NLP After 1976

By Carl Buchheit, Ph.D. and Ellie Schamber, Ph.D.

NLP 1976 – 1978

By the end of 1976, Grinder and Bandler had combined Satir’s and Perls’ language patterns and Erickson’s hypnotic language and use of metaphorwith anchoring to create new processes that they called collapsing anchors, trans-derivational search, changing personal history, and reframing.  By 1976 they had also had more experience using eye-accessing cues, and this became a major tool in the practice of NLP.  Another major breakthrough that occurred during this period was the discovery of the need to build rapport with their clients, so that the clients felt safe enough to allow themselves to participate fully in the therapeutic interaction.  This was accomplished through a variety of techniques involving physical and auditory mirroring and matching.  The name “Neuro-Linguistic Programming” was coined in early 1976, inspired by the older field of neurolinguistics which explores the neurological basis of language. 1

Robert Dilts

In 1977 a young member of the Santa Cruz NLP group, Robert Dilts, was commissioned by Grinder and Bandler to write Neuro-Linguistic Programming: The Study of the Structure of Subjective ExperienceNLP, vol. Iwas first published in 1978.  In the introduction, Dilts discusses the concept of modeling (emulating others) in general as well as the meta model and the various representational systems.  Here, finally, is a readable explanation of these concepts.

The new contribution that this work adds to the NLP menu is a clarification of the process of “cognitive strategies”—the sequences of sensory representations that lead to particular outcomes of experience.  Dilts shows how the NLP practitioner can elicit and make explicit a heretofore unconscious “strategy” that a client has to achieve a specific outcome.  Then he illustrates how to interrupt an existing dysfunctional strategy to make way for a revised programming sequence that can actually deliver the original desired outcome. He discusses the procedures for installing a new strategy in the client’s patterning, primarily through the use of anchoring. 2

This is a well-written and clear explanation of the various techniques of NLP extant at the time.  Dilts describes very lucidly the process and utilization of meta-model challenges, representational systems, eye-accessing cues, and strategies, as well as the methods of anchoring, reframing, pacing, and rapport-building.

Byron Lewis and Frank Pucelik

In 1978 two more members of the NLP core group in Santa Cruz, Byron Lewis and Frank Pucelik, also took on the project of writing a clear exposition of NLP.  Magic Demystified was first published in 1980.The preface and introduction reiterate the theme that NLP views personality and communication as processes, not as part of a static model.  The authors describe in very clear terms the argument of Structure I concerning the role of the three unconscious processes of generalization, deletion, and distortion in constructing our models of the world. 3

The authors make the interesting point that all behavior is communication.  There are observable patterns of interaction, primarily through speech and overt gestures.  In addition, there is internal communication, which also affects us in externally observable ways.  Some of this communication is conscious, but much of it is outside of our conscious awareness. The practitioner can take note of external behavioral cues, such as verbal predicate preferences, breathing, body posture, and eye-accessing, in order to externally track these otherwise entirely internal occurrences. 4

Lewis and Pucelik clarify the meta model that Bandler and Grinder had outlined in Structure of Magic I.  By challenging “meta-model violations,” the therapist can assist the client to reassess and re-imagine many aspects of his or her life experience.  The authors offer detailed descriptions of methods to elicit a client’s unconscious meta-model violations and ways to challenge them. 5

This thin volume is a clearly written and very readable summary of NLP concepts and procedures.  It explains the complex concepts of Structures in terms that the reader can easily understand.  In addition, the authors outline the advances that had been made since that book was written.  For example, they go into detailed explanation of eye-accessing cues, and they explain why building rapport and trust with the client is crucial. This work is an excellent introduction to NLP.

Steve Andreas

Another landmark work was published in 1978.  John Stevens, who later changed his name to Steve Andreas, edited some transcripts of a live seminar presented by Bandler and Grinder.  This collection of transcripts became the book called Frogs into Princes.  The seminar was for therapists, to show how applications of NLP techniques can improve therapeutic communication with patients.

