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What is NLP? - The Longer Answer!

NLP: originated through the efforts of 3 men, Richard Bandler, John Grinder & Frank Pucelik.

Richard Bandler: Richard Bandler, a student of many and varied disciplines at the University of Santa Cruz, California was looking for a 'practical' rather than 'theoretical' therapy and wanted to know which, of the 400 or so of the existing 'therapies' at the time, would be best.  His research led him to study Fritz Perls, Gestalt Therapy, which he saw as something quite practical.

Frank Pucelik: Richard Bandler was joined by Frank Pucelik also a student at Santa Cruz University, who had recently returned from the Vietnam war.

Neither Bandler nor Pucelik had any background as therapists but they found that by mimicking Fritz Perls they could get the same results with their clients, as Fritz did with his, in about the same amount of time.  But they were unable to teach the actual therapy students in their group how to do what they were doing.   

John Grinder: John Grinder, a professor of linguistics at the University of Santa Cruz, joined them and helped them to figure out how they were doing what they were doing.  John made an agreement with them that the first phase would be for them to teach him to do what they were doing, without any conscious knowledge or understanding on Johns part of how it was happening, and in the second phase John would codify the process.  This became the process of "NLP Modelling" as opposed to what many of the NLP Schools teach today which is more akin to "Analytic Modelling" (which is of course also useful, a distinction is simply being made here).

"Meta": In these early days from around 1972 to 1975 this endeavour of theirs was referred to by them as 'Meta'.  They gathered together a group of gifted students and developed their discovery with input from the students and importantly from Gregory Bateson, a British Anthropologist, to whom John Grinder still gives a great deal of credit.  Gregory Bateson had attempted something similar to NLP 15 years prior, with a number of his colleagues, with lesser success.

Around 1978 Richard Bandler invited Frank Pucelik to leave the group, which Frank did and continued his own development.  Bandler & Grinder officially named the work as NLP - Neuro-Linguistic Programming, around the Spring of 1976.

NLP Modelling: Richard & John modelled some of the great therapist of the time such as Fritz Perls, Virginia Satir and perhaps more famously Milton Erickson and taught these models of therapy to aspiring therapists. 

At the time legally to be known as a therapist in certain states in America, therapists were required to undergo a minimum amount of recognised training, at least 120 hours over 20 days.  Richard & John began their "NLP Practitioner" trainings taking 20 to 24 days each and when they had more material than could fit into this number of days they added a new extended program called "NLP Master Practitioner".  Infact the first syllabus for Practitioner & Master Practitioner trainings was put together by Leslie Cameron Bandler in 1979 for the newly formed SNLP, Society of NLP. Eventually they taught certain excellent students to teach others and later on Richard Bandler started an "NLP Trainer" program.

Different Roads: At this point Richard & Johns ideas began to flow in different directions. 

John would work with his trainers over a number of years until he believed that they were sufficiently capable role models themselves, to train other Trainers. 

Richard on the other hand created "Master Trainers" to train other trainers.  Hence along Richards line you will find Master Trainers, most now a days having been 'certificated', signed off, without any input by Richard!

Along Johns line you will find people at Trainer level who have been personally endorsed by John to train other trainers.  Generally you will find that these Trainers have been personally mentored by John over a number of years.

New Code NLP: Around the early 1980's to 1985 John Grinder and Judith DeLozier worked on refining what they had accomplished with NLP and calling their endeavour New Coding which eventually was further developed and named New Code NLP and the orignal version being referred to as Classic Code NLP which is still a very relevant and useful model. 

When I asked about the difference between Classic Code NLP and New Code NLP, John Grinder simply said "I'd rather drive a Ferrari than ride a Mule!"

Re-Patterning: In the early 1990's Richard Bandler set about defining his own ideas which he called DHE - Design Human Engineering and then in the early 2000, he refined what he called 'Neuro-hypnotic Re-patterning' with the influences of Frank Farrelly (Provocative Therapy) and Milton Erickson. 

Licensing NLP: In the early days Richard (with Leslie) & John (with Judith) set up companies called  'not Ltd.' and 'Unlimited Ltd.'!!  These two companies together set up the Society of NLP - SNLP - which was the first NLP membership organisation with the intention of setting high standards for NLP Education.

Subsequently John distanced himself perhaps to continue corporate work. 

Richard in the early 1990's sold the SNLP to Christina Hall (whom he had awarded the title of Meta-Master Trainer - someone who can train & certify Master Trainers). Legally Richard (and others) also retain rights to sign SNLP certificates and there appears to be a split in the quality of certification of SNLP with certificates being issued by Christina Hall's organisation and those with a digital signature from Richard.   

Court Decision: During 1999 the courts came to a decision that NLP is in the public domain and not owned by any one individual.  The court declared that both Richard Bandler & John Grinder be recognised as the co-creators of NLP and must acknowledge each other as such. 

New Roads: John Grinder has recently co-founded another NLP membership organisation with his partners Carmen Bostic St Clair and Michael Carroll in the UK called ITANLP - International Trainers Academy of NLP -  We believe that there is a Master Trainer level within this new organization.

Who to trust: Now a days there are probably over 1,000 books written on the subject of NLP, very few of which the co-creators appear to agree with.  As John Grinder says, "it is very difficult to map between the written word and behaviour", and it is not possible to 'learn' NLP from a book written from the subjective experience of the author.