Friday, March 09, 2007

NLP – No Longer Plausible

Bertrand Russell's famous dictum
"I wish to propose for the reader's favourable consideration a doctrine which may, I fear, appear wildly paradoxical and subversive. The doctrine in question is this: that it is undesirable to believe in a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing I true"

NLP nonsense
Sharpley’s 1984 literature review found "little research evidence supporting its usefulness as an effective counseling tool" no support for preferred representational systems (PRS) and predicate matching, then in a 1987 study states "there are conclusive data from the research on NLP, and the conclusion is that the principles and procedures of NLP have failed to be supported by those data".

Sharpley, C. F. (1984). Predicate matching in NLP: A review of research on the preferred representational system. Journal of Counselling Psychology, 31(2), 238-248.

Sharpley C.F. (1987). "Research Findings on Neuro-linguistic Programming: Non supportive Data or an Untestable Theory". Communication and Cognition Journal of Counseling Psychology, 1987 Vol. 34, No. 1: 103-107,105.
United States National Research Council
USNRC produced a report, overseen by a board fo 14 academic experts, stating that "individually, and as a group, these studies fail to provide an empirical base of support for NLP assumptions...or NLP effectiveness. The committee cannot recommend the employment of such an unvalidated technique". The whole edifice of influence and rapport techniques "instead of being grounded in contemporary, scientifically derived neurological theory, NLP is based on outdated metaphors of brain functioning and is laced with numerous factual errors".
Druckman and Swets (eds) (l988) Enhancing Human Performance: Issues, Theories, and Techniques, National Academy Press.
Barry Beyerstein (1990) asserts that "though it claims neuroscience in its pedigree, NLP's outmoded view of the relationship between cognitive style and brain function ultimately boils down to crude analogies." With reference to all the 'neuromythologies' covered in his article, including NLP, he states "In the long run perhaps the heaviest cost extracted by neuromythologists is the one common to all pseudosciences—deterioration in the already low levels of scientific literacy and critical thinking in society. "
Beyerstein.B.L (1990). Brainscams: Neuromythologies of the New Age. International Journal of Mental Health 19(3): 27-36,27.
Efran and Lukens (1990) stated that the "original interest in NLP turned to disillusionment after the research and now it is rarely even mentioned in psychotherapy".
Efran, J S. Lukens M.D. (1990) Language, structure, and change: frameworks of meaning in psychotherapy, Published by W.W. Norton, New York. p.122
Mutual exchange of myths
In his book, The Death of Psychotherapy, Eisner couldn’t find ‘one iota of clinical research’ to support NLP. This is in direct contradiction to the claims made by NLP practitioners, who laud it as a great leap forward in understanding the mind. To be fair Eisner doesn’t just finger NLP he also demolishes; Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, Cathartic Therapies, Recovered Memory Therapies, Humanistic Psychotherapy, Behavioural and Cognitive Therapy, Strategic Family Systems Therapy, NLP, EFT, CBT, BCBT, DHE, EMDR, Gestalt Therapy, Implosion Therapy, Palm Therapy, Person Centred Therapy, Primal Therapy, Reframing, Thought Field Therapy, Direct Exposure Therapy, Spiritual Therapy and many others. The sheer scale of clinically unproven therapies is astounding. The Myth of Psychotherapy: Mental Healing As Religion, Rhetoric, and Repression by Thomas Stephen Szasz is similarly damning. His claim is that almost anyone can sit down with anyone else, have a chat, and call it psychotherapy. The practitioners are unaccredited, or self-accredited, and the theories scientifically unsubstantiated. It is the mutual exchange of myths.
(Quick Fix + Pseudoscientific Gloss) x Credulous Public = High Income
This is the description of NLP by Lilienfield et al (2002) who conclude that NLP is "a scientifically unsubstantiated therapeutic method that purports to "program" brain functioning through a variety of techniques, including mirroring the postures and nonverbal behaviors of clients" and include it in their description "
Scott O. Lilienfeld, Steven Jay Lynn, Jeffrey M. Lohr (eds) (2004) Science and Pseudoscience in Clinical Psychology
Grandfather of CBT dismissive
Even Albert Ellis, the grandfather of cognitive behavioral therapy, famous for developing REBT (Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy) specifically identified NLP as one of those, “techniques that are avoided”. This was the one therapy he abhorred because of its “dubious validity” (Dryden & Ellis, in Dobson, 2001: 331). Then again, Ellis published a book in 1965 entitled Homosexuality: Its Causes and Cure. Psychotherapists have a habit of seeing everything as a pathological condition that can be cured by their methods.
Hanging around in HR
Von Bergen et al (1997) showed that NLP had been abandoned by researchers in experimental psychology and Devilly (2005) makes the point that NLP has disappeared from clinical psychology and academic research only surviving in the world of pseudo new-age fakery and, although no longer as prevalent as it was in the 1970s or 1980s… is still practiced in small pockets of the human resource community. The science has come and gone, yet the belief still remains"
Von Bergen, C W, Barlow Soper, Gary T Rosenthal, Lamar V Wilkinson (1997). "Selected alternative training techniques in HRD". Human Resource Development Quarterly 8(4): 281-294.
Grant J. Devilly (2005) Power Therapies and possible threats to the science of psychology and psychiatry Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry Vol.39 p.437


dr george said...

New Laughter Please

Picture yourself on a boat on a river, you're all at ease and mesmerised.
Somebody calls you you answer quite slowly, a man with murderous eyes.

