Tuesday, November 07, 2006

NLP – training’s shameful, fraudulent cult

Know this guy? He was arrested for First Degree murder in 1988 and charged with the murder of his bookkeeper, who was also running a call-girl operation on the side. He had plunged headlong into cocaine addiction, and only he and his drug dealer (who was also the victim's boyfriend) were present in her house when the shooting took place. He's one of the founders of NLP - a crackpot of the first degree - Richard Bandler.

This self-fulfilling faith has propelled itself into the heart of the training world. NLP Neuro-Linguistic Programming has little to do with serious neuroscience and linguistics but it is certainly a programme. The practitioners have been ‘programmed’ to believe the ‘programme’, giving them the right to ‘programme’ others. That’s what cults do. Ever criticised NLP in front of a NLP practitioner? Like all fundamentalists they respond with the full force of the fanatic.

Science fiction
The NLP expert will tell you that it is science. Indeed, the whole brand (and it is almost nothing more than a brand) depends upon it appearing to be science. CAP, the regulatory body for UK advertising, has already slapped the wrists of those claiming that NLP is science. Yet, immune to the huge amount of scientific evidence showing that it is bogus, you will quickly hear them retreat to the idea that ‘science isn’t everything’ or that the techniques ‘cannot be verified through clinical trials’. They can’t have it both ways.

NLP is not a unified theory, it’s a hotch–potch of theories, all unverified. The founders and their disciples have been involved in incredibly bitter disputes about the so-called theory and ownership of the three letters. Gregory Bateson, a now forgotten new-age sociologist, along with his student, Richard Bandler (later drug addict and arrested for First degree murder in 88) and John Grinder produced a messy soup of new age thinking. It folded in hypnosis, psychotherapy and unconscious thinking (and to be frank any old rubbish that comes their way) into a suitably palatable omelette for the gullible. (Trainers love it as it has lots of little childish tricks for classroom courses.)

Heap of crap
The Principal Clinical Psychologist for Sheffield Health Authority, Dr Heap, looked at 70 papers on NLP, to examine its theoretical underpinning - Primary Representational System (PRS). This is the claim that we think in a specific mode: visual, auditory, kinaesthetic, olfactory or gustatory (first three being the most common). This stinks – NLP tutors would now diagnose me as olifactory, as keywords (predicates) are central to the theory, along with eye movements. The claim is that rapport can be enhanced using these techniques, therefore fooling people into doing what you want; working harder, buying your product etc.

Fine, but surely we can tell, from simple scientific trails whether this is all true or not? Heap did exactly this. He looked at the scientific literature and found that PRS is not serious science. He found that 'keywords' are not indicators in the way NLP practioners claim and ‘eye movement’ theories are, in particular, widely rejected.

OK, so what about establishing rapport? Again Heap found that there was no scientfic evidence for the claim that these techniques improve rapport. In one now famous study, Cody found that NLP therapists, using language matching, were actually rated as untrustworthy and ineffective. Heap concludes that NLP is “found to be lacking” and that “there is not, and never has been, any substance to the conjecture that people represent their world internally in a preferred mode which may be inferred from their choice of predicates and from their eye movements”.

Completely bogus
David Platt, drawing from the excellent German NLP research website (http://www.nlp.de/) found that the science found:

1. No bona fide evidence to support the use of representational systems and concluded that they did not appear to play any significant role in communication.

2. Use of predicates had little to no influence in building or enhancing rapport.

3. Eye-accessing cues appeared to have no significant positive or negative impact when utilised in personal interactions.

Serious linguists will have nothing to do with the theory as its linguistic components were debunked long ago.

Corballis cuts to the quick "NLP is a thoroughly fake title, designed to give the impression of scientific respectability. NLP has little to do with neurology, linguistics, or even the respectable subdiscipline of neurolinguistics".

Others, such as Beyerstein, go further accusing NLP of being a total con, new-age fakery to be classed alongside scientology and astrology and many serious management thinkers decry its presence in management theory.

Last year, Sanghera, in the FT, described NLP as ‘pop-psychology’, ‘pseudosciene’ and ‘banal’. It has been called training’s ‘astrology’. ‘Psychobabble’ is another commonly used term.

So how come a theory with no credible academic basis in psychology, linguistics and neuroscience is still being delivered as serious training? It would seem that the training world is happy peddling pseudoscience. The actual scientific basis of NLP is of no real interest to trainers who are happy doing parlour tricks in classrooms.


Heap, M. (1988). Neuro-linguistic programming, In M. Heap (Ed.) Hypnosis: Current Clinical, Experimental and Forensic Practices. London: Croom Helm, pp 268-280.

Heap, M. (1989). Neuro-linguistic programming: What is the evidence? In D Waxman D. Pederson. I.

Krugman, Kirsch, Wickless, Milling, Golicz, & Toth (1985). Neuro-linguistic programming treatment for anxiety: Magic or myth? Journal of Consulting & Clinical Psychology. Vol 53(4), 526-530.

Corballis, M. in Sala (ed) (1999) Mind Myths. Exploring Popular Assumptions About the Mind and Brain Author: Sergio Della Sala Publisher: Wiley, John & Sons ISBN 0-471-98303-9 p.41

Beyerstein.B.L (1990). "Brainscams: Neuromythologies of the New Age.". International Journal of Mental Health 19(3): 27-36,27.


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Anonymous said...

Hi Donald,

You've prompted a question in my mind as I've just dusted down my copy of Accelerated Learning for the 21st Century by Colin Rose and Mal Nicholl (1997).

I'm worried I've been suckered into some new age thinking - I always thought it was a simple example of Blended Learning before the term arrived.

Should I have consigned this to my weekend bonfire? And what should fill the space on my bookshelf?

Anonymous said...

I well remember, when I worked for a giant FE college, the sense of chilled embarrassment that spread round the room when its Director of Human Resources, whom I reported to indirectly (whilst also representing over 1000 teaching staff in a trade union role during a period of very strained industrial relations), told us in complete seriousness that he was a Certified NLP practitioner. So, nice debunk, Donald.

Anonymous said...

Sir, I have read your article and I am moved to respond. It is my opinion that you are grossly inaccurate in your views.

I have been involved with NLP, its development and applications for many years, both as a trainer and coach and as a Hypnotherapist. The use of NLP techniques has delivered clear and measurable benefits for my clients.

Richard Bandler may or not have made errors in his personal life but this does not take away from his contribution, many great people down through the centuries have made mistakes … but their contribution is of value none the less. Personal attacks do little to constructive debate; it actually shows you for what you are. The short description of yourself on your blog simply adds to my assessment of your personality.

NLP has brought many benefits, my personal life experience is evidence enough, however the body of evidence from my client base would convince even someone like you. However, it does not stop there, there are many, many NLP Practitioners empowering people all over the world… are they all hallucinating?

Finally, to describe Gregory Bateson as a “now forgotten new-age sociologist” is highly entertaining. Once again your lack of personal knowledge capital is highlighted.

Your ascertation that NLP does not stand up to science is also a deficit map, what science do you refer to specifically? Anyone can conjure up references to sound impressive and to attack ideas, this does not make it either correct or indeed good science. As an example, there are many scientists pointing to various studies which support the idea of global warming, and oddly enough there are plenty of experts that do not believe this and support another idea all together.

In the end, individuals make choices based on their actual experience, for my part it seems the evidence for global warming is somewhat overwhelming. As for NLP, in my professional experience the evidence is quite clear. NLP is a valuable set of tools and resources which I believe will go on enriching the lives of people everywhere.

Tony Nutley

Donald Clark said...

OK Tony. Let me quote from your post:

"Personal attacks do little to constructive debate; it actually shows you for what you are. The short description of yourself on your blog simply adds to my assessment of your personality."

Wow, you can't have it both ways. If you don't like personal attacks why follow the first sentence with one!

I must also congratulate you on your psychotherapeutic skills. From one short text paragraph you have 'assessed my personality'. WOW!

However, let's put this to one side and compare your evidence with mine.

You, Tony Nutley, Master Practitioner in NLP, a Time Line Therapy™ Practitioner and part-time lecturer at Swindon College, put up a "body of evidence from my client base" as your evidence. Sorry if I seem a little underwhelmed. This is exactly the sort of nonsense that NLP practitioners predictably trot out, like evangelical cult members; mere personal testimony.

I have referenced my sources, you have not - you simply rely on your own personal experience. I'm not so sure that you understand how peer-reviewed science works.

The global warming argument is bizarre. This is precisely how peer-reviewed science works and the balance has now tipped firmly in favour of Global Warming. I agree. That's my point!

Donald Clark said...

So you can make a fair guess at my personality on the basis of a blog profile! Makes me glad I never had a life coach!

Can't you hear youself speak here, see the problem with this claim, feel the absurdity of the claim, taste the bitterness? (My first NLP joke!)

I was not dismissing your personal experience as 'nonsense', I was pointing out the fact that pitting one set of personal experiences against another is NOT science.

I don't doubt that you believe in the NLP method, just as Shamans believe in their method and priests in the virgin birth and so on. Progress will be made here when we 'objectify' the debate through tested evidence. My point about NLP is that it exists in this area of personal belief IN CONTRADICTION to the known science. Whenever it is put to the test of a scientific trial, it fails.

Donald Clark said...

You really don't want to engage in the scientific debate do you?

Benedict's an interesting 'snakeoil' sort of guy. Check out the sleazy website. None of the qualifications are sourced, apart from one 16 day course (not NLP) from Keele. Has he published anything in the field?

So....efa and University College Chester (UCCh) are now working in co-operation to offer Higher Education level accreditation in NLP, Integral Studies & The Enneagram. Let me describe 'The Enneagram' in the words of its practitioners - "a rich and practical study of personal growth based on ancient teachings of mysterious origins. Today, this study has a modern overlay of psychological typing rooted in these ancient teachings". Bullshit of the highest order.

This is scraping the proverbial barrel. It's not a worry that they have been duped - the worry is that they're duping others.

Show me the studies!!!!

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...


Donald Clark said...

Let's be clear about this source - 'Inspiritive' SELL NLP courses - not a great sign of objectivity.

"Inspiritive is a globally respected & accredited training and consulting company specialising in the development, teaching and application of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP)."

To be fair they do mention a raft of papers that heavily criticise NLP research for its appalling lack of controls and poor methodology. Their response is then quite bizarre - they blame the deficiencies of the research on the fact that the researchers were not trained NLP graduates! The whole point of research is to ELIMINATE bias.

Sorry guys, PRS is a sorry excuse of a theory that no one in serious science would dream of supporting. The illusory NLP flame is only kept alive by those selling the snakeoil.

Have a loook at the 'experts' in Inspiritive - all 'graduates of NLP - whatever that means. This is a group of people that certify each other. It's truly a self-sustaining and self-congratulatory cult.

Anonymous said...

Hi Donald

As I am a fully fledged NLP cult member, I do find it some what funny, that you seem to class, all NLPer’s, in the same light, which I feel is a little unfair, as some of us, cult members, work very hard at helping others, in the best way we can.

Now I am not going to defend NLP, as this is not my place, yet it does offer, some practical and pragmatic ways, of dealing with psycho-emotional ills, and it has been used, by many thousands of people worldwide, and many of them have never even been in the same room as our so called cult leader.

From my point of view, having spent almost 15 years, playing with NLP, anybody who tried to defend NLP, Needs a slap, it’s a communications model, that has, a way of working out, the way others create cognitive-subjective maps, it has ways to help make distinctions, a classifications that help people, find leverage, and flexibility. “ONE HOPES”

Now has gifted as you are at twisting, words and debating in good form, I wish you a delightful, yet critical fondness, may you find, a smile in the in the corner of your eyes.

Be well Stand tall.

Lucifer J. Budzynski

Anonymous said...

Lovely stuff. The counsellors have spoken. My faith in science is put down to a ´persoanlity disorder´! The sheer arrogance of it all is exactly what I´m trying to uncover here.

The Swindon counsellor has me sussed, the Australian NLP company speaks the truth, the ´hire a room in Harley street´ NLP guy is a genius. This beggars belief.

For a NLP practitioner you seem to lack ´listening´ and ´reading´ skills. I don´t care about your personal experience or those of your NLP colleagues. Personal testimony is of no interest to me. If it were we´d simply be pitting eveyone´s testimony against each oether and all would have equal status. We live in an age where people believe in blowing others up to get to heaven and a harem of virgins, crackpot fundamenalists hold back stem reseach.We may have lost our belief in God but that doesn´t give us the right to believe in every crazy alternative that comes along!

You can go on and on about waht a great healer you are but the science is clear. The main tenets of NLP have been shown to be false.

I quoted the scientific evidence in the first post.

Anonymous said...

Donald Clark?


A serious case of jealousy if thre ever was one and so full of misinformation, it beggers belief!


Donald Clark said...

Let's examine yet another cult member's reponse:

1. Criticism equated to jealously - belive me I'm jealous of lots of things but NLP is not one of them!

2. Accused of misinformation but no examples or counterexamples.

3. Anonymity.

Anonymous said...

for someone who is shamelessly enegeric in attacking a collection of so called worthless ideas, you seem very attached to the concept. perhaps there are better things you can do with your totally fulfilled life.

Donald Clark said...

So after all this debate we're reduced to abusive rants.

Listen - it's you who chose to read and respond to this blog. Although one could hardly describe this as a response.

I simply laid out some research that showed the futility of NLP. You may be a little upset that some have criticised your beliefs but reason rather than rants would do your case more good.

Elsa said...


The comments I read in your blog both in favor and against NLP are very interesting. I would like to know what evidence against NLP you have. I’m asking this because Tony Nutley, although vaguely, mentioned lots of people who have benefited from his practice and coaching, whereas you just criticize without any real proof. And this is something which I would like to ask not only you, but anyone who can provide any kind of evidence to prove that NLP has had any negative effect on anybody. Just to help us take the blindfold from our eyes (if that is what we are supposed to do).

NLP has never tried to convince anybody to practice or to believe in it, because one of its basic principles is to respect other people’s ideas and beliefs, the flexibility to understand the differences that exist among people and the possibility to live together in harmony.

It is true that you can find many of its principles or exercises in other disciplines: it has to do with meditation, visualization, positivism, spirituality, rapport, but I will tell you what I told a group of NLP practitioners that I was evaluating last November: “You should always bear in mind that when you are doing an NLP exercise you are helping others”, just that.

To be honest, I don’t have the scientific evidence you claim to consider it a science, but I must admit I have never called it “a science”, but a discipline, a set of tools and resources to make life better, and in this way is how I use it.


Donald Clark said...

Talking of blindfolds, didn't you read my first post? I laid out a list of evidence, in respected scientific literature, by respected academics who have disproved the efficacy of the techniques.

It's pointless just restating your personal belief in the techniques. This is why I liken it to a cult - it depends on personal faith of its adherents, not science. I wouldn't have bothered but many of its proponents claim that it is based on science - its sold on this basis. I repeat - it's snakeoil, not science.

Anonymous said...

Apparently I'm not making myself clear when I say " I would like to ask not only you, but anyone who can provide any kind of evidence to prove that NLP has had any negative effect on anybody", as you talk about "a list of evidence, in respected scientific literature, by respected academics who have disproved the efficacy of the techniques".

What I mean is: somebody who has been harmed by NLP, not a lot of comments which are just other points of view.

Because we can give lots of real cases of people who have benefited from NLP but you can't find even one case of a person who was harmed. So, sorry, but there is nothing to discuss until you don't find a true case.

Donald Clark said...

You were perfectly clear. You have to understand what constitutes scientific evidence. Empirical psychology has a methodology which takes representative samples, control groups and a statistical methodology to produce results USING REAL PEOPLE. They are not just "a lot of comments which are just other points of view" - they are controlled experiments. This is why they will always trump your personal view, the views of Tony from Swindon and my views. Personal views do not cure cancer, get us to the moon or explain the workings of the mind.

As for your rather weird assertion: "So, sorry, but there is nothing to discuss until you don't find a true case." This is EXACTLY what the science shows, loads of cases in a controlled experimental setting that show that keywords, eye movements and claims for efficacy are false.

It's not up to me to show personal cases of people I know and the effects of NLP - it's up to the NLP community to produce the scientific proof that it is true and effective.

Let me use another example. There's a big difference between astrology and astronomy. I don't care who reads the astrology columns neither have I any interest in their personal beliefs. I am interested in whether it is predictive or not. It is not - end of story until the science shows me one single case of its predictive power. NLP is at the level of astrology - loads of people use it, believe it, but its batty nonsense.

Anonymous said...

Hey there. The jury is out for me, but I should point out that the jury acquitted Bandler of the murder after less than two hours of deliberation.

Just making sure the Constitution doesn't get trashed along with NLP...

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that there is truth in both sides of this debate. Yes, I agree that some of the stuff I have read about NLP sounds like bullsh** such as eye movements. However, I don't dismiss the whole thing just because I don't agree with bits of it. NLP writing contains some very useful ideas, most of which are really common sense, but to see it on the page and discussed by authors has helped me to understand the way my mind works and helped me be positive in my struggle with anxiety.

Anonymous said...

NLP is not science!!! but I'm not sure it claims to be one.

On the other hand, psychology is certainly not science either (giving people drugs and spending 10 years in therapy, pleease) but I'm sure it has your respect. Where is psychology's PROOF of pudding? nowhere, simply nowhere.

And after 10 years in therapy, you're told that it's happened to you because when you were 5 you wanted to fuck your mother? Gimme a break.

NLP may be flawed, is not a science etc. OK. Look closer and you'll find some (note, some) useful things. Why blame it so hard? They don't come knocking on your door, do they?

At the end of the day, it's about results. Does something get you any results or not? Do you believe in God, for instance? (have scientifical proof?) You may choose to attack NLP, as it chooses to attack psychology (I've shown you a sample to feel it yourself). But remember, as you said about testimonials: it puts you on equal positions. NLP does not compete with mathematics, it competes with another thing (say, other psychology theories) which is neither a science.

Oh, and we don't "live in an age where people believe in blowing others up to get to heaven and a harem of virgins". We live in a world where people READ WHAT IS IN QUOTES on their government website AND BELIEVE IT!! Or, to put it how you do, please show us the scientifical proof of that.

Anonymous said...

Oh and by the way, all those psychological tests for companies... they suck big time, and their results vary even for the same person in various moments of the day.

Don't you dare call psychology a science... NLP is as bad or as good as it.

Anonymous said...

ALso check for reference http://www.iepdoc.nl/biblio/artikel_detail.asp?ID=29 - it will show you not to jump in the bandwagon of people fearing new stuff.

