It is easy to read in areas that we already know, but we may miss easy or valuable tools. One area I read is NeuroLinguistic Programing. For those who are unfamiliar, below are three brief examples which might stimulate your curiosity to learn more. They are not fully explained for those unfamiliar with NLP, but indicative of just how quickly serious problems can be changed.
These are taken from the first of 2 e-books by Steve Andreas, entitled, “Help With Negative Self-Talk.” (Vol 1 & Vol 2, 2009 © Real People Press.) As you read them, you might consider that some NLP techniques are like ‘hypnosis without the trance,’ in that the client becomes absorbed in their internal experience and the therapist leads them in useful directions. This is not true of all NLP techniques, but is applicable to the first two examples below.
While mental health services might diagnose and consider medication interventions in these quite serious problems, resolutions were achieved in only a single session.
Changing the location in space also works with internal images. Recently Lewis Walker, an NLP-trained MD in Scotland, (Walker, Lewis. Changing with NLP: a casebook of neuro-linguistic programming in medical practice. Oxford, UK. Radcliffe Medical Press, Ltd. 2004) saw a young woman who had witnessed two of her friends killed in a motorcycle accident the day before: When she came into my office she had already dissolved into tears before she sat down. Through the sobs she told me about the smash. One friend was decapitated, the other with a bit of leg thrown across the carriageway. As she described how “The pictures are all in front of my face,” both hands were gesturing about 2 inches from her eyes.
I said something like, “Let me take these for you,” as I reached over with my right hand and grabbed her pictures, while simultaneously making a “ripping” noise as I stood up and hauled them off to her left side, and then diagonally behind her. I asked her to “Look at all these pictures in my hand as they shrink way down in size and all the color drains away,” cupping and closing my right hand as I did so.
At this point her body in the chair was facing ahead, while her head was looking over her left shoulder. I took the images to the corner of the room near the door and said. “Now just imagine they’re fixed right here by a nail, and I hit the door post with my fist. “Now knowing that they’re fixed here, in your mind’s eye look straight ahead and tell me how things are different now. . . .”
She visibly relaxed, the tears subsided, and she felt more in control. As I sat down again in front of her I said, “Keeping them nailed over there, what happens as you take this into tomorrow, and the next day, into next week and next month (gesturing with my left hand along her future timeline out to her right) knowing that with each passing day that (pointing to her images of the accident) gets farther and farther away as it recedes into the distance.”
She was much calmer now and could tell me about what happened after the accident, and how their motorcycle group was still planning to go on a tour to Germany in 3 weeks, and that she was going to go out on her motorcycle with her husband when he got home that night.
The whole consultation lasted no more than 15 minutes, and probably saved weeks—perhaps years—of the standard approach of “talking it through.” (Vol 1, p.4)
Most psychiatrists think of compulsive hand-washing as a problem that is very difficult to treat. Below is a lovely example of using a meaningful piece of music to quickly change this problem in a single brief session. This example was sent to me about a year ago by Ron Soderquist, an NLP-trained hypnotherapist in the Los Angeles area.
Anxious parents called, each in turn, about their 17-year-old daughter Bev, who for the past six months had obsessively washed her hands 3-4 hours a day. Both parents reported they had “tried everything.” including counseling and drugs. They were so desperate they were now exploring hypnosis, about which they were very skeptical.
Somewhat worn down by their skepticism I said to the anxious mother, “Look, because you are desperate and because you worry that once again you will be throwing money away, I will offer you a complimentary consultation. I will evaluate your daughter’s symptoms and only schedule a therapy session if I believe I can help her.” With this assurance, she made an appointment.
As family members settled into their chairs, they all appeared relaxed. They communicated with ease, and there were no overtones of hostility. Turning to the girl I asked about school and extracurricular activities. She immediately replied, “I have studied piano for many years and enjoy it very much.” Because I play both classical and ragtime piano, this was a natural opening for building rapport.
When I asked about her favorite composer, she quickly said, “Chopin.” Because Chopin is also my favorite, we were now in perfect sync. We agreed we both loved Chopin’s Nocturnes and we both played most of them. I asked about her favorite and she hummed the melody. I said, “When I practice a nocturne in the evening I often can hear that melody in my head all next day,” and she nodded in agreement. “You can hear that melody right now, can’t you?” I said. She smiled and slipped into a nice little trance. As she did so, I ventured, “Perhaps, when you get the urge to wash your hands, you might enjoy turning on that nocturne instead.”
