I once heard a well-respected and experienced trainer discussing how he could not find “authentic NLP” anywhere, he also once suggested that Bandler and Grinder didn’t really understand fully what they had stumbled upon when they discovered NLP.

I think he is partially right on the second point, which makes the first complaint about the lack of authentic NLP somewhat of a red herring. Bandler and Grinder were just excited about what they had discovered and had this bunch of stuff, they then retroactively named and tried to define what they had found. Because of this NLP has always lacked a succinct definition and pretty much every NLPer will define NLP in a different way.

I quite like that…

3rd generation nlp

Robert Dilts considers that we are now in the “3rd generation” of NLP where the “model” has gone beyond a small controlling group and has now spread far and wide, it is used in pretty much all aspects of modern life, from therapy to sales to teaching to sports to personal development…the list goes on.

(I wonder if Bandler and Grinder, when they developed NLP back in the mid 70’s ever thought it would become such a huge creature that would break away form its creators like a rebellious teenage Frankenstein monster?)

With NLP spreading way beyond the original small group of creators, I now think it is time to look at the idea of “authentic” NLP in a different way.

There is no longer just “one type” of NLP. The problem with this is that is as meant the NLP scene can appear a chaotic and terrible muddle.

Having sat back and observed the ructions, spats, disagreements and outright hostility between different NLPers (and having, foolishly, gotten involved on several occasions and been unfairly mean about certain trainers – for those that I have been mean about I offer a full and public apology right here, it was wrong of me, I was naïve and full of self importance…), I have always found it hard to explain or justify to people new to NLP how all this bickering and aggression has filled a field that holds communication, flexibility and “relativism” as some of it’s basic tenants.

More than once I have come across someone who said they were interested in NLP, but put off by the aggression shown by one NLPer to another.

a solution?

So, here I offer a perspective that may help heal some wounds in the NLP world for the good of everyone!

In this post, I put forward the idea that NLP wasn’t a science, nor does it need to be. I discussed how it is advantageous to consider NLP as a craft, or better still, a discipline and likened it to a martial art.

We can expand this analogy of NLP as a martial art to discuss the concept of “authentic” NLP. If you have studied martial arts, you will probably recognise this idea, if you haven’t I will do my best to explain it.

Of course, you will probably think of lots of different analogies, maybe some that you understand more (or even fit better with the idea I putting across), I am picking martial arts for 2 reasons; 1) it fits with my original discussion and 2) I know quite a bit about martial arts!


In most martial arts, the importance of lineage is highly valued; the idea that you can trace your teachings back, in an uninterrupted line, to the “source” of that martial art. For more modern martial arts, the source can be quite easily recognised, for others, this true source is often lost in the sands of time and has become a myth. The idea is to trace it back as far as you can…

The idea of lineage is important in many different martial art styles; karate, kung fu, tai chi, even boxing has a lineage of sorts.

For the sake of this example, I am going to use Tai Chi, just because it is the martial art that I know the most about (at this time).

In Tai Chi, you have several different styles or lineages. The lineages often come from a break away from an earlier lineage. So for example you have the Wu style, the Chen style, the Yang style, etc. Each one is different from the next, but all have shared core methodologies with each other and can be traced back to the “source”.

It is important to stress at this point, no lineage is fundamentally “better” or “worse” than another. They are different, and which one you may choose to study depends on your personal preferences and interests and outcomes. People may try one or more styles until they settle on the one they feel most comfortable with.

We can use the same idea to look at the current major qualifying bodies in NLP and consider them as different lineages of the same art. They are different, and have different styles, ways of doing things, and place more importance on certain things.

But one lineage is not better (or worse) than any other, just different, and each lineage suits different people (most probably the reason the splits occurred in the first place?).

If different lineages can exist side by side in different martial arts (with, admittedly, a little bickering from time to time), then surely the different lineages in NLP can co-exist?

NLP celebrates difference. It is the “study of subjective experience” after all. It should recognise that one style or lineage is no better (or worse) than another, just different and suits different people.

I make the attempt here on my website, and on my trainings, to make it clear what “lineage” of NLP I do and who would suit it, I am endeavouring to be as transparent as possible so that people choose the “best fit” for themselves.

I have heard complaints about certain NLP companies, and often these complaints come down the trainee picking a “lineage” they weren’t comfortable with. Easily done with the current state of NLP.

what are the major lineages in nlp?

Let’s look at the major “lineages” of NLP (that I have discovered). I have split these into each major qualifying body. These are listed in no particular order.

the american board of nlp (ABNLP)

current lead trainer: Tad James

what they say: “Founded by Dr. A. M. Krasner as an adjunct to the American Board of Hypnotherapy. We believe in NLP and we believe in Hypnosis as being most excellent ways of creating our own personal growth and development.”

training style: Minimum of 120 hours of training – Most commonly 7 days face-to-face training combined with pre-course audio study.

international institute for humanistic neuro linguistic psychology (INHNLP)

current lead trainers: John Overdurf & Julie Silverthorn

what they say: “INHNLP’s mission is to provide a network for collaboration, mentorship and research for certified NLP & HNLP Trainers who embrace Humanistic and spiritual values in their work and their lives.”

training style: Minimum of 130 hours of training – Most commonly 7 days face-to-face training combined with pre-course audio study.

the internationa nlp trainers association (INLPTA)

current lead trainer: Wyatt Woodsmall

what they say: “Founded in 1993, the INLPTA is an international world-wide active NLP-Trainer and NLP-Coach Association dedicated to quality, professionalism and ethics. Our focus is on the application of NLP in the business world and in personal development.”

training style: Minimum 130 hours tuition over a period of 15 to 18 days (used to be 21 days) formal face-to-face training.

society of nlp (SNLP)

current lead trainer: Richard Bandler

what they say: “The Society of NLP was formed in 1979 by Richard Bandler and John Grinder (the co-creators of NLP). It is the first and largest NLP certification, training, validation and quality control organisation in the world.”

training style: Typically 6 to 7 days face-to-face training

international trainers academy of nlp (ITA)

current lead trainer: John Grinder

what they say: “The ITA was set up to ensure member trainers run quality courses that create competent practitioners. This means having high standards and effective assessment procedures at NLP courses.”

training style: Can be 8 days face-to-face training combined with DVD home study. Usually 13-14 Days face-to-face training.

If you have trained with any of these different “lineages” and would like to discuss more details about each one, or if you think I have missed a “lineage” out, please leave a comment below.