I'll copy/paste for you The wisdom of science
In the late nineteenth century a man named Thomas Edison propagated a new system whereby, so he claimed, light could be produced using electricity. Around the same time a certain Bell wanted to set up a wild thing he called a telephone line. Fortunately, the general public was warned against them by academic experts who, at an early stage, were on to the glaring scientific invalidity of these novelties. Edison and Bell were quickly exposed as swindlers whose ideas could not pass the test of scientific scrutiny. Erasmus Wilson, professor at the University of Oxford, wrote at the time: 'When the World Exhibition in Paris is over, light by electricity will also be finished and will never be heard of by anyone again.' A British parliamentary committee which had been formed to examine Edison's light bulb agreed whole-heartedly with the professor. In 1878 they drew up the following conclusion: 'Edison's ideas do not deserve the attention of people who think in scientific and practical terms.' Just like the light bulb, the telephone too was quickly unmasked to show its ramshackle scientific underpinnings. In 1863 a certain Joshua Coopersmith was arrested as a confidence trickster, on charges of fraud, when he tried to raise money to set up a telephone system. The science journalist of the Boston Post wrote: 'Well-informed individuals know that it is impossible to have the human voice transmitted through a wire, and that such an invention, if it were feasible, would be of no practical value at all.'

Anonymous said...

And also check
Rosenhan's Fake Psychiatric Patient Study.
"On Being Sane In Insane Places."

It'll open your eyes even further.

Sorry for making all these separate posts and not just one. Please excuse this (and my English, if it's been bad).

Anonymous said...

Just in case someone doesn't bother to read, here's about Stanford's Rosenhan experiment.

How hard is it to simulate mental illness and gain access to treatment? Easy as pie. At least back when this film was made. It didn’t take a year’s training or intricate responses, contrary to Fuller’s script. Stanford psychologist David Rosenhan showed this in his notorious study, “On Being Sane in Insane Places”, published in Science in 1973. Rosenhan and seven other “stooges” merely presented themselves for admission to various mental hospitals with the complaint that for three weeks they had heard a single voice that simply said “thud”. They were all admitted. Once inside, per plan, they behaved normally and said the voice had stopped. Aside from giving false names and not disclosing that they were research plants, they gave accurate personal histories to interviewers. They were kept on the wards an average of 19 days, often medicated (they were trained to cheek meds), and their diagnosis (always schizophrenia) was never questioned by staff. Actual patients, on the other hand, often figured out that they were fakes. (Another psychologist, Lauren Slater, claims she replicated Rosenhan’s study more recently, after improvements in the DSM, with a similar outcome, except that this time outpatient drug treatment for depression was the typical response.)

Anonymous said...

NLP is fake! Stupid, not a science, unrelated to reality, doesn't work.

Questions, then:
Why is it used by such a communication intensive, pragmatic and result oriented class of people as politicians?

Why is it very easy to exemplify what they do and how they manipulate by NLP?

And how can we explain that it works in the real life, for them and others?

How do you come to terms with that in the context of your criticism? Because it's clear that the masses are being manipulated big time and very effectively by something, name it how you please, that is not (yet?) scientifically proven.

Anonymous said...

Cat got your tongue?

Donald Clark said...

No. These posts speak for themsleves.

Anonymous said...

Err... failed reframing?

No really, how do you explain and come to terms (personally) with all those things.

If you really have something to say, I assume you say it. Otherwise you would not be blogging. Hence if you say nothing, then you must have nothing to say.

Donald Clark said...

1. "failed reframing"!

It that all you've got? I'm a human being not the object of some half-baked psychotherapy theory about 'framing'.

2. "If you really have something to say, I assume you say it. Otherwise you would not be blogging. Hence if you say nothing, then you must have nothing to say."

OK - The original post was thorough with full academic references. I have responded to almost every response since. So what did the NLP community come up with? Zero scientific evidence for their case and personal anecdotes.

I'm not the one posting anonymously with poor logic. If YOU'VE got something useful to say - say it (but cut out the dated jargon - reframing indeed!).

Anonymous said...

I am 63 years if age. I have been a nuclear trained electrician on one of the Navy's nuclear subs. I have been a CPA, a Pension System Executive Director and Chairman with one of the systems at $2 Billion, and finally a corporate consultant working for over 500 businesses for over 7 years. And yes, I went through the NLP practitioners trainings.

This site seems to have a huge amount of extreme negative energy, hostility, and ... well you get my point. May I first of all suggest that never judge the content quality of a book by the life style of its author? It is the content of what we take in … and how that content assists us individually to improve the quality of our life that really matters. Defaming the content by attacking its author shows very little insight into the purpose of this live while revealing a very sad, upset and resentful person's mind state.

And finally, there is no one perfect solution ... there is no one perfect person ... and there is no single "Perfect Truth" ... and we as hurt human beings should drop our past hurts, anguishes, betrayals and abandonment and get on with our lives. I have found this NLP has a lot to offer anyone: 1) With an open mind, 2) With a willingness to read the NLP books themselves 3) With the curiosity to seek out some very sensitive and special people that have been trained in this Science/Art/Spirituality approach to ... assisting people to learn i)Who they are not and ii) Gain the self awareness and confidence in their quest for their unique path of truth to find their own sense of dignity, peace, and joy.

We are not out beliefs however, they have us believing we are ... so we defend them with avoidance, fear, anger, threats of violence, murders, divorces, and yes ... centuries of wars killing off millions of lives all to defend the belief system that have us all programmed as their armies of opposing belief systems. If you do not believe that … just think seriously for a moment about the current war and the Vietnam war. Who survived the soldiers or the beliefs? Who is really on top of the food chain and who is it that is buried 6 foot under? Who is in charge of who folks? And worse yet … if your find your belief driven emotions really irritated or pissed by these words and thoughts that I have just typed … guess what is creating your emotional defense system trying to make sure you do not give these new beliefs a chance to widen your mind’s perspective.

And for those naysayer’s ... man can not even “think one thought” . . . with out using a belief or two. Our problem is that these belief systems (memes) it is they that are using us and have us convinced i) That they are us so ii) We defend them to our grave.

Good luck in discovering "who you really are” ... and not being deceived by your current beliefs.

Donald Clark said...

OK. So I'm a "very sad, upset and resentful person". Funny how the caring community of NLP folk don't like to be criticised, but can't hekp but dig the knife in themselves.

Are you honestly saying that the moral character of a person is something completely separate from the book he or she writes? Bandler was a violent, cocaine-addicted megolomaniac. I think I have every right to question his judgement over my state of mind.

You may think that NLP allows people to "Gain the self awareness and confidence in their quest for their unique path of truth to find their own sense of dignity, peace, and joy". If so, have a look at the proliferation of NLP sex sites, some of which advocate hypnosis induced sex. This is wahat most would call rape. NLP is not a path to enlighttenment. It's manipulative and sordid. Not that it mattersm as the techniques don't work, so what it amounts to is a huge waste of time and money. I have no problem with individuals like yourself, engaging in any practice you wish, but there is no rooom for this snakeoil in the training world.

Interesting that you use the word 'meme', a term created by Richard Dawkins. Read what he says about memes and reflect on whether NLP is simply a destructive meme, riding on the back of people's self-doubt, like astrology.

NLP seems to induce an almost religious certainty, allowing its believers to see everyone but themselves as 'not being deceived'. Your last paragraph is simply patronising.

There's no problem in being contentious in blogs - the idea is to stimulate debate.

Anonymous said...

Hey Donald,

I'd like to agree with you that NLP can create a cult-like devotion in people - a fanaticism that it is the gospel truth. However, you seem to hold the same fanaticism for its worthlessness.

Rather than rage and battle against all your points - there are some I agree with - I'd like to focus on one issue.

There's a technique called the fast phobia cure/ rewind technique. It partly derives from Erickson, but much of it is utterly unique to NLP. I have used it successfully to eliminate phobias that people have and for decades. And I know from multiple cases that months later these people are fine.

You can also find case studies of the same technique at these links. Links I would not say are in any way to NLP marketing "cult" sites.


and there is a link here to a discussion on this topic.


So my question: is your explanation for all successes of the fast phobia cure "placebo" or "deception"? Do you accept any possibility that relaxing people, and dissociating them from a traumatic memory can be a safer and quicker way to overcome a fear than six months of systematic desensitisation?

To add a couple of other questions - do you apply your scepticism of NLP's successes to any successes achieved through hypnosis, meditation and visualisation? Is it all lies, lies, damned lies and placebo? Or is there any chance in your mind that *some* of it might just work? And how do you know?


Anonymous said...

I have just had a very enjoyable read of all the posts,I am perplexed as to why someone with no interest knows so much about the techniques and founders of NLP. I work supporting people recovering from enduring mental health problems and advocate any therapy, excluding the medicine/tablet supressing kind, that improves peoples state of mind. If it enables people to move forward and have some sort of "normal" life is that not a wonderful gift to offer and a persons right to have. You mention cults and religion, I am an atheist, this is because I do not follow cults, because I belive in what I can see exists, so please do not be so quick to judge me and other believers of NLP, I can appreciate that NLP for some is mumbo jumbo and that is a persons right, we live in a democratic country with freedom of speech it is because of this that people choose NLP and others do not. When you have lived for years in institutions and had pill after pill thrown at you from so called scientists and have lost all your life skills and hope of returning to the human race, then and only then do you have the right to judge in a subjective way, until then maybe you should try seeing alternative therapy as hope to those for whom science has failed and let down. I am not a freak of nature, I have not been brainwashed and preach with placards on my person, I care and want the very best for the less fortunate in society, most importantly I care, can you honestly say that and exactly what do you contribute to societies most vulnerable, I hope you never become one of the one in four people that suffer from mental health issues, because if you do, enjoy your medicine, as there will be no other options open to you.

Donald Clark said...

Response to Joe - last post but one. Thanks Joe - senmsible reply but I'm still puzzled.

The last question is the most important point in this post. ‘How do you know?’ I have tried, repeatedly, to point out that this is not a game of personal testimony. ‘I’ don’t know. What one does, when one doesn’t know something in psychology and medicine, is look at the evidence from those who have conducted methodological research using control groups. This is how science works.

Now on scientific credibility, The Red Poppy COMPANY in Truro, Cornwall, quotes zero scientific research and is one of thousands of organisations who claim to be effective. I looked at The Human Givens Institute and saw exactly the same case study (no scientific references) about 49 year old Ken.

Interestingly I have some sympathy with their approach, as I put great store in evolutionary psychology. The classical studies in phobia psychology (Hebb, Hauser, Marks, Watson,Nesse etc) are quite clear. However, I was once again struck by the lack of evidence. Indeed, in one area, the 'recovered memory' movement has now been been scientifically demolished (see The Memory Wars' by Frederick Crews et al).

As for the discussion you quoted, again no substantiated scientific evidence. I agree with the person in the discussion you refernced who challenged:

“Many, many psychological journals take articles that are case
studies, that are pilot studies, that are dissertations. It doesn't
take much to get published in the field, if you're interested in that
sort of thing. The most surprising thing about NLP is the lack of
even the most rudimentary published studies.”

All I need are published trial in a reputable journal.

Donald Clark said...

Response to YB.

"I am perplexed as to why someone with no interest knows so much about the techniques and founders of NLP"

My reply..
Don't be perplexed, I spent my entire adult life in an industry that has wasted millions on training that doesn't work. I have a right as a professional to question unsubstantiated practice.

You said...
"I care and want the very best for the less fortunate in society, most importantly I care, can you honestly say that and exactly what do you contribute to societies most vulnerable"

Holier than thou or what! Listen, I'm pleased that you find satisfaction in what you do but don't think you can get on some moral superiority high-horse just because I dared to criticise an unsubstantiated theory. As you say, "we live in a democratic country with freedom of speech".

I do care and have spent much of my adult life being politically active and spend large amounts of my time doing work for free in the public sector. I am passionate about helping those whom Michael Barber called the "disappointed, disillusioned and disappeared". Stick to the debate on evidence for NLP.

On mental illness, my sister has been a psychiatric nurse for 29 years - I've talked many times to her about prescribed medication, which professionals see as a godsend. To ridicule the mental health professionals in the NHS is unfair.

Anonymous said...

I do not care that you criticise something that I believe is efective fo many people, what I care about is the agressive and judgemental way in which you question the effectiveness. Where is your evidence that training as a whole works for nobody, that is a sweeping generalisation, and I am sure can be proven to be incorrect if you cared to speak to enough people who have attended. Training of certain methods and delivery will not work, especially to people who are closed to new ideas. How disappointing, when i began reading your article it had me gripped, then as I read on I realised what a shallow judgemental person had written it and found this blog an opportunity to slaughter something he truly knows nothing about certainly not from an experienced evidence based point of view.

Donald Clark said...

Where's all this anger coming from YB? Let me try and recover something that you may have repressed in reading my last post.

I didn't say that "training as a whole works for nobody". This blog is largely about the things that I don't think work. I happen to believe that training does work, when based on sound principles of learning. I spent 25 years doing it.

And there we go again with "an experienced evidence based point of view". What does this mean? Do I have to take your personal experience as evidence, along with David Icke and everyone else that thinks they know, or do I put my faith in professionals who do the hard work in experimental science and psychology?

Anonymous said...


Donald Clark said...

DON'T SHOUT! Anger is a destructive emotion.

You say...

I do not claim to know all there is to know about any subject. How many times do I have to repeat myself. It is not 'I' who counts but peer-reviewed evidence from others, namely professionals in science and medicine.

Donogh McGrath said...

I love arguments about the validity or otherwise of nlp. It's like driving on a roundabout with no exit. The reason that NLP seems to be so popular is that it's sold to people through extremely powerful and well documented scientific influence techniques, all of which were around and being used by governments , cults and advertising agencies before any of this nlp stuff came out.


ref: Influence: Science and Practice (ISBN 0-321-01147-3) Robert B. Cialdini

Anonymous said...

Donald, but you haven't:
- said why politicians use it (if it's ineffective?!)
- explained how you come to terms with the scientifical demonstration that psychologists cannot separate normal subjects from pathological subjects (read above... that is a well known case study!).

Instead, you focused on the bad parts - of course whoever believes that NLP is the thing is wrong! of course whoever believes NLP's theoretical base is sound has another thing coming. Maybe a lot of people make those mistakes because they haven't read enough to realize NLP is just a new wave branch of psychology theory (all psychology is experimental, and none is 100% right, btw).

But you can find some interesting tips with NLP, that work - much as other psychology lectures will give you good insights. This is as little and as much as I'd want you to acknowledge.

You get so "positional" about it that you can't accept any part of it. That's not the way to go in life!

Anonymous said...

Donald, all that talk with "I" don't know, but someone else has to tell it to me through peer reviewed literature in order for me to believe it... is crap.

In the 50s and 60s, doctors prescribes cigarettes! (hell, doctors appeared in commercials smoking), and you could buy them at the drug stores and pharmacies. FACT.

So all that faith you put into the medical community... tells me you should trust your instincts more.

Donald Clark said...

Who are all of these politicians who've used NLP (presumably to fool voters into liking them?

Doctors prescribed cigarettes in the 50s and 60s? On whose planet?

After 50 posts on the subject can I assume there is no science behind NLP? That's all I set out to show. Everything else has been personal opinion and testimony. Everyone's entitled to their persona opinions just don't expect me to take them seriously.

Anonymous said...

On your bloody planet, Donald... e.g. simply try and watch "Sunset Boulevard", for example, a movie from '50 in which the character stops and shops at a pharmacy for cigarettes... and there were many on display!

As for politicians, I don't even need to name them (I'm not from your country so I'm not familiar with yours). If you know a few of what NLP says (and I do mean the communication tricks, not the bullshiting theory), you can recognize it in their speeches.

Of course we can say "who was first, the hen or the egg?" and politicians of course existed prior to NLP - so perhaps it's nothing more than a collection of communication gimmicks put in a "scientific" (I know it's not) framework.

Anonymous said...

Just a word or 2

Science tends to bend over backwards to prove itself wrong. What succeeds does so because of science's rigour. The onus is on the claimant to prove that something works. NLPers have failed to do so and their only device is the same as all the other cults such as Scientology: to say "try it yourself". A battery of controlled studies in the 80s showed NLP has failed to do what the claimants claimed. Eye movements, persuasion, 10 minute phobia cures, and so on - all failed. Learning styles (VAK) have failed also. Clinical psychology research shows that many things do work. And it shows that NLP has failed to achieve even a minor therapeutic level. Again - the onus is on the claimant to prove that it works. The claimants were failures back in the 80s - and they are still producing generations of other failures (who still scam money off others). There's presently an NLP provider (running a company Comaze.com) called Scott Coleman who's been trying to promote NLP on Wikipedia for several years. NLP produces desperate individuals and true believers by creating vague phantoms (eg unlimited potential) and getting perfectly normal people to chase their tails until they're brain damaged. Any good in NLP? Well if its fundamentally flawed, its best to avoid the whole mess altogether. Find a reality based subject instead

Donald Clark said...

Thanks for this post. It's a relief to find someone who a) understands the scientific method b) has taken the time to examine the evidence for NLP and found it wanting.

If NLP were a harmless activity where one set of people dupe another, that would be fine. Unfportunately, it's the millions spent on using it as a 'training' technique that's awful. Then there's the distasteful - here's 'how to cure' and 'have sex with strangers' stuff that's downright dangerous.

Anonymous said...

I have researched NLP’s scientific background and most of what you say is true. Its just the tone and the subtext that you have gotten wrong. As such I will agree, NLP does not hold up under the rigor of scientific investigation.

However the scientific investigation is often as much to blame as NLP. Most NLP investigations that have been undertaken have not been undertaken by non NLPers. Thus the tests often fail because of the inability of the tester. But, even if they were NLPers some percentage would have failed, I only point out that better results may have occurred if they knew NLP in its totality before testing one bit of it.

Also, some of what is thought in NLP training - is thought to increase the awareness of the trainee, eye accessing cues are part of that - some trainees go on to “believe” the information they were given is fact where as it was really only to get them looking at people. There is a correlation between left or right brain hemisphere activity and eye movement which is recognized by psychology going back to the 1840’s. The very specific claims made during NLP training are really only a metaphor and a very useful one at that.

In any area of Psychology, things are not going to work for EVERYBODY, thus scientific tests will often fail.

NLP falls into that category of things which may help some of the people some of the time, and therefore is worth trying. For some people it will cure a phobia in 10 minutes, and if that saves that individual 2 or 3 years of psychoanalysis then that client wont complain.

There are many studies which show how NLP has benefited people, ideally before and after type studies work best at showing that NLP had a positive effect. But these studies are often dismissed by the academic establishment due to the variety of potential external influences.

