. Erickson. They charmed Erickson with their intelligent insights and tried to summarize his genius in easy-to-learn rules. In itself quite an accomplishment. That is why Milton H. Erickson started out being very enthusiastic.

The sad story of neurolinguistic programming or NLP

Both Bateson's daughter Nora and Erickson's daughter Betty-Alice told me that both their father had regretted allowing this, because they had to witness how this primarily qualitative summary of the psychology become reduced over the years to a sad, even unethical and irresponsible commerce. Incompetent would-be therapists who were not intelligent enough to study psychology or medicine at university pretended to be therapists and messed with the human mind.

Is NLP justified?

When people ask me if NLP is something good, I usually answer: yes, the real, original NLP by the original first-generation masters is good. People such as my colleague and friend Robert Dilts, are masters in therapy and belong among the great on earth. But among the students of these masters, the percentage whom I would go to in case I were to look for someone for myself or my family is pitifully low.

Quality control of NLP

I would say, if you want to follow NLP in order to work on your health, personal development, or stress, it is best to ask if such a so-called guru in NLP has a university degree - a masters or a doctorate - in psychology, medicine, or something of a similar level. This increases the chances that you end up with someone who knows what they are doing. This is my personal vision, and I know what it also is the vision of Milton H. Erickson and his heirs because I have talked to them about it.

Is NLP therapy?

No, NLP is not therapy in itself. It is a set of techniques which can sometimes form a useful part of good therapy, but NLP in itself is not therapy. For an experienced and decently educated therapist, studying NLP techniques is a very valuable tool, because of the beautiful simplicity and the easiness to learn these techniques. But it is this simplicity which has caused so much mis-use. Certificate in NLP does not even guarantee that the person is a therapist or a good coach, because anyone can follow a course without any university education and buy one's certificate by paying a sum for signing up to and going through the program. But if one does not pre-select and check if the person could deal with a full medical or psychological education, this certificate does not guarantee you, as a patient or client, that your coach or therapist has the right level of expertise to help you properly. The NLP education is not in line with the criteria stated by the European Commission for an acknowledged education for psychotherapists, either.

Having coffee with John Grinder in Vienna

I got to know John Grinder in Vienna, together with his wife, having Vienna coffee. He is a charming man, with some aristocratic tendencies. He, nor Richard Bandler, with whom he quarrels, has managed to control that which they have started. Because of the quarrels among them, they could not agree how to protect the quality of their work. Once in a while, John writes a diplomatic article to remind people what the core and the essence of NLP is: He does not state that it is a therapeutic technique, but rather writes again and again that the essence of NLP is that it is a technique which allows to model people with genius capabilities (such as Milton H. Erickson). This means that NLP allows the analyzing and mapping of the subconscious pattern of genius more easily, to then teach to those who lack this. In other words, neurolinguistic programming is a method to partially teach people to copy geniuses in a semi-professional way. But it does not make experienced therapists. Psychotherapy in Europe is a four-year, thorough education which can only be followed if you already have your degree as psychologist or as doctor, or a similar basic university degree.

Paul Koeck, MD