Gullible followers of NLP mean to take over your head.
Look for the science and logic and reason and there's none.

New Language Police

Follow him down to turn frogs into Princess where rocking horse people tell unbelievable lies.
Everyone smiles as you listen to tales which grow so incredibly tall.

New language police appear at the door waiting to take you away.
Ask for the evidence and your head's in the clouds cause there's none.

No Laughing Please

Picture yourself on a train left the station is no laughing please your looking glass tells.
Suddenly sometime you're paying at the turnstyle as your credibility dies.

Anonymous said...

Thank GOD you're out there - well, maybe I won't in case you provide a lot of literature refs about the non-existence of god, or how one can't thank him, etc!

How grateful I am for a man who can say in 800+ words what I could in 2 + an initialisation: NLP is shit! Maybe I could be totally fair and add the citations that allowed you to make the conclusion - so I'll give you those and say you waffled on only by about a mere 600 words – not exactly good ‘prose’ for online reading, haven’t you READ the research about that??? Hmmm, maybe I should state 70% of the words rather than 600 words were waffle to ensure I get some truly objective stats in my post.

Donald, just for you I'll also give you some more points and write in excess - just like you!

Empirical - defn: data produced by experiment or observation. I observe that your conclusions are as good as other's empirical findings as I assume you don't do anything yourself, other than read enormous amounts (a notoriously poor learning mech with about 10% retention after 2 weeks according to Dale (Edgar, not Winton!), but I can't be arsed checking that out on how truly repeatable or accurate that is to be honest.) Do let me know.

Science of learning - er, funny this one. Science really is about that which is reproducible: get a 100 pple with an IQ of 75 to generate similar stats over and over following some learning? Not sure about that... possibly too stupid to repeat results, despite the test/ reference conditions!! Any research on this one Donald? If not, you CANNOT answer unless a pointless guess - I ONLY accept answers that are empirical, plus the necessary citations from a plausible and well reviewed journal, and self repeatable in experimental conditions! Answer wisely.

By the way, who gives a s**t about all those people you continue to waffle on about with disdain re. learning ‘theory’? (Gagne, Vygotsky , etc, etc. Yawn!!!!) Just say what you believe - it's a waste of time stating what you don't like. I don't like rap, I don't like milk. YAWN... zzzzzz. Talk of NEW things you believe, f**k the rest!

And why is it the e-learning 'Gurus' don't actually 'DO' - they just waffle! Makes me laff that they all jump on the annual bandwagons to hype their talk/ book/ etc. by plagiarising/ inventing stuff. “Do some proper bloody work, u waste of spacers”, I think!

Dull, dull, dull. Oh, I see an informal learning book came out recently? Hmmmm, who could have done that?? Hmmm, a 'guru'?? LMFHO!!! Son of God? More like waste of spacer on the money bandwagon.

All this stuff you spout about the ‘science’ thing is actually on target, but get rid of all these old buggers (aka. Guru - LMFAO!) waffling on, and forget shitting on everyone else from the past century – put in some of your cash or get a job in research and do something impressive, like Curtis Bonk! Now there’s a proper researcher with something to say.

I'd have put in a picture of me, but there's no empirical data in any literature that I can find that it will actually be me.

Keep your eyes out... observing, collecting data. I'll be back in future to put you on the couch. You need it!


Anonymous said...

1.49 - A late night posting.

So references are rubbish, science can't be used to disprove past theories and you need to become Curtis Bonk.

He/she needs some sleep!

Anonymous said...

"So references are rubbish, science can't be used to disprove past theories and you need to become Curtis Bonk."

You must have read a different article to the one above I read. I did not get that was the posters impression. I thought the poster agreed with the science bit but not the continuos cristisism of older theorists. That would be a fair comment - although the psoter did go on a bit themselves.

Anonymous said...

NLP, like bumblebees according to the scientists, shouldn't be able to fly, but it does. Say what you want about "empirical evidence." The best evidence is actual experience. Have a reputable instructor show you how to use it. Try it. See if it works. Oh, and BTW, Tomas Szasz has no 'h' in his name, and if you're going to reference his work, you should do so with an actual quote, not generalized bullshit. Szasz is appalled by traditional therapies and labels, which is very in line with the presuppositions of NLP. So called "scienfitically validated" therapies are what he rails against.

Evan said...

I prefer gestalt to NLP.

NLP seems to say that we just make ourselves up. My conviction is that authenticity is possible. This fits more easily within gestalt.

Scientific studies may not support something for numbers of reasons. Poor design and lack of statistical power. Design is especially important when dealing with human relationships. So whether the studies invalidate NLP is an open question for me.

Thanks for the post. Evan

Anonymous said...

