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NLP Criticism: Why NLP Doesn’t Work [Dangerous]

NLP Criticism: Why NLP Doesn’t Work [Dangerous]

Anyone looking for it can find criticism about NLP. Various sources say NLP is dangerous, quackery or nonsense. In this article you will find out that this is  completely correct.

Disclaimer: Besides references to external articles and quotes, this article is mainly based on opinions. The truth can be different for everyone.

This NLP criticism is justified: NLP does not work as a therapy (and certainly should not)

An NLPer is a Legal Complementary Health Provider , and not a licensed Medical Doctor , Psychologist, Psychiatrist, Master in Family and Child Counseling or a Master in Social Worker. The NLP methodologies are self-regulated, holistic and client-oriented. An NLPer who has no medical degree, should confine his operations to issues such as:

  • Smoking
  • Weight loss
  • Stress reduction
  • Improve performance

All risky cases, such as depression, severe anxiety, psychosis and suicidal thoughts, should be left to medical professionals.

Indeed, NLP does not work with a therapy intention because an NLP coach has had only eight to eighteen days of training, while a medical doctor has been trained at a university level for at least 5 years .

Psychologists and other types of doctors often use methods that can be called NLP, but the difference lies in their competence to deal with serious and risky cases .

Tricks and placebos: safe for medical professionals, dangerous for all those coaches

nlp dangerous

In many cases NLP is a trick and it is placebo. But again: the same placebo effect and the same tricks, such as coaching questions and visualisations, are also used by professional psychologists. The techniques are the same as with NLP, but the supervisors are the whole problem: with medical professionals, sick people are in safe hands. Sick people are not in good hands with house mothers, clothing salesmen, and photographers who have completed NLP training.

The various coaching questions and visualisations of NLP are also often applied by medical psychologists. Why are those same coaching questions and visualization assignments used by medical professionals? Because placebo / NLP can work too. However, sick people are in safe hands with a medical professional – and not with one of the 65,000 coaches without a medical degree in the Netherlands.

That placebo effect is precisely the reason that NLP has worked for millions of people since the 1970s. The power of placebo – synonymous with its self-healing ability – is not to be underestimated, and it works even when you know it’s placebo .

So again: yes, the criticism is justified , and at the same time the criticism goes beyond the point of NLP, because  NLP training is not therapy training and should not be. In many ways unrelated to therapy, NLP has changed the lives of countless people. In addition, an NLP may indeed perform other types of treatments than the four mentioned above, but only if a doctor has made a referral for this.

NLP was never meant to be taken seriously

partying nlp is fun

NLP is actually taken way too seriously, while it was still literally invented by Californian hippies in the 1970s . NLP was never intended to be taken seriously, but to be used as a practical, usable and additional toolbox .

According to the book ‘Essenties van NLP’, creators Bandler & Grinder originally intended the name Neuro-Linguistic Programming as a joke . Richard Bandler emphasizes the message at his conferences not to take NLP and himself too seriously: NLP is a kind of joke … and fascinating jokes are healing . In many cases they work even better than serious therapy for a long time.

Pretending to be able to change something works very well to change something in a client. This is the placebo principle, which provides fantastic results. However, anyone who is going to be very chic and dead serious about NLP misses the point.

NLP also does not work if someone does not want to

Someone must unconsciously and consciously want to change completely. Only then will a technique work. NLP does not work if there is a disease gain for not changing that has not been addressed. This is covered extensively in every NLP training and technique. In NLP this is classified under the terms ‘ecology’ and ‘secondary gain’ .

NLP is (still …) sold in America as ‘secretly influencing people’

If you are skeptical about NLP, check carefully whether you have based your judgment on the ‘American style of NLP,’ for example via YouTube videos that you have seen. There is a big difference between NLP training in America and NLP training in the Netherlands.

  • In America , 80% of NLP training consists of things that we in the Netherlands find ‘weird’, ‘inappropriate’, ‘sectarian’ and ‘extreme’, such as negotiation techniques, sales techniques, subliminal techniques, the informal application of NLP techniques, the use of the word ‘God’ or ‘soul’ and show hypnosis. Just sit in an American training, like the one with Tad & Adriana James or Tamara Andreas. Tad and Adriana are not afraid to make all 90 participants believe in literally every most extreme conspiracy theory through NLP during their training. E.g. that we are now being spied on by the TV screens in the hotel and that aliens are now on Earth and want to drain us. They are also not afraid to ‘exorciserandom people further in the audience from a distance to the point that the person in question starts to sweat, vibrate and scream all over. Note: they can do it beautifully well. They also use subliminal suggestions to get participants in the room to come forward and take a seat on stage, without Tad & Adriana having consciously said anything about it. Then all extreme stage hypnosis scenes are demonstrated. Very impressive.
  • In Europe, like the Netherlands, 80% of an NLP training consists of learning ‘ well behaved‘, ‘down-to- earth ‘, formal coaching techniques that simply help someone reach their goal through a not-too-crazy conversation. Almost all NLP under-the-radar techniques are omitted in the Netherlands. In Dutch NLP training you will learn to organize a formal setting before you use an NLP technique, while in America whole days are spent on informal learning to apply NLP. Moreover, we live here in a culture in which we prefer direct communication. It is also very rare in the Netherlands to the primal sober statement in a seminar: “This is not woolly hear,” not to hear.