It doesn’t really make any difference to me if you believe in NLP’s usefulness or not, but I would say this. If you or anyone close to you ever needs help for a phobia or anxiety or depression. Then you could entrust them to the traditional route, or you could see if NLP cures them in one, two, or three visits to a professional practitioner. Having spent many years studying NLP and many years in academia, I know I would be heading the NLP route.

One final comment, NLP makes training interesting and learning real. The money spent on NLP training is by far the best investment in training that can be made. Look at the best speakers in the world, the best teachers and the best trainers. You will see similarities in their approach. Copy those skills of the best. And try them on a junior trainer. The junior trainer will be much improved. O but be careful because the modeling of best practice behavior and the skills which allow you to model – that’s nlp.

Donald Clark said...

OK so we agree that NLP has no scientific basis. Fine. You then give me a whole load of personal anecdotal evidence that NLP works. Not fine. Your personal testimony is no better than mine, or anyone else with a theory. All I want is OBJECTIVE evidence.

You do make an astonishing claim in:
"In any area of Psychology, things are not going to work for EVERYBODY, thus scientific tests will often fail."

You may have spent a lot of time in academia but clearly not in any of the empirical sciences. The scientific method does not demand this level of absolute proof unless the tested hypothesis claims that it is universally applicable e.g. a universal law of physics, process in chemistry etc. The scientific method demands methodological and statistical rigour. This is complex and relies on control groups to eliminate bias, representative samples and standards of statistical significance. In fact there are hundreds of hypotheses in psychology that are testable to these criteria. NLP is not one of them.

Anonymous said...

Like most schools of human activity NLP has grown from a couple of useful insights into jargonized psychobabble and cultishness. This always happens when adherents of a particular school attempt to protect their territory and maintain status or control over the ideas. What NLPers call 'nominalisations' are what philosophers call 'reification'; using a noun as an adjective. Thus politicians can make statements such as 'we are going to put more resources into education', without explaining what resources, what kind of education and who will be educated. Further, the intended audience will have their own notions and emotional associations with 'resources and 'education'. In this way politicians, gurus and salesmen have clouded peoples judgement for years. As a previous post mentioned, the rewind/phobia cure is a process which enables people whose attention is locked by powerful emotions generated in the brains primitive limbic system, to step back into the more rational human neo-cortex and change the emotions attached to specific memory templates which trigger fight or flight responses. This is all within the realms of mainstream credible neuroscience. However, most NLPers lack a scientific explanation for trance states and thus are forced to argue in an emotive manner to defend their territory. In fact readers of this blog might look at how many times posters on both sides, have used 'nominalisations' and emotive language to manipulate the argument.

Donald Clark said...

Where's the nominalisation in 'we're going to put more resources into education'? What were the verbs? Resource and educate? So we have 'we're going to resource and educate more'. Same meaning.

My argument is stronger - that the phenomena NLPers describe are unverifiable by science. They are not playing some simple linguistic game, it's just not science.

Anonymous said...

Same meaning? No, you have to define what resource and educate mean because to an audience it will mean something different to everybody. What 'resource' and 'educate' who, in what manner, and to what end. Spend a while thinking about it.

Donald Clark said...

OK I've thought about it. I see no essential difference between expressing these sentences with verbs or nouns.

As for the statement 'mean something different to everybody', this is old linguistic error. Meaning is use, and these terms have common meanings through their common use. There are not 'as many manings as individuals minds'. This is not how language works.

Anonymous said...

Ok, if your argument is right then lets try and prove it. I'll let you choose which way we do this. Either; 1 - You play the audience and I'll play the politician. I'll make the claim that my party is going to put more 'resources' into 'education'. Now you breakdown the details of how my party will achieve this. Or, 2 - Give me a definition of 'bread' and I'll tell you if your definition is what I mean by bread.

By the way, in a previous post you said NLP techniques were not verified by science ('science' is another nominalisation) but I gave an explanation for the rewind technique which is congruent with mainstream neuroscience. Do you wish to respond?

Donald Clark said...

We've once again strayed into I'm right, you're wrong territory. When you walk into your local bakers and ask for bread, does he/she look at you with a puzzled expression, hand you a sausage roll or provide 'bread'?

I repeat as I have for months, give me some control group trials to show that the 'rewind technique' works and not some cobbled together anecdotes from the Human Givens Institute, Red Poppy Company or Mindfields College (I couldn't think of a more appropriate name if I tried).

Anonymous said...

Actually it was maybe you're right territory! Lol. You'll be glad to know that a Cambridge researcher has agreed to write up a protocol to design the Randomised Contol Test for 'rewind'. As I understand it funding is a problem as the average RCT costs £150,000 just to get started. The effectiveness of 'rewind' is for me a matter of personal experience as I have a 100% success rate with curing PTSD and phobias with the technique.

As for bread, I meant money not food.

Donald Clark said...

A mythical 'Cambridge' researcher, no trial data and personal experience. The 'bread as money' sentence is beneath comment.

Anonymous said...

If you go into your local bakers and ask for a loaf of bread, the baker would probably ask you whether you want white, brown, wholemeal, granary, cracked wheat etc; whether you want a large, medium or small loaf, what shape, whether you want it sliced and if so how thick or thin do you want the slices to be.

Understanding nominalisations is, for example, vital if we are to have precise legislation. You will be aware that legislation which purports to protect religious groups or limit intolerance runs into difficulty because these terms do mean different things to different people. As far as HG goes you really should do your research, ie; read the material before deciding whether or not it is scientifically rigorous.

Many of your posts are critical of those who manipulate or use emotive language and rightly so. Your posts are absolutley riddled with the same language, which prevents the clear thinking you purport to be in favour of. You purport to be in favour of free thinking and research but have done no research of your own rather you cite the works of other people who have actually made serious contributions to research and science. Joe Griffin, one of the founders of the HG approach is recognised by his peers within the scientific community for his contributions to clear thinking and rigorous scientific research. I'm not going to do your research for you, go and do it yourself and prove that you champion independent learning, instead of continuing with your tabloid style pretence at knowing what you're talking about.

Anonymous said...

I've just seen your recomendation on a book on ideas and one of the reasons you give is, and I quote 3. Concreteness: avoid buzzwords, include sensory information.
Which is an explanation for the need to unpack nominalisations which by definition lack concreteness and sensory information. Is it possible for you to be anymore inconsistent in your 'thinking'?

Donald Clark said...

Where's the nominalisation in the word 'bread'? What was the verb that was turned into a noun?

OK so you go into your local baker, ask for bread, he then asks you what kind of bread you want. You unpack the nominalisation. Do you ever get anything done?

Your claim taht I "have done no research of (my) own rather you cite the works of other people who have actually made serious contributions to research and science." Once again, the whole purpose and status of science is missed. I have repeated time and time again, that my views are not what matters. I take my lead from peer-reviewed science. I don't have to do every piece of research MYSELF to respect the findings of science. In the last 50 odd posts this is the dumbest suggestion I've read (and there have been a few).

I never mentioned Joe Griffin but as you have, he takes issue with your assertion that one has to do it for oneself before making comment. In fact, he is one of the few who have been highly critical of people like you who don't believe anything unless they've experienced it for themselves. I agree with Joe when he says,

"I must also say that perhaps one of the biggest bars to the advancement of therapy in Britain is the criterion used for recognising properly trained therapists. It is mainly based on ideology, not reality. For instance, research shows that it is absolutely irrelevant whether or not therapists have themselves had therapy, in terms of assessing their effectiveness, yet the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) will not accredit counsellors unless they have had a minimum of 40 sessions of counselling (which they have to pay for) themselves. And some other schools of therapy require much more than that! So these power structures are more concerned with protecting their territory, how many hours training someone has had (not how effective that training is) and creating work for their members."

As for his theory of dreams, let's not get carried away. This is far from being sound science. There are dozens of theories about dreams, from their being of no pragmatic use at all, to the use of dream dictionaries. It is a 'minefield' of pseudo-theory.

Anonymous said...

No you didn't mention Joe, but you were dismissive of Mindfields College and HG. And where you get "people like you who don't believe anything they havn't experienced' from I don't know. I have faith in what I have experience of ie; that I can walk, and I subscribe to theories where they appear to be demonstrable and throw light on other areas.
If I work with a large number of people who have phobic reactions to stimuli or experience ptsd symptoms and then post rewind they report they no longer have phobic reactions to the stimuli or the ptsd symptoms clear up, then what am I supposed to do? "Oh Donald Clarke said he wants trial results and they havn't done a pilot yet so I'd better stop helping people with mental health problems". And I'm not just talking about fear of snakes here, I'm talking about people who are in prisons and YOI's who've witnessed horrible events, have attempted suicide or are self-harming.

Joe's theory on dreams is like any sciemtific theory, a theory. But it does account for research in both the psychological and biological disciplines and no other theory has done that. Furthermore, a neuro-scientist in France has recently discovered independently of Joe that neuro-chemicals released in REM sleep are present in large amounts during psychotic episodes, maybe we will see further developments . . .
I accept the bread example wasn't the best but all metaphors have their limitations. Have you been to the bakers yet to test it out?

Anonymous said...

Pseudoscience is easy to spot when you know what to look for. It helps when you look at a collection of pseudosciences. Firstly the lucky heather scam: Someone says something nice but vague (it brings good luck – unlimited potential - the difference that makes the difference etc). Then the magic words scam: anything from rising sign - line of advantage – embolism lunation (astrology) – or in NLP’s case – submodality – pattern (actually that’s basically a scientology engram). Create an “alternative reality” – eg – reincarnation (yes NLP’s timeline therapy and scientology’s Thetans) – you can change reality etc. Use of scientific concepts but way out of context – left right brain mythology – and exaggerated efficacy of interventions such as hypnosis (photographic memory – both NLP and scientology). The five senses one is interesting. It turns out that magick also uses this ploy. We do have five senses but they don’t work in VAK- VAKOG – KAV – etc sequences. In fact the V and K internal senses cannot be factored out (science’s fault? or NLP’s pseudoscience?) As in voodoo – magick – wicca – huna etc- moving through various sensual “modalities” is actually just a ritual (the five senses of the pentagram is right). Obtaining recruits to defend the cult (NLP granfalloon of proponent’s refusal to accept the scientific facts – attacking scientists for being negative/useless/not expert enough to run tests (this is also a pseudoscience trait – claiming that the methods are “secrets” that only the enlightened can learn – by paying money)). NLP (erroneously) uses Chomsky’s 1960’s linguistics theory – which he dumped back in the early 70s. Nominalizations – deletions – distortions are in no way the universals that NLPbrains claim them to be (universal in this case basically translates to – panacea/snakeoil potion). NLP uses crass and banal platitudes as a kind of fake “epistemology” that appeals mostly to new agers (those more willing to fork out for bunk). NLP’s neuroscience – crass and erroneous overgeneralizations: NLP’s linguistics – wrong. NLP’s programming – basically magical/occult thinking. My conclusion: NLP is mass marketed flimflam. Its a vague and confusing set of conflicting platitudes – its untestable and therefore NLP fits the bill as an archetypal pseudoscience. The only way a proponent can defend it is by attacking the one asking for proof – by attacking the tester - and by spouting more pseudoscientific argument. Cheers – Frisby the linguist.

Anonymous said...

The fact that NLP was used to sell so many people on NLP, is certainly proof that it works! :)
Though I personally don't know if it works for anything more.

Anonymous said...

NLP is such a wide field now, you
cant say its all bad or all good.
The problem-solving stuff who really helps people get through personal problem I think is gold, and some of the communication techniques. But the sales-training and hypnosis for dating and so on really lacks integrity. Its designed to go directly to someone elses emotional brain, to trick them into doing something tou want. It makes them feel good and think its the best thing without thinking it thru. It bypasses the logical reasonable brain. This part of NLP is what I dont like.

Anonymous said...

I took a good look on the NLP newsgroups and its quite revealing. NLPmind is one notable one which involves quite a few NLP authors. They use a lot of wierd terminology that doesn't exist in proper psychology books. They are a bit touchy feely and that sort of creeps me out. I noticed only one scientific voice on the group in 3 months of joining. It didn't take long for them to be booted off the list simply for asking for proof of the efficacy they were claiming. There isn't a persuasive bone among the lot of them as far as I see. Its basically a kind of "confirmation bias" group. I have learned something though. There are plenty of other subjects outside of NLP that use goal setting and self management, that don't have any of NLP's pseudoscience. They also don't have the hype. But its the hype that the authors seem to love so much. I guess where there's money to be made by misrepresenting the efficacy of dross, ethics are not going to get a lookin. David.

Anonymous said...

I have read through the responses to your article with great concern.

I have a psychology degree and to be honest am quite horrified that so many individuals are unwilling to look at NLP from a different perspective.

It is because of my experience a counsellor that I first became concerned about NLP when seeing first hand how and "inspiritive" therapist posted online advice to a person having relationship problems. Not only did he not declare he was a counsellor the manipulate nature of the discourse was not only unethical, it was dangerous. I saw first hand how a woman who first posted about a family members depression went from enquiring about positive affirmations to "coming to understand" that the family members depression was all because of her "own perspective".

Not only did the woman come to question every action and thought she had and the motivation behind it, but she came to look to this "therapist" for answers to her problem, it continues as she analyses herself looking for "the right answer in NLP terms".

I am disgusted to see that a trained therapist would lead a person down this path, and do it is such an insiduous manner as posing as a "friend" on a forum.

It has only come to light that this woman has bought his book.

I have looked into the NLP theory and have tried to maintain an objective point of view despite what I have seen as unethical behavior and have come to the following conclusion:

NLP can possibly assist people by drawing on different schools of psychology, however it appears that none of its presuppositions are original (drawing from different disciplines and theories) and is marketing is extremely agressive.

Anecdotally, I am yet to see any benefit with my observations online, as the followers of NLP look to the "therapist" for all the correct answers.

The therapist first guides them in defining their problem, and then offers them the answer to the problem which he himself has defined.

I personally could not recommend NLP to anyone, I would suggest if you have issues you would like addressed, go to a qualified psychologist or therapist who is registered and answerable to a board of ethics.

For those people who are interested in practicing NLP I would suggest that they broaden their perspectives also and consider studying the schools from which NLP is drawn, phsychology and linguistics for example...at a university level.

And finally (I only say this once),

the idea that many perspectives is of benefit is tied in with much of hte theory of NLP, so for those that have argued so passionately for it, I would suggest to them that they consider opening their minds to ideas that NLP may be useful, but it could quite possibly not be the one and only answer to everything.....dont be afraid to go against the grain of your own thinking and as others have said "think outside the box".

Anonymous said...

Well I'm a lecturer in cognitive psychology and neuroscience and I would advise people to avoid the likes of NLP altogether, and those who are into it should do their best to stop embarrasing themselves. I use NLP as an example of an archetypal pseudoscience in my courses so that my student's don't end up sounding like David Icke in their term papers.

I'm sure NLP promoters will dislike me for saying this, the fact is NLP is grossly misleading from beginning to end and is used mainly for the purpose of feathering the nests of new age pseudoscientists. The core theories of NLP are utterly wrong, including the sensual mode strategies. The linguistic metamodel is also largely incorrect by normal psycholinguistic standards. The presuppositions really are unnecessary new age gloss. There is absolutely no need at all to adopt those presuppositions/beliefs, and it seems the main reason for having them in any form is to stifle the critical thinking/complaints of the consumer.

Such followings are anti-scientific and purely mass marketed psychobabble(neurobabble in this case).

I would say that if a subject is 30% nonsense then it should be avoided. NLP is about 90% nonsense and the core ideas/ideals are 100% nonsense. You can find the remaining 10% reality in psychology practitioner books about self management written without all the simplistic californian rubbish and pseudoscience mixed in. Basically give NLP miss. If you see an NLP promoter coming, keep your bullshit detectors well maintained. They'll need a good mucking out afterwards. ~~~~

wireboy said...

confessions of a former nlper

in the mid 90s I was got into nlp from books then courses I spent the best part of £7ooo and although some of the techniques worked mostly the y didn't when I was hypnotised to get the ability to see people move in slow time ie slow motion it worked oddly IIt made them go fast then one of the hypnotist/nlpers said reverse it.
Then it worked trouble is it was a one off they could not anchor it
and I geuss it was a lot to do with expectation and adrenaline.

I note that all the studies of nlp centre on less interesting aspects like eye accessing ques and language matching when it would be more interesting to see speed seduction tested or anchoring or the swish or the fast phobia cure
or the motivational stuff.

Certainly I have never seen strategy elicitation work

so I too say dont waste your money
Ive learnt from Richard Bandler on his much vaunted one year courseand bitterly regret the waste of money.

Anonymous said...

Since the pro-NLP people couldn't do it, I'll give them the strongest argument yet:

1. Although not intentional, some of the NLP techniques have some academic backing. Getting a person into an hypnotic state does seem to make them more receptive. I think this has been validated by the scientific community.

2. Milton Erickson was a respected psychologist, and I think, but not sure, some of his of theories or approaches might have survived some of the rigors of scientific review. Albeit I suspect his techniques and have been so transformed via the NLP community to hardly resemble any hypnotherapy technique that a normal PHd Psychologist would practice.

3. As psychology is one of the least deterministic fields of science (as opposed to physics or mathematics on the end of scale), the evidence is generally weaker, and we should be reminded that we are still dealing with evolving theories.

4. Even if it is the placebo effect, some people seem to have benefited from NLP.

Frankly, if I was a NLPer, I wouldn't even bother arguing about such things. The practitioners and patients seem to have very little interest in having it a validated technique.

That being said, I wouldn't put my head anywhere close to NLP!

I remember while I was in college, studying cognitive science, I innocently looked at NLP. I was baffled upon trying to resolve the NLP techniques to the actual academic information. It finally dawned upon me that there is absolutely no connection at all except for use of the 'buzzwords'.

David, I think, though, for the somewhat neutral reader, taking a less combative tone, might make them more receptive to what your are trying to communicate. I think it's important for those people that *actually do* want to find some independent information on NLP to find it.

Best, Park

DavidDP said...

I am a little late to this blog but I am very grateful to Donald for challenging the potentially damaging cult of NLP.
I disagree with Elsa. Two years ago my (then) 12 year old son was at risk of being damaged by an NLP cult organisation called Inner Compass. I understand that the company has since gone into receivership. My ex-wife took him along to a £1,000 weekend called "Fire Your Desire". It was I believe extremely irresponsible of any organisation to expose a 12 year old boy to a room full of (in some cases) damaged adults. A boy who was coming to terms with the recent divorce of his parents. The organisation had been quite prepared to involve him in "fire-walking" as well - but I secured categoric assurances from my ex-wife that he would not walk on hot coals. When she later sought my consent for him to attend a 5 day, £3,000 "certification training" in NLP - I researched the company further. What I discovered was disturbing. They had no insurance for juveniles, certainly no insurance for juveniles walking on hot coals and they had no child protection policy in place. This information was passed on to me on the phone by a 15 year old who was working for them voluntarily in the school holidays.
Was my son damaged? No not permanently. He became very disillusioned with the whole sham and depressed for quite some time that he had been conned. Adding to the depression he experienced at his parents separation it was not helpful. He also felt strongly let down by the leader of the organisation who promised him an enormous amount and then disappeared when the organisation folded.
I agree whole heartedly with Donald's assertion that there is no empirical evidence to support the claims made by NLP fans. More importantly for me, it is a cultish science supported by several dangerous organisations which prey on the vulnerability of the gullible, offering them false hopes. My son is now well adjusted (for a teenager!) and compares the followers of NLP to the horrendous father figure played superbly by Greg Kinnear. I suppose I must be grateful for that - he now has a very healthy scepticism.

