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This article discusses the history of the field known as Neuro-linguistic programming.

Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) was developed jointly by Richard Bandler and John Grinder under the tutelage of Gregory Bateson (a renowned anthropologist, social scientist, linguist and cyberneticist), at the University of California, Santa Cruz, during the 1960s and 1970s.

Originally a study into how excellent psychotherapists were achieving results they did, it rapidly grew into a field and methodology of its own, based around the skill of modeling as used to identify the key aspects of others behaviors and approaches that led them to be capable of outstanding results in their fields.

With the 1980s, the two fell out, and amidst acrimony, and trademark lawsuits by Bandler[5], NLP tended to be developed in a fragmented and haphazard manner by many individuals, some ethically, and some opportunistically, often under multiple confusing brand names.

During the 1990s, tentative attempts were made to put NLP on a more formal, regulated footing, in countries such as the UK, and around 2001, the law suits finally became settled, and a variety of individuals and representative groups in the field resumed moves to put the field on a more professional footing.

Context and early influences

One of the earliest influences on NLP were General Semantics (Alfred Korzybski) as a new perspective for looking at the world which included a kind of mental hygiene . This was a departure from the Aristotelian concepts of modern science and objective reality, and it influenced notions of programming the mind. Korzybski General semantics influenced several schools of thought, leading to a viable human potential industry and associations with emerging New Age thinking. By the late 1960s, self-help organizations such as EST, Dianetics, and Scientology had become financially successful. The Esalen human potential seminars in California began to attract a wide range of thinkers and lay-people, such as the gestalt therapist Fritz Perls, as well as Gregory Bateson, Virginia Satir, and Milton H. Erickson.[How to reference and link to summary or text]

A second important part of the context was, that the founders developed a philosophy of "doing" rather than "theorizing". This may have been due to the strong counterculture (anti-establishment) mood at the time. As part of this, whilst there was respect for the scientific method (hypothesize, test, question), there was less regard for the concerns and approval of mainstream science in doing so. Likewise there was little thought of control or standards, or of setting guidelines; the field was left open for those interested to explore whatever its principles led them to, and wherever their personal interest took them. In general, during much of NLP's history, developers have preferred to generate ideas, test their value in practice, and leave rigorous scientific verification to other parties or until later.

A final set of influences were that old notions of behaviorism and determinism which had long held sway, were rapidly becoming disfavored, and issues such as the subjective character of experience were becoming more accepted as part of a postmodern outlook, bringing with it such questions as the subject-object problem, recognition of cognitive biases, and the questioning of the entirety of the philosophy of perception and the nature of reality. Bateson, an anthropologist himself, strongly supported cultural relativism (the view that meaning could only be found in a context – not to be confused with moral relativism), which is now considered fundamental in anthropology.

Such approaches undoubtedly influenced the development of the early studies, by inclining Grinder and Bandler to study the effectiveness of their subjects from an anthropological (observational) basis, seeking to understand what their behavior signified, rather than a psychoanalytic approach of how they fitted into a theory.

Development of NLP

Initial studies

In the early 1970s, Richard Bandler was invited by Bob Spitzer, owner of Science and Behavior Books, to attend training by Fritz Perls and Virginia Satir, and was later hired by Spritzer to assist, transcribe and edit recordings of Perls for a book. At the time, Bandler was a student at University of California, Santa Cruz, and had began running Gestalt therapy workshops to refine his skills. While at UCSC, Bandler invited assistant professor of linguistics Dr. John Grinder to observe his Gestalt workshops, to help build an explicit model of how Bandler (and Perls) did Gestalt therapy. Grinder used his knowledge of transformational grammar, and starting with Perls and moving to leading family systems therapist Virginia Satir, the two collaborated to produce several works based on these exceptional psychotherapists of the time.

The resulting linguistic model analysed how therapeutic recognition and use of language patterns could on its own be used to influence change. First published in The Structure of Magic Volume I (1975), the models were expanded in The Structure of Magic Volume II (1976), and Changing With Families (co-authored with Satir herself in 1976), and eventually became known as the meta model (meta meaning "beyond"), the first core model within what ultimately became an entire field.