In the preface, Andreas proudly describes how NLP can cure phobias, overcome learning disabilities, eliminate most unwanted habits (smoking, drinking, over-eating, insomnia, and so on), make changes in couple, family, and organizational interactions so they function in more satisfying and productive ways, and cure many physiological problems.  Additionally, Andreas writes, NLP can determine the structure (key patterns and sequences of behavior) of talent so that it can be taught to others. 6

The book, like the seminar from which it is derived, is divided into three main sections. The first section discusses sensory experience, representational systems, and accessing cues.  It describes how to create rapport with the client by using language to match the client’s representational patterns and by adjusting one’s own body positions and movements to match those of the client.  This section explains the importance of  noticing visual and other sensory-accessing cues in order to help the client to bring unconscious internal representations into conscious awareness.  The therapist should investigate the processes, not just the content, of the client’s problems. If we know the sequences of sensory events that cause the difficulties, we can scramble them to interrupt the unwanted patterns.  We also find in this section Erickson’s hypnotic language for trance induction. 7

In section II we have discussion of the technique called “changing personal history” and clarification of the process of anchoring. The authors explain that the therapist must “join” the client’s model of the world to gain rapport, as a prelude to helping him or her find new possible choices in behavior.  We do this by mirroring: matching the client’s behavior, both verbally and non-verbally.  In this section we find brilliant insights such as the statement, “We believe that all communication is hypnosis.  That’s the function of every conversation.” 8

In section III, the presenters discuss new techniques, such as reframing.  Reframing changes the way a person perceives or gives meaning to an event. Also in this section we learn how to communicate with the different parts of the unconscious. 9

Although this work consists of transcripts from a seminar for therapists, it was intended to be a simple explanation of NLP “for the layman who knows nothing about psychology or therapy.” 10 It is much easier to read than anything Bandler and Grinder had done previously.  In addition to clarifying the basic tenets and practices of NLP, this book adds the techniques of body and facial calibration and eye accessing which Bandler, Grinder, and the Santa Cruz group had not discovered until after Structure was written.  In 1978, NLP was a compilation of the meta model, representational systems, eye accessing, anchoring, reframing, strategies, hypnotic language, and techniques to create and adjust rapport.

Parting of the Ways: 1978

In late 1978, as a result of increasing tension between John Grinder and Richard Bandler, the two founders of NLP decided to go their separate ways.  Bandler and Grinder had previously formed a partnership called The Society of Neuro-Linguistic Programming.  Bandler bought John Grinder out and continued to promote The Society of NLP, asserting that it alone was the valid authority in the new field.  Grinder partnered with Judith DeLozier to form Grinder, Delozier and Associates. 11

From 1981 through 2000 Bandler filed a series of intellectual property lawsuits against Grinder.  They finally settled the dispute in an agreement that acknowledged them both as co-creators and co-founders of NLP.  Bandler continued working through The Society of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, and Grinder worked with The International Trainers Academy of Neuro-Linguistic Programming.  While Bandler continued developing and teaching change patterns, Grinder focused on the business marketing applications of NLP. 12

John Grinder After 1978

In 1994, Grinder wrote a book with Michael McMaster called Precision: A New Approach to Communication that shows how to improve business communication in the areas of negotiation, meetings, and interview skills. Grinder then created Precision workshops across the United States. 13

In 2001 Grinder co-authored Whispering in the Wind with Carmen Bostic St. Clair.  In this work Grinder expounds on what he calls the “New Code of NLP,” which claims to provide a more systematic approach to NLP.  The authors discuss the fundamental principles of NLP in its historical context in order to enable the reader to distinguish “true” NLP from some of the superficial distortions.  The book emphasizes the primary importance of modeling.  It also highlights the critical distinction between content and the structure of experience in NLP therapy. While most talk therapy works with the content of human experience (what happens in our lives, and why it happens), NLP therapy focuses on how the brain is generating thoughts and feelings in the client’s life.  This work also suggests a rigorous methodology for doing NLP research and comments on the possible applications in business and other non-therapeutic modalities. 14

Unfortunately for the layperson, the language in this book is almost as specialized and difficult to understand as Structure.  Nonetheless, this work made an important contribution by opening new doors regarding a methodology for research in the field of NLP and the possible applications of NLP in the wider social context.

Richard Bandler after 1978

After 1978, Bandler focused on developing patterns to change clients’ limiting beliefs that prevent them from achieving their goals.  He taught this material around the world in NLP training programs.  This work was presented in two books published in the mid-1980s.  The books were actually transcripts of Bandler’s therapy sessions, edited by Steve Andreas: Magic in Action (1984) and Using Your Brain for a Change (1985).