Cathy Goodwin said...

Being somewhat left-brained, I admit to being suspicious of NLP. However, I met someone I admire who claimed to be helped, so I want to be open.

To be fair, many mainstream psychotherapies have no scientific basis. Psychoanalysis was never tested rigorously. The New Yorker magazine reported that post-trauma psychological practices by mainstream, licensed psychologists actually have no basis in research.

I would also recommend reading The Cult of Personality by Annie Paul. Mainstream psychologists, hospitals and legal systems use tests like the Rorschach and the MBTI, which have absolutely no scientific validity.

As a career consultant, I regularly encounter clients who ask for a test that will "tell me what career I should accept for the rest of my life." They're hardly dumb - many have graduate degrees. We're just an over-tested and over-helped society.

Anonymous said...

In reply to Park.

Your conclusion is solid. I think that pro NLP arguments are always flaccid though.

The hypnosis used in NLP is basically stage hypnosis. Nothing in NLP has added anything to hypnosis research. Zero! I once saw an NLP demo by the main man - Bandler, who got someone to ditch their glasses. They had them in front of the audience imagining wearing a pair of binoculars. It worked! They spent the rest of the day bumping into things and falling over chairs in the misbelief that they could see straight. Pretty dangerous stuff on a busy street! Irresponsibility abounds in NLP.

The placebo effect? If its only placebo then it proves that NLP doesn't work. NLP is categorically ineffective!

Looking at the behaviour of NLPers, as others have mentioned here, it really is just a cult. As I have read on the web, NLP is characterized by:

Naive thinking and fraudulence.

I think that pretty much sums it up.


Anonymous said...

Sound familiar? http://today.reuters.co.uk/news/articlenews.aspx?type=scienceNews&storyid=2007-07-12T184346Z_01_N12335365_RTRIDST_0_SCIENCE-BRAIN-MEMORIES-DC.XML&src=nl_uktechnology

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Researchers have confirmed what common wisdom has long held -- that people can suppress emotionally troubling memories -- and said on Thursday they have sketched out how the brain accomplishes this.

They said their findings might lead to a way to help patients with post-traumatic stress disorder or anxiety to gain control of debilitating memories.

"You're shutting down parts of the brain that are responsible for supporting memories," said Brendan Depue, a neuroscience doctoral student at the University of Colorado who worked on the study. He said his team discovered the brain's emotional center is also shut down.

For their study, Depue and colleagues taught 18 adult volunteers to associate pictures of human faces with pictures of car crashes or wounded soldiers. They were then shown each face a dozen times and asked to either remember or forget the troubling image associated with each one.

When they worked to block a particular negative image, then looked at the face one last time, they could no longer name its troubling pair in about half of the trials, Depue and his colleagues report in Friday's issue of the journal Science.

The researchers used a brain imaging method called functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, which shows the brain's activity in real time, to track what was going on in the brain. [...] search the rest of the article if you're really interested.

Your brain is what you make of it.

Unknown said...

What comes through loud and clear in all the posts from NLP proponents is their almost religious zeal at defending it. It reminds me of the movie, "The Manchurian Candidate" and the techniques used in Scientology and EST.

Someone I care for very much is now caught up in the same NLP nonsense. She is an MD practicing in Germany....and she has some serious personal issues stemming from childhood experiences. Her behaviour indicates a bipolar tendency....yet she is now enrolled in an NLP "Master Practitioner" course in California ostensibly to "help" her patients with their problems. I suspect that her real motivation is to seek relief from her early life trauma.

This course is three weeks in duration and costs nearly $4000.00. The only screening they do on their students is to ask two questions on the enrollment form. One is whether the enrollee is taking drugs and the other is whether he or she is currently seeing a psychiatrist. Further, the fine print says that the course is NOT intended for vocational use (in your job) and only intended for self-edification, entertainment or as a hobby. Yet the very title of the course and the certificate awarded heavily imply that the graduate can "practice" NLP. Practice on whom? Themselves? On others as party entertainment? For $4000.00? I wonder how many students have ever been turned down for the course or failed to graduate?

I have researched NLP extensively. I must agree that there is absolutely no scientific evidence of its efficacy, and worse, MUCH worse, is that the trainers use hypnotic techniques to "train" the students....who, in turn, go out into the world and sing the praises of NLP as if it were their own idea of salvation and feel compelled to spread the word of NLP. Bram Stoker was truly a prophet....the modern day Dracula is alive and well and teaching NLP, cranking out "Master Practitioners" after three weeks of training and a $4000.00 fee complete with a beautiful certificate, presumably suitable for framing.

I guess I have one question. Why does there seem to be little or no regulation by governmental authority here? One NLP training site claims to be certified by something called the "American Board of NLP" (ABNLP). The telephone number for this training school is virtually identical to the Board's telephone number (888-XXX 1234 for the school and 888 XXY 1234 for the certification outfit). Can you smell the rat here? A school sets up a "certification board" that tells us that unless a school bears the seal of approval of the board it does not qualify as genuine. Excellent way to cast doubt on your competition wouldn't you say?

Would these trainers actually have us believe that in three weeks a person would be qualified to muck about with others lives? In one case, you can take a fast track course and get your certificate in a week!!!! ONE WEEK!!

Does NLP work? It certainly seems to--by self aggrandizement and programming those who seek a need in themselves....and by teaching that the road to self-realization and fulfillment depends on drawing others into it.

I can only hope that it wears off in time.....because the person I really care for needs professional help.....not snake oil.

Ed Petzolt

Anonymous said...

Hi DavidDP

I have had a similar experience to yourself with NLPers and vulnerable kids. I have a way of getting at least some kind of recompense for the trouble. If you are interested contact me at doclander@yahoo.com


Anonymous said...

Hi Donald

What to do about one's adult child who had bought into NLP to the extent that he's making a rich living at it and yet has become alienated from friends and family as a result of his use of NLP?

The constant sense of being manipulated, or being 'sold' something has destroyed trust between him and the rest of us.

He defends it as rigorously and aggressively as the many NLP posters on this blog. He's bright boy, a sucker for a good sales pitch and lacks a university education (too smart to sit still in class and listen to professors drone on about empirical proof).

I see someone on a network use NLP as a key word, or a skill, I run a mile.

Grieving Mother

Anonymous said...

NLP: True or False?

Richard Bandler, the co-creator of NLP, holds an earned PhD from University of California at Santa Cruz. FALSE!

Richard Bandler is an acknowledged authority in the field of psycho-linguistics. FALSE!

Richard Bandler was a Mathematicain by training. FALSE!

Richard Bandler has admitted he was a cocaine abuser. TRUE!

Richard Bandler is a self confessed sociopath. TRUE!

Richard Bandler was charged with the murder of prostitute Corine Christensen. TRUE!

Richard Bandler was acquitted of the murder of Corine Christensen by jury who deliberated for 5 and a half hours. TRUE!

Corine Christensen was shot in the face at point blank range with Richard Bundler’s own gun and blood was splattered over his shirt. TRUE!

NLP does not know what it is or what it is for. TRUE!

NLP is evidence based. FALSE!

NLP is science. FALSE!

NLP is "the science of excellence". FALSE!

NLP is whatever works. FALSE!

NLP is a proven user’s manual for the brain. FALSE!

NLP is a recognized academic discipline. FALSE!

NLP is a branch of Psychology. FALSE!

NLP is the McDonaldization of psychology. TRUE!

NLP is pseudo-science. TRUE!

NLP is anti-intellectual. TRUE!

NLP practice is unregulated. TRUE!

You can go from 0 to certified Master Trainer in three weekends. TRUE!

Commercial Practitioner Training typically lasts one week. TRUE!

Master Practitioner Training typically lasts two to three weekends. TRUE!

NLP professionals are safe and qualified to practice counselling and psychotherapy. FALSE!

NLP education is unregulated in the UK, Europe, USA & Australia. TRUE!

NLP accreditation is a sham. TRUE!

NLP is a primarily a commercial product. TRUE!

NLP is a faith based pseudo religion. TRUE!

NLP shares many cult like characteristics. TRUE!

The practice of NLP is potentially dangerous to the public at large. TRUE!

NLP is exploitative and manipulative. TRUE!

Anonymous said...

Its interesting (and quite worrying) how innocuous NLP look in the bookstores. They present themselves like simple management books about goal setting and flexibility. But once you "get into" NLP all the hooey jargon starts to come out. Devotees start to try out all the brain accessing methods, and dodgy persuasion techniques. There's no evidence they work, but they are set up so the NLPer is convinced that they work. All the NLP proponents I have met in management training circles tend to be a bit twisted. Its not just the adherence to junk science, but there seems to be this underlying current of new age wankerism throughout the basic ideals of the NLPer. All educators are interested in accessing the potential of the learner, but the NLPer tends to miss the mark every time. They hype all the techniques so the learner gets totally the wrong impression of efficacy. Then they fall flat. A friend of mine just gave up on NLP. Now there's a transformation! Suddenly their feet are back on solid ground, and the thinking gear is back in place. There also seems to be a healthy regret and embarrassment at being a devotee. Now we can actually have a healthy pint together without copying my body movements and vocal tone. I just hope we can all live and learn!

David Maulden said...

You obviously have no idea of what you are talking about. Having read through this set of circular arguments, not once have you ever offered any proof that NLP does not work.

In sharp contrast, there are well established groups of NLP practitioners who do know what they are talking about, and they are successful.

NLP has proven itself to be a powerhouse of great attitudes and technologies.

You have shown no proof to the contrary. You have failed the test.

Donald Clark said...

Thanks for that frienndly, rational argument! Your behaviour alone is proof eough that NLP practitioners are arrogant and evidence-free. My posts have been full of references and science. Once again, a NLP practitioner relies on evidence from (what a surprise) other NLP practitioners, as an argument. Get a argument or some science.

David Maulden said...

You just don't get it. NLP takes subtlety and expertise. No experimenter will be able to take into account all the variables unless they get trained themselves. You have to be a committed NLP practitioner to perform NLP properly. The experimental results on NLP are only the results of incompetent scientists. In the real world, NLP rocks. Try it for yourself.

Donald Clark said...

Really! So if I show you, with control groups, that the main tenets of your theory are simply wrong, you'll still refuse to listen. The lack of sensibility around science, evidence and good sense has been a costant feature from NLP apologists in this debate.

As for the phrase 'incompetent' scientists - beneath contempt.

Anonymous said...

I think the truth lies somewhere in-between. As a drug addict who tried Na, councilling and rehab. I can truly say NLP worked for me I have been clean for 4 years

This cannot be discounted as a placebo effect as I really thought NLP was utter rubbish. I am probably one of the most sceptical, agnostic people I know. It may not be a science but it provides some effective tools for dealing with problems as well as allowing you to understand where they come from. people usually cry during Time line therapy and it usually takes quite a few sessions in traditional therapy to achieve the same results .its largely “content free” ( i.e. you don't have to discuss the details of past events) and the metaphors and past life really allow someone to face there problems without going into embarrising detail.

I ALWAYS believe personal experience over science otherwise I would believe bees couldn't fly. In truth science can take a long time to prove or disprove something that most people already know the answer to!! And science is always disproving it's self!!

I went on NLP trainer course and although it’s over hyped and sometimes farfetched it taught me some valuable lessons . I DO NOT BELIEVE IT ALL AND I AM NOT FANATICAL.. But I do believe there is some stuff in there that is very useful. Some of the stuff I had been doing for years naturally with good results.

So is it a Cult? of course not it’s a week training course!!! If people are fanatical it’s their fault NOT NLP's

Is it scientifically proven?.. NO but a lot of it has helped a lot of people I know personally.

Anonymous said...

You are missing the point. I have seen a whole lot of testimonials over NLP's supposed effectiveness, but it all seems to come from raving zealots. They also tend to use the same faulty logic plus dodgy bumblebee bullshit, and erroneous criticisms of science. e.g.



Read the comments. Just saying it works doesn't cut it. Otherwise scientology, david icke, tooth fairies, drinking urine, and casting magical circles of negadividy banishment also work.

Neuro (like neurology), linguistic (something to do with the legit field of linguistics or neurolinguistics) and programming (people cannot be programmed). Its pseudoscience. Stuff dressed up to look scientific. It doesn't work, it is full of utterly erroneous concepts, and the only thing you managed to do was throw us the tired old NLP bumblebee story at us. Its an old cult ploy. Its transparent. If you want to stop embarrassing yourself, simply stop pushing pseudoscience.

Anonymous said...

I am a Chartered Chemist with an honours degree in Biochemistry. I also have an honours degree in Psychology. Both degrees were awarded by (separate) reputable UK universities. I place this blog entry to neither support nor decry any of the points made here, but to add balance to some of the comments made.

Firstly, while I have no problem with the 'pure' experimental scientific approach, it does go along with some caveats, especially in relation to psychology. [No, this is not the beginning of a veiled attempt to support one side or another - keep an open mind - read on] In order to ensure a well designed experiment, all non-relevant variables (known as 'confounding variables') must be controlled. It is very difficult to do this in psychology without effecting the validity of the conclusion in terms of generalising it to 'real' situations, because of the complexity of the human organism. For this reason I personally (many would disagree) find that much of the experimental work carried out in some of the 'scientific' areas of psychology (e.g. cognitive psychology) to be pretty much irrelevant, if not useless, in terms of explaining how individuals react in actual situations. In many cases, in my opinion, the experimental environments are so unreal as to render the associated studies meaningless. To be fair, most cognitive psychologists would argue that they are not setting out to explain how individuals react in actual situations. To me (and many others) that surely is what psychology should be all about (another argument, another day).

Secondly, the discipline of psychology itself is very divided (sometimes leading to heated disagreement) on the best forms of evidence to support its theories. This, at least in part, is related to the point raised above; some argue that, because of the complexity of the human organism, the best form of evidence is qualitative (i.e. does not - indeed cannot - require experiments and / or 'solid' - e.g. statistical - analysis). The opposing camp argue that experiments are the only way.

Thirdly, some significant areas of 'accepted' psychology have no hard empirical basis. The classic example here is psychoanalysis (based on the work of Freud and his successors). Psychoanalysts will disagree, but their arguments are weak at best. The only thing that seems to bring psychoanalysis its credibility (such as it is), as far as I can see, is longevity. In fact a meta-study carried out by Eysenck concluded that patients in psychoanalytical therapy improved no more than untreated controls. Psychoanalysts disagreed with his conclusions - and concluded the opposite using the same data. Perhaps 'science' isn't as objective as we might think.

Now to 'science' itself; one of its most consistent aspects is its history of getting things wrong. For example the theory of atomic structure which I was taught at school as being absolutely right (because it explained experimental findings) is now totally disregarded. This history also tends to associated with dogma, with scientists determinedly trying to explain exceptions by adjusting theory, rather than challenging the theory itself.

What am I saying here? As someone working within the sciences for over 37 years (I still am), I am suggesting that science and experimentation might not be the panacea for the determination of truth that many writers on this site seem to think it is, especially in the psychology arena. One of my conclusions studying psychology from the point of view of being a chartered chemist, is that psychology is split. Some disciplines, like cognitive (much of which I regard as uninteresting) are indeed sciences, and should be subject to its restrictive rigours. The remainder, however, simply do not lend themselves to the traditional scientific approach. Does this mean 'anything goes'? Absolutely not - or you really will be back in cult territory. Notice that I still maintain no agenda to take sides here, but sadly the 'scientist' arguments are as irrelevant as the 'I knew somebody who was cured ...' ones. People are just too complex.

Finally - ask any psychologist what 'consciousness' actually is, and how it happens (and to back up their theory with empirical evidence). They have absolutely no clue whatsoever. I am conscious that if they cannot even answer this basic question there is a long way to go. Are you?

Anonymous said...

Hello Chartered Chemist

I think you are talking about the wrong subject. This is about pseudoscience. Psychology does not display characteristics of pseudoscience, especially the empirically oriented side.

NLP demonstrates just about every characteristic of a pseudoscience. It is an exaggeration from the start (neurobabble and wild claims). NLP has been tested and has failed. Core proponents propose pseudoscientific arguments in its defense (the claim that the testers are wrong, the movement of goalposts, ad hoc reasoning, etc). The core proponents teach NLP in combination with wicca, remote viewing, and other superstitious activities. Core proponents still make wild claims over the power of NLP, despite the battery of controled investigations that show NLP has failed to show even a normal therapeutic value. NLP is now treated as a new alternative religion in books about new alternative religions. Its mentioned in the same sentence as scientology, emin, EST and so on.

NLP is pseudoscientific pap. Any value therein is completely swamped by misinformation about the nature of the brain. Its designed for confirmation bias, hive mind thinking and for herding sheeple (proponents). Its something to avoid and ridicule from a distance.

Anonymous said...

(Chartered Chemist replies): If by "talking about the wrong subject" you mean the subject you want to talk about then I suppose you are correct. But that wasn't why I entered the forum. Let me quote from my posting: "... this is not the beginning of a veiled attempt to support one side or another - keep an open mind". Your diatribe about NLP, therefore, is not pertinent in terms of a response. My assertion that I was not mailing in support of either 'side' was also repeated at the end, along with a synopsis of my point (again, I quote from original): "Notice that I still maintain no agenda to take sides here, but sadly the 'scientist' arguments are as irrelevant as the 'I knew somebody who was cured ..." ones.
So, what is my motivation for wanting to say my bit? I wanted to add some balance to the emotive dogma included in many of the above postings. I find it striking that 'scientists' seem to want to take some kind of moral and erudite high ground when, as I explained above, from my studies as an undergraduate psychology student I concluded that, so far, the experimental approach in recent years has offered little of use towards human behavioural and social psychology. In a nutshell, my opinion as a psychology graduate, (and it is only that, an opinion) is that the bulk of what the field of cognitive psychology has produced to date is valueless. What bugged me when I was working through the cognitive part of the undergraduate course was the 'this is the only true and legitimate way to study psychology' credo espoused by the cognitive lecturers and tutors. Those who utilise a qualitative approach would vehemently disagree. Note again - support for a qualitative approach does not equate to support for NLP.
The purist scientific approach is appropriate for chemistry and physics (though it is interesting to note that much of Einstein's contribution resulted from thought experiments), but while it undoubtedly has uses in some areas of psychology (neurochemistry and neurophysiology, for example) I believe you can disregard much of it for the parts of the field that NLP purports to address. Hence, the bulk of the rhetoric detailed above blows as much hot air as that which the authors claim is blown by NLP.

