Why isn’t NLP a Mainstream Approach?

“To his dog, every man is Napoleon;
hence the constant popularity of dogs.”

– Aldous Huxley

There you have it. This is one of the most difficult, if not THE most disturbing, questions to answer. As active practitioners in the field, we get this question quite a lot. Mostly, from other NLP advocates! Rarely a client would come in and ask such questions. Since you bought this website and kept reading beyond the first few pages, here is an answer that should / could / would (we hope) ease your mind. 

Here is a known fact:

Neuro Linguistic Programming has had a significant influence on psychotherapy, counseling, sales, coaching, leadership, and plenty of other professional fields. Trainers and therapists have borrowed techniques from Neuro Linguistic Programming or been influenced by it. However, Neuro Linguistic Programming has not gained a lasting place in academic work, and few mainstream therapists acknowledge it. 

There are several primary reasons. 

One reason is that it attracted very diverse, and not always competent or honest advocates. We know some of these people, do we not? Another reason is that serious academic research institutes and leaders were not supportive of NLP, for their own reasons.

Unfortunately, researchers focused on the wrong things. They chose aspects that were easy to research, but didn’t really represent NLP. Also, a fair amount of the initial writings on NLP (excluding The Structure Of Magic, volume I and II) was mostly for self-help and less-academically-educated readers, and there was no widely accepted central body to establish standards. 

Because the most central fundamental nature of Neuro Linguistic Programming is as a means of modeling and creating training, it was destined to sprout offshoots that were quite diverse. 

On top of this, people tend to confuse NLP with the techniques that come from it. They get the impression that NLP has no cohesive identity or that it is just a way to promote success seminars or hypnotize people. We had the same conception of this field before studying it thoroughly.

We are not going to point fingers and blame anyone for that unfortunate development. Who’s fault it is and why it had to come about this way – these are questions for historians, not for therapists. The average self-help seeker jumped on the NLP-training-wagon instantly. 

This was certainly the same impression that academics got. They looked for clear-cut ideas, but found in NLP a mish-mash of unscientific thinking that obscured the essence and contributions of NLP. For them, there was no “there” there. The result is that many therapists use techniques that have sprouted from NLP, but without knowing (or acknowledging) where it came from. This has left NLP to be identified with the more outlandish or marginalized practitioners, or simply disregarded or forgotten.

Much of the writing of NLP practitioners also detracted from its credibility because it had a scattered or pedantic style. It appears that NLP’s emphasis on innovation, “bite-sized” techniques, and grandiose promises tended to attract people with unaddressed symptoms of attention deficit disorder (ADD/ADHD) or other problems in need of insight. This seems to have produced a self-perpetuating cycle that sealed the fate of NLP in so far as the mainstream is concerned. 

This meant that the greatest assets left to promote NLP were the clients of the NLP practitioners. Their voices, though largely positive, were not collectively strong enough to propel NLP into a status as lasting as cognitive psychotherapy, but NLP did have a strong wave of interest that lasted roughly twenty years. 

Ok, we are not here to cry over the past or protest or smash any researcher’s door (or window). We are here to learn how to help our clients better and “do NLP” the right way. Perhaps, as time goes by and more clients reach their outcomes, the mainstream mental health field will acknowledge and recognize the enormous contribution we all had to their own professional growth. 

We now know that many concepts that found their way into Neuro Linguistic Programming training, some more than four decades ago, were not really supported by adequate observation, experience, or scientific understanding. 

Nonetheless, you can still find a lot of those out-dated old-fashioned concepts and methodologies in many NLP programs today. This is testimony to the power of traditions, groupthink, and wishful thinking. In contrast, this website you’re holding brings the core assumptions and functions of NLP into the foreground, showing them at work in modern practices. 

We hope you find that it makes NLP more accessible as it provides fresh techniques and explanations that expand your repertoire in a scientifically defensible way. What we remind ourselves every day are the words of Richard Bandler, the famous co-founder of Neuro Linguistic Programming:

“NLP is an attitude and a methodology
that leaves behind a trail of techniques.”

Any attitudes and methodologies are bound to improve and change in time. We truly believe that now is the best time to acknowledge that fact and take a new perspective when studying this field.