Complementary or alternative methods of healing are often labelled as pseudo-sciences, often untested by clinical trials or not backed by Western medicine. However, when many people testify to healing from depression, anxiety, phobias or addictions, one is forced to take notice. Ultimately, if something, anything helps one heal safely, with minimal or no side effects, pursue it, even though medical practitioners may call it ‘a placebo effect’. More people are now trying out hypnotherapy, NLP, theta healing, and colour therapy to help them overcome mental issues, addictions or phobias without ingesting chemicals.
Yoga and Wellness interviewed three NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) practitioners to find out more about the practice and its efficacy. Shilpa Jasani converses with Dr. Doris Greenwood, Maria Tansey and Anna Yates.
So what is NLP?
Neuro refers to your neurology; Linguistic refers to language; Programming refers to how that neural language functions. In other words, learning NLP is like learning the language of your own mind, say practitioners. It's a therapy for reprogramming the subconscious mind. Everything that we do in our lives, all our actions, reactions and emotions are all triggered by our thoughts. If our thoughts are not creating the responses, actions or the life that we want, then it’s the thinking that we need to change. This is the scope of NLP.
Dr. Doris Greenwood, a naturopathic doctor by education and now NLP Master Trainer explains: “NLP works on the emotional component and limiting beliefs. About 75 to 80% of illnesses in my experience manifest from the emotional zone. The interesting thing is that we cannot differentiate because the mind is directly linked to our emotions and the emotions are directly linked to our body. For the brain to make the heart rate go up and make your breathing go faster, or to increase or decrease the water level in the eyes, or even guide the
muscles to do something or not to do something, there has to be a message. That is why the word programming is used. We are made of patterns and we can change this pattern. This same situation occurs when a person is suffering from anxiety or a phobia – the heart beats faster, blood flow increases, and the breathing rate is heightened. But what is the common factor? Adrenaline, cortisol and heightened testosterone – chemicals from the brain. What we have found out is that before the brain shoots out adrenaline, there has to be a mental picture or a mental movie. In fact, none of the raised adrenaline symptoms arise without a mental picture.”
NLP techniques range from the circle of confidence, cinema technique, switch technique, becoming aware of eye contact, to working out your negative ‘anchors’, which put you in a bad mood.
Anna Yates, NLP master practitioner, psychotherapist and hypnotherapist based in Dubai elaborates: “Depending on the health issue my client is facing, I use a combination of modalities including hypnotherapy, NLP, CBT, life coaching. NLP is a therapy for reprogramming the subconscious mind. Everything that we do in our lives, all our actions, reactions and emotions are all triggered by our thoughts. If our thoughts are not creating the responses, actions or the life that we want, then it’s the thinking that we need to change. This is the scope of NLP. With NLP what we do while working with our client is break it down to find out how the client is thinking about a particular situation, and it almost always is based on childhood beliefs or values.
“There is a saying that ‘if you can heal the child; you can heal the man’. In the first 7 to10 years, we are constantly absorbing from the people around us – parents, siblings, teachers, caregivers, friends, television etc. Based on that we form our thoughts and our responses. As adults, our external world is based upon our thinking, and what we do is find out how people are responding to the triggers, how that affects their thinking and change it. NLP, hypnosis, CBT are ways of by-passing the conscious mind and re-programming the subconscious mind to change the stories that we are playing constantly in our minds, that are triggering our unwanted responses.
“We get quite a lot of referrals from psychiatrists and psychologists, because we approach the issue from a different angle. Medication is not always the only answer, but can be supplemented by other modalities and sometimes can even replace the medicines. NLP, combined with hypnosis has been extremely successful with depression, PTSD, post-natal depression, sexual abuse, fears and phobias like fear of animals, public speaking or fear of flying etc. We have multiple tools like the circle of confidence, cinema technique, and switch technique. The placebo effect is amazing. I have known people who have come for therapy and before the session itself they are on their way to better health, simply because that ‘belief’ in a doctor with a white coat and stethoscope.”
Anger, regret, anxiety and guilt. How can people change?
Certified Master NLP Practitioner & Life Coach in UAE, Maria Tansey elucidates: “I usually take six, 2-hour sessions to help my clients overcome whatever limiting beliefs or problems they are facing, using a set of tools and techniques that are a combination of NLP, hypnotherapy and psychotherapy. I don’t believe that one thing will work for everybody and that’s why, I use a combination of systems to help my client. Rather than focus on the ‘why’, NLP would emphasize the ‘how’ to bring about change.
“NLP uses perceptual, behavioural, and communication techniques to make it easier for people to change their thoughts and actions. Psychiatry and psychology are regulated by the medical authorities, but not NLP which, however, has guidelines. We don’t need a medical license to practice it in the UAE, since it requires techniques rather than formal study. It is almost another way of communicating language patterns with the brain. What I have seen is that healers are learning a hybrid of modalities from theta healing, kinesiology, NLP, hypnotherapy, pranic healing or reiki and using a mix of their knowledge to help their clients recover from whatever problem they are facing. The success of each practitioner depends on their experience, how dedicated and thorough they are; and the rapport they share with their client.”
Just as a dentist cannot do his own root canal treatment or a surgeon his own surgery, Maria too, has a buddy-coach to help her re-boot. “She is a fellow-student, whom I trust completely. Her no-nonsense approach stops me from squirming my way out. I see about 80-100 clients a year and need to spend approximately 12-15 hours with them. When a person reaches out to me, it means they need immediate help, having tried other options. So, I always try to prioritize them.”
Can NLP help people with physical health conditions?
“Yes certainly,” emphasizes Anna. “NLP works on bringing down people’s stress levels. When people are worried about their jobs, relationships, other uncertainties. Our subconscious mind does not know the difference between ‘real’ and ‘imaginary’ situations, so it responds to these ‘situations’ by releasing hormones like adrenaline to help us cope with the situation. Adrenaline then triggers the release of cortisol. When higher quantities of these hormones are released than necessary it creates problems such as hypertension, ulcers, acid reflux, circulation issues, IBS, and colitis. All these are created by the adrenaline that is preparing your body to run away or fight, and the cortisol makes the person feel lethargic or constantly fatigued. Therefore, people could end up with sleep issues and/or allergies. If the stress is brought down to manageable levels, we can help people with issues like IBS, high blood pressure, colitis, digestive issues, and migraines among others. Even young children from ages 6-7 years onwards can be given NLP and hypnotherapy to help them overcome issues like stuttering, nail biting, bed wetting.
I can share an example here about an Emirati man, who was in the real estate business. He suffered from multiple issues being a heavy smoker and an alcoholic, who benefitted immensely from NLP and hypnotherapy. On his first visit, his hands were shaking so much that looking at him, I felt he would have a heart attack right here on my chair. Hypnosis and NLP ensured him giving up smoking and drinking. He even started exercising regularly with friends. He was a completely changed person. We do see some absolute miracles.
I had another lady with sleep issues, referred to me by a doctor. Her personal problems resulted in sleepless nights, an issue that she was grappling with for almost 12 years. After the first session of NLP, she called me the next day, saying that she slept through the full night.”
NLP is modelled on hypnotherapy and psychotherapy. ‘It can be used for personal development, phobias and anxiety.’ Its outcome is oriented.