Anonymous said...

Ok, I've been involved in NLP now for 6 years. For what it's worth, I made it to Master Prac Level.
To call NLP a cult, in my opinion, degrades cults. I personally believe, that, many of the practises in NLP, while appearing to have beneficial results, actually do the client harm. I'm currently researching what I am calling 'NLP Psychosis'.

Edward Ockham said...

Donald - I hope this reaches you. I would like to publish this on a website of mine about the less honest side of NLP (in particular the way it has been manipulated and promoted in Wikipedia). I have made a start here


I can be contacted by leaving a comment on any of my blog posts.

Best, Ockham

Edward Ockham said...

PS the blog name should be available if you follow the links but in any case is here


Anonymous said...

I have just posted a history and critique of nlp at


Anonymous said...

Hi Ocham

The information you present is interesting.

One of the main proponents there (FT2) seems to be an administrator, and rather embarrassingly to wikipedia has also promoted bestiality in the same way.


Yes I guess the cult of NLP extends to some wikipedia admins, and judging by the rather deliberately confusing state of the article, the NLP proponents there would rather keep the rather damning science view obscured.

Wonder what FT2 stands for? Something involving terriers too?

The mind boggles

Anonymous said...

Hi Donald

I'm a behavioural therapist of 37 years' experience, and have offered NLP training since 1999.

Initially I bought into the whole of NLP as promoted, but became more and more unhappy with the many unvalidated aspects, and was deeply embarrassed to be cast in the same mould as the new-age frauds and shysters I saw all around me.

Since 2003 I divorced myself from the whole sorry mess and although I still use and train in NLP, I don't offer public courses. The advertising that I see around me for NLP training is sickening both in its dishonesty, and in the way it attracts individuals with particular pathologies.

From 2000 I ran 3 clinical trials using specific techniques from NLP: depression treatment, chronic pain treatment, and behavioural and academic performance in at-risk school children.

The results of all 3 trials were outstanding, and I would dearly love to have an objective 3rd party rigorously take my program material and subject it to the most rigorous scrutiny.

My take on NLP is that it is a filthy collection of bits and baubles, but that amongst the filth, there is some stuff that has value.

I view psychology much the same. Only with the advent of neuro-psycho-physiology are we seeing real advances.

But for now, NLP thoroughly deserves the trashing it is getting, as do its unqualified trainers who dabble in people's lives without any knowledge of human development or psychology, and who have no notion of the concepts of peer supervision or referral.

This is one NLPer who wholeheartedly agrees with the detractors on this page.

Anonymous said...

Hi guys, I found this conversation interesting and thought I might add my perspective. I am involved for some time now in NLP and also have a science background. I regard the way NLP is taught as an infallible "science" is just nonsense (e.g. eye-accessing cues, primary representational systems). Empirically testable elements like the above have been contradicted in studies (with experimental design of varying rigour) which is not a surprise. This mentality of the "teachings for the enlightened" (who pay the money as correctly mentioned previously) and the psychobabble around the goodness of the unconscious, presuppositions and belief that everyone can become anything they want is quite unrealistic and appalling for the scientist, allergic to exaggerated claims and obvious untruths and these are definitely cultlike attributes of NLP trainings. However, as far as I have witnessed, changes in behaviour, attitude and even values do frequently occur during those trainings and during therapy sessions by competent NLP-therapists. This was quite remarkable for me when I witnessed it, as is was quite dramatic. The most interesting question is "why do people change in such a short time and remain more or less happy even the "model behind it" is scientifically unsupported?" or to those that have not witnessed this themselves and are sceptical about the whole thing (and well so), "under what conditions do people undergo transformational experiences that get them out of various forms of mild mental illness, past issues and behavioural problems?"

Personally, I believe that all psychotherapy is placebo in the sense that if you think you are cured, you are. Utilizing this huge leverage towards more constructive therapeutic work is something of immense interest to me. Why can faith (in god, nlp, anything) heal such a wide array of "mental health" symptoms? What is it that psychotherapists are not utilizing fully that could make their clients happy and functional in a very short space of time, compared to traditional therapies and even CBT? Is it showmanship&lies which do the job? Can clients be debriefed after the "sham-therapy" and made known to them that it was not the technique, just the "interaction"? In that respect, I regard the roots of NLP (modelling successful therapists) as an excellent starting point.

ps. I hope there will be some research in the future with NLP therapy tested against other schools, but the problem is that how do you keep a therapy "purely NLP" without introducing any form of human interaction, calibration and delivery of the optimal "solution" which could well be not an "NLP technique" but something more mundane? As I said before, techniques without the proper induction would be just silly rituals. It is the practitioner's job to make the technique work using whatever means necessary, and maybe, no genuine technique at all....

just some thoughts..

Anonymous said...

All methods and trials involve placebo. Beat yourself with a stick in the belief that it will help, and you may get a placebo effect. Scientology, voodoo, and so on, all use placebo alone. Properly tested methods have a real measurable effect, plus a better placebo (confidence in effect). But NLP and scientology also come with the baggage of snakeoil that leads to ill people becoming worse off in financial and emotional terms.

Good psychotherapy should involve methods that have been tested and found to work through the rigors of science (both in theory and in practice). In very stark contrast, people teaching and selling NLP constantly spread all sorts of dodgy misconceptions and misinformation about the brain, in the same way that scientologists do. Its unethical, and downright dangerous for some people (vulnerable people with mental illness).

There are clearly a bunch of NLP carpetbaggers who have obviously come here to sell their junk. They should be horsewhipped and sent packing with a heavy boot up the backside.

David Darby

Anonymous said...

The only involvement I have had with NLP has been reading some books. I'm a salesman, and fairly experienced in identifying a 'sales story', so the bullshit was pretty clear to me and I stopped at that point. For example, I would read a benefits statement and be pretty keen to find out how this great benefit is achieved, and then we'd skip to the technique. Only problem was : there was no justification offered for the technique. A naive reader might well believe that the benefits statement validated the technique (it's a common fallacy), but in reality, the techniques I read about hung in space without any established foundation.

This doesn't mean there aren't nuggets of gold in there, of course. NLP is a lucky bag, so there are bound to be interesting and useful ideas in the mix. It is, however, very instructive that the principal source of income from NLP appears to be teaching the skill to others. In this respect it's on a par with Geography.

I'm not surprised that NLPers are defending their space. The NLPers I've met are, I believe, genuinely sold on the ideas. In my world it tends to be other salespeople, and you need a fair degree of self-belief to do this job, so perhaps any crutch is useful.

Thanks for a - erm, provocative ! - post. Bet you wish you hadn't taken it on now!


Anonymous said...

Interesting points of view. Having read this debate I can't help but wondering:

Donald, let's say for instance, that a unanimous crowd of respected academics, finds definite proofs that NLP is indeed a functional methodology. Converting, that is, the shamanism to science, or astrology to astronomy. Would you now believe in NLP?


Donald Clark said...

Obviously, yes. That's been my whole case throughout this debate. That's the difference between astrology and astronomy. That's the difference between people like me, who want evidence beyond personal anecdote, and the purveyors of this snakeoil.

Anonymous said...

A validation for NLP would be the same as a validation for scientology and any other theoretically incorrect neurobabble. In essence they are the same, except that NLP dresses itself up with more management speak. Both are highly improbable.

Of course goal setting has value, as does being flexible in general. But neuro-linguistic-programming will always be a pseudoscientific exaggeration in itself. As it refers to dodgy methods, it will decrease flexibility, and its crap theories make the problem even worse. One of the worst things is the NLP bull that says NLP isn't about theory. NLP, like any other method, is full of theories, explicit or implied. In the case of NLP, the theories have been tested, and they failed!

Essentially NLP is a misleading notion. Everything core to NLP is nonsense, from its generalizations, distortions, and other linguistic aspects, to its imagery hocus pocus built to inflate all the other sensible sounding stuff out of all proportion.

NLP is set up to fool the user into thinking they sound cool, when the actual effect is they end up being inept.

Just looking at this blog, the NLPers have shown just about every logical fallacy, pseudoscientific blather, and evasive platitude in the world of snakeoil salesmanship.

Its fairly reasonable to say that NLP encourages a laughably pathetic performance. I'm just glad that most people are sensible enough to see it for what it is. Shame about the insecure susceptible ones.

George McNab

Anonymous said...

Let me start (again) by declaring that I am in no way taking sides on this ‘debate’ (I put debate in quotes because I don’t think it is), and I am certainly not arguing in favour of ‘science’ or NLP.
What surprises me is that no one has commented on the apparent hypocrisy that is abundant throughout these postings. I have a number of third level scientific qualifications spanning clinical chemistry, biochemistry and psychology yet, as I have suggested earlier, I have a healthy scepticism of a significant portion of what is presented as ‘good science’. I think a lot of scientists, including some of those who post here, should take a long look at their own specialisms too. This, of course, is no argument for NLP, and it is definitely not intended to be, but on what basis the ‘scientific opposition’ seem to be taking the moral and erudite high ground I really don’t know.
Furthermore, the emotive diatribes presented by the majority of the contributors appear to me to be the antithesis of objective scientific analysis. When I begin to read any argument which seems to purport to be rational, but then find it includes words or expressions like (and I quote from above): “parlour tricks - bullshit - sleazy website - scam - dross - 90% nonsense - collection of bits and baubles - carpetbaggers who have obviously come here to sell their junk - they should be horsewhipped and sent packing with a heavy boot up the backside”, I immediately become skeptical with respect to the motive of the author. The problem is that all appear to have their judgement clouded by their emotions (even though notorious psychologists like Skinner have argued that emotions are irrelevant - I don’t agree). As a psychology graduate myself, however, what fascinates me is why anti-NLP protagonists seem to get so wound up.
Again, let me close by stating that this posting is in no way intended to be a defence of NLP - it an objective (I hope - I did my best to keep it that way) criticism of mainstream science (based on personal experience). Not all of it, of course - it’s saved my life on more than one occasion - but I think the dogma inherent in the scientific culture, which appears to be mirrored in many of the postings here, can be extremely counter-productive.

Anonymous said...

The research on NLP shows it failed the controlled studies a long while back. The research also states that NLP is pseudoscience. It is classed in sociological groupings along with scientology. Those are pretty much neutral research findings and facts.

This is the Web. Its full of NLP adverts that still dress it up as science, present diagrams of brains and neurological traces (the non supported engram), charge high fees for certs, courses, outrageous promises, and so on.

There are clearly NLP practitioners and authors turning up here who are continuing the charade.

The web will also be full of people who have had their students conned, misled by NLPers and NLP books. It will be full of people who got certified as NLPers and subsequently found out that its just a load of misleading pseudoscientific fluff.

I think its pretty reasonable for all of those views to be presented here. Its fine for scientists and consumers alike to feel strongly enough to state that they and others have been and are being cheated.

Its fine for them to flag NLP as a minefield to avoid in whatever way they feel necessary.

A passer by

V.A. Kog said...


You are doing a great service here - thank you.

The methods of 'argument' of the NLP supporters are very interesting to observe, reminding me of "38 Dishonest Tricks" in Thouless's book "Straight and Crooked Thinking".

I have some questions for the NLP specialists (which I hope doesn't take us too far off topic).

1) Please can you explain just what this means (taken from my Practitioner manual):

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

2) During training, our trainer exhorted us to "drink lots of water, because your neurology is being reprogrammed". Does this only happen in NLP training, or should I take this precaution at other times?

3) Our trainer also let us in on one of his subtle training techniques - when he was answering one of our questions, he would move his body in a figure of 8. This "helped our left and right brains to connect while processing the information" - cool, eh? Do all NLP trainers do this, or is it an advanced technique? (He is a certified trainer of master practitioners, after all).


Vincent Albert Kog
[NLP Practitioner (abandoned)]

Unknown said...

First of all, let me say that I am not an advocate of NLP. I have read a bit and found some parts useful and (most) others not. As it is a 'hotch-potch' then there is some chance that something will be of value.

However, one nlp site analyses Derren Brown's activities in terms of nlp. You can watch one here:


There's a lot of jargon and you might be tempted to think the man is just making it up to suit what's happening. However, he has done several of these and you do find the same patterns being done by Derren Brown. I'm not inclined to believe that Brown uses an accomplice because sooner or later somebody would spill the beans to the press.

Anonymous said...

Worth looking at the NLP Research Project at the University of Surrey: http://www.nlpresearch.org/

And Andy Bradbury's article on 'Does Research Support NLP?' at http://www.bradburyac.mistral.co.uk/nlpfax22.htm

Andy Smith

Anonymous said...

Hello Andy Smith

They are basically saying that empirical testing failed to show any support for NLP. They mis-quote Heap, and totally ignore the actual researcher (Sharpley) who provided a huge amount of extra evidence to show NLP failed the test.

They like NLP and want it to be examined using methods other than controlled empirical testing.

Its a small research group designed seemingly by a couple of academic NLP practitioners.

It ignores evidence of failure, and focuses on confirmation.

Its an example of institutionalized pseudoscience.

Andy Bradbury is a well known NLP bully who accuses all and sundry critics of sockpuppetry. He seems to have almost single handedly, through the use of ranting and crankery, convinced a huge group of people that NLP is a cult and an archetypical pseudoscience.


Anonymous said...

Hi Francis

NLP is full of extremely complicated and misleading terms. Its designed to sound convincing.

However its so complex that it is not scientific, but pseudoscientific.

Derren Brown is a magician. He uses distraction as a core part of his performances.

Distraction is a very powerful device. All you need to do is overload the person with information and they will have to stop and think about things to the point they seem inactive and unresponsive.

Brown does point to various places. He generally points or indicates to the places the people are looking.

However, thats nothing to do with submodalities, eye accessing cues, parts of the brain, or programing.

Its a very simple piece of social psychology with overload thrown in.

NLP is a crock. Avoid pseudoscience, go for science instead. Its far simple are will not cost you anything.

If you want to do magic stuff on trains. Train to be a magician.

If you want to con people into believing anything from Obama's speeches, to Derren Brown, to Hitler, are doing really powerful NLP, then you might earn some money from selling them the pseudoscience of NLP.

Ethics will come into this at some point.

Ed Snape

Anonymous said...

Hi Donald. Having just been sent on a very costly NLP course by my firm which went very badly I thought I'd google NLP and see what others made of it.

In answer to your point I did question the scientific basis of the theories to the trainer and asked where the emprical evidence was which would prove that what she was teaching us had validity.

Her response was not to provide any evidence but to be very passive-aggressive towards me for the rest of the course. She subsequently phoned my boss and told him I was the wrong person for the job!

I was not intitailly hostile to NLP but I just wanted to see some evidence and I was resistant to her manipulation strategies which just struck me as rather obvious and cliched. I was the only one in the small group not blown away by the experience and her reaction was that my failure to embrace NLP was indicative of my pschological immaturity.

NLP struck me as being very similar to cults or totalitarian political systems. My failure to embrace it had to be punished either by re-education or removal.

The company is called Awaken. I recommend everyone to avoid them.

Anonymous said...

I think much of this debate supports my own experience on an NLP business course. You are not allowed to criticise or question, however honestly.

You must dumbly lap up the 'wisdom' imparted to you and embrace it with an evangelical fervour.

Comment or criticism is turned back on you in a very unpleasant way. I find it amazing that these people consider themselves caring and highly 'evolved'. In my experience they are bullies who would have found work easily in the state mental insitutions of the USSR tormenting the dissidents!

Anonymous said...

So much of this discussion is similar to ones I've seen regarding various, for want of a better term, "new age" beliefs, and their adherents.

For instance, the insistence that you provide proof that XYZ -- in this case, NLP --
does not work i.e negative proof, whereas the onus of proof is on the believer.

Another, and possibly the main one for me, is the attempted rebuttal of your arguments with ad hominem attacks, instead of discussing the subject at hand. For example accusing you of being "close-minded", "avoidant", "unhappy" (how would they know?), etc. etc.

It is quite consistent among many LGAT (Large Group Awareness Training) organizations, and, to quote a personal example, followers of the film and pseudo-scientific documentary "What The Bleep Do We Know?"

I criticized this on a website ( http://www.dtheatre.com/read.php?sid=2299 ), and for my pains received a complimentary -- in the sense that I did not pay for it -- yet rather negative assessment of my character, spiritual (un)enlightenment, and intellectual faculties.

The more convincing your argument, the more heated the attacks. These are sometimes ameliorated with "wishing you well on your journey" or similar platitudes, from the more passive-aggressive responses.

There is no arguing with these people. If you don't believe, then you are "wrong", no matter how logical your argument, despite the belief in some of these groups that there is no "right" or "wrong". The cult leaders are always "right", though, notwithstanding the obvious contradiction.

It's just like religion. Faith overrides reason.
(and spelling, grammar, punctuation, use of paragraphs, and other niceties. What? It's often the case!)

- posted by ex-pat in California

Anonymous said...

As a graduate student in neurolinguistics, it really chaps my hide that my GoogleAlerts for "neurolinguistics" and "NLP" (natural language processing - I also dabble in computational linguistics) always return more neurolinguistic programming nonsense than the intended scientific web content. I'm going to have to add some additional keywords at risk of losing a few actual target articles.

Anonymous said...

I'm embarrassed to say that I was once into NLP. It appealed to me during my undergrad years. Its one of those things that really grabs hold of your insecurities and puts silly inflatable ideas into your head.

I wasted a lot of money on NLP, and thats with training from the main practitioners. I was even taught by John Grinder. He appeared to be quite nice in a way, but on reflection he was ultimately evasive.

I checked the research on NLP properly when I got to my final year at uni. It took a while to think it through and in the end I worked it out for myself and with a bit of reference from social psychology research.

Its a difficult one. Ten years ago, I would have tried those stupid patterns out on you critics here. I probably would also have tried the swish out on myself to try to wipe the negative feelings from my head. Now just looking at what the NLPers have tried on here makes me cringe.

To have been certified in NLP is a total humiliation if you have learnt what it really means.

But you live and learn from your mistakes! Thanks to the thinkers! You're a good example

Anton Gerard

Unknown said...

