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Neuro-Linguistic Programming

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Updated March 01, 2012

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Definition:

Neuro-linguistic programming, or NLP, is a controversial psychotherapeutic approach that is utilized in a variety of settings, such as business communication. The system has not been empirically validated, so it is most often used by self-help advocates and life skills coaches rather than mental health professionals.

NLP was developed in the 1970s by a mathematician and a linguist who studied tapes of therapy sessions performed by Gestalt therapist Fritz Perls. The pair noticed that certain sentence structures and ways of phrasing ideas resulted in better client acceptance of the therapist's ideas. Working from Perls' Gestalt perspective, the founders brought in therapists to help them develop a new form of therapy.

Over the decades, NLP developed into a method for helping clients with desired life goals and changes, rather than focusing on specific diagnoses from the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual).

This focus on the client's perceptions of the world is central to NLP techniques. According to NLP, what happens to you is less important than your reaction to it. Your reactions and behaviors are logical and make sense for you, but you have the power to change them at any time. It is the therapist's job to establish trust and rapport, and guide you through the necessary steps.

There have been a variety of criticisms of the underlying assumptions and efficacy of help. Although NLP shares much of the same focus as cognitive-behavioral therapy in its efforts to change learned behavioral patterns, it is best seen as an adjunct to, rather than a replacement for, traditional therapeutic techniques.

Alternate Spellings: neurolinguistic programming
Examples:
Jeanine's therapist used neuro-linguistic programming in tandem with traditional cognitive-behavioral therapy to help Jeanine battle social phobia.
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