Practical NLP 22: The Swish Pattern

Practical NLP podcast Swish Now that we’re getting familiar with submodalities (you may want to listen to the podcasts about visual submodalitiesdealing with the ‘inner critic’, and ‘mapping across‘ if you haven’t already), here’s a powerful changework intervention that uses them – the Swish Pattern.

The Swish is great for defusing the environmental triggers for unwanted emotional responses or behaviours. Examples of unresourceful emotional responses that I’ve helped clients with using the Swish pattern would include: a feeling like their stomach is turning over when they see a certain expression on the boss’s face; a sinking feeling every time they go through the front door at work; or a woman who’d had a car accident when someone pulled out in front of her without looking, and who had a feeling of panic whenever she saw a car ahead waiting to come out of a side road. Or, just any challenging situation where you might want to feel more resourceful than you’ve felt in the past.

Examples of habits that the Swish can help with include nailbiting, excessive snacking, and distracting yourself by checking emails too frequently; anything that you find yourself doing in specific situations, where there’s a specific trigger in your environment, that you wish you could stop.

This podcast talks you through how to use the Swish pattern, including an additional which I’ve found makes the ‘classic’ swish pattern more powerful.

Here are the steps of the Swish pattern as described in the podcast, written as if for a therapist or coach guiding a client through them:

  1. Client identifies what they will always see just before the problem behaviour occurs (associated). This is the cue situation. 
  2. Have the client make the picture of themselves as they want to be, when they are free of the problem. Use submodalities to make the picture as vivid and involving as possible – and have them step into it. Have them notice how good that feels – and turn the feelings up. Now have them step back out of the picture (dissociated). Shrink it down to a small, dark picture the size of a postage stamp.
  3. Have them see the negative trigger picture again, but this time with the ‘postage stamp’ in the bottom left corner. Now – quickly – fade out the trigger picture and expand the ‘stamp’ up to the full-size good picture – at the same time making a swissh sound. When they’ve seen the good picture, blank the screen (this is to mark an end point at the positive image, so they don’t install a sequence leading back to the negative trigger).
  4. Get them to repeat step 3 five more times for themselves, making it faster each time (remember the swissh sound). They could open their eyes between each swish to separate them. Repeat it for two more sets of five, making it faster each time, or until you can’t see the trigger picture any more.
  5. “Now, how do you feel when you remember the trigger situation? Put yourself into that situation in the future. What has changed about the way you feel and respond in that situation now?” The response should be different and more resourceful than previously.

The podcast also describes the difference between ‘associated’ and ‘dissociated’ viewpoints, and tries out a little thought experiment with evoking each viewpoint through language.

Duration: 11m35s

Practical NLP Podcast Collection Vol 3

Note: this episode is no longer available on Apple Podcasts. You can still order it as part of the Practical NLP Podcast Collection Vol. 3 – Submodalities. It has transcripts too!

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


  1. Practical NLP 23: Unpacking The Swish Pattern

    […] on from episode 22, which guided you through the NLP Swish pattern, this week we unpack it to see the nuts and bolts that you need to get right to make it […]

  2. NLP Techniques: The Swish Pattern

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