Hello there,

I know, I know, it seems a tired and overused rebuttal, but from the scientific testing methods of NLP I have read of in studies are scientifically invalid.
They don't utilise a well-trained practitioner which, in turn, really messes up results because somebody untrained in the subtleties will let them pass by.
I have performed lots of the classic Chemistry tests and experiments (not really experiments because I knew the outcome), with *better* equipment than the greatest minds in that field had access to at the time, with results that *totally* disagreed with the theory behind it. Not because it makes the theory wrong, but because I am inept in that field and missed the subtleties which revealed the true results.

However I do agree with you on the grounds that a lot of Bandler's claims and ideas are a bit far-out. Also a lot of the courses and ideas are expanding into what seems to be quite, well... "coo-coo".

Just interested, to all who are on the 'nay' side of the argument;
What are your views on hypnotherapy?

Donald Clark said...

I see where you're coming from here, but the point of science is to isolate the tested variable. This the research does well. On linguistic cues, eye-movement and the all of the underlying psychology, you can test this without having the practitioner present.

Unknown said...

Hey Donald,
thanks for your reply.

I'm not an NLP practitioner or qualified in any way, I'm not even that big on NLP.

I have however, used basic anchors (which I don't believe are as powerful as commonly touted) to good effect on my partner for stress relief. I'm not really convinced on eye accessing cues, predicates and some of the other underlying stuff, but parts of it is useful, and I believe can be scientifically validated.
I'm not saying *my* personal experience proves the whole idea, I'm just saying I've used some of the less out-there ideas to help my girlfriend with stress relief and anxiety. I just remembered, she has been seeing a psychotherapist for almost 18 months, and the only change I have seen from that is respect and friendship with the therapist, and someone good to talk to.

I haven't found "the good stuff" (as in any field there are the "kooks") to be any less crazy than conventional alternatives...
I know of people with traumatic experiences that stopped them from wanting to fly to visit their children, and through several well-reputed conventional therapists and drug programmes for several years showed little to no improvement but with a combination of hypnotherapy and NLP, *and a good practitioner*, was eager to fly again, to the level of enjoying the flight. It wasn't instant (several weeks), but much more effective than conventional, proven techniques.

I do see what you mean about a lot of the NLP training and seminars... some of the websites and trainers just seem downright sleazy. Though, Bandler does also, but I have seen him in several interviews and with his work (personal life aside, it doesn't seem congruent at all) his paramount concern is helping other people.

But hey, I certainly see a lot of what you are saying. Some people are taking quite a cult-ish approach.

Oh, and my question (I'm not trying to hound you, I'm just genuinely interested): What is your opinion of hypnotherapy (not NLP)?

Donald Clark said...

Hi Chris Thanks fo the thoughtful post.

On hypnotherapy, I have no time for the Fredian rooted regression techniques as false memories are downright dangerous. The book that convinced me was The Memory Wars by Frederick Crews. A truly remarkable text.

Cognitive (or behavioral) hypnotherapy I have more time for but don't know enough about its efficacy to amke a judgement.

C.Z said...

Ok. NLP does not exist.

When you remember your wedding day, college graduation or any bright happy event that you had in your life, does it give you a sense of happiness? can you sense any good feelings?

Soon you may provide me with the scientific evidence I from you.

Works = it provided you with a good feeling.

Doesn't work = no response.

Now, to be absolutely clear, if this 'does' work for you, I would like you give me some scientific evidence of how 'it' worked?

If this 'does' not work for you, you will then need to provide with some scientific evidence of how 'it' doesn't work for you? Simple.

If the 'How' isn't enough, you can also use the 'why' (Why does it work? or not work?)

If you wish to reference an experiment (besides your experiment,) that was done by whom you consider scientific or trust-worthy, kindly do so by posting a specific link to the article that addresses your experiment.

Also, if its a good feeling, give me evidence on how its good? (or/and Why?)

Awaiting your reply.


Donald Clark said...

We've had 125 years of solid research on memory that shows how it works. The examples you gave are examples of 'episodic' memory and we know why they're remembered. We also know how and why they're forgotten.

On top of this we know a great deal about the serotonin/dopamine mechanisms around those feelings of happiness.

Like most NLP fantasists, rambling accusations seem like a suitable substitute for clear thinking.

Jimbob said...

I am a certified kitten therapy practitioner. My methodology was developed over the past 6 weeks in my bedroom with the aid of my fluffy kitty named muffin. It is a fully scientistic and logic accredited methodology. To prove same; my little sister was sad the other day and I let her pet muffin. She got happy straight away. Ta dah!

Anonymous said...

Donald....I clicked on your profile picture and you were still small :)

George Greenways said...

Hi Donald,

Since the NLP croweed is stalking you at I would like to give my thumbs up to you.
I also experience NLP, Enneagrams, etc. as pseudo science.
They can be quite intimidating if you are not a believer.
I would like to see a large scientific study debunking NLP for good. It does a lot of damage to people who are actually seeking help!

Anonymous said...

Why blame it so hard? They don't come knocking on your door, do they?

Ah yes, they do. I watched as line managers (not HR) and a third party NLP Master deceptively structured an NLP course under another guise, to avoid "forcing" staff into the training. That plan was scuttled when their deception was revealed by one of their targets.

That said, I don't believe that it's a cult. But it should be prosecutable as a pyramid scheme.

If you're looking for more credible research into NLP, the University of Surrey appears to be giving it a go. Their latest report (2007) concludes that if NLP isn't dodgy, then it at least needs more research.

Anonymous said...

There is a reply to that:


NLP is identified as a cargo cult. It failed testing. All sorts of things get discussed at universities. NLPers discuss things round in circles. But when they fail the test, they fail the test.

NLP is also identified as discredited:

John C. Norcross, Thomas P. Hogan, Gerald P. Koocher (2008) Clinician's Guide to Evidence-based Practices. Oxford University Press, USA

Drewbrando@Live.ca said...

but people,i dont understand,why u use nlp,isnt nlp some sort of hypnosys.Why should u remove phobias with nlp,its only an illusion,the phobia is still there.Why shouldnt u just teach the patient how to face his fears.I dont know much about nlp,but from what ive read on multiple sites,it seems to me that nlp is more about making yourself up.
Ive read somewhere,that nlp is the art of changing yourself by changing others.Lots of people say nlp is good if used properly on people.But i still think its manipulation.Some peoples comments,mostly the advocates of nlp,leave theyre comments in wierd manner,Are u using nlp on the site?
Even if nlp is used properly,u have no right to manipulate others,even if its for theyr own good.If thats what nlp is for ,all you people should be ashamed for doing it.Besides like I said,nlp is just an illusion,the fears are still there and the phobias,and u loose yourself in fiction.Its not even true confidence.And ,no nlp,is not a cult,what it is,is manipulation.
And to all those people who say that without nlp you cant succeed in life,fuck ya'll.
I rather "fail" then let myself programmed like some sort of machine.
I prefer reality rather then ilussions.

Drewbrando@Live.ca said...

Yeah,but your only feeding people illusions.Your not helping them really yourjust hurting them.How long do these illusions last?
You should teach the patient to develop himself,rather then some make believe.

Anonymous said...

Yes its quite true. NLP is a sort of delution that generates quite unbeneficial delusions in the longer term.

I did a course in NLP with the Bandler a few years back and I attended some of Grinder's workshops. I got my practitioners cert. Verdict: Its a big con.

In having the certificate you join a collection of people, most of whom are clueless about beneficial change and brainlessly naive about business and training, who tend towards unethical behaviour, who make outrageous speculations dressed up as science, and you sell what on reflection has about the most ridiculous name in town (neurolinguistic programing).

Its my belief that most people who are certified in neurolinguistic programing tend to hide the fact after a few years of realizing it it is about as shallow and pseudo as anything can be.

Neurolinguistic programing is the delusion. I'm glad to say I got over that particular delusion in good time.

Tony Anderson

Anonymous said...

It has been proven once again. Religion might have waned in modern society, but stupid has not.

TM said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

NLP is very thin beer indeed. It hasn't kept up with the times. Maybe once upon a time it was the new thing that was full of promise. That was then. This is now. NLP has been slowly falling behind the times so it has lost whatever scientific or pseudoscientific cred that it it once might have had. Having nothing
respectable to base itself on, it has had to resort to pathetic fringe ideas like Ritual Magick. Yes, you read that right. When a claque of clowns have lost all hope of being accepted in the academic community they begin to live in the sad fantasy that they have special knowledge that normally educated people are too benighted to understand, claiming that they have tapped into cosmic doo-doo that only Priests of the Black Arts or equally idiot Occultism delves into. Next they'll be dancing naked around a pile of skulls and changing the weather with Orgone emanations like Wilhelm Reich dreamed when he finally went completely insane. The whole project smacks of desperation and still is a fine source of income for the unembarrassable hucksters who know an easy mark when they see one. One imagines a great capacity for self deception lies at the heart of all such dubious science of mind quackeries.

Anonymous said...

My academic background is in Literary criticism and sciences, which included a considerable amount of diverse research papers. Because of free time I have had a lot of space to research the internet for new paradigms and change methods: better and faster ways to get out of stigmas and useless thought patterns that get in the way and affect good feelings, work and relationships.

Actually, when choosing what I considered the best on the net not one had undergone any extensive scientific rigor. But for a long time neither did acupuncture. And after being written in stone it was still sidelined by the drug and machine industry. I remember in a pre-med biology class how the "law" was laid down, and "thou shalt not question": as if physics, itself, depended on it.

Anyway, scientifically verified practices can do a lot of destruction. Is there not a cult in medicine: the defied doctor - not that I feel we do not need alopathic medicine. But they make announcements on the internet that diseases are incurable. What does that do to the sufferer? The mind will obey that command. But many of the big diseases are curable. What they should say is that "Our model does not work. if you want cures go to Tijuana."

The finest minds in science first triggered a nuclear device with the possibility of causing a chain reaction that would destroy the earth's atmosphere or maybe everything. So, they tried it to find out. Bandler retells this and a lot of other stories that show how our world is full of holes and pitfalls and just the insight helps tremendously! Your whimpy approach to certain things becomes a laugh as it often should be.

I came upon Bandler courses at the odd video.google page. I am fascinated by his refined observation of behaviors. NLP has penetrated every major sector I can think of. The almost omnipresence of NLP is astounding, unprecedented, scrutinized and proved affective by highly critical trained professional people. Is that a testimony to fraud, failure and lack of desired effect? Consider the embracing of NLP by the mainstream medical community. A lot of it is common sense revisited.

People make cults out of anything: Pop stars, political figures, unquestioned schooling rituals (or you risk your GPA), Nobel Prizes, reincarnated Indigo children, Tantric goddesses online - you name it someone will worship it.

I find a lot of consistency, extreme observation and high intelligence in Bandler's pro coursework. And always on-the-change refining and getting deeper into it. I had a lot of professors in everything. Were they all doing their job? Now, no professor would have a skeleton in THEIR closet would they!

He was acquitted of the charges mentioned. I wasn't there. I know he was a heavy Cocaine user. My brother was too during the same period. He has both a refined eloquence and street smart swagger. I don't yet know how or where he got his PhD. But I listen to breakthroughs, not always the person. Some brilliant people are radical eccentrics with wild mythologies and license. Jackson Pollock decided to kill himself in a speeding car with two young women aboard. Such nice people are cult figures in the museum art world.

If Richard were giving talks in prison I would still be interested in his observations and solutions. It appears that today's seminars seem like what is happening with them all: getting commercial. But the jury is still out.

Anonymous said...

This is a video of Bandler claiming that psychotherapists just talk theory and cannot do anything in practice.


He claims that neurolinguistic programming can get rid of phobias easily every time.

The fact is, neurolinguistic programing is conceptually pseudoscientific. It has failed where other psychotherapies have succeeded easily. Bandler is spreading misinformation in the same way that scientologists try to discredit psychotherapy and psychiatry. Scientologists and neurolinguistic programmers have failed. They have been discredited.

Here is Grinder talking about how neurolinguistic programming produces levels of genius in its users:


He says its all to do with switching off your left brain, critical faculties and becoming childlike.

"Everybody knows children are the best learners etc". Its nonsense! Children learn incrementally by adding new information to their mental models just like adults, pointing at objects, asking how they are named etc.

These new age hucksters are encouraging people to shut off their critical thinking, to unquestioningly accept the "magic" of their processes, and they are encouraging mindless confirmation bias towards their pseudoscience. They make liberal use of every neuromyth in existence. They are a modern decentralized scientology: Wild claims to genius ability, expensive automatic certificates, and tacky new age snakeoil.

Anonymous said...

Yes, NLP is a scam:


I don't think there is a better couple examples of new age pseudoscience on the planet.

Anonymous said...

NLP is bullying. How unsurprising that one finds HR departments amongst it's biggest followers.

judy said...

Hi Donald,
Do you have any specific scientific evidence that anyone involved with NLP has claimed it was a science?


Donald Clark said...

Throughout it's sordid history NLP has been claiming a scientific basis. This is well documented by Devilly GJ (2005) "Power therapies and possible threats to the science of psychology and psychiatry". Right from the start people like Grindler claimed that it was based on his scientific work in linguistics and empirical work in collaboration with Richard Bandler. However, critics found that the experimental research did not exist.

Think for a moment about its name Neuro Linguistic Programming - it was designed to give the impression that it IS science. That's teh problem. It hoodwinks people ito thinking it ha ssome sort of experimental validity.

Mathias said...


Your Text about the NLP rushed me to Tears. I live in Germany and was manipulated in many different ways by my boss in 2007. In a conversation the boss said, that she "feels", that I need help about my psyche. She explained, that I could reach my goal with the help of a normal psychologist, but it would take much time. So she promoted, that with the NLP I could reach the same goal with much faster results. If I would decide myself for the NLP-Method, she would persuade me to an NLP-Coach. I paid 15 sessions within a half year. One Session had the price of € 40. In the end I spend within the half year € 600 for a method that even doesnt help me, no it even made my life to a hell on earth. The whole story ended therefore with my mental sickness. I got the burnout-syndrome. Me was really afraid about the NLP-People and I even was afraid when the phone was ringing or when the doorbell ran. I went 2 Months to a mental-health clinic and had to learn how I could forestand these people.
NLP is a weapon. And it is used by people who claim to be philantropics, but in fact are the servants of manipulation and anger.

Greetings from Germany



Brad Evans said...

Donald, I agree with all your comments.

I have been interested in NLP for over a year and studied first as a beginner course (12 hours over 6 weeks) then doing a MNLP course - quite the course a third of the way through as I became disconcerted by it.

My main aims with NLP were to help myself to relax/get past anxious situations and also to help with my job (sales). I would say there are some techniques such as same ways of mirroring which can be very useful in sales however these are as much common sense and cannot be overly forced else sound stupid.

Anyway, as I started my MNLP I realised the other 10 people on my course we VERY VERY weird. I thought it might be meet some interesting people through this course but I found them all to be more or less people you wouldn't want to introduce your friends to let alone your mother. It seemed people were at the course for a quick fix to sort their life out - eg. unemployed or looking for a new direction - whereas unless you know where your going this stuff can in no way help.

Also, NLP training teaches everyone how to become a good NLP trainer thus perpetuating the cult. No practical uses are taught outside of being taught how to "handle a client" which is really useless unless one is therapist. Anyway, I'm gutted I wasted so many hours on this. It tries to complicate life to make weirdos feel like they have special knowledge and superior when they don't.

Nicholas said...

Donald Clark, you are a stupid human being.

Donald Clark said...

Nicholas - you're intellect obviously knows no bounds! Or has NLP reduced your mind to the level of a simpleton.

Anonymous said...

Hi Donald,

Great article, I read about half the comments. I was expecting that some of the NLP proponents might be able to cite even a couple of papers to back up their claims( after all even Homeopathy has a few papers in its favour). But no, not a peep. As for trying to convince these people of the value of proper scientific methodology, it really is a waste of ones and zeros.

werthers said...

Keep up the good work nice to see no one has any real peer reviewed evidence to support their claims but I can't see them backing down.

It's taken root in the seduction/pick up artist community, Ross Jeffries being one of the main proponents.
It's quite scary and sad at the same time that this self improvement is not actually improving yourself but using weird techniques to getting people to sleep with you. They're not actually improving themselves but hiding themselves under more layers of crap.

The Kid In The Front Row said...

This is the most hilarious thing I've ever read.. absolutely hilarious arguing in the comments.

I think NLP is hilarious, I love people who are part of it and how they defend it and argue for it, it makes for great comedy, as per these comments!

Anonymous said...

All of these arguments are overwhelming. It makes me glad to be on the quieter side. I personally could not do this much arguing.

As my "personal experience", NLP has never worked for me. Or at least the way I intended to use it. Then I read to take back these failure's as "feedback". Amen to that, but either something works or it doesn't. If I take a magnifying glass and position it facing the sun on a hot day in order to light or heat up a piece of stick, I do not need to "believe" or have personal testimony for it to "work" or not. It will either heat-up and burn the stick or it won't. Time and time again, it WILL heat up the stick and burn it.

Many times when I have used NLP, it has not "heated up" or "burned" the "stick".

My life has been much better without the use or belief of NLP. It all sounded very believable to me. Then again I was younger. I last used/found out about NLP almost 12 years ago. Embedded commands, eye movement's, is Bulls**t. I do however believe in the power of the subconscious mind but that is not found by NLP.

I do *believe* there are some things in this world that science cannot explain and "things" that just cannot be measured by the scientific standards we use today. All in all, things for me have been better without NLP. Waste of my time but we all learn from our mistakes.

Winston said...

Good article.
I recently had the honor of meeting an NLP practitioner who was happy to give me an overview of the methodology while he was smoking a joint (which helped him "focus" - a word that came up pretty often in this little sermon).
In his short history chapter he mentioned a fellow named Erikson. My first thought was "how could Erik betray his practice in such a manner !?". As it turns out he was referring to a Milton Erikson and had no idea who Erik was.
Anyway, long story short, he went on with his hypnotherapy new age trash and his opportunities of coaching corporate suits - to which I actually don't object because that's as harmless as a circus show - and finally reached the part where he "coached" a woman who had been sexually abused at the age of ten. To make matters worse, she wasn't his only client showing signs of pathology as I was to find out from his story.
And that's when I started asking questions that hurt, such as position of the Psychologists' Authority regarding NLP (A: opposition), amount of time before a student becomes a practitioner (A: less than one year), what are his studies in psychology (A: none; he spoke of the unconscious but could not even begin to define it or relate it to anything)and so on and so forth.
As I've said: entertaining corporates with your cheap tricks and stupid sermon is one thing, but "treating" a woman in need of real counseling by asking her to express her feelings of bitterness through a metaphor is just irresponsible and potentially harmful.
There should be a tighter leash on these practices all over the world.

Anonymous said...

