Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is an approach to communication, personal development, and psychotherapy created in the 1970s. The title refers to a stated connection between the neurological processes (“neuro”), language (“linguistic”) and behavioral patterns that have been learned through experience (“programming”) and can be organized to achieve specific goals in life. According to certain neuroscientists, psychologists and linguists, NLP is unsupported by current scientific evidence, and uses incorrect and misleading terms and concepts.
The founders of NLP, Richard Bandler and John Grinder, say that NLP is capable of addressing problems such as phobias, depression, habit disorder, psychosomatic illnesses, and learning disorders. Their stated aim was in “finding ways to help people have better, fuller and richer lives.” Bandler and Grinder claimed that if the effective patterns of behaviour of exceptional people could be modeled then these patterns could be acquired by others. NLP has been adopted by private therapists, including hypnotherapists, and in management workshops and seminars touted to business and government.
Reviews of empirical research on NLP indicate that NLP contains numerous factual errors, and has failed to produce reliable results for the claims for effectiveness made by NLP’s originators and proponents. According to Devilly, NLP is no longer as prevalent as it was in the 1970s and 1980s. Criticisms go beyond the lack of empirical evidence for effectiveness; critics say that NLP exhibits pseudoscientific characteristics, title, concepts and terminology. NLP is used as an example of pseudoscience for facilitating the teaching of scientific literacy at the professional and university level. NLP also appears on peer reviewed expert-consensus based lists of discredited interventions. In research designed to identify the “quack factor” in modern mental health practice, Norcross et al. (2006) list NLP as possibly or probably discredited, and in papers reviewing discredited interventions for substance and alcohol abuse, Norcross et al. (2010) list NLP in the top ten most discredited, and Glasner-Edwards and Rawson (2010) list NLP as “certainly discredited”.