NLP has been called the study of subjective experience. Its central contention is that people operate from and respond to their “construction” of their experiences rather than from a single external “reality”. They have their own unique models or maps of the world and each one is different from every other. All such “maps” are valid whilst no map is fully able to represent the “territory” or external reality itself.
NLP has a theoretical basis the core of which is that it is a way of thinking about people which has proved practical and effective in a wide range of applications, contexts and situations. It is not held to be “true”, but it is taken as an useful model. The model itself is organic and changes as new applications are explored. It is broadly based and draws on concepts from many areas of psychology and psychotherapy. Early influences stem from the Gestalt “school”, the family therapy of Virginia Satire, Ericksonian brief therapy, and humanistic psychology. There are also clear links with the fields of systems theory, behavioural psychology and linguistics, especially the works of Bateson, Watzlawick, Korzybsky and Chomsky.
NLP addresses the issues of creating expectations which cannot sensibly be realised. To do this there is a great deal of emphasis placed on the concept of “ecology” in the personal and corporate change work in NLP. The changes sought must be fully representative of the whole person or system, and not just a part that may be fanciful albeit also creative or careless of the potential adverse consequences of change.
The NLP approach is “reflexive” in that therapists seek to make their own psychological processes explicit and to understand these in terms of the theoretical model on which their therapeutic approach is based. The essential remedial and generative model for change is NLP. In NLP it is stated that PRESENT STATE + RESOURCES = DESIRED STATE. Where the resources are “enabling states” drawn from client’s own experience.
The NLP psychotherapist and counsellor seeks to help the client to identify the desired state and then achieve it using his or her own internal resources. This can involve the client in changing limiting beliefs, acquiring new beliefs, and / or gaining insights into patterns of behaviour, thereby enabling more choices. Whilst the client’s personal history is taken as relevant to his or her present state, the emphasis is on how he or she constructs that state from experiences past and present rather than on why. In general this is taken to be a process of “deletion” in which some experiences are ignored, “generalisation” in which universal rules are inferred from individual sets of experiences, and “distortion” in which connections are made between experiences, the intensity or quality of which may be heightened or diminished by internal processing.