In reply to Tom Eagles: Tom, the old bumblebee ploy will simply not get you anywhere. I’ve heard this same old nag from pseudoscientists of all stripes, including scientologists. Fact: Scientists have tested whether bumblebees can fly, and how well etc. There is a current research stream on this subject. Results: Yes they can fly. Fact: Scientists have tested NLP. No it doesn’t fly at all and doesn’t work. It failed the test decades ago, and is still failing the test. The theories failed the test. The applications failed the test. You can consider this a test of the claim that NLP is somehow a persuasion powerhouse. You fail the test. You do pass at pseudoscience though. You are promoting a pseudoscience. Your arguments are pseudoscientific. NLP is a pseudoscience that is supported by a cult network of self serving pseudoscientists who have a distinct disliking of science. All the research reviews (including the National Research Council (1988) have concluded that NLP is ineffective. Since then NLP is generally associated with Scientology, the Emin, Landmark Education, Primal Scream Therapy, NLP shamanism, occult and a range of other new age kicks. Why? Because its in the same historical category of quackery, and they all use the same anti-science ploys. NLP is classed by serious researchers as a new age/new alternative religious following. Pseudoscientists emphasize recruitment (“try it for yourself”) over independent empirical evidence. The NLP pseudoscientists (such as yourself) are going to be even more averse to empirical evidence as all the reviews say NLP is bogus. You are promoting a failed intervention. So don’t be surprised when people notice you selling manky old rope that was past its sell by date in the 1970s.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Who hurt you so bad? Or is this just a case of whatever threatens my beliefs I aim to destroy? No proper NLP practitioner would aim to take over your head or claim to be a practitioner of psychiatry or pschology.
The earth was flat once too! Right?

Anonymous said...

Hi anonymous

NLP ads are absolutely creaking with inflated claims eg:
Or claiming that NLP has something to do with neurolinguistics: , or as in Grinder's training, one huge list of pseudoscientific terminology and my favourite - Holding the Space-way of the Shaman Multi-tasking drill. Grinder and Bandler both do new age occult rituals on people. These are typical core NLPers who train other NLPers. According to the qualifications they are "proper" NLPers, and by the looks of it, a proper NLPer is just a proper charlatan. Sorry to show you up, but the evidence is all over the web. Ignore reality at your own embarrassment. NLP is just a cult of quackery spouting charlatans and vacuous followers. D.Harrison

Anonymous said...

Any publicity is GOOD publicity.

Anonymous said...

Science Is one thing and bashing everyone that has experienced positive things with NLP is another how can such things be said about NLP or EFT or any other possible cures for problems. the problem with science is that if they cant prove it, it must not be true we have a universe full of stuff that cant be proved doesnt mean it aint real. also don't blame NLP or any other thing that someone has taken advantage of the scientific community does it all the time with pharmacutical medication. which results in alot more deaths than any of the above things your bashing only a retard would think like that.

Anonymous said...

Although I can understand why people would see NLP as an occult, I think there are better and more beneficial ways of looking at this, When I struggled with my own criticism of NLP, I took my training down to some of the things I thought were most valuable. Maybe it's the way that I use the techniques, it is a creative approach, and molds into the new philosophies of my generation, but I have helped people completely change their lives for the better with the help of NLP. I helped someone get rid of their allergies, this person was taking medication for 2 years, and stopped needing it completely. I've helped someone go from saying, he was completely afraid of public speaking, to saying, he can't wait to public speak. Having a full belief in one session that all the stuff that held him back was gone, and he felt much better. We can have a negative attitude toward any therapy, and of course you'll find what you're looking for, you don't have to be gullible to benefit from it, gullibility won't help, and might make you eventually believe someone is trying to take over your head. So will avoiding NLP completely. After my years of frustration really looking at it, I took it simply, I use a few techniques. Helping someone change their beliefs should be quick and positive.
I have had some incredible experiences with NLP. Still I understand the controversy, it's limiting to put too much faith in NLP, but i can't deny that when I use the techniques as an art infused with many other learnings, great pieces of art inside the person are created. I am not a follower of NLP, as I have been very lucky to know brilliant people in my life who far exceed the teachings of NLP, but NLP is a good start if you are open and can think for yourself. I haven't seen anyone give any real or exact points that backs up these unsupportive ideas. It seems like the unsupportive comments have no evidence, real stories, or atleast a way of looking at more than one point of view. Still, even though I use it effectively, I enjoy the controversy because there's a possibility of all of us growing from it.

Anonymous said...

I think that you can tell something about NLP by the company it keeps.Just look at any New Age type publication and you will find it crawling with people who offer,crystal healing,reiki,past life regression,life balancing and of course the ever popular NLP.In fact a lot of these people offer all of these things as alternatives or life style choices for therapy.When I find that an NLP Master Practitioner also claims they channel discarnate entities etc my first impulse is to run for my life{or my wallet}.I speak as a person who has done some training in NLP myself as a Psychotherapist and now would warn anyone from ever considering it for a microsecond.There are a lot of flakes and frauds out there and take care of your mind by not giving it to them.

Anonymous said...

The research speaks for itself. NLP failed the tests. You still get believers. NLP is mentioned in sociology of religion textbooks in the same breath as scientology and other occult oriented subjects. NLP is a discredited intervention.

The only reason some people hang onto it is because its quasi-religious rituals and presuppositions cater for the insecure and science-illiterate.

There are people who say NLP, the enneagram, astrology, physiognomy, aura reading, remote viewing, scientology, time line therapy, wicca, voodoo, urine therapy, all work. There are testimonials galore to all the above.

Science indicates that the conceptual backgrounds to the above are erroneous and fraught with bad thinking. Common sense says that its all pseudoscience. Social psychology, would call it misguided quackery.

NLP is a term that oozes fake scientific credibility. If a practitioner continues to practice and push NLP after being shown the evidence of NLP's utter failure to stand up to scientific scrutiny, then that practitioner is just a fraud.

