What I began in these articles was to construct a sort of pseudo-history of the beginnings of NLP. I am saying that one can look at this beginning as if Bandler & Grinder (and later all the other original NLPers) had been creating a major experiment to test several hypotheses, namely (1) that people respond not to the world as it is but to an internal model of the world they have constructed; and that (2) if one changes a person's model of the world then one can change that person's internal and external behavior in any desired manner; and (3) that the basic atoms in the architecture of cognition (excuse the mixed metaphor) are sensory images (in a general sense that includes auditory and somasthetic images including ``feelings'' in the sense of emotions) and sequences of words.
Now I'm not claiming that Bandler & Grinder actually thought of themselves as creating a massive experiment (much more massive than they could have ever imagined in the beginning) to test these hypotheses. However I do think that their attitude, and the attitudes of almost all the core NLPers, is much more experimental than one usually finds in the founders of therapies. And most NLPers find it important to state that the statements they make about the structure of the mind are intended as a model rather than a scientific theory, which is to say that the concern of NLP is not whether these statements are scientifically true or not, but whether they provide a useful basis for therapy and other NLP applications. (``Remember, we don't actually know whether any of this is true. After all, we made it all up.'')
Those who have had much experience with therapy know that usually when one begins therapy one will be introduced to a particular belief system. Mostly these belief systems seem to arise out of very deep convictions on the part of the founder of the particular therapy. On the face of it, many and perhaps most of these belief systems seem rather wacky. (At the moment I am thinking in particular of rebirthing and primal scream therapy, both of which start with the belief that all our problems arise out of the trauma of being born.) The client, who has probably previously been to several different therapists with quite different belief systems, is willing to go along with this particular theology (as B & G once referred to it) for the time being in the hope that maybe this time they will actually get some help.
And sometimes the therapy is effective. And the track records seem to indicate that the effectiveness of therapy is fairly independent of the particular belief system on which it is based. Except that, from what I know, those therapists who have a commitment to being rational and scientific tend to be somewhat less effective than the more wacky ones, except of course when working with a client who has a strong commitment to a rational and scientific approach to life.
But from the beginning, NLP had a much more experimental attitude. The attitude was more ``We'll try this. But the most important thing is to keep trying different things until something works.'' The fundamental beliefs in NLP are more ways for the therapist to structure his thinking than trips to lay upon the client. One does not need to tell the client that one is going to try and change his model of the world or that one is going to do this by changing the grammatical structure of his thinking.
In fact, most of the time, as far as I know, the therapist herself isn't consciously thinking about this. The average NLP practitioner simply uses a certain repetoire of techniques and asks a certain type of questions (and, in the case of exceptionally skilled practitioners, uses certain language patterns). One can learn to do this without ever having read The Structure of Magic, although certainly the NLP practitioner takes it as an axiom that what's going on with the client involves images, sounds, feelings and words. What else is there, after all? (Or so a NLPer would say.)
What seems to be more important for a therapist than knowing about linguistics or systems theory is being oriented towards positive outcomes for the client rather than away from (negative) problems. And systematic use of the well-formedness conditions for outcomes, recently discussed in articles by Macko, Moreno and Stever seems to be very important in determining the effectiveness of the therapy.
In addition, NLP trainings stress certain basic attitudes (usually referred to as the "presuppositions" of NLP). Some of these are "The map is not the territory" and "People already have all the resources they need (they just need to learn how to use them in the appropriate context)" and "The meaning of the communication is the response it elicits." As an NLP journalist (which is how I think of myself here in sci.psychology) I tend not to talk about these a lot, because I think that to most people they won't seem very profound --- like something one might find in a pop psychology book. But many of my NLP teachers have made a point of saying "Your effectiveness in doing NLP with people will be directly dependent on the extent to which you make the NLP presuppositions central to the work you do."