In Magic in Action, the first five chapters are demonstrations to psychologists of how Bandler works with people who have phobias.  Chapters six and seven illustrate how he changes people’s  beliefs.  However, Bandler includes very little commentary about or explanation of the techniques he uses.  Chapter eight is a research study that seems to have been tacked on at the last minute.  It is a transcript of a case study (with commentary by a different person) of several sessions using NLP to cure a Vietnam War veteran’s PTSD.  This section is written in a more formal, academic style than the other chapters, and is the only section that discusses the methodology. 15

Using Your Brain for a Change is an edited version of the transcripts of several seminars for therapists that Bandler conducted in 1982.  The main thrust of these seminars is that since most of our experience is subjective, we can radically change that experience by using the tools of NLP to reprogram (revise) those portions of it that we do not like.  To prove Bandler’s points, the book interweaves descriptions and commentary with entertaining snippets of his interactions with clients.  However, in contrast to Magic, there are no full patient case histories, so the reader may wonder how well these techniques would work in the real world. 16

In 2008 Bandler published Guide to Trance Formation, also an edited transcript of a seminar for therapists. Here he explains the concepts and processes described in Structure, I and Patterns, I over thirty years earlier, but in much clearer language.  It contains much material included in a work he published with Grinder in 1981 called Trance-Formations: Neuro-Linguistic Programming and the Structure of Hypnosis.  However, there are some new insights and techniques in the later version.

In Guide to Trance Formation (2008), Bandler describes his use of hypnosis in change work.  He maintains that all thoughts and behaviors are hypnotic trances, in that they are patterned, repetitive, and habitual.  “People are not simply in or out of trance but are moving from one trance to another. They have their work trances, their relationship trances, their driving trances, their parenting trances, and a whole collection of problem trances” (p.2). 17  He explains that our brains quickly learn how to automate all behavior, including limiting, negative, and even self-destructive patterns.  However, the brain can as quickly learn how to change these patterns of behavior and thinking.  We can use our conscious mind to direct and re-direct our unconscious activity.  Bandler provides more than thirty self-teaching exercises and four “trance-scripts” of his actual work with clients with comments in the margins about the techniques he is using. 18 This is a clearly written, very readable book.  It clarifies existing information about NLP as well as offers new perspectives.

Robert Dilts After 1978

Robert Dilts found value in the approaches of both Grinder and Bandler, so he straddled both worlds.  He wrote about applications of NLP, but he also increasingly focused on changing beliefs as a way of changing one’s life—and sometimes he combined the two approaches.  For example, he taught NLP training programs with an emphasis on the way our beliefs affect health and methods to change beliefs to improve health. 19

In 1981, Dilts wrote a book entitled Applications of NLP (published in 1983) which  shows how NLP can be used in business communication, sales, family therapy, interpersonal negotiation, health, education, and creative writing. 20 This book seems to consist of a series of articles written at different times, and the order is sometimes confusing.  Nevertheless, it is clearly written and provides an excellent explanation of how NLP can be used to achieve desired outcomes in different venues.

In 1990, Dilts wrote Beliefs: Pathways to Health and Well-Being  and Changing Belief Systems with NLP. These works describe how he uses NLP to change unwanted, limiting beliefs as part of supporting better goal-achievement and more fulfilling life experience.  In these books, Dilts presents the technique of re-imprinting and the process of installing new beliefs. 21

Dilts’s books that followed, Tools for Dreamers (1991) and Skills for the Future (1993), focus on using applications of NLP to enhance creativity. 22  Strategies of Genius, vol.1‒3 (1994) shows how to use NLP to model the way several great geniuses and historical figures thought and acted.  Dilts continues with this theme when he explores leadership in Visionary Leadership Skills (1996c) and in Modeling with NLP (1998a). 22

In 1999 Dilts wrote Sleight of Mouth: The Magic of Conversational Belief Change. In this work, Dilts explains that what he calls sleight-of-mouth patterns are his attempt to encode some of the key linguistic mechanisms that charismatic individuals use to persuade others and to influence social as well as individual belief systems.  He points to a common, fundamental set of patterns in the language of people who have shaped and influenced powerful social change in human history—people such as Jesus of Nazareth, Karl Marx, Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and others.  Dilts explains:

These “Sleight of Mouth” patterns are made up of verbal categories and distinctions by which key beliefs can be established, shifted, or transformed through language.  They can be characterized as “verbal reframes” which influence beliefs and the mental maps from which beliefs have been formed. 23

