Whats the go with NLP?

A close friend of mine is completing her master practitioner course in Neuro-linguistic programming, I think it is a bunch of pop psychology but have no idea.

So whats the straight dope on Neuro-linguistic programming?

Shortened to NLP from now on!

Some consider it fake, and it’s still up in the air, but some claim benefits. But is tainted by being used for douchey reasons by douches.

It may be that there are grains of truth there, but the philosophical part is spurious, like osteopathy, acupuncture, or chiropractic (that word always looks like it’s missing something. I want to write chiropractics?)

Scientifically speaking, there’s nothing to it - it’s indistinguishable from a placebo. That is to say, if you ‘use’ it and believe in it, you can get better results, but it’s because you believe in it and act accordingly, not because it actually does anything.

An equally fervent belief in sugar pills, the aid of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or astrology would have an equivalent effect.

That’s probably for the best. As cool as the ideas behind *Snow Crash *were, a world full of NLP-wizards who can mess up your brain by saying magic words would be scary as hell.

NLP is a methodology that leaves a trail of techniques. I think Richard Bandler, one of the co-founders said that.

There are some techniques in NLP that are very easy to learn and work quite effectively. This often leads to new practitioners feeling very powerful and then making silly claims about what is possible.

Belief has nothing to do with the effectiveness of the techniques, it is much more about calibration and flexibility. That’s why, in my opinion, it is difficult to verify, because I see it more as an art than a science.

But I am very biased, as I had a lifelong phobia (dogs) removed within 15 minutes, as well as a cat allergy, using NLP techniques.

I review a few NLP trainers and techniques on this site: http://nlpstuff23.blogspot.co.uk/

For the skeptical approach :
RationalWiki : http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/NLP
Skeptical Dictionary : http://skepdic.com/neurolin.html

The article in the Skeptical Dictionary is well worth reading, as it is quite well researched, but the RationalWiki one is just utter tosh.

I agree - the RationalWiki page does little more than point and mock. That scorn may be well-deserved, but it doesn’t help the reader.

From what I remember of NLP, it does require that you pay attention to what others are saying and doing. If you want to influence people, paying attention to them is a good start as compared to simply demanding or hoping.

NLP is a lot like the massage theory of magical healing.

The bottom line is that massage, being touched and physical contact feel good and tend to improve spirits, especially in someone who might not be getting as much contact as is good for them. So the dozens of therapies that involve some kind of “massage” or manipulation or body contact or just laying on of hands have a simple basis for making the subject feel good, regardless of their claims or purported principles or basis.

Any sort of therapy that includes getting the subject to clear their mind of distractions and focus on the issues, and possible solutions, are going to have much the same general effectiveness, regardless of what stripe of woo is supposed to be driving the process. NLP is square-on with this general “focus real hard and get through the ambiguities” notion. But nothing more.

Here’s the Straight Dope on NLP. (FWIW, this Staff Report does include the same link to the Skeptic’s Dictionary that was given upthread.)

Hmm, maybe it’s because I know teachers and practitioners of NLP that the RW article looks right to me.

I’ve always said, it’s little better than Conservapedia, and Poe’s law applies to both. Skeptical Dictionary is a much better website in every way, even at its most biased.

So you are seriously suggesting that a psychological technique removed an allergy, a physical response of the immune system.

I’m calling bullshit.

An allergy is not psychological. Allergies occur even if the subject is unconscious or in a coma. It is caused by a chemical reaction between an allergen and the immune system. It can’t be cured by any sort of psuedo-psychological mumbo jumbo.

This one claim is all that I need to ascertain that your claims concerning DLP are hokum.

Everything I’ve seen or read concerning DLP in general leads me to believe that it is all hokum.

I don’t think the RW page is wrong - it just seems to omit a lot of detail.

Scientifically defined, yes allergies are not psychological. But in common terms, they can be. Witness allergies to MSG. Pretty much psychosomatic. But I still doubt dander allergies can be cured in that way.

The problem is, I’ve never really heard of NLP before, and after reading the RW article, I still have no idea what it is. It doesn’t describe it at all.

You might have heard of desensitiziation therapy, where the allergen is slowly and in small doses reintroduced into the system.

The NLP allergy cure is done similarly, just much faster. You reposition the allergic response as a mistake and introduce the allergen while keeping body and mind relaxed and feeling safe. Works really well for “touch” allergies, not so well for food intolerances.

What were the symptoms of your allergy, before this purported cure?

There’s nothing particularly controversial about suggesting a link between the mind and gaining an allergy or sensitivity, and it works on lab rats as well as people. Using Pavlovian (or “classic”) conditioning, you can train rats to secrete mast cells in response to sights and sounds, for example. You can train guinea pigs to release histamine. Works for people, too, and the good thing is that you can also condition them out of the response (“desensitization”) using the same classical conditioning techniques.

“Pavlovian” or “classical conditioning” is known in NLP as “anchoring.” A person with psychosomatic allergies has anchored the presence of a cat (or cat hair, or cat toys or cat odor) with allergy symptoms. NLP provides a new anchor - the state of not having allergy symptoms - with the presence or signs of a cat. Because our brains are kind of stupid, a strong sense of an imagined cat will often work as well as an actual one to make a new anchor with - more effectively, in fact, because you’re not fighting the previous allergic anchor at the same time. The effective NLP practitioner is good at making that imagined cat very strong, so your non-allergic anchor is willing to glom to it and expand to actual cats.

Cat allergies are the one thing I’ve watched NLP be really effective at. A friend moving into a house with 5 cats. 15 minutes of NLP. He lived there for 5 years without discomfort. There’s nothing woo about it, just new names and new applications for the technique your Psych 101 teacher used to make your pupils dilate when he rang a bell.

If you want to read about it under a more scientific sounding label, look for *psychoneuroimmunology. *

But I will also second what’s been said upthread: NLP has some really neat tricks, but that doesn’t mean it’s a cure all or can do everything it purports to do. My NLP practitioner friend (the one who cured Steve’s cat allergies) is broke, lonely and depressed…he can’t fix that, nor have his NLP colleagues been able to fix him. So there’s that…