Don E. Gibbons, Ph.D., NJ Licensed Psychologist #03513
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The New Center for Counseling and Psychotherapy, LLC, is located at 675 Route 72 E, Manahawkin, NJ 08050,
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Saturday, February 24, 2018

Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP): Where's the Beef?

A few years ago at a hypnosis conference in London, during a discussion of the phenomenon of hypnotic rapport, one of the members of the audience said that she used to occasionally lapse into her native Gaelic during a hypnosis session, and, even though her clients may not have understood a word of Gaelic, the results were still quite effective.

Suppose, instead of using a language that was already fully developed, she had decided to experiment with the language patterns of highly successful hypnotists, and assembled a group of like-minded individuals to help her discover exactly which inductions, and which suggestion patterns, were the most effective. Sometimes the results would inevitably appear to be more powerful in comparison with the patterns which had been used before -- at least with the current sample. Over time, as these practitioners discovered that sometimes the results were more effective and sometimes they were less effective, we could expect a drift in the direction of ever more complex patterns as more and more elements were added to the mixture, much as the Native American rain dances evolved over the course of many centuries whenever they would dance as rain clouds appeared, because sometimes it did actually rain -- and heavily, too!  So, the obvious conclusion was not that the rain dance was ineffective when no rain was forthcoming,, but that it was necessary to keep working in order to make the dance more powerful


Before you continue to expend more time, energy, and money in developing fancier and fancier hypnotic language and induction patterns, you should consider that the effectiveness of a particular suggestion or induction lies in the individual meaning that ii has for the client in terms of his or her individual life narrative, rather than the linguistic style within which a suggestion is composed or the induction within which it is framed (de Rivera & Sarbin, 1998),

I am fond of quoting a well-known story about a boy who had become shy and withdrawn because his face was disfigured by a birthmark -- until his grandmother told him that this was a special sign from God that he was destined for greatness. Although he did not become famous, he grew up to experience a much more successful life than he otherwise would have had were it not for his grandmother's suggestion, which, even without the benefits of an induction,  had become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In order to be part of science, a finding must be able to be replicated at will when other investigators use the same conditions that produced it in the first place. That's the "beef" that sells our product. Then, once its existence has been demonstrated, it can be used in other situations as an art. Medicine, for example, is both an art and a science. But until a basic finding has been demonstrated under controlled conditions,  it's merely a "sacred cow" that cannot be killed because produces income for its adherents while it shames the rest of us.


de Rivera, Joseph & Sarbin, T. R. (Eds.) (1998). Believed-in imaginings: The narrative construction of reality. Washington, DC: American Psychological Assn.,

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