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How to Choose an NLP Trainer

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Choosing an NLP Training in Australia

Hypnosis Australia, November 2001

By Dr Tracie O’Keefe DCH, Clinical Hypnotherapist, Psychotherapist & Counsellor
Editorial Director of HypnosisAustralia Online.

In looking at how to assess and choose a training in Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) in Australia today, we first need to define exactly what is NLP. The reality is that NLP is many different things to many different trainers. To hypnotherapists, psychotherapists, psychologists and psychiatrists NLP is a set of tools taken from the work of the therapists Milton Erickson, Fritz Perls and Virginia Satir and put together as a serious of procedures to accelerate behavioural and experiential change to use with patients/clients. To the business person learning NLP, it is a serious of self and other communication methodologies to increase performance and improve communication, and to the individual undergoing an NLP training for self-improvement it is a journey into mind technology.

One of the problems with defining NLP is that its originators Richard Bandler and John Grinder strongly disagree about what it is. Also because it has turned into second, third and so on-hand knowledge it has evolved into disembodied variation of the original concepts. Since Bandler’s lawsuits in the US and the UK failed to patent NLP it is now on a journey to becoming customised to a discipline as taught by the trainer, loosely related to the original concept.

From HypnosisAustralia Online’s perspective, NLP is hypnosis by any other name. That makes it very powerful but unfortunately because many individuals are being taught it have not been trained in basic hypnosis or psychology, it also makes it very dangerous in the wrong hands.

Many teachers of NLP divide their trainings into two categories and they will only train mental health professionals alongside each other. Their business clients they will train separately. Other trainers put all the people they have enlisted on their courses together but this is unacceptable to many healthcare professionals and they vehemently avoid such courses. They believe that it is a waste of their time training in NLP with people who have little idea about the kind of problems that it might resolve and they also object to some NLP technologies being taught within a sales environment.

In the UK the Association of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (ANLP), which is the largest membership body, is divided into two sections. The first is ordinary membership and they second the psychotherapy section. Those who belong to the psychotherapy section are generally training to go towards recognition as a psychotherapist using NLP as a therapy and can even be working towards becoming a member of the United Kingdom Council of Psychotherapists, which is a most prestigious register, allowing them to practise in the National Health Service. No such moves have, as far as HypnosisAustralia Online is aware, happened yet in Australia, but we believe that in years to come when psychotherapy eventually becomes recognised sufficiently to warrant an official government register, then that division will most definitely happen.

At present there is no quality control over NLP training in Australia by any major body and although trainers do belong to various sub-associations they have no common consensus on training standards. Lengths of trainings can vary enormously, generally from an accelerated five-day training to a 23-day training. Some companies even train both the Practitioners and Masters certification back to back. Since the laws on using this technology are non-existent and the advertising in Australia allows advertisers to promise virtually anything, many of the applicants to training courses are led into thinking they can become competent practitioners, often in less than a month.

Other course trainers tempt customers by throwing in the promise to teach them hypnosis as well but fail to tell the applicant that if they were to damage a person with hypnosis, few insurance companies would pay out because of the person’s small amount of training. Learning to use hypnosis within a healing environment is a training that needs to take place over a number of years, not days. Often some NLP practitioners do not know how to deal with abreactions, cannot recognise the signs of mental illness, and know virtually nothing of biology.

I interviewed Robb Whitewood, a Sydney NLP trainer with Dynamic Mind Works since 1999 and whose background in Chinese medicine. He told me that his trainings are 14 days for both Practitioners and Master Practitioners certification at eight hours per day. He trains both therapists and business people together in the same course and assured me that the Counsellors and Psychotherapists Association (CAPA), who are now a member of the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA), were aware of this and sanctioned such training.

Whitewood said that the students could attend a student clinic where they would work with clients together with experienced practitioners and that students could undergo supervision.

He would like to see the future of NLP in Australia as the development of a common code of ethics, sound clinical experience, practitioners being aware that they should not work with severe physical or mental health problems unless they are otherwise trained to do so, ongoing professional development, supervision and better communication between the training organisations. He also wants to see Australian research validating the use of NLP.

When asked if he would like to see NLP practitioners on an official government register, Whitewood was reticent and said that depended on the cost to NLP. He would not like to see it turn into an academic training lasting years.

I also spoke to an agent for a foreign trainer of NLP training in Australia, who told me that I did not need any previous experience, was guaranteed a place on the course, could learn a large part of it via tapes and books beforehand, and that I would be able to earn money as a practitioner after just one week, without having to be a member of any professional association in Australia. He was assuming that I had no previous experience in a caring profession.

Another training company that I spoke to told me that they wanted to train their Practioners and Master Practitioners on a 21-day plus course because they were training to standards that they believed were more international in the health professions. When I looked on the internet I was able to see that training times varied wildly and that was even amongst the most experienced and established of trainers.

What is obvious is that NLP training is a very competitive business today and that some trainers are willing to offer cut-throat prices and short courses to pull in the customer, promising them the earth in a week or so. One trainers company I spoke to in London claimed to make a $1,000,000 AUD from one single 14-day training. Buyers, however, must beware that short certifications may seem very nice at the time but they are often not accepted should students then want to go on to train further as a therapist, particularly when no supervision after the course is offered on regular basis. It can be deeply embarrassing and disheartening for people when they turn up at schools and universities with some of these short certifications and expect to get credits for future courses, which are generally refused.

A short accelerated training in NLP is often acceptable for a healthcare professional who has a background in mental health as part of their continuing professional development, but for the novice wishing to embark on a career as a therapist, they are little more than self-development.

Training requirements in Europe and certain states of the US are profoundly more demanding than those in Australia. Such trainings are often monitored by national bodies, governments and the academic structures. In Australia NLP trainings are still a free-for-all and some students are mistakenly coming out of trainings thinking they may practise hypnotherapy competently as well as NLP, which they are not necessarily trained to do.

There is no doubt that NLP technology is a refinement of the evolution of some behaviour change techniques, but on its own cannot constitute sufficient training for someone to then go out and work with other people without supervision. I remember a year ago encountering a case in London when a young man, who had just done an accelerated Practitioners and Master Practitioners course attempted to work with a woman who was suicidal, without supervision. After the first session she was so disheartened, thinking that NLP could not help her, that she killed herself.

Their is no fast track way to become a psychotherapist of any kind so when researching into what NLP training a person might like to undergo they should think five to 10 years down the road and wonder how those trainings will be viewed then and what use it will be to themselves and their careers.