NLP is not Coaching

I have been reflecting with some strong concerns on the relationship between NLP and Coaching and conclude that NLP is not Coaching, albeit that some NLP techniques can be effectively utilised as part of the Coach’s toolkit. The very nature of coaching is to work with a client from present to future state, and not delve into the past with concepts such as ‘change personal history’, ‘timeline’ etc.  Coaching is not therapeutic and we need to keep it clean.

Assuming the two fields are interchangeable does both a disservice and plays into the hands of those who debate the authenticity and efficacy of NLP. This resonates with the concept of institutionalised isomorphism (DiMaggio & Powell, 1983; Carter, 2008). The way the two professions interact and affect society, suggests they may have similar structures, although they have evolved in different ways. The interlinking affects the behaviours of their members e.g. seeking to gain ILM accreditation in Coaching and Mentoring for an NLP qualification, the recent rush to gain Association of Coaching qualifications for what is NLP. This is not modelling – it’s copying! This is not innovation – it’s the easy way out in order to ‘get bums on seats and make a quick buck’.

Adopting similar notions of best practice, core competences and language, may leave the two fields resembling each other instead of differentiating themselves. Carter (2008) argues that organisations and concepts can remain different in spite of sameness due to the array of experiences, and this is where the NLP providers need to focus their energies instead of diminishing the importance of their field in the rush to get short term financial gain. (Course numbers are dropping because very few trainers are updating and developing new work – they prefer to ‘steal’ from other fields and yet are audacious enough to still call their offerings NLP.) We need to learn from medical doctors, dentists and vets who all share a core knowledge base, yet clearly differentiate themselves by developing new perspectives and applications, while standing shoulder to shoulder as professional equals.

If we don’t pay attention, the long term result will be the end of NLP as it becomes subsumed into the coaching arena – where quite often it is most unwelcome. Those non NLP trained coaches have valuable learning and experience from many fields of psychology, sociology, anthropology and philosophy – providing an eclectic theoretical base for their practice. The so-called ‘NLP Coaches’ often have a very narrow outlook. NLP appears to be stagnating while it becomes the cuckoo in the coaching nest. I have recently heard colleagues in the psychology department of a university postulating that NLP has had its day!

The Association of NLP has worked hard to prevent this and they need the support of trainers – to be proud of the field, to look out of the world of NLP and educate the buyers. There is now a strong and credible research base for NLP (R & R recognition project, university dissertations and doctoral theses, as well as non-formal research) and this must be shared and used to update the NLP Practitioner and Master Practitioner course materials instead of poaching models such as GROW which are nothing to do with the developers of NLP. Master Trainers of NLP are supposedly ‘adding value to the field’. This should be through researched development of NLP based topics, instead of regurgitating what is already there, and then NLP can become accredited in its own right.


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