In response to various people that have written me, some of whom my mailer has not been able to find, here is most of what I know about the history of NLP. Don Steiny knows a lot more than I do, but I hope what I give here is more accurate than not. The chronology is undoubtedly a bit jumbled, and I am relying in large part on my memory of various verbal communications from my NLP teachers, but I hope I have kept the mere gossip to a minimum.
NLP started in the 70's (1974?) at U.C. Santa Cruz where Richard Bandler was a long-haired chain-smoking gestalt therapist and Leslie Cameron was doing the practicum for her MA in clinical psychology by by helping to run Bandler's gestalt group. Bandler had done his own training as a therapist under a well know child psychiatrist whose name, unfortunately, I don't have at hand. Leslie was an extremely intuitive young therapist with a very sharp mind but who (from what I gather) was also insecure about a lot of things, especially relationships. I think she'd been married twice at this time.
John Grinder at this time was in the linguistics department at UC Santa Cruz. Bandler invited Grinder to observe his gestalt group in order to see whether it would be possible to develop a syntax of behavior analogous to what some linguists had earlier done for cultural anthropology.
What Grinder noticed was that Bandler in his group was applying certain principles of linguistics -- what I think of as being General Semantics (although Bandler & Ginder never use that term). Bandler and Grinder then decided to observe groups run by Fritz Perls and Virginia Satir, and they confirmed that Perls and Satir were using the same linguistic patterns. (They also noticed that Virginia Satir would speak to some clients in primarily visual terms, to others in auditory language, using more kinesthetically oriented language with still others. Satir had been unaware that she was doing this.)
They wrote up their findings in The Structure of Magic, vol. 1 (Meta Press, 1975), which most people find the most unreadable of all the NLP books. The linguistic patterns described in this book now seem to be a core part of most programs in clinical psychology, although apparently credit is seldom given to Bandler and Grinder. The Structure of Magic, vol. 2 (1976) discusses various aspects of non-verbal communication and is now obsolete. It shows that at this time Bandler & Grinder were still thinking primarily in terms of gestalt therapy with some of Virginia Satir's ideas thrown in. (As NLP developed, Satir had conflicting feelings toward it. NLP would observe her work and point out very skillful covert things she did with clients to get her results. Once she realized she was doing these covert things, Satir would stop doing them, because manipulation was against her principles. Toward the end of her life, Satir was the keynote speaker at a couple of conventions of the National Association of NLP.)
In the intellectually adventurous atmosphere at UC Santa Cruz, John Grinder was able to offer a psychology course where he and Bandler taught their approaches to therapy. Among students, this was reportedly known as "Dr. Grinder's mind-fuck course." Eventually UC Santa Cruz de-authorized the course apparently on the grounds that the teaching method constituted unauthorized experimentation with human subjects. (In NLP courses, time is usually equally divided between lectures, demonstrations with volunteers, and exercises where students practice techniques on each other.)
Bandler and Grinder continued to offer training seminars for therapists, and were joined by several young therapists and graduate students in clinical psychology, including David Gordon, Judith deLozier, Robert Dilts, and Steve Gilligan. Some time in these early days Bandler came up with the name Neuro-Linguistic Programming, which has continued to plague the subject to this day. (Neuro-Linguistic Programming, vol. 1 by Dilts, Grinder, Bandler, DeLozier, and Cameron-Bandler appeared from Meta Publications in 1979. There has never been a volume 2.)
Some of the NLP group traveled to Phoenix, AZ to participate in Milton Erickson's seminars and observe his work with clients. Erickson's work gave Bandler and Grinder ideas that took them far beyond what they had learned from Perls and Satir. They wrote a two-volume book titled o Patterns in the Hypnotic Techniques of Milton Erickson (1975, 1977), written in a fairly dry attempt at a scholarly style. The book is still essential reading (IMHO) for anyone with a serious interest in hypnosis. David Gordon (and Steve Gilligan) became interested in Erickson's technique of curing patients' problems by telling them stories, and developed the NLP technique called "metaphor." David Gordon wrote a book called Therapeutic Metaphor (Meta Publications, 1978).
During this time in Santa Cruz the NLP group was involved in extremely adventurous exploration, sometimes being downright irresponsible. There are stories of Bandler & Grinder giving phobias to unsuspecting people in shopping malls, and Steve Gilligan putting waitresses into momentary trances while they were taking his order.
