How is NLP different from psychotherapy?

NLP is based on 'modeling' rather than 'theory'.  A model is a description of how something works, without any commitment regarding why it might be that way.

NLP and psychotherapy have different underlying assumptions about the human mind and its connections with the body as a whole. NLP and all forms of traditional psychology have different methodologies, different measures and different concepts in practice.

Major differences include...

NLP is not a model of psycho-pathology (mental illness).

NLP makes no diagnoses about a person's mental health or illness. Its focus is purely on results. It proposes that people are not broken -- they work perfectly to produce the results they are getting -- even if the results are not desirable. If a person doesn't like the results they are getting, NLP provides tools to help them get the results they desire.

Psychology has no explicit integration or resolution process.

In psychology, integration and resolution are left to non-specific processes. As a result, many psychotherapy patients complain that their sessions lack structure; that they go in, let their thoughts wander for 50 minutes, and leave without any sense of progress; then they repeat this ritual for an indeterminate amount of time, sometimes lasting 10 years or more.

Often, after years of psychotherapy, psychoanalysis or psycho-pharmaceutical treatment, while problems may have been explored and brought to conscious awareness, or at least treated to reduce their effects, a person is still left with ongoing patterns which resulted from their cause. Resolution is often left unfinished.

This is not to say that traditional psychological models are useless or unhelpful. Many people have been greatly helped by them, and I would encourage anyone to explore them if that is their interest. But there is so much more that can be accomplished in far less time.

For those who have already invested in psychotherapy for a number of years, NLP can be an important finishing or resolution process when psychotherapy has concluded or reached a point of diminishing returns.

NLP is non-Exclusive

In NLP we encourage people to make the most of any resource they wish to use. NLP works well either as a primary or complementary modality of self exploration and change. It does not take an adversarial position to psychotherapy, traditional medicine, or other alternative approaches, and clients are free to pursue any and all other avenues while exploring NLP.

Some psychotherapists are equally non-exclusive and work well in cooperation with NLP coaches and therapists.

The Parts Model

Traditional psychology divides the mind into three essential partitions. The id, the ego and the super ego. While not all branches of psychology 'buy' this tripartite model, it remains the central and most widely used model in psychological literature and practice.

NLP also has a 'parts model', but it is metaphorical, positive and extensible. Originally modeled on the work of Virginia Satir and Fritz Perls in the 1970's -- NLP proposes that internal 'parts' should be understood and utilized metaphorically rather than as literal fact.

In the NLP model, each of us has a non-predefined multitude of identity 'parts', some prominent at one time, others prominent at other times, all interacting with each other in some way -- even if that interaction is characterized by silence or opposition.

Most of us have heard the expression, "Part of me wants to do this, and part of me wants to do that." In NLP this is called "parts incongruity."

No part of us is considered dark or evil in NLP. Every part has a positive intention and a useful purpose, even if it is presently trying to fulfill its intention in a problematic way. Additionally, new parts can be created as needed and old parts can be changed or merged with ease.

Parts can form teams, and teams of parts can move through any number of processes for a given goal or purpose such as emotional support, creativity, healing, reality checking, planning, critiquing, approving, action, etc.

A similar parts model, developed by psychologists Hal and Sidra Stone in the 1970's, is called "Voice Dialogue". It is more useful than the classic psychology three-part model, but it does not contain NLP's depth, breadth, flexibility or specificity in processes for changing patterns and improving communication between parts. The comparison may be unfair, however, since Voice Dialogue is a single set of techniques while NLP is an entire field.

NLP is non-Aristotelian

This means that NLP is process and structure oriented, not classification oriented.

NLP proposes that putting people into categories of personality-type or psychopathology promotes their getting or staying stuck, rather than assisting them to grow, change and heal.

NLP is post-Newtonian

This means that NLP is firmly based on Late 20th Century physics advances which observe that the universe is made up not of a collection of objects or things but of patterns and processes.

NLP is not Reductionistic

NLP considers "reductionism" -- such as the belief that our thoughts, feelings and experiences are "just" the result of genetics or chemical processes in the brain -- to be the result of a specific type of linguistic confusion.

NLP is not Objectivistic

NLP does not recognize 19th Century objectivism (a belief in absolute objective reality or the belief that 'subjective' equates to 'invalid').

NLP is not Linear

NLP does not limit itself to linear cause-effect thinking. It prefers whole systems thinking. Whole systems tend to be self-organizing and too complex for useful linear, cause-effect analysis.

NLP is Efficient

NLP declines to pursue unresolvable cause-effect question/answer sequences, such as, "Why? ...Because. ...Why? ...Because. ...Why? ...Because..." infinitum -- since for every answer to "why", the question "why?" can be applied again. There is literally no end to such cause-effect sequences, and thus no satisfying resolution. With a few very specific exceptions, NLP prefers to ask more useful questions such as, "How? What? When? Where? and Who?" The result is an efficiency in process that cannot be approached by modalities that remain concept-bound by cause-effect thinking.

NLP does not take long personal histories from clients for the purpose of causal analysis. NLP considers that to be an essentially expensive waste of time.

NLP does work with personal history when appropriate -- directly, as it is presently coded in a person's mind. NLP has powerful tools a person can use, if they desire, to make positive changes in their ongoing experience of personal history and its meaning, experientially imprinted patterns, and other historically limiting factors -- without drugs, hypnosis, or years of analysis.

NLP is not Statistics-Based

NLP observes that statistics cannot measure or predict a particular person's subjective experience since subjective experience is understood by internal, not external empiricism. NLP is the first science based on internal empiricism.

Different Definitions of "Behavior"

NLP does not share the same definition of "behavior" with psychology.

"NLP includes within its descriptive vocabulary terms which are not directly observable." -- Bandler, Grinder, Dilts, DeLozier, "NLP, vol. 1," 1980.

In other words, "Just because they can't see it, that doesn't mean you're not doing it or experiencing it."

And, "Just because they can't reproduce it, that doesn't mean it didn't work for you."

In NLP, behaviors include thought structures like beliefs and values, patterns and sequences of cognition, memory, sensory representation, linguistic structures in thinking, etc., none of which can be directly observed externally, nor can their effects be directly, causally connected with measurable external observations. Yet no reasonable person would deny the importance and meaning of such internal experiences.

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