Regulation in NLP?

A recent BBC investigation (on BBC’s Inside Out television programme) has generated a lot of interest:

If you live in the UK you can see the programme again here (for a limited time only)

I have been inundated with people involved in the NLP and hypnosis scene putting their opinions across, so I thought I would put some of my thoughts down.

What this programme made clear is that there are a lot of sham, shoddy and lazy companies, therapist and qualification bodies out there. What it DIDN’T mention where the hundreds (if not more) of respected, professional and ethical therapists and organisations out there.

So, bear in mind, that this was a very, very one sided view and one with a very limited scope (not really an exhaustive study! In fact, I would argue, a bit of lazy sensationalism that has probably indirectly negatively effected the reputations of 100’s of professional therapists. But that really is the standard of “investigative journalism” nowadays. Anyhoo, that is a rant for a different blog!)

However, it did bring up some interesting points:

The commercialisation of NLP and hypnosis has been going on for years and, I am sure, will go on for much longer. The problem is with this is that it attracts charlatans and scam artists who are out there to get a quick buck, as well as, I am sure well intentioned, but deluded, people thinking they have skills and abilities they don’t have.

The argument for regulation in NLP and hypnosis has been rumbling along for years, but with the field becoming more and more popular over the recent years (both for people seeking a practitioner to help change and for people wanting to become practitioners themselves) the urgency of the argument to discuss more robust regulation, and if it is need, has been growing and growing.

I don’t know the answer to be honest. But I think there is definitely a need for some form of stronger regulation, or at least education. People looking for NLP and hypnosis are overwhelmed with hundreds if not thousands of people making claims, (some totally outlandish!) about what they can do, how is a newbie meant to know what is kosher and what is a scam? There is a strong argument to made for a (genuinely) independent body to educate people about NLP. Sadly I still haven’t seen a body that fits that criteria, nor am I actually convinced that is practically possible.

There are 2 problems I can think of with increased regulation: Who does the regulating and on what criteria?

I haven’t heard anyone offer an effective set of criteria yet to use for regulation, apart from the rather vague “ethical guidelines” that don’t really mean anything and are so ambiguous as to be pointless. (Particularly with NLP) no one can even agree what it actually is! So how can you regulate it effectively?

And, most crucially, who is going to be the regulator? Often with things like this, the role of regulator fall to the people who shout the loudest, these people often have a very strong personal interest in controlling NLP (usually for financial gain) or are petty bureaucrats who just like bossing people about. Both of which, I am sure you can agree are not the best personalities to be given control of a field (any field).

Any, I would argue that blanked regulation of NLP is unfeasible and unnecessary. NLP is NOT a therapy (, it is primarily a methodology and a toolset. The large proportion of people I train in NLP have no intention of ever using NLP for therapy and want to use it in a professional or personal setting (sales, business management, communication, education, etc). These people don’t need as higher a regulation as people who are making claims about therapy. With NLP having such broad ranging applications it seems clear to me that it needs a sliding scale of regulation.

I think, although I cannot speak for them, this why the Society of NLP has always avoided excessive regulation (for more details, listen the “Modeling the Masters” audio series at They believe, very strongly that NLP is an educational field, not a therapeutic one. John La Valle, the president of the Society of NLP uses NLP predominantly in a business setting.

Rather than regulation, I suggest, initially, more clarification should be encouraged. Trainers should explain what the training involves and what the qualification is for. This onus should be placed on training companies (who should really avoid marketing hyperbole!). I make it quite clear in my trainings and in my marketing literature, that I do not teach NLP for “therapy” I teach the methodology of NLP that you can apply where you want, and always make it clear that if you intend to do NLP for therapy you need additional training and study.


Categories: NLP

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