In America, the NLP trainers simply dare to use the words ‘God, Christ and Soul’. Nobody will look at you in a strange way when you say: “Our body is a gift from God.” In the Netherlands, alarm bells would immediately ring for everyone. “Crazy-alert!” In the Netherlands, trainers must be especially careful with those words and they must have mentioned at least once that nothing spiritual will be done.

A well-known example of the American seminar style is Tom Cruise’s character in the movie ‘Magnolia’. His character was loosely based on the infamous (sales) training of NLP trainer Ross Jeffries in which he taught his students to make others their ‘mind slaves’.

I think that Jeffries’ training mainly focused on the feeling of ‘doing things secretly’ to make us so enthusiastic about his seminar and techniques that are actually not immediately noticeable by your customers. He frequently repeated how ‘evil’, ‘devious’ and ‘wicked’ these techniques are while chances are that you will only get yourself confused and out of the moment if you start using this.

Despite the fact that Jeffries still teaches these courses today, I think it’s out of this time to rely on his scripted sentences (‘NLP Weasel Phrases’) that you have to memorize. The development of self-confidence actually means that the rest will come. One of the new NLP trends (New Code) is therefore much more based on the core, instead of literal texts and steps that you have to follow.

“Yes, but … Derren Brown!” Sorry … he means it as illusion and not real

card trick nlp fake

Derren Brown shows that NLP works, right? You see the ‘evidence’ hard on TV in all those experiments! However, these are montage tricks and not NLP tricks. Derren Brown is first and foremost an illusionist.

When they let a DJ walk past a painting with a city skyline and a cupboard full of lamps, the DJ then started composing a song with the phrase: ‘bright lights in the city skyline’ thanks to this unconscious influence. The power of the NLP technique of unconscious priming has been beautifully proven!

Nothing is less true. It’s a good old illusionist trick. The Derren Brown team hears which sentence the DJ is saying and retroactively hangs a painting with a city and puts lights in a cupboard in the hallway. Editing tricks also contribute to the illusion: Derren Brown gets hold of his team’s lyrics – also written down retroactively – and shows everyone that he already knew it before the DJ composed the lyrics.

In these kinds of TV programs there is a double illusion. The first illusion is that the guest on the show (the DJ) thinks through all kinds of switching tricks and dexterity that the trick worked through the power of unconscious suggestion – and not through an illusionist stunt. The explanation is: priming and NLP.

At this point, however, the credits are already rolling on the screen, while the biggest trick is not revealed: that the 600,000 viewers at home now think that unconscious influence – and not sleight of hand and illusionist tricks, caused the effect here.

Still NLP works like a charm

Does it have no effect at all? Yes, and especially as Placebo. Again nothing new. Moreover, many NLP developers openly recognize that using the techniques gives the performer of the techniques a sense of power and confidence. This Placebo effect then ensures excellent results and a happy life with more action, emotion and adventure.

Another reason why NLP works – while it cannot be substantiated – is the same as many other alternative medicine methods, such as The Journey: you use the sixth sense and the subconscious mind. These are all things that cannot be perceived with the five senses. You can’t reach it with your mind, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

Do you find self-development and NLP nonsense? Reasonable! Do you like self-development and think NLP is nonsense? Strange…

criticism makes sense

It makes perfect sense if you think everything about mentality and self-development is nonsense. Fine. Of course you also think NLP is nonsense. Logical! Just have a nice life, maybe be very successful, work smart, do your passion and enjoy life without that mental hassle . Which is possible.

You can find all that life coach stuff of unbearable lightness, like …

  • ‘That you have to live your best life’.
  • “That you have to be empowered.”
  • ‘Everything starts with a thought’.
  • “Success is the result of the way you think.”
  • ‘You can train happiness’.
  • ‘You have to make a willingness of yourself’.