For one memorable weekend, Gilligan walked around in a deep trance identification with Milton Erickson, while Leslie Cameron (Bandler) was in a deep trance identification with Virginia Satir. I don't know what the results of Gilligan's believing he was Erickson for a whole weekend were, bu for Leslie there were some dramatic personality changes. Among other things, she came out of that weekend with a totally different, softer voice, with her harsh Oklahoma accent almost completely gone.
Bandler & Grinder were reportedly not really much interested in teaching as such. I've been told that their idea was simply to do things with the students in their seminars which they personally would find interesting, with the idea that students would somehow automatically learn something from the process. They would give students impossible exercises to do, and sometimes students would succeed because they didn't know the tasks were impossible. Once they told a seminar that one can tell what people are thinking by watching the ways their eyes move, and asked students to discover how to do this. To their surprise, students came up with what are now know as eye accessing cues.
In a Chicago seminar, there was a woman who claimed that she didn't have any bad memories. The NLPers asked her some questions to find out how that was possible, and as a result developed the technique called VK Dissociation, which later became the first half of the Fast Phobia/Trauma Cure.
(People who think that the essence of science lies in carefully designed experiments should consider the idea that without this sort of adventurous exploration there wouldn't be any worthwhile hypotheses for experimenters to test.)
Undoubtedly I've got the chronology somewhat mixed up here. But from what I can figure out, this Santa Cruz period covered about five or six years. Somewhere towards the end of that time Steve and Connirae Andreas showed up. Steve Andreas was the son of Barry Stevens (Don't Push the River) and the editor of "Gestalt Therapy Verbatim," a collection of pieces about and by Fritz Perls. He had given up his former name, John O. Stevens, when he married Connirae. [Note added in 1991: Connirae Andreas now has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology.] They founded one of the leading NLP centers in the country, NLP Comprehensive in Boulder, CO. Andreas took tapes of some of the Bandler-Grinder seminars and edited them into three books called Frogs into Princes (1979), Trance-formations (1981), and Reframing (1982).
These books are full of dramatic anecdotes about Bandler and Grinder's work with various clients, along with a somewhat unsystematic but engrossing presentation of the basic ideas and techniques. They were given new age covers and published by Real People Press in Utah, and have sold large numbers of copies in mainstream bookstores across the country. Much more recently, the Andreases have edited two more books with the same format which present the NLP "submodality" techniques: Using Your Brain -- For a Change (1985) by Bandler, and Change Your Mind and Keep the Change (1987) by Steve and Connirae Andreas themselves. In 1990 Steve and Connirae have come out with a new book Heart of the Mind, which probably is the best place to start for someone wanting to learn what NLP is today.
Basically the Santa Cruz group broke up because people couldn't deal with Bandler's personality any more, especially his heavy use of cocaine. More recently, Bandler was involved in the murder of a professional dominatrix (for which he was acquitted). Last year, Mother Jones ran an article about the case called "The Bandler Method," which is apparently fairly accurate and also has some interesting biographical information about Bandler and the early days of NLP. Leslie divorced Bandler after a few years, and is now married to another NLPer, Michael Lebeau.
Bandler sued to maintain proprietary rights to NLP, and lost. One of the results of that seem to be that now essentially anybody who wants to can set themselves up as an NLP expert. Here in Hawaii a lot of people have been through courses by a very charismatic individual named Tony Robbins, whose own training went no further than the basic practitioner course and who at one time was giving NLP workshops where participants walked across a bed of hot coals. (I have no personal experience of Tony Robbins, but one of my friends says he does "disco NLP.")
Steve Gilligan left the NLP group early on, went on to get a Ph.D. in psychology from Stanford and seems to have achieved a certain respectability as a leader in the field of Ericksonian hypnosis. (See his the link above to his website for more current and more reliable information.) Ericksonian hypnosis and NLP share a lot of ideas, and in the Bay Area at least there is a lot of intermingling between the Ericksonian people and the NLP people.
There are NLP centers all over the country now, and more books than I can reasonably list here. Plus a very large number of videotapes, mostly showing excerpts from NLP seminars and usually demonstrating specific techniques. The quality varies enormously. I especially recommend the two videotapes showing sessions with Leslie Cameron Bandler: "Making Futures Real," and "Lasting Feelings," showing her doing therapy for weight control and for jealousy. But at $180 apiece, obviously they are intended for the serious student.
The source I use for NLP books and tapes is NLP Comprehensive, 12567 W. Cedar Dr #102, Lakewood, CO 80228 (800) 233-1657. This was founded by Steve and Connirae Andreas, and I have found them to be fast and reliable. They publish a glossy catalog of books and videotapes which is available for the asking. Just looking through this catalog gives a pretty good idea of the scope of NLP.