Topic 1 Origins of NLP

The development of NLP started in the early 1970’s, in California USA. Richard Bandler and John Grinder worked together at the University of California, Santa Cruz in the 1970s. At the time, Bandler was a student of psychology and linguistics, and Grinder was a professor of linguistics. They first met at a seminar on computer programming, where they discovered a shared interest in studying human behaviour and communication.

Richard Bandler, with his expertise in maths and computers, and John Grinder, a linguist, studied the methods of three psychotherapists, who were regarded as the most expert and most effective agents of change in their fields.

These three models of excellence were Virginia Satir, Milton Erickson and Fritz Perls. 

All three were renowned for their abilities to bring about behavioural change.  Virginia Satir was a family therapist who achieved her results by getting more and more specific.  Milton Erickson was a legendary hypnotherapist who achieved his results by using ambiguous language.  Fritz Perls is a psychotherapist who founded Gestalt therapy.  Another important influence in Bandler and Grinder’s work has been the British anthropologist, Gregory Bateson and his thinking on ecology.

Grinder’s understanding of language and Bandler’s background in coding and structure combined to enable them to notice the patterns, structure and processes that often even the people they were studying were not consciously aware of using.  They used the methods on each other until they found that they too could reproduce the same results as the people they studied.

Although NLP was first used in the world of therapy, those involved soon recognised its uses in many other fields.  The outstanding results achieved have led to NLP now being incorporated in areas such as leadership, team working, selling, training and development, sports coaching, customer service and health work.