Early models developed into the core of NLP

The early work, especially the meta model, captured the attention of anthropologist, Gregory Bateson who became a major influence on the early intellectual foundations of the field, including Logical levels, logical types, double bind theory, cybernetic epistemology and cultural relativism (the axiomatic anthropological concept that meaning only exists within a context).

Bateson introduced the co-founders to Milton Erickson, at that time in his 70's, and recognized as the founder of clinical hypnotherapy and a near-legendary[1] therapeutic genius in his own right. Bateson was lecturing at University of California, Santa Cruz, and was attached to the newly formed Kresge College where Grinder was also lecturing in linguistics. Bandler and Grinder met with Erickson on a regular basis, and modeled his approach and his work over eighteen months. In 1975-1976 they published a first volume set of patterns, Patterns of the Hypnotic Techniques of Milton H. Erickson Volume I (1975), followed in 1977 by Patterns of the Hypnotic Techniques of Milton H. Erickson Volume II, which together form the basis of the so-called Milton model, a means to use deliberately imprecise language to enable a person to work at an unconscious or somatic level rather than a cognitive level, to resolve clinical issues more effectively.[2].

These early studies and models of patterns used by recognized genuises, such as the meta-model and Milton model, formed the basis of workshops and seminars. Under the subject title of "Neuro-linguistic programming", they became increasingly popular, firstly with psychotherapists, then business managers, sales professionals, and new age people.

As popularity for NLP increased, a development group formed around the co-founders including Leslie Cameron-Bandler, Judith DeLozier, Stephen Gilligan, Robert Dilts, and David Gordon (author of Therapeutic Metaphors, 1978) and made significant contributions to NLP. A collection of Grinder and Bandler's seminars were transcribed by Steve Andreas and published in 1979, Frogs into Princes.


In 1980 Bandler's collaboration with Grinder abruptly ended and also Leslie Cameron-Bandler filed for divorce. Bandler, Grinder and their group of associates parted ways. A number of agreements were reached as to legal settlement between Bandler and Grinder, as regarded NLP and their partnership. Shortly after (1983), Bandler's company Not Ltd declared bankruptcy.

Ongoing legal threats ensued throughout the 1980s and 1990s surrounding trademarks, intellectual property and copyright, causing some of Bandler and Grinder's books to go out of print for a while ('Structure I & II', and 'Patterns I & II' – considered the foundations of the field – were later republished).

In July of 1996 after many years of legal controversy, Bandler filed a lawsuit against Grinder and again in January 1997 against both Grinder and numerous prominent members of the NLP community including, Carmen Bostic-St. Clair, Steve Andreas and Connirae Andreas. In his suit, Bandler claimed (retrospective) sole ownership of NLP, and the sole right to use the term under trademark, as well as trademark infringement, conspiratorial tortious interference and breach of settlement agreement and permanent injunction by Grinder. [6] [7] In addition, Bandler claimed "damages against each such defendant in an amount to be proven at trial, but in no event less than [US]$10,000,000.00" per individual. The list of defendants included 200 "Does", i.e. empty names to be specified later. [8]

On February 2000 the US Superior Court found against Bandler stating that "Bandler has misrepresented to the public, through his licensing agreement and promotional materials, that he is the exclusive owner of all intellectual property rights associated with NLP, and maintains the exclusive authority to determine membership in and certification in the Society of NLP." [9]

Contemporaneous with Bandler's suits in the US Superior Court, Tony Clarkson (a UK practitioner) asked the UK High Court to revoke Bandler's UK registered trademark "NLP", in order to clarify legally whether this was a generic term rather than intellectual property. The UK High Court found in favor of Clarkson, and that NLP was a generic term, later declaring Bandler bankrupt in the UK for failure to pay the sum of the ruling. 11 July 2000

