Contrary to popular belief, NLP has no formal roots in psychology. Richard Bandler, the founder of NLP, has also on several occasions disclaimed NLP’s position in psychology. The main reason for this is that the methodology is not psychological, but linguistic in nature.
NLP, based on its description at first glance appears to be a field within “neurolinguistics”. The definition of neurolinguistics by Wikipedia is “the study of the structures in the human brain that underlie grammar and communication”, which deviates from the original intent of NLP, which is the means to study the underlying representations within the mind in order to reconstruct behavior and turn such modeled behavior into permanent unconscious habit. Technically, it means that NLP should really not be just “neurolinguistic”, but really “neuro-psycholinguistic” in nature.
One of the main influencing theories that shaped NLP is the field of General Semantics (not related to the main field of linguistics, developed by Alfred Korzybski.
Here’s what NLP does.
First, NLP studies three patterns of behavior: (1) physical, (2) linguistic and (3) cognitive (in Dilts, 1990, “Modeling With NLP). Physical modeling can be done by identifying patterns of physical behavior, sequence and structure. For example, one observe the processes of playing tennis and detect recurring patterns of physical behavior under differing circumstances.
Linguistic modeling requires one of observe sentence structure and patterns of behavior in speech and communication. Bandler and Grinder created something known as the Milton Model by observing the linguistic patterns of behavior of the clinical hypnotherapist, Milton H. Erickson. They also created another model called the Meta Model by observing the linguistic patterns of Fritz Perls, the developer of Gestalt Therapy, and Virginia Satir, the developer of the Satir Model of Family Therapy. It must therefore be noted that such models are merely a representation of reality, and NLP is the process to conduct such modeling.
Cognitive modeling in NLP itself was based on the models derived from Korzybski. Dilts utilized Korzybski’s processes in General Semantic theory to analyze how cognitive strategies are processed in four parts: (1) the trigger which is what kickstarts a cognitive strategy; (2) operations, the process within the strategy, (3) the test, which allows alternatives or contingencies in the event that a goal is not achieved, and (4) the exit, which tells an individual that the goal has been achieved.