Circus is right

I am not sure about whether coaching in general works for business types. I imagine some forms of coaching could be beneficial. The research is yet to verify that though.

Neurolinguistic programming is one thing that definitely damages though. Just look at the poor state of the proponents. They're just full of misinformation and crap. You may aswell get the HR dept to supply introductory dianetics and crystal gazing to all newcomers:)

Here's a great vid for helping inform anyone who's in the market for self improvement:


Dr.Alistair said...

well, there are clearly two sides to this arguement.

see what i mean?

can you feel it?

if you go inside now and begin to imagine what it would be like to respond, what is the first thing you realise?

we are all biased, even those with rigourous scientific training.

psychotherapy isn`t held to any of the sort of rigourous scientific standards either my pompous friend, because if it was we would have discovered that people aren`t getting better via it`s methods, merely medicated.

and that would be heresy, wouldn`t it be?

and you`ve read those studies your self so don`t be coy.

i am a cerified nlp practitioner and my wife is a psychologist who works with children, and she uses nlp because, in many cases, it`s the only thing that will work.

Donald Clark said...

The pomposity is on the side of NLP practitioners who refuse to examine the evidence, The pomposity is putting forward weak arguments claiming that:
1. Science is bunk
2. I'm a certified practitioner
3. My wife says its true

Your reply on science reminds me of those people who say "my grandmother lived until she was 90 and smoked all her life" as a response to the cancer inducing effects of smoking. Sorry, smoking causes cancer, because the science tells us it does. NLP is not taken seriosuly by science because its claims hav been shown to be false and ineffective.

NLP certification is meaningless, as it's a self-certifying group using techniques that have been proven to be ineffective. It's a mickey-mouse certificate from the Fantasia-like imagination of cult-NLP.

As for your wife, anecdotes are not evidence, and the way to establish whether the techniques she uses work, is to subject these techniques to a trial with a control group and methodology. This has been done and the studies by Sharpley (twice), Heap and this year by Tomasz Witkowski (I'll be publishing these this week), show that they are without foundation. She may very well believe in astrology, UFOs and fairies. That doesn't make her remotely relevant.

What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.

I found your cloying, pseudo-therapeutic language rather odd, although not entirely unexpected given the lack of substance in your arguments.

Anonymous said...

Too many posts to read, but NLP is on Radio 4 this week:

Power to Persuade: The Story of NLP


Marshall said...

Hi Donald,

Looking forward to reading the recent studies on NLP methodology.
Over the past six months I've interviewed a significant number of practitioners from this field as part of my private little qualitative study on the direction that science is considering in this syncretic new age. As you may know, certain cornerstone perspectives of NLP have invaded academia for quite a few decades, via Berkeley-Stanford, no less.

Anonymous said...

Here's an enlightening and entertaining video


Anonymous said...

Hi Donald

Shame Trainingzone caved in to the pseudoscientist. I don't blame them after the sort of cost incurred by libel action by cranks.

Its all saved here anyway. Feel free to use:


Anonymous said...

Hello all

The BBC link posted above does not work any more.

Here is an even better illustrated version:)

The Story of NLP


Marshall said...

A nice and fair, non-biased audio documentary shared by Anonymous above. The BBC has the best material.
Try to avoid looking at the images attached to the audio though. The youtube user that compiled and posted this was obviously biased, as the images tip the scales toward NLP being a pseudoscience.

Marshall said...

Oops, spoke too soon. The narrator is actually a bit critical towards NLP. Not as clearly as the pictures though.

Anonymous said...

The images on that video are quite representative. It even includes the presentation of NLP adverts for penis enlargement and gaudy NLP book covers.

Neurolinguistic programing is just as pseudoscientific as dianetics. The sort of testing that Bandler describes is equivalent to the testing conducted by L Ron Hubbard. The arguments and tantrums are identical.

Its not neuroscience. Its as pseudoscientific as it sounds. Dianetics and NLP; testimonials galore. No evidence of efficacy.

Here is another informative video:


Rob Gronbeck said...

I will be conducting my honours in psychology thesis project on NLP.. and shall endeavour to provide you with the results when I have them in about a year from now.

Nice post... good discussion... it is fun to get NLP people riled up.. especially when you are taking the high ground of scientific enquiry. They aren't used to it so give them time... they are not all so unreasonable as some.

If your only tact is prove it via peer review research, then you win!! for now... peace.

Anonymous said...

There's a little thing I like to call the scientific method, maybe you've heard of it. NLP fails consistently when subjected to proper scientific testing, results cannot be duplicated in the laboratory setting, it's a placebo therapy based on slaps on the back and reach arounds.

Anonymous said...

At MIT we are presented with neuro-linguistic programming (and dianetics and subliminals) as archetypical pseudo-sciences:


Its very helpful because we get a clear idea of how to avoid stating nonsense in our work. It also helps us avoid buying into false claims.

Thanks for the blog Donald. Its especially interesting reading the ex-proponent's posts and the painful realization that they were wasting time and money. Well thats all part of life long learning I guess.

Warwick Ferguson

Unknown said...

I contend with Tony, who said that "not all human experience can be measured in a lab". In a lab environment, you maintain high levels of control over that which you study. In life, the amount of control plummets significantly. In my own research, I have found very little actual research on hypnosis or NLP. Most technical articles I found on these subjects fail to isolate hypnosis or NLP, the research almost always couples hypnosis or NLP with some traditional therapy. This blog has been interesting to me as I seek to hear both sides of an argument before actually making up my mind about the efficacy of a system.

Anonymous said...

"At MIT we are presented with neuro-linguistic programming (and dianetics and subliminals) as archetypical pseudo-sciences:


Its very helpful because we get a clear idea of how to avoid stating nonsense in our work. It also helps us avoid buying into false claims.

Warwick Ferguson"

It's a fake!

If you accept this presentation as real, you are defending pseudoscience with pseudoscience.

Oh! The Irony!

Anonymous said...

The references section is interesting

Look at this one:

Lilienfeld, Scott O.; Lohr, Jeffrey M.; Morier, Dean. (2001) The Teaching of Courses in the Science and Pseudoscience in Psychology: Useful Resources.Preview Teaching of Psychology, Jul2001, Vol. 28 Issue 3, p182-191, 10p, 2 charts

That checks out fine.

This professor is not from MIT, he teaches at Cambridge, and he uses neuro-linguistic programming as an examplar of pseudo-science:


Whatever you think of origin the slides, they are pretty clarifying. That is in fact what scientologists and neuro-linguistic programmers claim.

Neuro-linguistic programming is turning out to be a great example of pseudo-science.

Take your pick: Neuro-linguistic programming is pseudo-science according to MIT, Cambridge, both, or anywhere else who wants to fully inform their university graduates.

It is called neuro-linguistic programming after all, duh!

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately I've had some experience with it. Some cyberharassers were using it to get me to mimic the behavioral aspects of TLE. Creepy.

Worse, I ended up with TLE therapists. There's nothing worse than trying to say something and then getting some bizarre off the wall comment to throw you off. That's where the hypnotism comes in I guess. Maybe it works for people who like to be distracted.

With NLP people (and it does have a cult aspect), you try to have a normal conversation and come out thinking - what the heck was that about? Two thumbs down.

Joseph said...

Ok, I must say I have met several NLP experts who took away important sums of money from me, and did not help me. Can anyone tell me where I can find some real life changing help? I have been struggling with problems being adopted for one,if that is the problem... then growing up in 11 different countries. To be fair to those experts, I guess their method applies to normal cases. One Bert Hellinger I found and was told could help me seemed rather incapable and hardly listened to me. He jumped in and assumed he knew the problem immediately. I would really like to find someone who could help me. The things is I have no money. No money to spend anymore. I wish I could find someone so good, who believes in their art so confidently, that they would help me for free, with the promise that I could pay them back later when I am successful. Who would that be? Richard Bandler? Tony Robbins? Paul Mckenna? I doubt that very much. These guys seem to be interested only in MONEY...Does anyone know who could help me? Besides myself :)

CallingOnYou said...

But...but...Richard Bandler was fully aquitted of murder and released. You guys are all simply looking for someone else to blame for your inabilities to cope with society.

Donald Clark said...

Not the old psychobabble statement that passes for debate in the NLP world 'you can't cope with society'!

Coping with society for Bandler meant serious drug & alcohol use, an obsession with guns, obesity and serious violence against women.

Coping with society for NLP 'practitioners' seems to be deceitfully fooling others into thinking you're something you're not.

So 'Callingonyou' (as arrogant a tag as I've seen on the web.....) don't call me and I'll not call you!"

Anonymous said...

There's a fantastic touch of irony in this video:


(about 4 minutes 50 seconds in)


Anonymous said...

My 5 cents - NLP "masters" always use with emphasis word “manipulation” and it’s basically what they do – manipulate. NLP is like financial pyramid, first two guys have idea how to manipulate a few people to make one million usd, next of them like to be manipulated as they believed that there is so many others which follow them and also pay millions for that “wisdom”, problem is that at the end is a lot of NLP gurus and nobody new to manipulate – frustrating, what a drama for fanatics, they spent so much money and time to stay NLP guru and now what? They only can attack and fight to the last … or - NLP gurus – go at fresh air, make a walk, throw away your daemon’s dreams and certificates of Great Masters of Manipulation and start live like a normal, sensitive and non-programmable human being. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Hi. Interesting blog.

I recently finished attending an introductory course on NLP at work. Started with a bit of new age indoctrination about evidence being subjective, moved on to some hilarious rituals and tweaks, and finished with a bunch of sales pitch full of cop-out clauses.

I asked the trainer for independent evidence of effectiveness, and he said our own experience is what counts. I then presented them with a review paper by Witkowski (2010) showing NLP to be pseudoscience, confirming what any awake person in the audience suspected.

They came back by presenting this link on the presentation screen:

Then in discussion I searched the author. It turned up this publication:


I presented it on screen.

Well, that was the most hysterical conclusion to the end of any seminar in the history of our company. Its currently doing the rounds:)


Mike Rowan

Spencer said...

Excellent blog Donald.
I have recently done a one week NLP Practioner training course, before that I have completed a honours degree in computer sciences.
Hear are my thoughts: NLP is unproven by rigourous testing and extremely manipulative 'field' that is isn't a cult, although does have rather a large proportion of fanatical fans/trainers who think it is easier (and mor fanancially beneficial) in life to be a coach than be whatever they were before hand.
I went on the course to help me with my confidence and help me with sales. My own experience since I can say for me that it has helped my sales, although there have been times where I have realised that I do not feel comfortable with manipulating people in such manner.
I would say that the training I recieved was far too expensive and would urge people to look at getting other types of training/life coaching.
One question I would now ask myself is 'Does that life coach have an excellent life in all aspects?' - if not, then they need life coaching...

Andy Bradbury said...

Topic 3:

NLP and science

To be bliunt, most people who talk about NLP having been "scientifically disproved", or "failed to gain scientific validation", etc. don't actually understand what they are talking about.

The whole idea that nothing is valid unless it has been scientifically verified is itself scientific nonsense. Because it is NOT a scientific statement and cannot be scientifically validated.

The earth goes round the sun is a scientific statement. It can be verified or disproved. It is consistently true. It does not vary from day to day, from year to year or from millenium to millenium.

But what about the comments on this blog.

"You really don't want to engage in the scientific debate do you?" Donald Clark to Tony Nutley.

"NLP fails consistently when subjected to proper scientific testing, results cannot be duplicated in the laboratory setting" comment from "Warwick Ferguson".

So, Mr Clark, what specifically "scientific" comments do you have about whatever it is you think of as "NLP"?

And Mr Ferguson, does it not occur to you that the NLP-related techniques are designed for use in interactions between individuals, not between groups of individuals?

Testing of psychological concepts, except where they have a physiological basis, can only produce statistics which apply to groups. That's averages (means), medians and modes. None of which will necessarily be true for any individual within the group being tested.

Add to this the fact that the co-creators of NLP and the FoNLP have always made it clear that they were offering OBSERVATIONS, NOT TRUTHS, and the whole idea that elements of the FoNLP should be "scientifically testable and duplicatable" (both genuine requirements of authentic scientific testing) are simply irrelevant.

Donald Clark said...

Andy, Andy, Andy - you're like the flu - just when you think you've heard the last of it, it annoyingly comes back. I've got to admire your dedication to the task, if not your powers of reason!

You're arguments are all over the place. First the verification principle (look it up Andy), then read a little Popper.

Then the irrelevant sun/earth ramble. Then the usual 'it's just observations' not science. That's fine, just stick to your world of 'observations' and stop annoying the rest of us who know our science. My observation, that you lack the ability to reason, is as good as your observation. That leaves us all in the swamp of observation. The difference is that you think that all of your observations are superior to other people's observations. This is where you come unstuck, as there's no court of appeal, other than the strange world of Andy Bradbury. Why post when you've nothing to add/offer, other than your assertion that you're always right.
FoNLP (I think I now know what this stands for!)

Rina Tripathi said...

My God Donald I admire your patience with these people who are bent on proving that dangerous practices like hypnosis are healing. They are not authorized to play with the delicate balance of subconscious, still they preach and practice it to make money. They hap about the healing when what actually they are bringing about is disasters, gullible people are taken in with their claims. An insensitive society does not help when such people open up shops. Playing with people's lives and experimenting with their subconscious mind is something that will effect themselves in a negative way. Glad you are courageous to call spade a spade, these techniques are quake's tricks. They seem to have an effect just like placebos, while the latter is harmless this disturbing of balance might invite trouble for those who seek help from NLP practicioners or so called life coaches.

Anonymous said...

In reply to NLP author Andy Bradbury:

You claim that critics do not know what they are talking about. Well who does? Claims from NLPers have become so vague and misleading over the years, its running neck and neck with dianetics in terms of bluster and flimflam.

You (an author of NLP books) certainly have no understanding of how groups and individuals are tested in psychology and neuroscience. There are rigorous tests in both fields and plenty of interventions pass muster. Neuro-linguistic programming is obviously pseudo-scientific in name, though it has been tested many times.

The overall result is failure. That is on top of neuro-linguistic programming being obviously pseudo-scientific in name and concept.

I notice you tend to liberally spread ad hominem (critics just don’t understand NLP) all over the web:

Added to that are your accusations of conspiracy, libel, and other utterances that would identify NLP as a particularly cultlike following. You were even identified working with scientologists to censor information on scientific literacy.

The effects of neuro-linguistic programming are much the same as the effects of any pseudo-scientific cult. They lead to the use of obscurantic and obtuse argument and attack, and they become most obvious when you are called out on your claims.

Richard Tolkreth

Andrew said...

Isn't NLP is more of an art than science? Persuasion, influence, interpersonal communications - how can this things be scientifically studied than you are dealing with what are unique situations - in sales, business meetings, personal relationships and coaching.

I'm studying NLP because its been the most rational framework for dealing with people's subconsciousness. And as you've probably already discovered, when you are dealing with people, appealing just to logic and logic alone is futile.

I'm working in engineering consulting business and NLP been tremendously helpfull for building relationships with clients that I had hard time dealing before relying purely on reasoning and academic credentials. You'd think engineers would be different :)

Some ideas from NLP that I found usable - pacing and leading, fractionation, seeding of ideas, yes sets, using metaphors, story telling, eliciting values, re-framing. I haven't studied Bandler much, but went through several programs with Kendrick Cleveland, Igor Ledochowski, Ross Jeffries, and some others.

Now, can somebody recommend a better and scientifically proven framework than NLP for personal development and practicing your interpersonal communication so you can be more effective in marketing, sales, business and personal relationships, seduction, coaching, parenting, teaching, public speaking and personal change work?

Donald Clark said...

You think NLP is an ‘art’ beyond ‘logic’ and ‘science’. Why then do you claim that NLP is the ‘most RATIONAL framework for dealing with people’s subconsciousness”? You first want to abandon logic and reason then haul it back in as the rationale for choosing NLP.
In any case, each of the items you mention can be subjected to scientific test. You try it out on a randomly selected group with a control and measure the results - it's called experimental psychology. Here’s the problem, when researchers do this, they find NLP wanting.
Can I recommend a more scientifically proven framework? Yes, there’s been over 100 years of experimental psychology that has produced progress in almost every area of human psychology including memory, learning, communications, parenting, and yes, even public speaking and so on. Forget the anecdotal stuff and read the science. Otherwise you're just whistling in the wind along with astrologers and other 'I believe it's true because it works for me' fruitcakes.

Donald Clark said...

You think NLP is an ‘art’ beyond ‘logic’ and ‘science’. Why then do you claim that NLP is the ‘most RATIONAL framework for dealing with people’s subconsciousness”? You first want to abandon logic and reason then haul it back in as the rationale for choosing NLP.
In any case, each of the items you mention can be subjected to scientific test. You try it out on a randomly selected group with a control and measure the results - it's called experimental psychology. Here’s the problem, when researchers do this, they find NLP wanting.
Can I recommend a more scientifically proven framework? Yes, there’s been over 100 years of experimental psychology that has produced progress in almost every area of human psychology including memory, learning, communications, parenting, and yes, even public speaking and so on. Forget the anecdotal stuff and read the science. Otherwise you're just whistling in the wind along with astrologers and other 'I believe it's true because it works for me' fruitcakes.

JAI said...

For me NLP is a funny business; I attended two day program from my company HR. I was not knowing about the course while I entered the class room. But after half an hour I was sure it was a wrong place. To be further sure.. I didnt quit and completed two days (hell time spent). I feel embarassed to tell people " I was There". More importantly I wonder How people run such funny business.
I take pity on vulnerable people psychology ... those who get brain washed by these IDIOTIC NLP practitioners / coaches.

JAI said...

Further some excerpts from wikipedia :-


“Scientific criticism –

The term "Neuro-linguistic programming" has been characterized as pseudo-scientific. Roderique-Davies (2009) states that "neuro" in NLP is "effectively fraudulent since NLP offers no explanation at a neuronal level and it could be argued that its use fallaciously feeds into the notion of scientific credibility".
Similarly, experimental psychologist Corballis (1999) in his critique of lateralization of brain function (the left/right brain myth), states that "NLP is a thoroughly fake title, designed to give the impression of scientific respectability".
Clinical psychologist Grant Devilly (2005) identified NLP as an early example of a power therapy. Devilly claims that these so called power therapies share characteristics of pseudo-science including: the promotion of unobtainable goals, rationalization traps, manufactured credibility, a set of specific beliefs, self generated persuasion, vivid appeals, the use of common misconceptions, and attacks on critics through the use of innuendo.
A research committee[50] working for the United States National Research Council led by Daniel Druckman came to two conclusions. First, the committee "found little if any" evidence to support NLP's assumptions or to indicate that it is effective as a strategy for social influence. "It assumes that by tracking another's eye movements and language, an NLP trainer can shape the person's thoughts, feelings, and opinions (Dilts, 1983[57]). There is no scientific support for these assumptions."[

Andrew said...