In 2003 Dilts wrote From Coach to Awakener. This work is based on the neurological levels model of the renowned contemporary anthropologist, Gregory Bateson. This model postulates that there is a hierarchy of levels of learning and change. Dilts argues that we need different types of support for change at each level.  The coach works on improving behavioral competencies.  The teacher targets new cognitive capabilities.  The mentor empowers people to acquire new beliefs and values.  The sponsor fosters growth at the identity level.  The awakener raises people’s awareness of the (quantum) field, which is the source for desired change. 24  Dilts thus brilliantly differentiates among the diverse ways that NLP can stimulate change in accordance with an individual’s needs and level of personal evolution.

More Recent Schools of NLP

In the late 1970s, there was a turning point in the development of the field of NLP.  As John Grinder complains, there was a movement away from the creative exploratory spirit of the early days to a focus on coding what had already been discovered.  NLP was taken over by people who paid “primary attention to their content (fixed content models) typically [resulting] in confusing the maps as the territory, while also favoring the development of technocrats over creative thinkers.” 25  However, there were some new schools of NLP that emerged in the 1980s and after that did offer some innovative contributions to the field, such as those of Tad James and L. Michael Hall. In the mid-eighties there was an intellectual breakthrough in the field of NLP which resulted in the development of an entirely new branch of this field, called Transformational NLP.

Taken from Carl Buchheit, Ph.D. and Ellie Schamber, Ph.D.,  Transformational NLP: A New Psychology.


1 Robert Dilts, “The Discover of Eye Accessing Cues,” NLP IASH,  2008,; In the Origins of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, ed. J. Grinder and R. F. Pucelik (Bethel, CT: Crown House Publishing, 2013); Terrence Lee McClendon, The Wild Days: NLP 1972-1981 (Cupertino, CA: Meta Publications, 1989).
2 Robert Dilts, Neurolinguistic Programming: The Study of Subjective Experience, Vol. 1 (Cupertino, CA: Meta Publications, 1980).
3 Byron Lewis and Frank Pucelik, Magic Demystified: An Introduction to NLP (Lake Oswego, OR: Metamorphous Press, 1982).
4 Ibid.
5 Ibid.
6 Richard Bandler and John Grinder, Frogs into Princes, ed. S. Andreas,  (Moab, UT: Real People Press, 1979).
7 Ibid.
8 Ibid, 100.
9 Ibid.
10 McClendon, 115.
11 McClendon.
12 Ibid.
13 Michael McMaster and John Grinder, Precision: A New Approach to Communication (Beverly Hills, CA: Precision Models 1980); McClendon.
14 Carmen B. Bostic St. Clair and John Grinder, Whispering in the Wind (Scotts Valley, Ca: J&C Enterprises, 2001)
15 Richard Bandler, Magic in Action (Cupertino, CA: Meta Publications, 1984).
16 Richard Bandler, Using Your Brain for Change (Moab, UT: Real People Press, 1985).
17 Richard Bandler, Guide to Trance-Formation: How to Handle the Power of Hypnosis to Ignite Effortless and Lasting Change (Deerfield, FL: Health Communications 2008), 2.
18 Ibid.
19 McClendon.
20 Robert Dilts, Applications of Neurolinguistic Programming (Capitola, CA: Meta Publications, 1983).
21 Robert Dilts, Tim Hallbom, and Suzi Smith, Beliefs: Pathways to Health and Well-Being ( Portland, OR: Metamorphous Press 1990); Robert Dilts, Changing Belief Systems with NLP (Capitola, CA: Meta Publications, 1990).
22 Robert Dilts, Tools for Dreamers, (Capitola, CA: Meta Publications 1991); Robert Dilts, Skills for the Future (Capitola, CA: Meta Publications1993); Robert Dilts, Strategies of a Genius Vols. 1-3 (Capitola, CA: Meta Publications 1994); Robert Dilts, Visionary Leadership Skills. (Capitola, CA: Meta Publications 1996); Robert Dilts, Modeling with NLP (Capitola, CA: Meta Publications1998).
23 Robert Dilts, Sleight of Mouth: The Magic of Conversational Belief Change (Capitola, CA: Meta Publications, 1999),x, xi.
24 Robert Dilts, From Coach to Awakener (Capitola, CA: Meta Publications 2003).
25 Grinder & Pucelik, 90, 102.