>The crucial question, from a research perspective, concerning NLP is something
>like ``Is the account NLP gives of human behavioral and experiential change
>accurate?'' That is, is it validly reasoned from true premises. As with most
>psychology, particularly of a clinical bend, I've seen nothing like an attempt
>to explicitly build such an argument. Perhaps Lee would care to provide us with
Okay, let me try to say something about this, as well as respond to the newcomer who's asking ``What the hell is NLP anyway?'' But what I say will necessarily be inadequate in several respects and can't possibly cover all the different facets of NLP.
NLP is an approach to therapy [already a lot of NLP people will be jumping down my throat] consisting of a lot of different things but committed to the premise that the goal of therapy is change not insight (although insight is okay if it occurs as a by-product). It is primarily cognitive-behavioral in orientation (although it might be more precise to say cognitive- behavioral-affective) with a lot of usage of special ``hypnotic'' techniques although not necessarily explicit hypnosis. Many people in NLP prefer the term ``changework'' to ``therapy,'' because NLP is not really directed at ``fixing'' people but at helping them to make any sort of change in themselves. The part of NLP that involves explicit hypnosis has now become a separate field called Ericksonian Hypnosis, which is different from NLP but closely related.
Unlike most systems of therapy, NLP does not start out with some theory of why people are broken. It has the premise that it is more important to understand how an individual client's mind works than it is to be able to classify them as having a particular ``disorder.'' This, of course, puts it at cross purposes with the frame of mind that underlies most studies in clinical psychology. As Leslie Cameron Bandler said to us before showing us the videotape of herself working with a pathologically jealous client ``What you are about to see is not the way to deal with jealousy. It is the approach that was appropriate for this particular client.''
I believe that in dealing with clients with true mental illness or severe neurosis, NLP should always be thought of as an adjunct to the sort of training provided by traditional programs in clinical psychology, not as a replacement for it.
NLP starts with the premise that subjective experience is something that can be studied and that subjective experience has structure. However it does not claim (or at least should not) to have the final answer for the ``correct'' way to look at that structure. (Remember that the goal of NLP is to produce a framework that will be useful in changing people, not to develop a scientific theory.) NLP believes that it is possible to understand another person's subjective experience by asking him careful questions about it. (Therefore we need not think of people as being ``black boxes'' as radical behaviorism does.)
NLP starts with the premise that all subjective experience is ultimately reducible to what I call ``sensory data'' plus language. When a person says ``I think,'' ``I know,'' ``I remember,'' or ``I believe,'' he is talking about experiencing certain images, sounds, words (often in a specific tone or voice), and feelings. Frequently these images, sounds, sentences, etc. are below the threshhold of consciousness but can be brought into awareness by asking very careful questions.
The separation of subjective experience into the basis modalities --- visual, auditory, and kinesthetic (feelings) --- is basic to NLP. More recent developments also emphasise what NLP calls the ``submodalities:'' sensory qualities such as brightness, size, distance, color, loudness, pitch, heaviness, temperature, etc.
NLP believes that any behavior, whether external or internal, can be learned or changed if one ``chunks it down'' into small enough pieces. This means asking the subject very detailed questions about the images, sounds, sentences, and feelings associated with the behavior. The one thing that is absolutely typical of NLP as done in demonstrations during seminars and trainings is the type of questions that are asked of subjects. One can get a flavor of these questions by reading any of the books which are transcripts of seminars. I would especially recommend the first chaper of Heart of the Mind by Steve and Connirae Andreas. (The first chapter is seven pages long.)
Most of the Andreas videotapes are also fascinating in this respect. I think especially of the ones on changing beliefs and resolving grief. Whether or not one believes that the techniques shown in these videotapes are effective or they can be usefully incorporated in therapy, it's hard for me to believe that any cognitive psychologist could watch these tapes and not be fascinated by the sort of information elicited from the subjects by careful questionning.
Although asking questions like these may seem simple enough while one is watching it done, it is not an easy skill to learn.
Although NLP is best known for its hypnotic techniques -- ``interventions'' -- in my training we were taught that one of the most powerful interventions is asking the right question at the right moment and there was at least an implicit suggestion that if a therapist were good enough at asking the right question no other form of intervention would be required.