Donald, when you quote me saying that I suggest we abandon logic for our own personal decision making, that is just plain twisting my words brother because that is not what I said, but I understand that you might not have the time to fully read in to what everyone is saying so we'll let that slide.

Anyways, I do appreciate your response because you sound like a smart guy, and I actually wanted to talk to you about what we can map out for a more scientifically proven framework. Because I can tell that like me, you are more interested in pursuing scientifically proven real world people skills and exposing shams like The Secret, Scientology, Law of Attraction and other quackery.

I know this guys are at least partially using NLP in their teaching, at least that's how I came across them:
* Sales - Kendrick Cleveland - Max Persuasion
* Marketing - Frank Kern - Mass Control
* Motivation - Tony Robins - Awaken the Giant Within
* Seduction - Ross Jeffries/Mark Cunningham - Speed Seduction

Are you familiar with these programs to say that they are scams or legit? Or say that they are scams or legit based on their association with NLP or usage of NLP techniques? And in any case, would you recommend something better for sales and for pickup and relationships?

And here's my little gift for everyone who reads this thread, because I'll never ask a question without giving something back. One legit and scientifically proven course for personal change-work and motivation is:

* Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David Burn

It's based on CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) that's been scientifically proven so I'm right now going through this book and it's been going good, if slow at times.

And for developing Charisma and Personal Power I say it has to be:

* The Power of Conversational Hypnosis - by Igor Ledochowski

When going through the course, you can notice multiple references to scientific tests and studies. And hypnosis been undoubtedly shown to work in numerous clinical trials on burn patients to reduce inflammation so the method is sound and legit for what we can tell.

And finally, I think somebody else in this thread recommended as a good source on persuasion:

* Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini

And if anybody has opinion on Robert Greene "The 48 Laws of Power" and "The 50th Law" - please share - would be much appreciated!

Now, Here you have it! I know there's been a lot of bickering in this thread, so I say it's time for us to put our differences aside, stand united, harden up and strike back at the NLP clan! Let's show the people where the true source of knowledge is! No more wasting our sweet precious time and money on studying BS and quackery. Let only the true knowledge win because knowledge is power!

shihao said...

I absolutely agree, NLP is bullshit with a temporary effect.

shihao said...

I agree, NLP is bullshit with temporary effect. And many people follow blindly ..

Anonymous said...

I agree. I am a NLP practitioner. NLP is bullshit with temporary therapy effect.

Niko said...

As the son of an executive in a big Norwegian company, Telenor, I`ve heard a rant or two on useless training. I`m also a student of rhetorics (the actual science of persuasion, albeit humanities) at the University of Oslo, and have investigated MLM companies and pyramide schemes, focusing on the use of language, naturally, to persuade.

Most of it is terrible. My observation on NLP is some of the so-called language patterns are from logic, f.x. modal operators and universal quantifiers, cause-effect and complex equivalence. Others building blocks of rhetoric, like truisms and presuppositions are are the core of the proposed "language models".

Why is this important? Because in one view of rhetoric, it is in part misuse of logic, which leads to conviction, which leads to action. Politicians know this. Another thing they know is how to be vague. One good example is Richard Nixon's campaign pledge "to secure honorable peace in Vietnam". Does that mean pull back, or does that mean kill everyone, just with guns, not nukes? That all depends on your predisposition.

I vividly remember when Barrack Obama came to accept the Nobel Peace Prize. The streets were blocked off, and our politicians almost peed their pants in excitement! A few weeks prior, a sales acquaintance of mine from the Red Cross put me on to this article:


I immediately dismissed it as bogus, but read a few pages anyway (how can you not!). I was particularly fascinated by the idea of multiple meanings, that being classic rhetoric, and found it the idea of accepting both meanings intriguing.

I`d never really cared about Barrack Obama. However, I love language, and so when I sat down to listen to the televised address I was shocked to discover that he slurred one of the first words in the sentence: It's an award that speaks to our highest aspirations, and said: It's an aWAR that speaks to our highest aspirations.

I said to myself: That has to have been a mistake, he's got way to decent diction for that! So I slowed it down 50 percent, and who would've thunk it.. So I went through the whole article as well as some Milton Erickson and I have to say I see copying.

On the topic of lack of research, the wikipedia page is full of references to studies. I look forward to diving into those in detail.


Before I go to sleep, I`d like to add that framing is a tool that rhetoricians use to describe word meaning in politics. I`d be very up for discussing every claim I`ve made, as a wikipedia page and an anonymously written "rapport" hardly weigh in like the law of gravity.

Penny for your thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Donald for this brilliant thread. There are always going to be people for and against things, it's just the nature of human kind. I am an Master NLP practitioner and I love helping others achieve greatness and overcoming weaknesses. I didn't have time to read all the comments, but do we really need scientific evidence if NLP doesn't harm but actually helps people? As long as it works, who cares about the evidence? The world used to be flat and then it was round... Do you stop drinking coke because people tell you that it's bad for you? As long as it tastes good to you and you are still alive after drinking one... who cares really? If NLP works for you, go ahead and try it and experience it, if it doesn't then... find another solution. We don't need scientific proof. Anyway, thanks for an interesting read. I'm sure your main aim was to get people to react to your post!

Anonymous said...

Neurolinguistic programming works for people who like it. All pseudosciences are the same in that regard. Scientology works for people who have bought into it also. And its entirely possible that neurolinguistic programming and scientology and catholic faith healing do manage to get some people off drugs etc.

However, the claim is that neurolinguistic programming is a powerful technique that can do exraordinary things.

So those proponents who say NLP only needs to work for you: They are using the same arguments as any other quack who pushes angel therapy, electrotherapy, pillow bashing, urine drinking and holes in the head. They are not powerful interventions. They are primitive and potentially harmful interventions that spread fatuous nonsense and neurobabble.

Daniel Carlton

Anonymous said...

NLP certainly is on the radio this week! With Jonathan Pryce in Nigel Williams' retirement sitcom HR.

suzkid said...

Dear Donald
I wholly concur. NLP is bullshit mantra peddled by inadequates with prominent egos and little in the way of proper psychology qualifications.

But of course, being a Master Practitioner in Neuro Linguistic Programming (how many syllables?) sounds impressive. And that's the point. It's about egos.

Reading through the responses of NLP devotees, I am not in the least bit surprised by the self-promoting, self-aggrandising nature of the authors. Those who claim 'Master...NLP' cannot afford to have their egos deflated because without 'NLP' both they and we know, they're otherwise very small people. But with it, wow, they can decode the personalities, motives, even the thoughts of other human beings! They're walking, talking Derren Browns... with a qualification!

If all you have to back up your 'expertise' in training/counselling/coaching is NLP, it's no wonder NLP devotees are SO sensitive to any attempts to prick their bubble. They'd lose their God-given (self-given?) right to claim 'unique insights' into other people. And for 'unique insights' read control and power. These types like to think they have power over others. And My God, they will go to extraordinary lengths - self-delusion included - to protect this 'power'. It's intoxicating... but like the best cults, only if one believes it and part of that belief culture involves, not debating with, but repelling all boarders.

If a NLP 'master' was to question their 'qualification', poof, up in smoke it all goes, and any pretence to be a professional trainer/counsellor/coach. That's a lot to lose. Thus we shouldn't be surprised by the emotional resistance to attacks on NLP - like a hedgehog with a vulnerable underbelly, better to show one's spines, then lose one's life (or credibility).

For myself, I take a pragmatic approach. If there were two trainers offering leadership training, one with a NLP 'qualification' and one with a degree in psychology, I'd take the guy with the psychology degree EVERY TIME. He'll be more knowledgeable, more interesting and more credibile. He'll understand the importance of statistically-supported evidence before making assertions about the human condition. But most importantly, he'll have been smart enough and humble enough to recognise that it takes more than a 3-day course in voodoo magic before regarding himself as a practitioner of anything.

Stephen Booth said...

After reading the early part of the arguement between Donald and Tony and skimmed through the rest I feel that I must point out that whilst Donald may be trying to debunk NLP he does seem to be giving an excellent example of NLP techniques in action. Linguistic presuppositions, embedded commands, chunking, well formed outcomes, submodalities, mapping across and future pacing. It's all there.

Bravo, Donald! By trying to disprove you have proven, text book scientific method.

Donald Clark said...

I presume you're joking Stephen. If not, it's a typical pseudo-cult move to claim that you're actually part of the cult without realising it, akin to the playground chant: na na nana na.
I love the idea that 'chunking' is a NLP technique! So all of that science since Ebbinghaus in 1885 was really Bandler's idea? There really is no limit to delusion within the NLP bubble.

Stephen Booth said...

Donald, regarding you comment re chunking existing before NLP. I'm sure it did. I presume that either you you haven't actually researched NLP or you did but missed out some crucial information about how it came about. Very little in NLP is truly new, Grinder and Bandler did not set out to create new tools but rather to take what already existed and had already been shown to work and assemble them into a cohesive whole, in some cases formalising what others had intuively known but never formally stated. The same process has been applied to most of the updates. That's how a lot of science, in particular applied science, works. They built the tool box but most of the tools had already been designed.

As for your comments about cults. This reminded me somewhat of the orgin of Godwin's law, specifically as it applies to statements such "Hitler supported X so if you support X you must be a Nazi." If X is eugenics, mass murder on basis of race or disability or annexation of the Sudatenland then that statement may be true, however X could also be restriction on smoking, limiting the sale of alcohol and vegetarianism. In this case you appear to have replaced Hitler and the Nazis, probably unconsciously, with cults. I do not believe that I was claiming you are part of NLP, reading over both my comment and yours I believe you are applying distortion and generalisation filters (part of the NLP mind model but not new in NLP) to my comment to make it fit your weltanshauung. I was indicating, possibly in a slightly humourous way, that you were using to deride NLP many of the tools that are part of NLP.

My own position on NLP I would describe as an informed sceptic. I have read about it, I have a diploma in it (my employer sent me on the course) and I can see many of the tools are useful in both a work and theraputic setting. I can also see that some of the tools could be misused and that, as with many things, there are some people who (possibly due to misunderstanding what it's actually about)go totally OTT.

Just because some people make unsupportable claims about NLP, misuse it or try to use it's tools for things they shouldn't be used for doesn't mean the whole thing is bunkum or a fraudulent cult. There are things it is useful for and things other approaches are useful for. The world is complex and there are no magic bullets, no matter what claims some people make. Be sceptical, of course, but also be open to looking at new things and applying them where they fit.

Anonymous said...

Hello Stephen Booth

You might benefit by re-reading yourself with a substitution:

“Just because some people make unsupportable claims about Scientology, misuse it or try to use it's tools for things they shouldn't be used for doesn't mean the whole thing is bunkum or a fraudulent cult. There are things it is useful for and things other approaches are useful for. The world is complex and there are no magic bullets, no matter what claims some people make. Be sceptical, of course, but also be open to looking at new things and applying……………..”

Really, you should have read the in-between posts before posting a repeat of the same old fatuous nonsense.

The true-believers posting above seem to forget that the subject is called Neuro-Linguistic Programming. It is as pseudo-scientific as scientology and its ilk in name, concept and excuses.

Sorry, but thats the pattern.

Daniel Carlton

Donald Clark said...

The tactics are always interesting:

Accuse the critic of using NLP albeit unwittingly. Or dribble on about 'weltanshauung'.

Widen the goal posts to include, well, anything you care to shove through them and rebadge it NLP.

Ignore the fact that NLP is called Neuro Linguistic Programming and marketed as something new, not 'a bag of tricks taken from here, there and everywhere'.

Suzkid said...

Stephen Booth said...
"...whilst Donald may be trying to debunk NLP he does seem to be giving an excellent example of NLP techniques in action... It's all there. Bravo, Donald! By trying to disprove you have proven.."

Oh dear. The logic of the child. So when a conservative politician quotes a liberal politician's arguments in order to debate them, the mere act of... quoting them... er... proves... the liberal is... correct? Is this your line Mr Booth?

Anonymous said...

Dear Donald

I fear you are bashing your head against a brick wall!

Its quite breathtaking how the NLP supporters are not reading your posts properly nor responding to the points you make

-The emotive defensiveness of their responses are, as you quite rightly pointed out, typical of belief driven cultlike practices.

Im grateful for your post as Im trying to find a reputable hypnotherapist in my area, but every second one is into NLP -I personally have had experience of NLP and found it to be farcical as well as outrageously expensive-I wonder if NLPers will dismiss my experiences as 'bad luck' or a personal character flaw etc, while ratifying their own as 'proof'.

I remember reading a long well researched expose of Richard Bandler years ago but subsequently lost the source and while I forgot the events you mentioned my sense of unease remained.

Your reminder of his personal history and my finding this blog is timely as I was about to buckle and overlook the NLP 'credentials' of a particular hypnotherapist - I will now keep searching, because like you I believe the ethics and personal behaviour of any 'therapist' or teacher of said 'therapies' is crucial.

And the old chestnut that there is valuable truth to be found among their charlantism has been an apologia for any number of cults or individuals who disseminate a 'system of healing' or personal transformation or self help- etc etc-from Carlos Castenanda to Scott Peck to Sai Baba to Erchart Tolle to Landmark to Body talk to Oprah etc etc etc
I would argue that any 'truth or benefit' to be garnered from these 'gurus' with sleaze in their 'basements' and dubious motivation, is learning the art of discernment and the science of research.

Anyway I could go on and on, but then I would be preaching to the converted [sorry couldnt help myself-bad pun]

cheers and thanks

Marina said...

Sorry I should have put a name to that
last comment

Terry Elston said...

From Terry Elston

It's a good question to ask "Is NLP a science?" It reminds me of the board of enquiry that was convened by Louis XVI to 'prove' whether Franz Anton Mesmer was a fraudster or not.

In 1784 the French government charged the Faculty of Medicine and the Societé Royale de Médicine to examine animal magnetism (now - by some, called hypnosis). Nine commissioners convened under the presidency of Benjamin Franklin, including Jean Sylvain Bailly and J. K. Lavater; four more commissioners were added from the Royal Society of Medicine.

The delegates restricted their activity to the search for evidence of a new physical force that was claimed as the agent of the cure.

As part of their investigation, they observed Mesmer's use of the famous baquet. This baquet was a large circular tub filled with bottles that dipped into the water. The baquet was covered, and iron rods projected from the lid through holes therein. The rods were bent and could be applied to any part of the body by the patients who sat in rows. The patients were tied together by a cord that passed around the circle. Sometimes they held hands in a chain. There was music. The operator, with an iron rod in his hands, walked around and touched the patients; they fell into convulsions, sweated, vomited, cried—and were supposedly cured.

The committees, in their verdict, stated that they found no evidence of a magnetic fluid, and the cures might be due to vivid imagination. De Jussieu was the only member who dissented. He claimed to have discovered something—animal heat—that radiated from the human body and could be directed and intensified by willpower. Later magnetists adopted the theory. It marked the discovery of the human element in animal magnetism.

The issue here was that the board of enquiry could not "see" anything with the equipment they were using, so discredited Mesmer.

Of course hypnosis was also considered cranky, weird and without proof for centuries. Now we see it being used and recommended by the NHS!

Good stuff usually stands the pressure of time over results. So far, NLP has been around for over 30 years and is stronger than ever. It's not perfect as a science, yet you can get scientifically proven chemotherapy to 'cure' cancer - which has a less than 50% chance of working. If I had those kind of results for my clients (yes even my cancer clients), I'd give it up as a false hope that my strategy for therapy was working.

New Eletronics Home said...

Richard Bandler may or not have made errors in his personal life but this does not take away from his contribution, many great people down through the centuries have made mistakes … but their contribution is of value none the less. Personal attacks do little to constructive debate; it actually shows you for what you are. The short description of yourself on your blog simply adds to my assessment of your personality.

NLP has brought many benefits, my personal life experience is evidence enough, however the body of evidence from my client base would convince even someone like you. However, it does not stop there, there are many, many NLP Practitioners empowering people all over the world… are they all hallucinating?

Finally, to describe Gregory Bateson uk laptop battery as a “now forgotten new-age sociologist” is highly entertaining. Once again your lack of personal knowledge capital is highlighted.

Anonymous said...

I agree 100% with Mr. Donald, who came up with the truth about NLP.

I have been involved with NLP for almost a decade. Oflate, I came to know it is gimmick and throwing people into imaginative world. I really repent now for being part of the NLP training programs which doest not have any scientific base.

Day before yesterday, I finished coaching a group of people the course named "Influence & Mastery by Only success, http://www.onlysuccess.net/" team. I really felt bad by doing so. Two Indians are the main trainer of this group. Ha nobody has any basic qualification in Psychology or Behavioural science or Cognitive therapy. Just making the people fools by showing the certificate gained from Richard Brandler who himself was a drug addict!

Can you tell me that walking on a hanging log which is continously kickked by the trainer is the respresentation of the real life? Full one and half day is this practising in this course! is this is a science? Bulls shit.

All NLP practitioners, I would like to request you, come down to the earth. You all are not a coach at all, you all are just a pumped balloon. You live in the imaginary and fake world

Go and study real psychology before handling the emotional issues of common man.


Anonymous said...

I agree 100% with Mr. Donald, who came up with the truth about NLP.

I have been involved with NLP for almost a decade. Oflate, I came to know it is gimmick and throwing people into imaginative world. I really repent now for being part of the NLP training programs which doest not have any scientific base.

Day before yesterday, I finished coaching a group of people the course named "Influence & Mastery by Only success, http://www.onlysuccess.net/" team. I really felt bad by doing so. Two Indians are the main trainer of this group. Ha nobody has any basic qualification in Psychology or Behavioural science or Cognitive therapy. Just making the people fools by showing the certificate gained from Richard Brandler who himself was a drug addict!

Can you tell me that walking on a hanging log which is continously kickked by the trainer is the respresentation of the real life? Full one and half day is this practising in this course! is this is a science? Bulls shit.

All NLP practitioners, I would like to request you, come down to the earth. You all are not a coach at all, you all are just a pumped balloon. You live in the imaginary and fake world

Go and study real psychology before handling the emotional issues of common man.

NLP is the easy way to make money by fooling the crowd

It is me Vinu

Josh Warner said...

Mr Clark,

Your whole article is based on opinionated garble, with out any proper evidence. As learning NLP, hypnosis, covert hypnosis, CBT, and gestalt therapy for three years, plus to the fact I have cured my own phobias, negative thinking and habits, I can say your entire claim is unreasonable. I could not agree more with Tony. Please I beg you to 'analyse' this comment with your opinionated crap.

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