Written for: Metamorphoses Magazine - Initial Publication
Increase Your Therapeutic Effectiveness with NLP
The practice of psychiatry and psychology is based on identifying the problem and accompanying
symptoms that culminate in establishing a clinical diagnosis. In my professional practice, I have
not been comfortable in labeling people by their problems and symptoms. As a therapist
practicing from a Christian perspective, I know the ultimate solution to people’s problems lie in
the power of Christ’s finished work on the cross, His resurrection and the power of the Holy
Spirit working in people’s lives. And because we are created Spirit, Soul (mind, will and
emotions) and Body, discomfort in any of these areas can affect the whole. My Christian world
view and holistic approach to therapy does not infer that clients must be Christian to benefit.
When I was introduced to Neuro Linguistic Programming, I discovered a communication model
that Michael Hall, PhD, describes as containing the “theoretical and philosophical foundations
(that) come from Anthropology, Neurology, Psychology, Physiology, Linguistics
(Transformational Grammar), Systems, General Semantics, Cybernetics, and Communication
Theory.” I completed the NLP Practitioner and Master Practitioner courses that Bob
Bodenhamer, D.Min., and Michael Davis, ThD., taught in 2008. It was then I discovered how
NLP served to pull together the different parts of my education into a systemic whole.
I was drawn to NLP because it, along with my other training, completed a holistic model, and
also because it is NOT the same model of “problem and solution” as clinical psychiatry and
psychology. Instead it is based upon helping clients to overcome their own self-perceived
problems rather than those others believe they have.
This way of approaching clients differs from the clinical practice based upon certain diagnostic
criteria defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-TR IV as “illness.”
Instead, NLP views a client’s “symptoms” as subjective to their life experiences which they have
determined needs improvement.
NLP does not focus on the past except for the purpose of identifying a life history, but instead
focuses on the present, and the client’s preferred future. With the help of the therapist’s
questions, the client identifies where they are now (spiritually, mentally and emotionally, and
physically) and where they would like to be instead. Questions are asked about the client’s life
story, strengths and resources. NLP teaches how to skillfully craft questions to help the client
become aware of and use resources. Exceptions, a time the symptoms were not troublesome are
identified. Using the client’s vision, the client and therapist work together to devise a plan to
reach the client’s identified outcome.
By respecting the client’s own capabilities and wisdom to choose their future and by developing a
collaborative relationship, experiential NLP exercises are formulated specifically to match the
client’s preferred way of processing information (verbal, auditory, kinesthetic, smell and taste).
This is the hallmark of NLP.
A client may very well have the skills needed to solve their own problems, but that knowledge is
separated from the rest of the client’s conscious awareness. The brain, which is a part of the
body, runs on what is called state dependent neural networks. This means that prior life
experiences acquired during the pre-verbal stage of development, early childhood and throughout
life are coded in the brain as visual, kinesthetic, verbal, olfactory and gustatory memories.
Decisions are made about the self, others and how life and the world works based how these
events are experienced. Even Christians, who have extensive knowledge about what the Bible
says, can still be hindered by decisions about themselves or others because the grace of God has
not been internalized and has not overwritten earlier beliefs in all areas. This can be better
understood as the difference between head knowledge and the experiential knowledge of God.
I recall a client who could quote many scriptures about the love of God and at the same time did
not feel God’s love. As a result, she questioned if God loved her at all and felt living as a
Christian was a burden rather than a joy. She was also highly self-critical which lead to feeling
depressed. Using an NLP exercise, together we discovered a childhood decision she had made
about being unlovable. While the parental encounter she experienced happened 20 years before,
she was living in the present as though her childhood decision was true for her as an adult. With
that information she was then able to participate in an experiential exercise to forgive her
misguided parent. This, in turn, freed her to give up the unhelpful and unresourceful decision
made due to inaccurate data, and replace it with new information of God’s opinion of her. After
that, she experienced the profound love of God and what it meant to “renew the mind.”
A client may arrive believing, “I can’t do anything right; I’m not good enough; the world is a
dangerous place,” or a host of other beliefs. The client may have experienced a string of
unhealthy emotional connections to partners who have not treated them well. On the other hand,
these clients may also have some helpful beliefs about themselves, or may have one or two
healthy and functional relational connections. The therapeutic task is to transfer skills from the
functional neural networks where beliefs and relationships worked for them to those neural
networks which have been less functional. This is done through NLP experiential exercises that
help correct the unhelpful emotional states, beliefs and patterns of behaving. We are indeed
fearfully and wonderfully made.
Scaling, which consists of the client measuring degrees of emotional states or relief, is a helpful
tool to gauge progress. The client measures the success of therapy by the amount of relief
experienced relative to the initial complaint using a subjective units of distress (SUDS) scale.
I find the process of becoming proficient in using NLP skills in my practice of Marriage and
Family Therapy is an ongoing process. NLP does not dictate a specific approach to therapy.
Instead, it offers options and blends well with my preferred therapy style which incorporates a
Christian holistic view of clients. Adding this dimension to my practice has significantly
improved clinical outcomes.
Margaret P. Moore, MA, RN, LADC, LMFT
Experiencing Moore, LLC
Good Shepherd Church
2500 7th Avenue NE
Owatonna, MN 55060