Theoretical Outline

Dr. Helmut Jelem, Mag. Peter Schütz 

Neuro-Linguistic Psychotherapy is a systemic imaginative method of psychotherapy with an integrative-cognitive approach.

In the center of the Neuro-Linguistic Psychotherapy (NLPt) the targeted work is located under special consideration of the representation systems, metaphors and relations of a person.

In the course of the therapeutical work in NLPt the verbal and analogue shaping and the integration of the expressions of one's life and digital information processes is given an equal share of attention.

The goal of this method is to accompany and support persons in reaching ecological compatible goals. NLPt method helps to position the subjectively good intentions underlying the symptoms of illness and/or dysfunction so that old fixations about inner and outer unproductive behaviour and beliefs can be dissociated and new subjectively and intersubjectively sound behaviours and beliefs can be established and integrated.

Neuro-Linguistic Psychotherapy (NLPt) as a method of personal development and communication training (NLP) is of course to be found in many other fields: education, counselling, supervision, coaching, management training, sport and health psychology. But as a method of psychotherapy it has a clearly distinguished, theoretically and methodologically elaborated core and wide application scope even though it originally was established in an "anti-psychotherapeutic subculture".

NLPt is delivered in a single, pair or group therapeutical setting. Within the framework of the psychotherapeutic contract, a protective frame, and professional discretion, the focus is turned to the achievement of goals in health and well being.

NLPt developed independently with reference to the basic elements created by Milton Erickson, Virginia Satir and Fritz Perls in the 60s and 70s. NLP and NLPt concepts were widely integrated by other psychotherapy schools in the 90s, parallell a holographically integrative NLPt theory evolved., So NLPt was successfully passed on over three generations of psychotherapists, and the theory of this method - compared to other schools - has an even longer tradition which is now well established and practiced Europe-wide.

The formation of the Neuro-Linguistic Psychotherapy (NLPt) is based on five traditional theories that were created at different historical moments, which are complementary to each other, and it is based on an assumption resulting from the modelling process:

1. The Cybernetics of the Theory of the Mind by Gregory Bateson, in particular of the logical levels of Learning and of the Unified Field Theory as a further development by Robert Dilts.

2. The social-cognitive Theory of Learning by Albert Bandura together with the Modelling Approach, improved in practice by Richard Bandler and John Grinder.

3. The Transformational Grammar established by Noam Chomsky and the postulates advanced by Alfred Korzybski's concept of time binding, and Glasersfeld's, which served as a basis and influenced the linguistic models developed by Bandler and Grinder.

4. The assumption of a fundamental orientation of human action towards goals (Pribram, Galanter, Miller, TOTE, 1960)

5. The theoretical writings of William James emphasizing the inherent sensory representation systems as basic elements of information processing and of subjective experience.

6. The assumption of the existence of functional and independent parts of one's identity encompassing conscious and unconscious process elements, resulting from the practice of modelling the works of Fritz Perls, Virginia Satir and Milton Erickson.

On the basis of these theories and assumptions as well as of the generatively designed modelling processes the NLPt range is laid out as an open architecture that may becomes wider because of new developments from ongoing practical work.

Similarities to and differences from other methods:

First, from a pragmatic point of view it has to be said, that the phenomenon of an intensive exchange of psychotherapists, representatives of the various psychotherapeutical orientations, can be observed at present in part also due to presentations/trainings of NLPt in Central and Western Europe.

Secondly, the actual, practical work of well trained psychotherapists relying on traditionally opposed theory concepts moves closer and closer.

In this context it should be clearly stated that the qualified psychotherapeutical work, performed in all psychotherapeutical associations in Central Europe is highly appreciated.

The following contrasts other schools represented in the Austrian Psychotherapy Commissionand the EAP are mentioned on the one hand because of the explicit demand by the Ministry of Health, and on the other hand to facilitate the understanding of NLPt concepts.

Considering the contrast between NLPt and Psychoanalysis, particularly with respect to the traditional school methodology, these two methods have two features in common: the importance attached to relations and the fundamental power of unconscious processes. The significant difference between these two is the consequent and detailed orientation of NLPt towards goals and actions, the emphasis on the creative resources, as well as the conception of the parts' metaphors - without the absolute commitment to have a symbolic logical meaning. There is also the emphasis on rapport, and there is the different way of dealing with resistance - at a methodological and a theoretical level.

In the case of considerable personality/identity disorder, the NLPt concept provides a psychotherapeutical support over a period of one or more years, where the emphasis is put on the aspect of support and slow adaption. In general NLPt prefers shorter interventions with the intention of longer intervals between the sessions. The time needed for the therapeutical sessions is not fixed like in common time schedules, but adapted to the patient's situation and to the intervention. Further the enhancement orientated conception of the Future Pace in NLPt - both mental and real trial action - is certainly marking a contrast.

Another contrast consists in the emphasis on an analogue presentation and externalization of inner realities, either by representing the perceptual positions or by objects. Also the use of ambulant therapies or a walk together with the patient (analogue to Reich and Freud) are well grounded in the NLPt theory and are often found in practice.

This abovementioned also relates to group psychoanalysis and other psychodynamic/analytical methods.

One important conceptual similarity should be mentioned here: the similarity between the idea of postive encouragement within the framework of the analytical school of the Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler and the approach of the subjectively good intention of the NLPt.

