Is There Really Such a Thing as NLP?

If NLP is a collection of techniques that were modeled from people who didn’t do NLP, then isn’t NLP just a bag of other people’s techniques? 

It may sounds like it at first, but the right answer is: 

No, definitely not. 

Let’s put the bag of techniques in the closet for a moment and look at what’s left. We have the presuppositions, the deconstruction of the cognitive process into sense modalities, and we have a strong philosophy and approach of modeling excellence.

But wait. 

• The presuppositions are successful ideas from successful people; 

• the deconstruction of cognitive processes is done in various ways in cognitive psychotherapy; 

• and everybody knows you can learn a lot about how to do something from the people who already know how to do it. 

NLP, Vol. II: Techniques – more info

Isn’t NLP just a bushel of truisms and other people’s skills ? 

No, definitely not. 

Let’s put the bushel truisms and other people’s skills in the closet with the bag.

Well, now all that’s left is a lot of people promoting trainings with big promises. Is NLP just a blast of hot air? 

Yet again: No, definitely not. 

Let’s put the blast of hot air in with the bushel and the bag.

Now all that’s left is the spirit of Neuro Linguistic Programming. That is, a spirited pursuit of understanding and techniques that produce results. This is a force for innovation and integration that has been behind all major progress in civilization and technology. 

But that isn’t unique to Neuro Linguistic Programming. Does that mean there’s nothing left? 

You would not be surprised from our answer: No, definitely not.  

Let’s put the spirit of innovation and integration into the closet with the bag, the bushel, and the blast. My, you have some amazing things in your closet! 

Even if the hot air drifts out, you can always use NLP to put it back and become a good sales person or advocate for your services. Even if someone took away the bag of techniques, the spirit and philosophy would create more. For the purposes of this website, we would like to think of NLP as integration and innovation directed toward excellence, success, and healing. Also, it is based on fundamental philosophical ideas. This has brought useful exemplars (people who we model), knowledge and experience together in service of its goals (or outcomes). From this springs techniques, crafted into forms of training that propagate them effectively. Many of the techniques are directly drawn from the exemplars. However, NLP spawns new techniques without exemplars because it has a theoretical basis that allows that. 

Here is a big statement for you to ponder upon: 

NLP is nothing if not the sum of its parts. Isn’t that something? 

Now let us show you how we see this as a stack. It goes from the most superficial, at the top, to the most abstract and profound, at the bottom.  

• Techniques (e.g. phobia cure)

• Technical Perspectives (e.g. sense modalities)

• Purposes (e.g. excellence in coaching)

• Philosophy (e.g. presuppositions)

• Spirit of Innovation and Integration (e.g. trans-theoretical thinking)

• Moral Imperatives (e.g. good of humanity, healing)

Meta-Questions for Integrating the Spirit and Skills of NLP

By observing and questioning creatively, it is possible to create unexpected and novel solutions. This is very important, because we are highly conditioned; in a sense, we are only partially conscious. NLP is about “owning your own brain.” One way to do this is to break familiar patterns, to not be satisfied until a novel behavior is generated. Add to this the criterion that the new behavior supports a meaningful outcome and you become a solution generator. How can it happen? 

Ask what state would help to produce novel behavior in the situation, and ask what resources can be capitalized upon in service of desired outcomes. 


A key to identifying resources is to get clear on what is already propelling the person. It may appear very pathological, but the NLP master is not fooled. Instead of being blinded by pathology, he or she looks for ways to use that energy. Few things are as powerful as a compulsion redirected. Many of the most treasured NLP stories have these ingredients. 

One of my favorite stories is of Milton Erickson, the psychiatrist, meeting with a young man who insisted that he was Jesus Christ. Erickson wanted to teach him some skills that would make him more independent, because the young man lived in a mental institution. 

In order to start getting the magic word “yes” from the young man, Erickson approached him and said, “Sir, I understand that you are a carpenter.” This is referred to as utilization. It resulted from meta questioning the idea that pathology must be directly eliminated, like an infection. 

Next, Erickson asked the patient’s help with a project, since he just admitted to be a carpenter. That is the point in which the patient’s recovery has began. 

Want To Find Good Training Programs?

Be careful. Just as if you were on a blind date, take a step back and observe very carefully. Any trainer that promises you grandiose results, you ought to delete them from your list. Real NLP masters will not drool over your wallet. They will take the time to listen to your needs and personal struggles. They will not give you a feeling as if they’re running a certification factory. 

It is hard to find a good training program because so many trainers are just in it for the money and just teach it “by the book” (if you’re lucky). This means that their students miss out on the whole point of learning NLP. Consider one of these options for beginning your NLP journey:

1. If you have the money and time, go for the training to learn the core and essence of NLP. 

2. If you want to get results right away (or you’re short on cash), follow the techniques.

Although I have focused on negative aspects of a cookbook approach to NLP, it is actually advised to start your NLP work by learning patterns. This is because NLP techniques have come from very astute modelers, from theories that have resulted from their work, and from refinements made to earlier patterns. 

Thus, using NLP techniques in a cookbook fashion is a good way to learn, but only in the beginning. As Tony Robbins says frequently in his seminars, “You don’t need to know how electricity works to turn the lights on”.  

The NLP master is very flexible and responds to what is going on from moment to moment as well as having an overall strategy and collection of techniques to use as needed. This means going beyond the patterns themselves. 

Like a musician who has practiced scales and who has the spirit of music, the quality of his or her improvisation is built upon disciplined practice and an intuitive understanding of fundamental musical principles. By all means, to sound great momentarily playing the guitar, you don’t need more than applying a few techniques, even mindlessly. But to become truly competent, you must spend the time, the money and the energy, repeatedly until you get the results. 

NLP in its essence allows you to make that long path shorter, but it does not provide you with a shortcut – only a better, more efficient, format to learn, practice, adapt and grow.

Now offering an affordable online certification program – Novice to NLP Trainer – visit the NLP College.