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Does NLP Work in the Treatment of Depression

Margit Cathrine Moller

Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is defined in Wikipedia as “an approach to psychotherapy and organizational change based on a model of interpersonal communication chiefly concerned with the relationship between successful patterns of behaviour and the subjective experiences (esp. patterns of thought) underlying them. It is also "a system of alternative therapy based on this which seeks to educate people in self-awareness and effective communication and to change their patterns of mental and emotional behaviour".

NLP practitioners are trained to explore the nature of people’s unconscious communication patterns and unlock keys that help in the healing and transformation of their clients. Also, they are trained to use NLP techniques to eliminate unhelpful behaviours. But how do they work with clients who are diagnosed of depression? Does it help someone who is already on Prozac?

While it is true that there has been no empirical studies to show the effectiveness of NLP for depression; there are several documented cases. I also had clients who are suffering from depression for whom I use NLP as part of their therapy. I am certain that there are other counselors and healers who have been successful in using NLP. But, having said that, it is still not safe to generalize and say that NLP as a rule is effective against depression.

In my experience, NLP is effective when my client and I pinpoint the specific changes that my client desires. “To use NLP with depression, you first need to ``chunk down'' to identify very specific behaviors (and thoughts and feelings) that need to be changed”, says an article from the Psychology Department of the University of Hawaii.

Example, depression can be related to negative beliefs. NLP provides very fast techniques for changing negative beliefs. And if this works, this provides a clear path towards the treatment of depression, if and only if, their depression is coming from negative thoughts and beliefs.

There are NLP techniques that are found useful for stopping negative thoughts that repeatedly went through people’s mind. These can distract the mind from fully entertaining the negative thoughts and reinvigorates the body and the mind to look and entertain positive ones.

This is just one of the many ways in which NLP can be used in the treatment of depression. But, again, what is important is to start with the specific change which the client really wants.