Neurolinguistic programming (NLP)

March 22, 2017


Neurolinguistic programming (NLP)

Natural Standard Monograph, Copyright © 2013 (www.naturalstandard.com). Commercial distribution prohibited. This monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions.

Related Terms

  • Behavior, eye accessing cues, linguistics, meta-model, metaprogram, NLP, neuro-linguistic programming, neurology, presuppositions, representational systems, sensory acuity, submodalities.


  • Neurolinguistic programming (NLP) is a model of beliefs and techniques that offer a way to use the mind and body to achieve excellence in learning, counseling, relationships, sports and other experiences of life.

  • John Grinder and Richard Bandler developed neurolinguistic programming in the 1970s. It began as an exploration of the relationship between neurology, linguistics, and observable patterns ("programs") of behavior.


  • NLP is more a collection of tools than an overarching theory. Neurolinguistic programming is purported to provide tools for better communication with others and ourselves. The tools are developed by modeling the internal experience and external behavior of those who are particularly good at something - whether it be learning more efficiently, establishing trusting and loving relationships or getting over phobias quickly.


  • NLP techniques are based on a number of models. The major models usually associated with NLP are:

  • Eye accessing cues: According to NLP advocates, eye movements indicate whether a person is thinking in terms of images, sounds, self-talk or through their feelings. Proponents believe that if someone's eyes move or flick upwards this indicates that they may be visualizing images. Horizontal eye movements (directly to the left or the right) indicate that the person is thinking about sounds. Eye movements that are down to the left or the right indicate that the person is checking their feelings.

  • Meta-model: The meta-model is a set of specifying questions or language patterns designed to challenge the limits to a speaker's model of the world, that is generalization, deletion, and distortion. A set of linguistic challenges for uncovering the "deep structure" underneath someone's "surface structure" sentences.

  • Metaprogram: These are aspects about how people process information and make decisions. For example, some people are motivated towards goals, while others are motivated away from non-goals. Towards or away from indicates how they respond to their world. Which one a person prefers in a given context will dramatically change how they behave.

  • Sensory acuity: Thinking is tied closely to physiology. People's thought processes change their physiological state. Sufficiently sensitive sensory acuity will help a communicator fine-tune their communication to a person in ways over and above mere linguistics.

  • Milton-model: This is a set of linguistic patterns Milton Erickson used to induce trance and other states in people. It is the inverse of the meta-model because it teaches individuals how to be vague.

  • Representational systems: It consists of our five senses, which are visual (images), auditory (sounds), kinesthetic (touch and internal feelings), gustatory (tastes) and olfactory (smells). Different people seem to represent knowledge in different sensory modalities. Their language reveals their representation. Often, communication difficulties are little more than two people speaking in incompatible representational systems.

  • Submodalities: The structure of internal representations determines an individual's response to the content. For example, an individual may imagine a person who they have feelings for. Then, the individual is advised to make the colors more intense, as if a color knob on a TV. Now turn the color down, until it's black and white. For most people, high color intensifies the feeling, and black and white neutralizes it. The degree of color, part of the structure of the representation, affects the intensity of the person's feelings about the content.

  • Presuppositions: Presuppositions or assumptions are the beliefs a person will find useful in effecting changes to themselves and/or to the world. Some people refer to them as the "givens." Examples include: "Communication is more than what you are saying," "There is no such thing as failure. There is only feedback" and "Every behavior is useful in some context."

Author Information

  • This information has been edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).


Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

  1. ANLP Umbrella Organisation for NLP in Great Britain. http://www.anlp.org/index.asp?CatName=Home&CatID=1

  2. Pegasus NLP Trainings. http://www.nlp-now.co.uk/

  3. The NLP Information Center. http://www.nlpinfo.com/

Copyright © 2013 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)

The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.


March 22, 2017