Rethinking NLP: "New Code" approach

Main article: New Code of NLP

John Grinder began collaborating with Judith DeLozier; between between 1982-1987 they began developing the New Code of NLP, they were heavily influenced by anthropologist Gregory Bateson, and a desired to create an aesthetic and ethical framework for the use of NLP patterns. Their recode was presented in a series of seminars, titled Turtles All the Way Down; Prerequisites to Personal Genius, transcripts were published in book by the same name. In the 1980s, Grinder ceased providing public seminars, to pursue cultural change in organisations. During this time he held few public seminars, while he continued to refine the New Code of NLP with his new partner, Carmen Bostic St Clair. They published recommendations to the NLP community to become a legitimate field of study, in their work, Whispering in the Wind (2001).

Other members of the original development group, formed their own associations and modifications of the original work and took NLP is different directions.

Richard Bandler together with Todd Epstein developed much of the theory and practice associated with 'submodalities',[3] that is, "the particular perceptual qualities that may be registered by each of the five primary sensory modalities".[3] Post-1980 much of Bandler's work revolved around the NLP concept of submodalities.[3] Bandler independently developed Design Human Engineering and authored Magic in Action, Using Your Brain for a Change, Time for a Change and Persuasion Engineering (written with John LaValle). (As of 2006, Bandler continues to lecture, consult and produce media on NLP)

NLP buzz

A disquieting direction became obvious in the 1990s when, partly due to the legally-driven fragmentation of NLP practice, and partly due to lack of a defining and regulating structure to oversee the rapidly growing field, it seemed for a time that NLP could be (and was) promoted as the "latest thing", a panacea, or universal miracle solution. Dubious models and practices burgeoned, in parallel with bona fide. For a number of these new practices, profit, marketability or New Age appeal proved a stronger motive than realism or ethics.

Training too became fragmented. A plethora of trainers, some renowned, some New Age and charismatic, and some focussed upon niches, emerged, each with their own competing ideas of what training and standards were needed to become a "practitioner". As a result, today there is a range of in duration, quality and credibility of different practitioner training programmes.

In this respect, Platt (2001) comments critically[4] that NLP needs to temper its claims, and accept it has limits on its effectiveness:

"Does that make NLP bogus? No, it does not. But the research and the findings of the investigators certainly make it clear that NLP cannot help all people in all situations, which is frequently what is claimed and what practioners assert... The immoderate claims that are made for NLP might be viewed a little more critically when viewed against this background."

Likewise the Irish National Center for Guidance in Education's Guidance Counsellor's Handbook (current as of 2005) includes the following caveat about excessive claims made by some trainers:

"Unfortunately, NLP has a history of so-called NLP Practitioners overstating the level of their competence, and of their training.[5]

21st century

By the end of 2000 some sort of rapprochement between Bandler and Grinder was achieved when the parties entered a release wherein they inter alia agreed that "they are the co-creators and co-founders of the technology of Neuro-linguistic Programming. Drs. Grinder and Bandler recognize the efforts and contributions of each other in the creation and initial development of NLP." In the same document, "Dr. John Grinder and Dr. Richard Bandler mutually agree to refrain from disparaging each other's efforts, in any fashion, concerning their respective involvement in the field of NeuroLinguistic Programming." ("Release" reproduced as Appendix A of Whispering in the Wind by Grinder and Bostic St Clair (2001)).

In addition, national regulatory and certification bodies have begun to be founded, notably in the UK, with credentials or standing within psychological and psychotherapy association bodies.

Trademark and IP claims settled, it is a possibility that a more regular platform for the future development of NLP as an ongoing field of endeavour may come into being.[6]

See also



  1. A large number of books of true legends and anecdotes of Erickson have been written.
  2. John Grinder & Carmen Bostic St. Clair, (2001) Whispering in the Wind. C&J Enterprises.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 See [1] [2] and [3]
  4. Platt, 2001, NLP - No Longer Plausible?
  5. Guidance Counsellor's handbook, section 1.4.5: section 1.4.5 [4] (DOC)
  6. (See Appendix of Whispering in the Wind.)

ru:История нейролингвистического программирования
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