If you want to believe in the new age cult of NLP then go ahead. But misinformation about the brain is rife enough, and you'd be doing society a great disservice if you spout NLP bullshit as if it is something to do with legit science, human resource research, or if you say that it "works" in any sort of evidence based way.

NLP is just a new age cult.

Anonymous said...

Maybe y'all should go look up the recent events surrounding NLP "master" Carmine Baffa. That should straighten you out right quick.

Anonymous said...

Just for the record, they now know how bumblebees fly and it is all quite scientific - they just hadn't taken certain aerodynamic concepts into consideration apparently, to do with air pressure above and below the wing or something (I'm no aeronaut - sorry).

Regarding NLP, from what I have gathered it's the old case of nothing's new under the sun. Those shiny apples promising so much hidden knowledge only to lure you into an insular hell. Don't trust pseudoscientists bearing gifts.

Anonymous said...

Sure, the Baffa and Bandler stories are also covered on this article

Pretty informative read, and I dare say the most realistic version on Knol. Certainly more scientifically oriented than the Wikipedia version (that looks like its run by NLPers).


Anonymous said...

I really don't get how he can "demolish" EFT or CBT.

EFT has definitly some studies that prove its effectiveness (of course compared to placebo effect in a scientific study).

CBT has tons of studies and evidence backing its effectiveness up. For example there are studies comparing it with the placebo effect or anti depressant medics with the result that CBT is more effective. There are very very much studies proving CBT so i don't get how you can possibly "demolish" something that has so much research backing it up.

To NLP: NLP has some bullshit included concerning the cues or the representational systems. However it has some elements of other disciplines such as hypnosis which also has a huge backup of studies and also has some similarities with CBT which is, as mentioned above, very well researched and effective.

Anonymous said...

This is funny...

NLP works, it's been proven to work..

My advice is, take an NLP class, go into it with an open mind, and you'll find out it's a very valid modality.

There's TONS of logic and reasoning, and more than that, it WORKS...

Hypnotists have known for YEARS that their practice can help someone to stop smoking, lose weight, and other things, MUCH MUCH faster than traditional psychotherapy.

But it is still not recognized in the mainstream as valid - despite REPEATED EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE (and yes, scientific studies) towards it's effectiveness.

Bandler and Grinder have taken NLP in a path where they don't wish to be known as "scientific" - probably because studies cost a lot of money, just to be accepted by a bunch of people who spent too long in a university.

Say what you want, I guess this is a big rally. The republicans can all hate on the democrats, and the democrats can all hate on the republicans. None of the arguments are logical, but they make you feel good, right?

So keep dissing it if you'd like, as long as it gives you a sense that you are significant or have any common sense.

"I must be right, because I have a PhD!"

Anonymous said...

Well, "anonymous"

Common sense tells me that you are trying to sell NLP.

The typical mantra of the snakeoil salesman is to say "try it for yourself"

Its not as if it hasn't been tested. Its not only something that has failed testing. It is pseudoscience in concept. The sort of crap that NLPers sell is basically misinformation about the brain. Its all left/right mythology, eye movements, body language, and any new age fluff that sounds fancy at the time.

The effectiveness of hypnosis? The sort of unqualified claims you have made show that you are likely a thoroughgoing pseudoscientist. You favor relativism over independent testing. You display the characteristics of a pseudoscientist.

Clinical hypnosis has some support for a limited number of interventions. It is not the all powerful panacea you make it out to be.

NLP takes hypnosis and turns it into past lives therapy, psychic viewing, authority control and stage hypnosis, adds confirmation bias and basically snakeoils it into tacky new age manuals and subliminal cd sets.

In fact: NLP has been recognized as among a TOP TEN MOST DISCREDITED interventions.

NLP gets first place as the most laughable collection of quackery of the 21st century. And its been up against some pretty stiff competition.

George McGregor

Anonymous said...

well, this is interesting. I have trained fundamental and traditional hypnosis for the past 16 years and cynically refer to NLP as Neurotic Learning Processes. In my opinion it has discredited clinical hypnosis because it is usually passed of to the gullible as hypnosis which it is not. I weas in Malaysia recently where it was being MLM'd. All that NLP has done is create a plethora of would be clinicians mostly with with no real mental health or counselling qualifications and set them loose on society as highly skilled and trained practitioners. Master practitioner in NLP only $10,000 and then go and automatically become a highly skilled therapist, never mind a few years of supervision and mentoring, what a joke. Still what did Adolph Hitler say? "The Greater Part of a Nation Will More Readily Fall For a Big Lie Than What it will a Small One.
NLP My Arse

Anonymous said...

If you are a so called NLP practitioner, please don't refer to what you do as hypnosis, because it isn't. Hypnosis is an identifiable altered state of mind that can be measured and shown via a CAT scan and also altered brain frequency resonance. Hypnosis also has 1000s of high quality correctly applied academic studies prooving its existance and ability to assist with some psycho somatic and psychological conditions, usually mostly effective when used in conjunction with other valid therapies.
NLP on the other hand has a lot of people making a lot of money, some obscene amounts, either training or applying a lot of self proclaimed heresay techniques to an often gullible public who need help not another bill to pay. For example I have never seen or read of any person under going painless surgury with the use of NLP 1000s have with the use of hypnosis.
So please stick to the name NLP and don't insult the value of true hypnosis.

JM Baudoux said...

