Changework is the art of enabling people to make specific changes in themselves. It is a word some people in NLP [Neurolinguistic Programming] like to use in preference to the word ``therapy'' to describe what they do.
The word therapy suggests fixing someone who is broken. Clinical psychology puts a lot of emphasis on assessment, on classifying subjects as having a particular disorder. The suggestion is that the subject is malfunctioning in some way and the object of therapy is to correct this malfunction.
NLP is concerned with the question of how and why people change. In terms of clinical psychology, changework is focussed on the intervention stage of therapy rather than on assessment. However one can do changework without an assumption that the client is broken -- has some disorder. It is sufficient that the client have something about himself that he wishes to change.
To me, it seems that changework would also be very interesting to scientific psychologists. I would think that experimenting with trying to change people would be one of the most enlightening ways of learning about human psychology. Certainly in every other science I can think of, if one can introduce changes into the systems of interest this is regarded as an extremely valuable tool for studying them.
I'm not a typical NLP practitioner. I have used my NLP training only occasionally, with friends and acquaintances. And since I don't charge money, I reserve the right to only help people I enjoy working with. Nonetheless, the following examples of problems I have dealt with may clarify the distinction between changework and therapy:
1) A woman working in retail sales who wanted to be more confident and resourceful in approaching customers. 2) A teacher whose students complained that during lectures his voice sometimes dropped to an inaudible level. 3) Someone who found it very difficult to say No to people and often wound up making promises that he didn't want to keep. 4) A person who wanted to be less sensitive to criticism, especially concerning his intelligence. 5) A woman who played the guitar fairly well and wrote her own songs, but was unable to perform in front of other people. 6) A woman who wanted to stop being bothered by her husband's sarcasm. 7) A number of people with unwanted romantic obsessions, most often obsessions with former partners, either a continued jealousy or a continuing urge to reenter a former abusive relationship. 8) Many people troubled with recurring memories and sometimes nightmares about specific traumatic incidents in their past.
In the past, I have posted a couple of articles on specific NLP interventions. Additional information on NLP techniques is readily available in books and on videotape. However the bulk of the training I went through was not about techniques, but about how to gather information from a client efficiently, and how to organize one's thinking to find the precise point in the structure of the client's subjective experience where the smallest possible change could be made to give the client his desired outcome.
In particular, we were taught that the five ``structural elements of change'' are as follows: 1) Separating, 2) Combining, 3) Changing sorting, 4) Adjusting criteria, and 5) Adding a new behavior.
We were taught to organize the information we got from a client about a specific problem into seven categories: 1) Context, 2) Cause/effect beliefs, 3) Criteria, 4) Complex equivalences, 5) Cognition, 6) Emotional state, and 7) Overt behavior. The idea was then to decide in which of these seven categories a change might most effectively be made.
Finally, we were taught six ``well-formedness conditions'' for a change. This information does not seem to be readily available outside of NLP seminars, and in the next few weeks I hope to be able to post a few articles briefly summarizing it.