EANLPt’s president Dr Cătălin Zaharia outlines some of the developments in the field of neuro-linguistic psychotherapy and his hopes for the future.
Neuro-linguistic psychotherapy (NLPt) is a systemic imaginative modality of psychotherapy with an integrative-cognitive approach. The European Association for Neuro-Linguistic Psychotherapy (EANLPt is the platform of national NLPt organizations, NLPt training institutes and neurolinguistic psychotherapists, integrating and representing NLPt in Europe. It is also the European-wide accrediting organisation (EWAO) for NLPt within the European Association for Psychotherapy (EAP).
Speaking to SciTech Europa, EANLPt’s president, Dr Cătălin Zaharia, outlines some of the developments in the field of neuro-linguistic psychotherapy and his hopes for the future.
How has the NLPt approach evolved since the beginnings in the 60s and 70s? What would you say have been the most significant developments?
NLPt (neurolinguistic psychotherapy) as a formalised framework for training, supervision and development methodology in psychotherapy, encompasses the NLP methodology – an epistemological approach for modelling human behaviour and change was developed in the 1970s. NLP was used within the psychotherapy under the name of NLP Psychotherapy by
various colleagues but not formulated as a psycho-therapeutic modality on a stand-alone basis. NLPt as modality was founded and defined in the mid-1990s. From then on, was possible to take formalised training in Neuro Linguistic Psychotherapy – NLPt. This led to the legal recognition of NLPt in various European countries, such as Italy, UK, Austria, Romania, Croatia, France, and so on.
NLP was widely used within both therapeutic approaches and non-therapeutic applications (sales, spiritual, coaching etc.). These applications are less regulated than NLPt as psychotherapy, and there are various quality and standards regarding time of training, assessment, content, and the competencies of the practitioners which have to be taken into consideration. The standards of ethics and questions of consumer protection are a particularly important issue in NLPt, as well as in scientific research.
What would you say are the main benefits of the neuro-linguistic psychotherapy concept for the treatment of things such as personality disorder?
Personality disorders are a big challenge for all psychotherapy clusters and modalities, including systemic, humanistic, behaviouristic, psychodynamic and psychoanalytic.
As well as other ‘manualised’ psychotherapies, NLP has a focus on describing the human experience and treating it as an ‘object’. The process of change was seen as being detached from the person as the performing agent. NLPt integrated the person of the psychotherapist with the psychotherapy techniques, as we cannot separate them. As a metaphor, the code cannot run without the computer; the language does not exist without a body.
It is important in NLPt that the methods come alive via a living human being and its behaviour. As we live in a very technological world, we fail to recognise that the most complex system is the human being and the approach to it is beyond the non-living technique. We would therefore refer more to the NLPt psychotherapist than to the neuro-linguistic psychotherapy technique. The therapy becomes the coupling link of the client-therapist as a system, whereas the therapist becomes the living embodiment of a manual which adapts and prescribes a very specific intervention suited to the unique needs of the client. We are focused on providing a developmental environment for such professionals.
NLPt psychotherapists have skills and strengths in:
- Establishing very good rapport and relationship with different types of patients and finding sustainable ecological outcomes;
- Understanding very well the deep structure of the inner difficulties of patients; and
- Choosing very individualised forms of interventions, stretching from highly structured to trance-orientated approaches
How would you like to see NLPt being advanced for treatment in other areas?
NLPt is quite established in assisting persons both with traumatic symptomatology, compulsions and general neurotic descriptions. Indeed, first results on shown on www.nlpt.at/r1 are promising, and a study on the treatment of depressive patients should be published by 2021.
In the field of neurolinguistics more generally, do you feel that more should be done to gain a better understanding of the impact of developmental disorders on linguistics?
That would be great, but would perhaps require a large budget and highly trained researchers.
Personality disorders are a big challenge for all psychotherapy clusters and modalities (systemic, humanistic, behaviouristic, psychodynamic and psychoanalytic). Traditionally, personality disorders were considered difficult to treat, but that has shifted in last decades, and personality disorders such as borderline disorder became the main focus of treatment (even of manualised treatment). From our clinical experience, when NLPt is in the hand of a well-trained psychotherapist, it is equally as powerful as the best known alternatives in the psycho-therapeutic field.
While last 50 years of research in psychotherapy was focused mostly on nomothetic science, we will assist with a return to linguistic and ideographic science in psychotherapy. In that respect, the NLP developers demonstrated good intuition and started in ’70s, but this kind of research faded out. Meanwhile, we have witnessed a lot of changes in the legislation and practices in different countries. The legal framework in Europe to date will only allow NLPt psychotherapists to continue this kind of research in the clinical field.
It is necessary to differentiate between NLPt and classical neurolinguistics.
Regarding research in the field, what have been the biggest breakthroughs in recent years, and where do you feel future research priorities should lie?
As discussed, within the psychotherapy system the performing person and the technique form a whole and it is technically not possible to separate them: they are two parts of the same network.
We are currently undertaking a research project into the development of psychotherapists during the last phases of training. We feel that we need to include more ‘Complexity Science’ tools here, as well as new paradigms; we need to move away from the linear cause/effect way of thinking in the way we design research, and we need to integrate and investigate language as systems and subsystems.
What role does the EANLPt play in the NLPt field?
EANLPt is the governing body for the accreditation of NLPt training centres. We aim to provide a culture where the specialists can achieve their full potential in order to support the client in the best possible way. That includes methodologies that bring together organisations and people, therapists and clients.
The way psychotherapists are trained, their personal development, their supervision, and how the research is done is equally important as specific interventions use a specific language at a very specific moment.
EANLPt also organises NLPt conferences twice a year in Europe (see:https://www.eanlpt.org/Events).
How would you like to see neurolinguistics develop?
The study of the structure of the subjective experience is complex. Nomothetic approaches, which have been leading the sciences in the field of psychology in recent years, have now reached their limits and more ideographic and narrative research is coming back into the focus of scientists in the field of psychology and psychotherapy.
We are open to all types of research. We had the RCT approach, and in the future we will take more of an interest in conducting single case and naturalistic designs studies.
Can your organisation play a role here?
Yes, definitely. From the legal point of view, to conduct research in the clinical field we need to be legally registered practitioners, and NLPt institutes are in the right position to provide the necessary people and infrastructure.
Dr Cătălin Zaharia
This article will appear in SciTech Europa Quarterly issue 28, which will be published in September, 2018.