I have found NLP techniques to be very effective in business. I have also seen people overcoming anxiety and improve academic performance as a result. I am not related to field of NLP but have had some training, and have some experiential evidence. Some of the criticisms made in this blog are unsustainable. If a criminal misuses NLP for is own profit it doesn't invalidate it. Just as a hammer used by a criminal doesn't negate the usefulness of the hammer(we use hammers for DIY right?). NLP is a set of tools, that's it. They work well for certain things, less for others. Let's end the paranoia please.

Donald Clark said...

Putting forward a scientific case for the invalidity of NLP is not paranoia. Why do NLP proponents like you use such strange language. I'm in no way 'paranoid' about NLP. I just think it's unscientific junk and the ebnefits illusory.

Donald Clark said...

Putting forward a scientific case for the invalidity of NLP is not paranoia. Why do NLP proponents like you use such strange language. I'm in no way 'paranoid' about NLP. I just think it's unscientific junk and the ebnefits illusory.

Anonymous said...

I think NLP,and what NLP offers is just an illusion.The patient isnt really cured,he hasnt realised nor accomplished anything.Hes just been programmed like some mindless drone.
May anyone correct me if Im wrong.

Jas said...

I have always been skeptical about most things. Religion, supernatural, new age fads. It is plausible nlp is a pile of crap, but....

I am not talking from an scientific stand point, but a personal one. I have only recently discovered nlp, but from what I have read so far, is it a bad thing to believe in yourself ? In a roundabout way we know we should believe in ourselves or we should change bad habits, but we don't. Sometimes we can be stuck in perputual bad habits. Prior to nlpI have always believed every person is able to achieve there dreams in some capacity or even learn a talent. We just stop ourselves from doing so. This is one of the areas nlp encourages. ( even if you don't care for nlp, watch the last lecture on YouTube, it's not nlp but inspiring stuff)

I love the part about nlp and how we all have our own models of the world. We choose to listen to what we want and what we don't. So some voices in our head are louder than others, which influences our decisions. Recently I watched a documentary about " sense of I" . It's not related to nlp and was about "what makes me, me". This mathemetician was subjecting himself to varying experiments involving the brain. In one experiment they found his subconcious mind, was making decisions 6 secs before he was aware of it. His subconcious mind was either conditioned or knew what was best for him. It's interesting stuff. I am not saying everything in nlp is correct, I have only just started Reading into the subject matter. A lot if things thus far ring true.

Just out of Interest, what were the details of the scientific examination of nlp?


Andy Bradbury said...

What an interesting and confused discussion. It looks a lot like one of those highly emotional threads on Amazon discussions about whether scientists can prove or disprove the existence of God.

The simple fact is that the academic, "scientific" articles which supposedly debunk or refure "NLP" tend to be retreads of Sharpley's two articles (1984, 1987), or of one of Dr Michael Heap's articles (1988, 1989, 2008).

Which is a bit of a let down because:

Neither Sharpley nor Heap actually understood what NLP was about (its a specific modelling process, nothing else), and

Both Sharpley and Heap's reviews were of experiments testing a concept - preferred representational systems - which had been slightly but crucially modified before at least 95% of the experiments had been carried out. That is to say, the researchers were testing a claim that HAD been genuinely made in 1976, but was no longer a part of the field of NLP by early 1978. And all but four of the experiments covered by Heap's review of 63 *abstracts* were conducted AFTER 1978 or later.

With all due respect, the entire field has most certainly NOT been refuted, debunked or disproved just because researchers don't find much support for a single concept which has already been abandoned.

Donald Clark said...

It's only 'modelling' guv - honest! If that's all it is, then it's even more worthless than I thought. A defence that consists of ' you can't crticise NLP because it isn't really a theory is just plain silly. I have a copy of the printed students notes from the huge NLP course run by Bandler and McKenna in London. It's jammed pack full of the tehory you claim it doesn't have.

Anonymous said...

"an interesting and confused discussion"???

No its pretty simple really.

1. NLP is claimed to be powerful and or more powerful than existing methods for psychological improvement, self development, communication, persuasion etc

2. The claims are backed up by pseudoscientific proclamations about how the mind is supposed to work.

3. After over 3 decades of existence, and lots of testing of multiple claims of NLP, there is no support for either the claim that NLP is effective, or that its background theories are accurate.

4. Instead of removing the pseudoscientific elements from the NLP literature, and removing discredited interventions, the theories and interventions remain in the books and in the trainings.

5. Instead of working to provide evidence of efficacy, proponents (such as Andy Bradbury above) in true pseudoscience colours offer nothing but "its just modelling" as an excuse for failure in concept and testing(same ruse as scientology claiming its just a religion).

So NLP is simply pseudoscience.

Donald Clark said...

That about sums it up.

Anonymous said...

I guess the jury is still out.

NLP simply needs further randomised control studies.

The studies that have been run had numerous methodological errors.

Has there been any randomised control studies comparing NLP with CBT?

What about reframing and meta model versus cognitive restructuring?

It would be interesting to compare some of the extinction / exposure based therapies with the similar VK/D and rewind techniques. These studies simply have not been done.

I just don't know what the outcomes of these studies would be.

Anonymous, UK

Anonymous said...

This jury of over 100 practitioners and professors of psychology and neuroscience are not out at all:

Norcross, JC, Garofalo.A, Koocher.G. (2006) Discredited Psychological Treatments and Tests; A Delphi Poll. Professional Psychology; Research and Practice. vol37. No 5. 515-522

They came in and rated NLP as more discredited than emotional freedom technique, dolphin assisted therapy, and equine therapy.