Do you hear these kinds of cries from mindset gurus, manifestation girls and Happinez females? Rightly so if you are a sober person and this doesn’t make sense.

However, it is illogical to consider the above mindset statements to be important, but to find NLP nonsense. Why? Because NLP exactly the same mindset work is , but with concrete actions that you do in order to actually work.

There are many excellent general mindset trainers like Marci Shimoff, but they don’t get beyond ‘You need to communicate well’, ‘You need to visualize your dreams’, ‘You need to break patterns’ and the statements from the above list. NLP goes a step further by literally telling you for all those things what the first step is, what the second step is, what the third step is, etc.

If you’re in favor of general mindset trainers like Marci Shimoff, but opposed to NLP, then you’re stuck in general terms, such as “What you come up with, you can deliver.” At NLP you get the steps to come up with it. Anyone who doesn’t like NLP, doesn’t like Marci Shimoff and mindset at all.

“But NLP is a trick”

That’s right. It’s a trick. Feel free to ignore it if you don’t feel like tricks. You can just enjoy life and do your thing – no tricks are needed at all.

If you do feel like tricks, use it nicely. And at a certain point it doesn’t become a trick anymore because you subconsciously become skilled at it. It is necessary that you practice a lot, but then you also have something.

Really, while I am building a great click with someone, I am consciously thinking of the model of the logical levels. I am using NLP completely unconsciously.

Remove any resistance to NLP: the number 1 way is ‘reframing’

For the NLPers reading this: resistance to NLP, it sometimes happens. This is how you deal with it:

criticism of why not working

Use reframing techniques  to set the tone. For example, this is what I put on my coaching site:

I am a coach.
A friend.
I care about you and I am committed to getting the best out of you.
I will stay with you in this process.

I’m no better than you.
Don’t blindly accept what I say.
Challenge me.
In this way we achieve more together.

If you are standing in front of a group and someone disrupts the presentation, look at the example below:

‘Very well! It is very valuable that you say this. You are very enthusiastic and you contribute a lot. That is very welcome. Keep this! Keep your critical thinking skills, and I invite you to test new things. I’m just presenting this as an option. Can you be open to testing this as one of the many possibilities? I’m just trying to challenge you. I’m just starting a conversation. ‘

15 Ways to Remove Resistance in NLP Visualization and Hypnosis Techniques

Resistance to NLP is critical and dangerous

Many NLP techniques are visualization and hypnosis techniques. Here you will find additional frameworks that can precede an exercise.

  1. Everyone is able to help themselves. In fact, no one can do that for you. “Maybe I can help you, but maybe not. I will do my best in any case. Note that in the end you have to do everything yourself. The NLP coach does not heal anyone! The client heals himself, depending on the degree of connection with his subconscious. I have the laziest profession there is! I only facilitate: I am just a tour guide. For example, I cannot do anything to force your eyes closed. It is your responsibility to follow the instructions for relaxation. follow and make the techniques work. “
  2. “In fact, I’m going to participate in the exercises with you too, because I want to learn from you how to do things. It’s about cooperation between you and yourself, and between you and me as a guide. Remember: it is indeed your job to to achieve results, but that is actually the task of your subconscious. ” The client’s subconscious is a very important tool for achieving the client’s goals. Tell your client it’s like the hairdresser’s. “Just sit, relax, and let the coach’s voice do the work. client does not have to think too hard about what is happening and how it works. ”
  3. “Trance is a subconscious process, and it takes a high degree of intelligence to get it done. It’s also about fantasy, so only very creative people can do it well. “
  4. “Only when the client has greater flexibility than the coach can he go into or out of a trance, depending on what the client wants to do.
  5. “Hypnosis is reaching your subconscious and your subconscious is your ethics, so you can only give suggestions within that ethics. Your subconscious is made to protect you. It’s your ethics. It is not a violation of your will but a totally voluntary act. You are always in charge. So it can only go well. “
  6. “When you open your eyes, you do it to prove that you are in control. But you have been doing that all day, so now I want you to be able to prove that you can close your eyes and go into a trance. that responsibility. So if you can relax them correctly you prove that you can relax your eyes and therefore stay in control. You have to do it yourself: all hypnosis is self-hypnosis. “
  7. “I do not believe in it.” “I don’t believe in it either. Shall we just test it? ”
  8. “Trance is very normal and happens daily without you noticing. That’s why you won’t notice it now. ” For example, when you look in the mirror in an elevator. How many times have you got off on the wrong floor? When the Lumiere brothers first showed a movie with a train to people in 1895, they thought they would really be hit by a train. That’s why visualization works too. Books and movies change your emotions, and your states too. Actors are the best hypnotists out there, because you also feel pain or happiness when a character on the screen feels it. Running is also experienced as therapeutic because, without people knowing it, they put themselves in a trance. Let the client think about trance in advance and ask questions about that experience: about how nice it is to drive a car,
  9. “Hallucination is very normal and is even very important for many important tasks. Engineers must be able to hallucinate a bridge. That helps them and it is even their job. If they saw blue men on the bridge it would have been wrong, of course.”
  10. “Negative hallucination is very normal. For example, you keep looking over something that you are looking for, while it is just somewhere right in front of you and you have walked past it ten times.”
  11. Memory loss is very normal because you often lose something, like your car key. It’s normal to forget things, like someone’s name at a party, and why remember what you had for lunch two weeks ago?”
  12. For example, if you are working as a counselor at a school, and the student shows resistance and does not want to tell anything, then know that you can achieve a lot without content. The content of the session is not important. To illustrate: someone can say “How nice to say” with a bored posture. So this person is incongruentbecause the content does not match what is happening internally. That is why the client does not have to say anything. That is another reason why a coach has the laziest profession: the client is allowed to keep her experiences of the exercise to herself without telling the content. So the coach simply tells the instructions such as “Add color, bring the picture closer, etc.” An additional advantage is that in your communication no misunderstanding can arise about what the content is. The coach may ask about it, but that is not necessary.
  13. Establish a preframe that says it’s just a bit funny and crazy. “Come on, let’s do something fun and exciting.” “Can I try something crazy?”
  14. Think permissive elements. So ask, for example, if the client wants to go into trance, and check after you have explained an exercise whether the client is okay with it.
  15. There are NLP techniques that would be a short-term solution (and there are NLP techniques that work as a long-term solution). As for the NLP techniques that would be a short-term solution. That may well be the case! Fortunately, there is an advantage: you can always apply them immediately, which gives it a long-term character.

