Selecting a life coach or counsellor or therapist can be a little daunting. How do you choose? From well-written notices or adverts? The number of qualifications they have acquired? The length of experience they have had? Word of mouth?
This page offers general advice and 6 tips for finding an NLP coach or therapist – one who who has the skill and experience to assist you in dealing with anxiety, phobias, anger, confidence or other issues which are currently getting in your way.
An NLP-based approach to coaching and therapy is helpful in two areas
Resolving problems such as anxiety, anger, confidence issues, and stress related issues
Improving your performance in areas where you are already ‘quite’ good but would like to be a lot better.
Often these will be addressed in the same series of sessions. E.g. you and your coach or therapist might begin by addressing the problem issues but because of how NLP works you will almost certainly be looking into ways of handling life situations more effectively and more confidently – right from the first session.
In general, in NLP we balance exploring the problem-issues with developing life skills which will be more effective than those which resulted in the problem. This is a refreshing change from the traditional, and still widely used, approach of spending a long time investigating the causes of the problem or ‘coming to terms’ with it.
So, as mentioned above, how do you begin your search for a therapist with NLP training?
Who do you go to? Is a list of letters after their name an indication of their skill? (It can be – but often it is not, by the way.) Are they insured? Will they ‘mess with my mind’? How long will it take? How much will it cost me? Do I have a right to ask them awkward questions before committing to an appointment?
This page lists some pointers which will help you narrow the search and which will provide some useful questions to ask when doing your research.
I would recommend you find a qualified therapist or coach who has also trained in NLP to Certified Master Practitioner level. This is because a properly trained NLP Master Practitioner (NB: see No. 2 below) will have learned specific skills for dealing quickly and thoroughly with issues.
Begin with the web using search terms along the lines NLP Master Practitioner therapist coach along with the name of your town or locality and see what comes up.
When seeking a suitable NLP Master Practitioner check whether they have done a full-length NLP Practitioner Training of 120 attendance-hours plus a full-length 120 attendance-hours’ Master Practitioner Training. It is possible to do each of these trainings in much less time (and it’s even possible to get such a title via an online training course). It is likely that the NLP skill of your coach or therapist will reflect the thoroughness of their training.
A Certified NLP Master Practitioner trained in the full length, full syllabus methodology will have attended around 40 days of training. And many, but not all, will have gone through a thorough certification assessment procedure – both on-going and at the end of their training. People who have certified through Pegasus NLP will have had such an assessment. Thousands of people will have the title “NLP Master Practitioner of NLP” but will have acquired this in as little as 8-12 days and received their certificate without an assessment of their skills.
Recognise that, whatever their qualifications and training, therapists and coaches are human beings and therefore come with a variety of styles and approaches. So I would strongly recommend that you phone three or four and ‘interview’ them.
Ask them what they think is required for you to achieve your objectives and what process they use. This is to distinguish between two broad approaches to therapy:
The ‘let’s investigate your past’ approach which will usually takes a very long time and is based on the Freudian theory that knowing ‘why’ you developed a problem will release you from it. This approach is alien to NLP.
The ‘here and now” approach in which your coach or therapist enables you to recognise the thinking and feeling patterns that are involved in the problem – and then helps you replace these patterns. Occasionally this process can involve resolving the roots of some persistent problems but this is done speedily and without having to relive the events. This is the NLP approach.
Remember that your relationship with your therapist or coach is a very important issue – you must feel at ease with them, feel you are treated as an equal, and feel that you can ask probing questions of the therapist – rather than have to defer to their ‘expertise’.
This should come across in how they handle your telephone interview.
A good coach or therapist will be quite happy for you to telephone, have a brief chat with them to discover how they work, and then go away and think about it before making a commitment.
That said, not all will be happy with this approach…
The pompous ones will talk down to you
The ones who are desperate for your money will try to get you to sign up there and then – perhaps with a special price deal
The manipulative ones will be evasive or waffle about ‘therapeutic dynamics’ or say they cannot answer your questions without first having an in-depth interview with you.
These suggestions apply to all therapeutic approaches. That said, it is often possible for an experienced NLP therapist to estimate how long it will take to resolve a simple issue such as, for example, a a single issue phobia. More complex issues will take longer and it is difficult for a therapist to estimate the time required for issues such as an anxiety, self confidence, or panic attack difficulty.
Nevertheless, even in such cases, you will be wise to manage the process through continually discussing your own assessment of your progress with your therapist or coach and, especially, to discuss the amount of time and money you are investing.
Assessing your progress
(These are the guidelines which I used, and which I discussed with my clients, when I ran my own psychotherapy practice in Bournemouth from 1983 until around 2005).
At the end of the first session: Evaluate your progress and your options at the end of your first therapy session. Do this by openly discussing things with your coach or therapist. If you are happy with the first session commit to two more sessions. Evaluate things at the end of each of these sessions.
End of the third session: Discuss and re-assess progress at the end of the third session. By this stage you should have experience a noticeable change. If you have not experienced a significant shift in your experience by the end of the third session it may be ‘change therapist’ time.
At the end of each session from now on: evaluate your progress with the consultant. Ensure that you have evidence of having experienced change – it’s not good enough to feel good as a result of your chats with the therapist e.g, ‘I feel better because I’m able to talk to someone who seems to understand me’. You need evidence that it is working in the days after each session.
This may be sound tough on therapists but is based on my own experience of working with a few thousand people. It’s also quite objective since I no longer run a private practice. And it is an approach that is supported by Brief Therapy research which indicates that people gain most of the benefits of counselling and psychotherapy within the first six sessions. Benefits trail off significantly after this.
(1) No free sessions: A professional therapist or coach who values their time and their skills is unlikely to offer a free session. Expect to pay for your first visit. But do ask the consultant if you will have the option to cut short the first session, without payment, if you recognise that it is not working for you. It is most unlikely you will need to do this but it is just as well to be sure. And if they are confident in their skill they will happily agree to this.
(2) No advance fees: This is a business model that is disrespectful, unprofessional and exploitative. It goes like this: after a friendly and rapport-creating telephone chat with the consultant they announce that you will have to pay an up-front fee to see them! This is usually a fixed fee for a minimum number of sessions – usually between 3 and 7. It is usually at a quite exorbitant hourly rate which, if you were paying per session, you would likely reject. But, because it sounds like it might be worth it to get rid of the problem you have, you might be inclined to agree to it. Don’t.
Why? I had my own private psychotherapy and coaching practice for 22 years until I decided to give it up and specialise in group-work. During this time I would never have contemplated such a scam/scheme.
Why? Well, for just one of many reasons, you cannot judge how many sessions a person will need from a phone conversation. In fact, you cannot judge how many sessions a person will need even at the end of the first face-to-face consultation. Therapy and coaching is a live and interactive process that changes with every session. Asking someone who desperately needs help to pay a fixed fee up-front is unprofessional. It is also exploitative. (Nevertheless it is quite a good business model for those coaches/therapists who can’t rely on their skills to get repeat business.)
A good coach or therapist will ask lots of questions. Lots. So when doing your initial telephone interviews you can gauge whether they are of the advice-giving and talk-at-you school.
If they are you had best avoid them. Because they are, quite literally, worse than useless since they will impose their views on you rather than help you identify and evaluate your own solutions. So their approach is, at best, unhelpful…
If, on the other hand, they ask lots of questions which are designed to enable you to find your own answers you’re off to a good start.
More information about NLP
By Reg Connolly, Director of Training, Pegasus NLP