A follow up study in 2008 has NLP rated as a top ten most discredited interventions:

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

Why would anyone want to waste their funding on comparing a discredited new age intervention with anything else?

Anonymous said...

I've reached this post years after it was published, but "hallelujah".

I don't know how any person of sound mind can be suckerd into NLP. It’s so obviously utter nonsense!

I have a colleague who is completely brainwashed by this crap and has spent tens of thousands on the NLP pyramid scheme. He’s such a zealot about the doctrinal purity of this crap, all I can now think of when he starts preaching is that ol’saying about not arguing with an idiot, because they will only drag you to their level and beat you with experience.

He lent me a bunch of *brand name withheld* CDs as an intro to entice me onto a “training event” he's now running ($3500 for a one-week event that apparently qualifies you to be a life coach ...hahahaha).

As soon as I started listening to the CDs I couldn’t stop laughing because the pseudo-scientific psychobabble was ridiculously obvious (and I have no background in science), and consistently interspersed with teaser promos for all the “really incredible secret and amazing knowledge that will be revealed if you sign up for such n’such training”.

The pyramid scheme is bad enough, but it’s their money. The scary thing is my colleague genuinely believes he can cure cancer, AIDs, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s... you name it... with NLP.

I just started looking online to see if any action’s been taken against NLP practitioners, but had to delve deep as these people certainly know about SEO.

I’m so gobsmacked at the gullibility of my species I just had to let you know how much I appreciate finding your dose of sanity in “the asylum”. I also came across a reference to Francis Wheen’s book How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World, which I look forward to reading.

Tim Metcalfe said...

Regarding the comments posted here, as a qualified NLP Practitioner with some additional supervised training in Hypnotherapy, I am not remotely fazed by Donald’s opinions which he is perfectly entitled to express, and no, I do not need to be informed as to why he has an axe to grind.

Now, in my opinion, there is a scenario in which NLP, counselling and a number of other therapies will probably dismally fail to assist a particular client, and this is any client suffering from a mental disorder, other than mild reactive depression. Generally speaking any client under the influence of anti depressants will have reduced or impaired cognitive functioning and their thinking and evaluation processes will be impaired. Yes before anyone bothers to inform me I am aware of Richard Bandler’s claims however we are not generally informed as to how long the treatment took or whether there were any adverse effects.

Personally I would welcome a stricter regulation policy in respect of NLP therapies as there are now numerous individuals, often without any recognised supervised experience which is a minimum of 15 to 18 days for a Practitioner, who are claiming to be NLP Practitioners when they are not. Frequently these charlatans claim to have a diploma in NLP which usually takes 4 days and is purely a personal self development course, though they appear to be relying on other people’s ignorance in order to display their credentials on their various websites. Worse than that, it is possible to provide testimonials, and get listed on the NHS Alternative Therapies Directory and without having the relevant NLP qualifications.

It is important to acknowledge that the experience of having NLP therapy or indeed counselling is purely a subjective one, which will naturally vary for each individual client, and be dependant both upon the skills of the qualified Practitioner and the depth of the issues that the client expresses. Sadly if you encounter an unqualified Practitioner who does not even have public liability insurance, as most insurance companies will not provide any cover for any course of less than 15 days, then you will naturally be indignant about all NLP practitioners.

Regarding the debunking theories inclusive of the applicable references, it has to be pointed out that as Donald is not writing an academic essay, that any comments as to their worthiness are irrelevant. However in order to maintain a balanced approach it is perfectly feasible for me to highlight the fact that many academics and psychologists have a vested interest in maintaining their list of private clients and a fat bank balance, so it naturally follows that they will try to debunk NLP by whatever means possible.

Donald Clark said...

Damned by faint praise - but it then went haywire at the end:

"However in order to maintain a balanced approach (sic) it is perfectly feasible for me to highlight the fact that many academics and psychologists have a vested interest (sic) in maintaining their list of private clients and a fat bank balance, so it naturally follows that they will try to debunk NLP by whatever means possible."

And NLP practitioners are charitable souls who give off their time out of the goodness of their hearts?

Sorry, I have no private clients and have no commercial gain from debunking NLP, just an honest attempt to get rid of practices I believe are bogus.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how they conducted the studies on the effectiveness of NLP. NLP is a collection of many different methods. And I think that some of these methods are more useful than others.

Is NLP really new? Not really. It weaves together several ideas.

It takes the hypnotic methods of Milton Erickson, which are unique and certainly can be effective, and ties these with the "meta model," which does bear a striking resemblance to the widely accepted CBT.

And then it throws in concepts such as "anchoring," which is really basic applied behavioural conditioning.

While I do agree that it is over-hyped and there are probably a lot of people out there who don't know what they are doing, the fundamental theories are not only sound, they are old school.

I think the main problem with NLP is that a lot of the people who are practicing it happen to be quacks in their own right.

For example, the course I took was attended by one medium, one tea leaf reader, and one person who was envious of the talents of both of these people.

A scientific mind, fully understanding and properly implementing the principles with empathy, ethics, and proper discretion, can help people with these tools as well or better than with any others.

Breckmin said...

@dr george

The Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds thing was refreshing.

It is refreshing to see someone with your talent for song writing questioning these techniques.

Perhaps if you studied more NLP techniques and hypnotherapy it would be refreshing to you as well.