Principal contrasts to the Dynamic (Group) Psychotherapy particularly in single sessions, which is highly regarded by NLPt because of its knowledge of group processes, is the emphasis on analogue parameters during the treatment and the far more relevant orientation towards goals which the DGt, represented by W. Pechtl (1994) and P. Schütz, slowly introduced since 1988. It should also be mentioned that Kurt Lewin, the founder of modern group work and field theorie, was heavily influenced by William James and Alfred Korzybski.

The main difference between the traditional Integrative Gestalttherapie with which NLPt is connected through one of its models (Fritz Perls), as well as with the phenomenologue, Prof. Hans Vaihinger, is to be found in the more differenciated and goal orientated work in NLPt, in the greater emphasis on the linguistic representation systems and their neuro-linguistic observability, in the acknowledged work using anchors, in the formal thinking strategies and submodalities as well as the greater emphasis on associated and dissociated conditions at work in the first, second and third position (hot seat work) respectively in the emphasis of the transformation between the states.

The contrasts to the Psychodrama, most appreciated by NLPt because of its likewise easy access to the creative resources of human beings, resemble those of the Gestalttherapie though the NLPt concentrates its work more on the individual and the Psychodrama more on a group, both historically and pragmatically. In addition the NLPt focuses during the group therapy method on the outer description of the inner representation, on the loyalty organisation and on the re-orientation because of its significance for the recuperation.

A difference to the Cognitive/ Behavioural Therapy respectively to the traditionally applied behaviouristic models, both fascinating and influencing NLPt because of their similarity in the cognitive approach, is that NLPt sets stricter instructions of anchoring (reinforcing) and of the integrative approach using trances and metaphors.

The spheres of contrast with respect to the traditional Autogenic Training (Relaxation through Self-Hypnosis), highly esteemed by NLPt because of its numerous assumptions of trance processes, are primarily to be found in the fact that the NLPt rarely refers to stereotyped formulas, but concedes freedom to find one's personal representation systems and individual metaphors. In addition NLPt seems more goal orientated.

The contrast to the Katathym Imaginative Psychotherapy KIP, highly regarded by NLPt because of its similar way of trance work, consists in the greater emphasis on work which is mostly free in content (e.g. 6-Step-Reframing), opposite to analytical interpretations and offering fixed meaning symbols. Also NLPt seems to emphasize more goal-orientated work.

The sphere of contrast to the classical Hypnotherapy to which the NLPt feels closely related due to the common origin of Milton Erickson's work, refers to the deeper integration of detailed representational thought strategies and mixed physiologies in the work and the greater emphasis on the loyalty organisation of individuals.

The contrast to the classical client-centered non-directive Psychotherapy of Carl Rogers, which is considered to be important by NLPt because of its patience and of its absolute commitment to the human being, is likewise characterised by its orientation towards goals, its intentional intervention applying trance and anchoring and a different use of linguistic models.

The NLPt feels related to the classical Transactional Analysis concerning the acceptance of the unconscious, the stressing of the loyalty organisation and the orientation towards action settled in the intervention technique, but its concept differs regarding the open architecture of the model of the parts in contrast to determined conditions of the "I" and an even greater orientation towards goals.

The Systemic Psychotherapy and the NLPt agree certainly on their common model, Virginia Satir, and her work. Apart from her exemplary influence they feel related to each other as colleagues, supporting both the systemic and the neuro-linguistic orientation, further to the origin of the parts concept and additionally to the theoretical concepts of the different descriptions of the world, and last but not least the granting of the paradigmatic use of humour in the psychotherapy.

A differentiation between NLPt and the systemic psychotherapy as systemic imaginative approach is the intensified integration and consideration of trances and everyday trance states, their influence on the system and the individual identity and finally the far more detailed work on orientations towards goals and states to be reached in the single therapy, the stressing of rapport and resonance phenomena and the fascinating, systemic work dealing with representation systems, submodalities and timeline concepts.

Helmut Jelem M.D is a lecturer at the University for psychiatric music therapy, a specialist in psychiatry and neurology, senior physician at the Otto Wagner Psychiatric Hospital of Vienna, teaching psychotherapist (Fellow) of the Austrian General Medical Council, licensed NLPt teaching psychotherapist (NL,ECP) and Master trainer at the ÖTZ-NLP&NLPt.

Peter Schütz M.Sc is a lecturer at Vienna University,licensed teaching psychotherapist (Fellow) for dynamic group psychotherapy (DG) and NLPt,, certified health psychologist, supervisor and trainer at ÖAGG, state certified lecturer for counselling; teaching supervisor for the Austrian professional organisation of psychologists, Master trainer at the ÖTZ-NLP&NLPtt 

EANLPt European Association for Neuro-Linguistic Psychotherapy 
and OETZ-NLP&NLPt Austrian Training Center for NLP and NLPt


A-1094 Vienna, Widerhofergasse 4 
Tel: +43-1/317 47 02, Fax: +43-1/317 47 02-22 

Dr. Helmut Jelem, Rohrbacherstraße 19/8, A-1130 Vienna
Mag. Peter Schütz, Ferdinand-Raimund-Gasse 10-12, 2345 Brunn am Gebirge, Tel: +43-676/849 112 18

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EANLPt European Association for Neuro-Linguistic Psychotherapy 

A-1090 Vienna, Widerhofergasse 4/7, Tel: +43-1/317 67 80




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