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Friday, 26 November 2010

NLP Practitioner – first impressions


I’m putting this post together after completing the ‘Practitioner’ course of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), which finished on Monday.

[I’ve made extensive use of links to NLP-related articles on Wikipedia – which has a suite of pages addressing the gamut of issues in this area.]


I must admit that I’m pretty sceptical of people who profess to turn your life around like Tony Bobbins (ok, so it’s a spoof), and I’m not really a big fan of TV hypnotists and Vic Reeves-style “I Will Cure You” stuff.

Loose impressions I’d picked up about NLP included such tropes as ‘vulcan mind control’ and something to do with the Dark Side. ;-D

My background

Perhaps this is all a bit of an amorphous mass of my own preconceptions, but I’m a psychology graduate, and have an interest in self-improvement and have read up about skills like Emotional Intelligence and assertiveness (amongst others).

The course itself

You should be able to find more information about the course from this link, but essentially it was about providing a practical introduction to skills that attendees could use for improving self-awareness and communication with other people.

Tutor and assistants

The course was run by Kay Cooke of The ME Group in Hexham, Northumberland. Kay is an accredited NLP Trainer, and was assisted by presence of a revolving team of Master Practitioners (i.e. people trained with skills to assist other people [my typology]).


The course comprised two 4-day clusters, run from Friday morning through to Monday night (i.e. over the weekend). Hours were 9.30 until 4.30-5 o’clock.

At times it was quite full-on, and was pretty much a synthesis of best practice tools and techniques for communication (e.g. “Deep structure and surface structure” from Noam Chomsky). There was a combination of theoretical learning, and practical exercises (e.g. visualisation) both with Kay and between other members of the group.

The Group

It was a small group of 5, with 3 men and 2 women. Ages ranged from late teenager to middle-age {I think I can get away with that! ;-)}.

I think the small group worked well – there is a lot of material to cover, and a larger group might well be more difficult for the trainer to optimally instruct.


My over-arching feeling was that Kay draws upon a deep well of learning, training and personal insight to deliver a (potentially) tricky subject very adeptly. She made it look ‘simple’ when that’s definitely not the case.

When I questioned her about the wider context that NLP sits in (i.e. how we all live, in our different ways) she posited that NLP material is ‘simple’, and in many ways I would agree with her. However, NLP material definitely challenges many implicit and unconscious assumptions we all make about living.

What’s working for you, what would you like to change?

Kay made clear that the NLP framework is just that – a framework. If you’ve got things in your life which are going well, great: but if you’ve got stuff you’d like to work on, then NLP might be able to help.

There was also an ongoing discussion about process versus content: in that what I might call ‘traditional’ / ‘talking’ therapies, the therapist and client talk through issues; whereas NLP typically keeps content out of the interaction and seeks to come to a different perception of issues and events, in order to influence how the client’s subconscious is dealing with them.

Importance of ethical dimension

One of the things I struggled with at first was how one might be able to use powerful tools and techniques in such a way which was responsible and ethical. The penny dropped during the second 4-day cluster, in that:
a) I was only training for the Practitioner level, so interventions with other people were probably beyond my skill level, and
b) the ethical context was using NLP is / was absolutely crucial

I think this boils down to only ‘helping’ people if they ask to be helped, and—even then—closely observing the person to ensure any assistance was appropriate and that the flow of any intervention closely matched the situation. If you take someone on a ‘journey’, you’ve got to be able to bring them back, as it were…


Why the controversy?

The two founders of the NLP movement had a falling-out, and in compiling this post, I became aware of the extensive controversy surrounding NLP (e.g. vis-a-vis science).

Kay’s training is validated by The Society of NLP (logo to the right).

Whilst I understand that people often have very good reasons to get heated about things, personally I found the material pretty insightful and resonating (although not sure what that says about me! ;-D).

Part of the toolkit

Viewed in the context of many other ways of seeing the world, I felt it was an entirely legitimate subject area, and useful addition to the canon of self-improvement activity.

‘Everything in moderation’ is a useful dictum, and I personally gained some useful insights and elements of new self-awareness. What’s so bad about that? I’m still waiting to learn the vulcan mind control techniques <sigh>.

So, a summary of my first impressions. Doubtless there will be others, and I will do my best to post them here. :-)
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