Studying pacing that is not obvious would be quite refreshing for you I believe.

Wouldn't you like to have a refreshing experience?

This article was refreshing.

Even the word "refreshing" is refreshing..if not annoying.

Perhaps that is why I used it because I knew it was annoying.

Question Everything... including my intentional acts of being annoying, using annoying words and making fun of something by being lame and annoying (yet refreshing)
all at the same time.

Noted as "the worst comment here" - now is this by belief or by suggestion?

Anonymous said...

I just want to interject a few points because it seems like there is a lot of dead horse beatings...

I liked the post, thank you for sharing, btw.

The bumble bee thing is really annoying and anyone who thinks it's true should go here:

Science does not ever prove anything, it can only disprove something.

Anecdotal/"subjective" evidence is not evidence of any kind. We are all flawed in many ways and see/remember things differently. Our brains can and do, easily ,fool use into believing things that just are not true.

Everybody has some agenda to push. That is why studies are blinded.

The people purporting NLP's benifits actions do not have anything to do with NPL.

And finally, if NLP has helped you I am genuinely happy for you. I also think it's more likely a placebo effect or something else including a good old fashion dedication to changing and possibly a false, yet still helpful, belief that you can actually do it now.

Thanks for your time and be good to each other!
Neil Hampton.

Anonymous said...

Take Two:

Neuro Linguistic Programming

Picture yourself on a boat on a river, you've been feeling uneasy, you’re mesmerised.
Somebody whispers you follow quite slowly, a man with kaleidoscope lies.
Eagerly followers of NLP mean; to take and talk over your head.
Look for the science, the logic, the reason: there's none.

New Language Salesmen abound,
Listening to your every sound,
Tallying up each and every pound.
Ho ho….

Hopefully expecting frogs to become Princes these rocking horse people tell unbelievable lies.
Everyone smiles as you listen to tales which seem so unbelievably wise.
New language salesmen appear at the door waiting to take you away.
Ask for the proof, your head's in the clouds, ‘cause there's none.

No Laughing Please at the back,
No writhing please on the rack,
Don’t expect your money back,
Oh no…

Picture yourself on a train at the station, waiting to move a few looking glass miles.
Suddenly someone leaves through the turnstyle and turns back to offer a smile.
Lucidly, you know there’s no diamonds!

Mike said...

There's no proof psychiatric drugs work. You are saying there's no proof counselling or psychotherapy works.

How come I know people who have worked hard on their depression and fixed it? The depression didn't just disappear on it's own, there are reasons why people get depressed.

Maybe you think depression is a myth, or that it can be fixed with some yet unknown method.

I have had counselling and psychotherapy, and it did help. Of course there are rubbish counsellors just as there are rubbish scientists.

I wonder if you are one of those people who just collects scientific studies and research that fits your beliefs, rather than looking at ALL data and THEN having beliefs based on that. I must admit I used to be like that too, a LOT of people ARE like that, scientist or otherwise.

What do YOU think helps depression? (since you've rubbished all solutions currently available).

Maybe you're lucky enough not to have suffered from depression.

Donald Clark said...

I have a great deal of sympathy for people who suffer from depression so don't get all personal and snarky. My sister has suffered from this my other sister has been a psychiatric nurse and community nurse all her life.

You say "There's no proof psychiatric drugs work". False. I don't doubt that some drugs are overused but your statement is patently false. You dismiss all pharmaceutical help in one trite sentence. Read the science.

"you think depression is a myth" NO I DON'T. People like you who think they know what I think depress me.

"you are one of those people who just collects scientific studies and research that fits your beliefs" Listen if you want to engage on this front give me the studies that falsify the evidence I've found. That's science.

Thom de Serville said...

1st July 2012. In March I attended a practitioner course - 2 weeks, May 2012: 3 hypnosis courses -8 days- and on 15th July a Master Prac. -2 weeks. Before this I was intending to be a counsellor. I attended Brighton uni for a pre-post grad course in counselling. This is a mandatory 3 month course before doing the next 2 years to be qualified as a counsellor. I passed the course but I wanted to be trained on an integrative course at another uni. So, I know how the training is structured.
Roughly, it is 1 lecture a week and a seminar. My course was 1 term long. At the end there was a 1/2 an hour supervised and recorded session whereby I 'counselled' a classmate. Then I was to write my 8000 word essay.

From what I can recall the 2 years training I would have undergone would be similar to that structure except with supervised counselling on people outside of the class independent of the training.

Move forward 2 years and I go on the NLP course by a leading establishment. I wanted the best of the field. I was extremely skeptical. There is something somewhat ironic about being sold an NLP course.
So, what was it like?
The NLP course:
It was interesting and fun sure.
We were doing classic code and new code NLP. Days started at 10 ended between 6 and 10!! (That depended on personal motivation).
Now, compared to the university counselling course time 1 day training (on this NLP course) would equal 2-3 of the uni counselling course. However, there was no reading that had to be done and there was no written examination.

I could start going out to the public and be practicing and charging money. I am sure a lot of people do with those certificates and those are indeed in my opinion some of the charlatans of NLP if they charge full prices and are not transparent about experience. So, I guess in that sense it is down to the potential client to check their practitioner out thoroughly. The NLP practitioner certificate basically does not mean anything bar 'you passed the test' of the course. So, I did 8 days of hypnosis training too (which has definitely been proven to work, as in hypnotherapy) adding to my hours of training (my intention is to get something on par with uni standards - hour wise).