I observed her trance deepen as she considered this, and then she nodded her head and said quietly and confidently, “I can do that.” After some further rehearsal, and talk about other matters, I concluded the session. I didn’t suggest another session. The mother wondered, “Do we need to make an appointment for Bev?” I looked at Bev as I said, “Perhaps she has already found a solution,” and Bev nodded her head.
A week later the mother called to say Bev was doing fine. I was a little annoyed with myself for solving the problem when I should have held back and scheduled a regular appointment with a fee. But I just couldn’t help myself; it was too much fun just to do it. And while there was no fee, I did get a good story, and the mother soon referred a friend.
When I followed up some months later, I asked for more details of what she experienced internally. She said that when she got stressed, she first “felt germs on my hands, and then pictured them on my hands. Then the voice in my head that said, ‘You have germs on your hands. You have to wash them,’ went faster and louder and got more intense. When I turned on the nocturne, I would usually just hear the music, but sometimes I would imagine myself playing it.”
Commentary by Steve Andreas: Bev was already talking to herself in a way that made her feel bad, and that bad feeling triggered her hand-washing. The Chopin nocturne was powerful in eliciting a positive state in which she had no urge to wash her hands. If Ron had added some cheerful words, that could have created conflict. However, adding instrumental music does not create conflict, because the music does not have any words to contradict what she was saying to herself.
In addition, music is processed by the opposite brain hemisphere than the one used to process language, so any conflict would be between the hemispheres, rather than within one of them. Adding any music without words is a fairly safe intervention, especially if the person chooses the music that they think might be appropriate—and tests to find out how well it works. (Vol 1, p.33)
Some readers might think that this example was a unique case, but it is actually fairly common. Ron sent me a report about another client he saw recently. A 30-year-old male who had hung out in his bedroom for several months, couldn’t drive a car etc. because of panic attacks, was brought in by his stepmother.
He was too anxious to leave the back seat of his car, so I went out and started the session beside him in the back seat—a first for me! He was creating his anxiety with a habitual internal voice: “You’re going to go ‘weird’ ”—which was what he called having a panic attack.
He’s a guitar player, so together we found an alternate audio, a “favourite riff” that triggered his confident musician self. (I told him the Bev story while he was searching for a trigger for his confident self, and this seemed to strike a chord with him (pardon the pun). After we practiced that for a while (I did get him into my office) he went off with his stepmother. I called the next day and he had been out hiking and feeling great, using his favorite riff to keep his musician self in charge. (Vol 1, p.35)
I recommend Steve Andreas’ two e-books, and they can be purchased from his website. Help With Negative Self-Talk: http://www.realpeoplepress.com/pages.php?page=Downloads
I highly recommend seeing the following demonstrations of NLP applied to clients’ problems. Steve Andreas has posted some examples of his work on YouTube. The videos are a maximum of 10 minutes. Some are complete examples, and some are extracts from a larger client session.
1. Original NLP Fast Phobia Cure Part 1 – Steve Andreas. Short clip showing the phobia cure process. The second part shows the follow up interview 25 years later.
2. Eliminating a Compulsion FAST with NLP – Steve Andreas. A great demonstration of the “Compulsion Blow-out” technique, where you see the person responding differently immeditately.
3. Resolving Shame Quickly with NLP – Steve Andreas. A segment from a larger interview, where he demonstrates using “sub-modalities” (aspects of visual and auditory representations.) As these are altered her feelings change.
4. Treating Loss and Depression with NLP – Steve Andreas. A segment from an interview which shows him using a “Tempo Change” process; follow up interview shows the impact.
5. 24 Years of Night Terrors GONE in 1 NLP Session – Steve Andreas. A segment showing use of mental rehearsal to attach a positive resource. Positive report at follow up interview.
6. NLP Eye Movement Integration with a Vietnam Veteran (PTSD) – Steve Andreas. A segment from a larger interview – it shows the process, and there is evidence at the end that the feelings towards the traumatic memories are different.
(Go to essay 5.)