On Doing Changework When You’re Fresh Off An NLP Practitioner Course

doing changeworkIf you’re about to attend an NLP practitioner course, then you are due to get some very powerful tools to help bring about change in yourself and others, so it’s worth saying something about when and how to use these techniques, and more importantly when not to use them. (If you are currently attending a course, or you’ve recently come out of one, change the tense of the preceding sentence to suit you).

Most of what follows is probably applicable to other changework modalities such as EFT, hypnotherapy or coaching as well.

Firstly, you can do a lot for your own personal development by working with NLP. For any problems that we might call ‘deep’ or really problematic, though, it’s going to be much better to have another person, who knows what they are doing, to guide you through the steps of the intervention. To work on yourself, you would have to play the roles of both client and coach at the same time, which isn’t easy. If it was me, even after 18 years of working with NLP, I would always want to have someone I trust helping me before I went anywhere near any big stuff.

Regarding helping others to change, the most important thing to remember is: don’t coach someone without their permission. Remember what Milton Erickson said: “People aren’t broken. They don’t need fixing.”

When I first qualified as an NLP practitioner, I went to a lot of NLP groups and met many people who had been on ‘generalist’ NLP courses who hadn’t really got this principle. Because their qualification was called ‘NLP Practitioner’ they seemed to think that they knew everything about changework after a 7-day course (or a 10- or even 20-day course), and they would try and run therapy techniques on you in what should have been a casual conversation, moments after you’d first met. Needless to say, it was a bit of a rapport-killer, and prompted a desire in me to get far away from that person as quickly as possible.

So – only ever coach someone when you have their permission to do so. If a person doesn’t agree to be coached, there is no coaching relationship, and what you’re doing isn’t coaching and won’t get good results. It won’t work unless both parties have agreed to it. This goes double for the greater ‘intimacy’ of a therapeutic relationship.

© 2013 – 2019, Andy Smith. All rights reserved.


  1. Rosie O'Hara

    Another great and useful article. I remember my first encounter with 2 fresh faced NLPers, well I watched as they meta-modelled another woman to tears almost and then proceeded to try and change. I vowed I would not do that and I didn’t, I used NLP on myself and my own work which was then helping others to learn German.
    We encourage people to join practice groups, sadly up in Scotland most people won’t take the time out to do that, they are too busy.
    Changing yourself is the most important, and then understanding and appreciating others.
    Thanks Andy

  2. Andy Smith

    Good point Rosie – I think most of us have met these inadvertent ‘meta model monsters’ at one time or another.

    Though are people really busier in Scotland than everywhere else?

    1. Andy Smith

      Rosie is too modest to mention it, but she is *the* person to go to for NLP training in the Scottish Highlands!

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