The key point

So why not NLP? Because a housewife who has completed a 15-day NLP training course should not treat depressed clients. The house mother simply does not have the medical background. A real doctor is perfectly allowed to test an NLP technique with a client. It can be very meaningful and helpful.

A complex equivalence is made between NLP and therapy, while NLP is not allowed, should be and does not want to be therapy at all. How do you deal with resistance to NLP?

About The Author


Hello! Thanks for reading these articles. My intention is to make happiness as simple and clear as posssible. By the way, excuse my English. I am not a native English speaker since I live in Amsterdam. Much appreciated if you use the comments to make suggestions on my grammar. See ya in another blogpost!


  1. Numo

    The ‘reasonably’ simple reason that NLP, law of attraction, the secret, all kinds of courses, for whatever purpose, has such poor results is Naturally innate character and soft skills. You are just who you are, and you often see people who experience inner resistance or opposition doing things that do not fit the character.

    By ‘applying tricks’, by others, but also on yourself, you can fool, deny, neglect that resistance, as it were. The problem is, that what you naturally have in you as a character, will surface itself again.

    Ergo, the more effort you have to make to maintain ‘something’, the clearer the signal that you are doing something that just doesn’t suit you. You see a lot of people, especially nowadays, ‘hype’ how wonderful and delicious they are, how wonderful and successful they are. After all, anything is possible on the internet, the only point is that you cannot copy people.

    Take all the big famous names you can imagine. Doesn’t matter who. They have become ‘great / famous’ because of two simple things. To be and remain themselves, whatever the world calls, desires, or finds, and second, more importantly, they do what suits them.

    Johan Cruijff a great football player, as a trainer he was only concerned with football, and business was not his thing. Steven Jobs, had Vision, knew how to take people along in that vision by stimulating them to give the best of themselves. He put people where they fit, with enormous charisma and those people followed, his vision and the outcome? We know them.

    Take Richard Branson, same story. Just looking for ‘his thing’. He started with a school newspaper, then a record store, then Virgin Records.

    What do these three have in common? They do exactly what suits them after they have discovered, no doubt, what DID NOT work for themselves. Afterwards? Just the things that worked for them, and just repeated that.

    Many people talk to themselves, or let it be said, that they can really learn and become whatever they want. Reality teaches, not so. The trick is to find what makes you, ‘You’, and do your thing with those naturally innate qualities.

    Each of the names, You, I, are unique, of unique parents, born in a unique place and go down a certain path. That is all together unique. Likewise, the possibilities we encounter, the decisions we make. It either works for us individually or it doesn’t. Nobody can copy that.

    It’s that simple.

    • Rubin Alaie

      Yes !! That is the answer I was looking for: the answer is within ourselves!