NLP Practitioner Training: Submodality Protocols

I’ve just started to develop a set of submodality protocols in order to enable trainees to go through processes that will yield more consistent results. In most NLP Practitioner trainings, I find that the quality control of the trainings themselves is poor, and an attempt needs to be made in order to develop trainings in a way that yields consistency not just of the trainer, but of the results generated by the processes espoused by NLP.


In NLP, preparation work about submodalities needs to be made for a variety of reasons. I find that if I jump into submodality interventions, I may not have much of a response because I’m dealing with an individual who has certain limitations explaining their model of the world verbally. A certain level of preparation needs to be done to talk an individual through the unconscious processes that are happening in the mind of the audience. I would encourage a series of three simple demonstrations.

  • The first demonstration should be a “natural submodality disposition” test, just to show that submodalities are a natural thing to them, not something the ¬†practitioner put in their head. Tell the participant to think of two distinct items. I prefer to ask about something they like to do versus something they dislike doing. By asking them about the characteristics of the mental image, they can understand the submodalities a little better.
  • The second demonstration is the “mind-body connection” test. Individuals who are experiencing NLP the first time may not be convinced about the shift. In the picture of dislike, I ask them to rate how bad they feel about it. If they are at level 5, I then test one or two driver submodalities to intensify the sense of dislike (e.g. “what happens when you remove the color from the picture, and make the movie go slower?”). This is to show the relationship between the mental image and emotional state. Do remember that some individuals do not respond very easily to the mental image.
  • The third demonstration is the linkage of the submodality through triggers. This will show that submodalities are not a static element, but a dynamic element. I will ask them for a situation where they habitually did something, such as laze around instead of going to exercise. On one or two occasions they may have been able to exercise, and I want to know why they managed to do that. Often, it is because of the situation that triggered them. They may have seen someone running. They may have been told by their doctor to exercise or suffer consequences. Whatever the trigger, that is just ONE trigger. I’ll explain to a participant that a stable behavior is created through developing a series of triggers to lead to the same outcome.

Elicitation. This process requires the practitioner to know what kinds of questions to ask, but ultimately they need to know the Meta Model.

  • Start off by eliciting a problem state. For instance, a problem state could be procrastination (one of the top favorites). Most practitioners will start by asking details about the submodalities right away. Don’t do that. You need to know a bit about the context. They procrastinate for various reasons (i.e. find out the root causes/context), and the procrastination may be caused by elements in the environment and therefore ecological. One such example would be where an individual is procrastinating because the reward structure encourages last minute bursts of sales. I know some companies have incentives in the last quarter that unconsciously encourage sales people to wait until that quarter before actually taking action.
  • Once you know what the problem state is, you need to decide what the solution state is, and test it with your client. For instance, it is a common mistake for a practitioner to immediately assume that “motivation” is the answer to procrastination. Often, the solution state presents itself when you find out the root context or root cause. Sometimes, fear might be a better resource state to tap into. Sometimes, anger. Relaxation. Or humor. In the above case, it may appear that self-serving “fear” may be a better motivator than the others. I typically ask the client to test it out first before entering into the intervention stage.


  • During the time of the intervention, you, as a practitioner, need to make a decision about the end outcome of the intervention. Do you want this habit that needs to be propagated? Or is it merely a way to disconnect an old behavior/habit?
  • Examples of situations requiring propagation of new behavior: overly anxious people, suicidal thoughts, depressives, negative thinking, peak performance preparation.
  • Examples of situations requiring disconnect an old habit: compulsions, phobias and fears, overeating/snacking, smoking.
  • In the first case, you will need to utilize the submodality Swish Pattern to reinforce habitual patterns.
  • In the second case, you will need to utilize other possible patterns such as the Compulsion Blowout Pattern or the Mapping Across process
  • In certain occasions, where the individual does not appear to be resourceful enough to develop changes, there could be issues associated with the belief (a blocking belief) or other associated ecological issues.

Finally, as a practitioner, test your interventions. There are ways to test if the intervention will work and transfer in the long term. It is about enhancing motivation, developing a higher level of clarity of how to use the change in different moments of the future. This is commonly known as future pacing. One process you can use to integrate future pacing into your interventions is the Comparative Future Pacing technique.