And I will soon do another 2 weeks on the 'Master Prac'. This is classic AND new code NLP (Grinder's line NOT the other stuff).

Another point: Grinder makes it very clear that the classic code is outdated in some ways.

On the NLP course I attended there was a lot of information and some of it was trained well and some not. I would put it on a 70:30 ratio based on actual practise of techniques. I was offered extra training in the form of a practise group. At the end of the day, I think that the world of NLP has some serious standard issues that need to be addressed. I personally have compared it to a uni course structure and was dissatisfied BUT then again I have been dissatisfied by many uni courses. I think that it is up to personal responsibility to fish out the charlatans AND/OR raise the standards which I think is being done.
1.Some of it is bullshit and pointless. even one of the co creators admits (Grinder) that in other terms hence why it has been and is continuing to be modified.
2.It all depends on the ability, experience and training of the practitioner as to how effective NLP will be.
3.I think NLP IF USED CORRECTLY is effective. depends what it is used for. It can be applied to a lot of different things. It is a huge field.
4. Not everything works on everyone.

A lot of the above points apply to all knowledges and practitioners thereof. Look at other health professionals mistakes. NLP can be used for good or bad and can be used well or badly. Those studies looked at a limited number of people and more to the point a limited part of NLP theory/application. Read 'Whispering in the Wind' for less charlatanism.

Thom de Serville said...

4th July 2012.

I would like to address the depression issue appearing on this blog.

My mother and her brother and mother have had serious bouts of depression whereby they were prescribed medication. I have had it.

But what is 'it'?

I question the genetic heritage theories and also the over use of pharmaceuticals in alleviating symptoms. Medicine can help people but it NEEDS to be used in conjunction with therapy.

My understanding is that people do depression. It is not a disease like malaria but it is a disease in that it is a learnt set of behaviours and more to the point it is prescribed by psychiatrists and doctors (not all of them).

And that diagnosis is intrinsically a suggestion. From a hypnosis point of view if you tell someone they have something and you are in a powerful position in society and seens as a knowledgeable professional then it is even more effective a suggestion due to being more beleivable (especially if you are taught that doctors are right, which obviously is not always the case).

Anti- depressants are over used and over prescribed (they have given them to babies who cry too much).

Babies get what they need through crying a lot. It is primary manipulation. In a sense depression is a developed and more complex form of this. It is a learnt behaviour that has pay offs (just like all behaviour). It is a means of survival. Unfortunately, for the person that does too much depression is that they miss out on a better quality of life. Actually, that is a value judgement and is down to subjectivity for if you have a mental disorder in the UK you get a very comfortable life with all the benefits and attention. Having said that doing not alot (not having a job) or purpose and being too comfortable will cause depression.

Someone once said,

"If you have a client with depression, catch them off guard and throw them in a swimming pool. They won't be depressed then. They'll be angry and swimming around so as to survive!"

James said...

Some time back, I completed a MBA Dissertation on NLP.

In it are my results (from objective Controlled Experiments) and statistics to scientifically validate the efficacy of Third Generation NLP’s “Logical Levels Alignment” technique in alleviating stress.

My dissertation can be found here

The controlled experiments in my MBA Dissertation meets the minimum standards of ethical approval in research (July 2004) according to Section 3 of the British Psychological Society Guidelines.

James Leong
Master Trainer in NLP
Accredited Enneagram Teacher

Unknown said...

Reflection on my experience of NLP


I have never attended such an awful and badly run course in the whole of my nursing career. I found the whole ordeal painful and soul destroying, all because I dared to question some of the concepts in NLP and had difficulty in acting out something I felt was so wrong whilst being observed by what I perceived as programmed “zombies”.

I feel this is nothing more than a form of manipulation and I would be embarrassed to admit to anyone that I had attended this course for fear of losing my credibility. On reflection, I am glad that I have an insight into how others who believe in this nonsense, may use this method on me, or those close to me in the future. I would rather continue to communicate with my non-NLP work colleagues, family and friends, in a non-controlled manner and use my life and social communication skills to carry me through my happy and successful life.

I now question how a non-evidence based 4 day course costing the health trust approximately £15,000 excluding staff ‘out’ time of 30 members, all Band 7 and above. How can the “NLPers” who were present every day, be funded when there are District Nurse Teams in the trust struggling to deliver evidence based nursing care to their patients, day in day out, because of staff vacancies not being filled due to financial constraints? More importantly, this money could have been better spent on our patients, who have been denied life-saving treatments due to cost restraints.

In my opinion, the only person gaining from this course is Mr L by his financial exploitation of the NHS and other organisations that are public funded.

I Feel I have a right as a professional to question unsubstantiated practice. I could not find any evidence other than written ranting’s and drivel from allegedly NLP “experts” supporting their “discipline” and bank balances.
However, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that NLP is not evidence based and is nothing but a pseudoscience and largely discredited by many influential authors. Also, none of the course content is referenced in an academic style.

For a fee, ANYONE can become a practitioner in NLP in a few weeks, so why are we wasting money using these people? In my honest opinion, some of the “NLPers” in the trust have been taken-in by it all or they are the type of person who has the need to be “needed” and an obsession to gain control over others.

I do have a reflective account day by day of the 4 Day course if anyone is interested, please contact me via email

Charles said...

Thank you so much for this nice information. Hope so many people will get aware of this and useful as well. And please keep update like this.

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