NEUROLINGUISTIC PROGRAMMING - RICHARD BANDLER
Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) and its corresponding model of therapy, developed in the United States in the 1970s by the mathematician Richard Bandler and the linguist John Grinder, may be categorised under the heading of hypnotic, cognitive therapies (cfr. M.H. Erikson, and L. Rossi, 1979). It may be said that NLP is not based on nor does it derive from any philosophical or humanistic point of reference or any particular doctrine pertaining to the various, past or present, psychotherapeutic traditions, but is rather a product of a form of deliberate pragmatism unrelated to any theory. The basic belief of NLP is: ‘the map is not the territory’. The statement means that what we think does not necessarily correspond with reality. The ‘map’ is constituted by our thoughts and our way of seeing the world, while the ‘territory’ is the world itself and external reality. In other words, internal representations which we generate concerning external events are not necessarily the event itself!
Neurolinguistic Programming can be defined as the study of the structure of subjective experience and its aim is that of offering a broad, reliable set of terms and concepts allowing for an effective ‘reading’ of the ‘black box’. The identifying characteristics of the approach are contained in three assumptions. The first of these highlights the creative and organisational capacities of the unconscious mind; the second provides for a detailed description of certain human sensory processes, which have the task of organising the content of the black box together with decoding strategies that influence behaviour engendered in response to stimuli; and the third concerns a set of specific therapeutic techniques (R. Bandler, J. Grinder, 1978) based on a therapist’s skill of entering into close contact with the non-dominant hemisphere of the patient and his/her cognitive, behavioural and subconscious patterns and processes.
The primary object of the therapy is thus that of gradually leading the patient towards a more functional restructuring of his/her internal strategies through the use of specific techniques and exercises such as metaphors, riddles, indirect suggestion and didactic story-telling (cfr. M.H. Erikson, 1982). The aim of intervention is that of modifying the sensory processes of the non-dominant hemisphere, identified as responsible for the organisation and maintenance of the psychic distress that induced the subject to seek the aid of a therapist. Positive outcome of therapy thus depends on the ability to create an alliance and good rapport between the therapist and the client rather than on specific material which is analysed or the approach that is adopted.
The style of intervention in NLP is ‘didactic and ‘experiential’ and stems from the idea that, rather than teach or reproduce 'forms' of psychotherapy, the most apt method of therapy is that of adopting the strategies of operators who have demonstrated particular talent in therapeutic work, regardless of the schools of thought and theories they may adhere to. The original research of the originators of the technique was that of identifying the strategies of the ‘best’ psychotherapists and then learning to reproduce them. The area of application is that of patients who are not severely ill and possess a fair level of individual resources, but there are references in literature of strategies that may be used with psychotic patients (M.H. Erikson, 1982).
Although PNL may be used to solve behavioural problems, its potential applications go beyond this sphere. Even when used in this sense, it is essentially a way of teaching people to use their minds more creatively. A PNL practitioner may help a client to identify and change the impact of negative behavioural models stemming from the past, replacing them with more useful, positive models. Owing to its characteristic as a model of interpersonal communication, Neurolinguistic Programming can be used in managerial and organisational training activities, the management of human resources and in didactic or educational contexts.
Erikson M.H., Rossi E.L. (1979), Ipnoterapia, una ricerca clinica, tr. it. Astrolabio, Roma, 1982;
Bandler R., Grinder J., (1978), La metamorfosi terapeutica, tr. it. Astrolabio, Roma, 1980;
Erikson M. H., (1982), La mia voce ti accompagnerà, tr. it. Astrolabio, Roma, 1983.