What’s Wrong With NLP Training

Warning: This post is not for the faint at heart.

NLP was founded by Richard Bandler and John Grinder.  The two of them co-taught in seminars across the United States (and the world).  At one point, they even did a show on the Las Vegas strip.

As personalities, the two could hardly be more dissimilar.  Bandler was the PT Barnum showman.  He regaled the audience with stories during the trainings.  Grinder was the professor.  He taught techniques and was in love with the structure of change.

Bandler developed a pattern he still uses today.  He tells wild stories to induce certain emotional states.  He chains these states together.  And he uses nested loops to conceal these chains from prying eyes.

Grinder is still the professor.  He lectures the audience on the structure of change.  Currently, he is teaching the “New Code” of NLP.

The lesser lights in the NLP world included Leslie Cameron (Bandler), Judy DeLozier, David Gordon, Robert Dilts, Stephen Lankton, Stephen Gilligan, Steve and Connirea Andreas, and many more.  They were very talented teachers who created high quality trainings.

Somewhere along the line, a new model of training arose in the “Bandler camp”.

In this model, people were no long “Instructed” in NLP.  The presenter got on the stage and “did NLP” without offering any instruction.  He would tell wild stories, elicit and install states, tell nested loops and in the end, the audience “got the material” on a deep level.

The problem was, the attendees couldn’t do any of the things they learned.  That’s because they learned it on an “unconscious” level.

I’m here to tell you it’s a load of crap.

If you attend an NLP training, you need to get the skills and be able to apply them.

All of this “you got them on an unconscious level” is bunk.

Either you can do them or not.

One of the best things Dave Dobson used to teach was, “Can you empirically prove OTCC in the real world.”  If you couldn’t, you obviously didn’t have a grasp of the real world skills.

So if you plan to attend a training, ask if the trainer believes in “unconscious installation” of skills.

If they say “yes”, run the other way.




  1. What do you think of NLPacademy.co.uk

    Doesn’t Grinder still teach with them? May as well go to the original source if you want to learn nlp…

  2. Grinder is teaching new code. If you’ve read his latest book, most of it is unintelligible nonsense. People are afraid to say the emperor has no clothes.

  3. Thanks for that, Harlan.
    I was trained by a team of almost all those “lesser lights” you mentioned. They were great, I learned tons, and I use much of it in my practice years later. But I always wished I
    had been was trained by Bandler. Until I recall the guy in my training who had been trained by him. He swore he hadn’t gotten a thing…besides abuse.

  4. Hi Wendy,

    I too trained with Bandler. Obnoxious would be putting it mildly. But then I found out he secretly installed all of NLP in me.


    Right now, I can recommend NLP Comprehensive and Doug O’Brien for NLP Training.

  5. Hey Harlan-

    Well said.

    I thought there were a few steps before becoming unconsciously competent?

    I certainly wouldn’t want to fly with a pilot who only had “unconscious” training…



  6. Hey Rob!

    Great to see you here. Rob did extensive training at the foot of Dr. Dave Dobson.


    Welcome and thanks for posting.


  7. Hi Harlan,

    Interesting post. The moons must of been moving in phase the day you wrote that because I had wrote a similar post talking about Unconscious Installation the day before called
    “Unconscious Installation & The Thinking Habits That Trip Many Up”

    You may be interested in reading another take on unconscious installation here http://www.nlptimes.com/blog/2010/02/08/killer-obstacles-to-effective-unconscious-installation/

    While we don’t agree on everything, I share the view that if someone says “I don’t know if I have X skill, I think it is there …. like the trainer said he was doing unconscious installation” etc … that is most typically a a load of bull.

    But that doesn’t mean that that no-one can do unconscious installation or that it exists at all.

    A highly skilled trainer can help install a skill through a process of learning without the learner being consciously aware of the process by which they are learning it. And there are some trainers who are very good at this.

    Most it is probably fair to say can not do it intentionally. However any given unconscious installation process does not work all the time with everyone, and the bottom line with any skill skill is a person still needs to instantiate the skill. We aren’t yet at the point where any trainer (that I know or know of) can do a Matrix like “upload” of a new skill to someone.

    But many people think NLP unconscious installation is something like that.

    Be well,

  8. You are right!

    I have heard that same complaint from many other practitioners that I have met. Simply knowing NLP unconsciously makes it hard to apply during actual therapy if you aren’t provided a structure of when or how to to use it when its needed.

    During my NLP training, luckily we learn at the conscious and also the unconscious levels of learning.

    Through stories, metaphors, lectures, hands-on-exercises, and practicing on our classmates seemed to be the best way for me and the other grads in our class to get the material at such a deep understanding.

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