Monday, October 09, 2006

The logical fallacy of NLP

Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is quite fashionable and controversial nowadays. It is a personal development framework based on supposedly the latest knowledge of neuroscience. It is interesting because there are many new stuff coming out of neuroscience which might help someone to change and improve their life. However, there is so much pseudo-scientific concepts floating around and so many crackpot arguments and discussions. It is a bit of a shame, because I strongly believe that understanding our brain better gives us more efficient tools to change behaviour and attitudes.

NLP is applied to many different areas. And of course, people are now using it in stuttering. Probably the most well-known advocate is Bodenhamer. There are several things that get a bit on my nerves:
1) He and others are mis-using NLP. It is fine to propose methods and frameworks to change behaviour and attitude. But they are pushing it by claiming that stuttering is cognitive rather than physiological: see website.
2) They have no proof for their theory in fact genetics and brain imaging strongly disproved their case.
3) There is no study that shows that their approach is effective.
4) They seem to believe that if you really really want you can achieve anything by re-wiring your brain. But there are clear physical limits in your ability to do so.
5) Why are they so dogmatic? It would be very easy to combine both views i.e. that is physiological and secondary effects and social handicap are strongly modulated by cognitive thought processes which can be changed with NLP or other methods.


John MacIntyre said...

When I was about 20, a friend recommended a book to 'cure' my stuttering. It was "Unlimited Power" by Anthony Robbins, which is largely NLP based.

It didn't take me long to realize that, like so many others, my friend just didn't understand my problem at all.

Tom Weidig said...

Changing just with NLP is very difficult, except possible if you are a mild stutterer with many psychological baggage.

It is non-sense to believe that our mind has unlimited power to re-shape our brain.

HOWEVER, there is plenty of potential to change yourself for the better, often more than we realise.

IRONICALLY, the more you believe in unlimited power to change, the more likely you are motivated to change. That just shows that sometimes it might be better to have a wrong belief of the world!!! :-)

Anonymous said...

Hey, I am digvijoy from india, i'm 18 years old and been stammering since i was a kid, i am currently under going speech therapy, and to tell you the truth i have noticed significant difference in my stammering (i.e. when i make it a point to do my excersices regularly) but lately i have been out of touch and its directly effecting my speech. Its good to see more people coming out openly about stuttering, and you have an amazing blog up there with posts filled with information. I have started one of my own too, do check it out, not much has been posted up there as yet. Ill be posting my therapist recommended excersices, from phonation to ROS and rest. I basically feel stammering is more of a habit, a habit of saying words wrongly, pronouncing things wrongly, and lastly confidence. The basic mindset of being a stammerer that has got to our brain. If we speak slowly and pronounce words properly, there is always a significant difference, a drug like pagoclone can only boost our confidence, but for how long? and lastly can it actually change the way we pronounce words? i dont think it can. I think therapy is the best way out, having a permenant effect, but surely we do need to keep up our therapy for the rest of our lives, or until we're perfect. I think the best thing for a stutterer to do would be take Pagoclone and undergo therapy. Keep updating!

Anonymous said...

I think you should persist with NLP. NLP is a serious powerhouse of flexible methods. But you have to apply it flexibly.

Belief is also important. If you believe stuttering is physiological then of course you are going to be ineffective in treating it with NLP. Your presuppositional beliefs are everything here. I'm not a stutterer myself but its pretty obvious from my point of view as an expert non-stutterer how to get people to talk fluently.

Belief is the way to go, specific techniques such as re-framing and the swish pattern will be of great help. See an NLP practitioner personally. Any researchers who call it pseudoscience have simply failed to apply NLP properly in the real world. Controlled experiments on stuttering and NLP simply block progress. They are both complex subjects, and trying it for yourself is the only way to go. David

Anonymous said...

I agree with David.

Shaun said...

I am 55 and have stuttered all my life. Until my mid-20's I could hardly speak, then I read a few books and developed a few techniques that reduced my stutter dramatically but the remaining '10%' still defined me in my thinking. It was always a risk.

I am convinced that mine is not physiological and here is a test I did two years ago that I believe proves the point. I purchased voice recognition software in the hope of bypassing the keyboard. When the microphone was OFF I could speak absolutely fluently but the second I switched it on I stuttered. I even tried to trick myself with double and triple clicks but I only stuttered when the mic was on.

I don't know much about NLP but I have started to look into it to see if it will help me. What I have read on NLP so far makes sense and I wish to understand it better.

This blog has a very weak and counter-productive argument. What percentage of stuttering is physiological? Very little if you look at the number of children who overcome stuttering by adulthood. Brain studies are simply reporting on the results of years of stuttering not the cause.

My message to stutterers s this, take responsibility for your own wellness, study and be your own chief physician. Believe it is possible and keep fighting for a victory. What's the point of not?

Anonymous said...

Hey Tom. I'm biased in my reply as I use NLP in my work and an advocate for how it can be used.

I wanted to add a little to the discussion:
- It really IRKS me when people claim something is or isn't cognitive. Or is or isn't physiological. In my experience both are closely linked. I've recently worked with someone suffering from a stutter and physiology has played a strong role in alleviating the symptoms. In NLP this is called 'Respect the other persons model of the world'.
- NLP has a strong focus on physiology (Check the NLP technique of 'Sensory Acuity'). It places a lot of meaning on breathing, relaxation vs. tension in the body etc.
- NLP is not setup in a way that facilitates meaningful studies being conducted. The support for NLP is only anecdotal. Looking for academically verified research will more often lead you to clinically proven drugs than it will to the techniques of Practitioners of therapies that don't use medicines.
- As a person who uses NLP in my work I also find the dogma around it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I totally agree with that remark :)

Be happy to discuss further. Thanks for leaving this article open for comments. My email is
(Also happy to discuss with anyone else suffering from stuttering or investigating NLP for themselves)

Unknown said...

I had a severe stutter for 38 years. I tried all of the conventional therapies and techniques. I have always known the the stutter is purely psychological. Why could I speak fluently sometimes and other times not at all? Physically there was nothing wrong.
I don't care what anyone says. NLP was a breakthrough for me and it effectively "cured" in 20 minutes what years and years of therapy could not.
Imagine all the therapists that would have egg on their face and imagine the millions of dollars lost if the cure was as simple as meeting with a qualified NLP coach. Of course there will ever naysayers.
I suppose you would also think that electric vehicles are a relatively new idea. Or that alcohol and nicotine are less toxic than Marijuana ?
For me, NLP was completely successful. 100%

Unknown said...

So happy u cured it! Am looking to find a nlp specialist to help me, any tips? How did u cure ur stutter? How long did it take? What exactly happend that ur speech is now stutterfree

Unknown said...

Travis, I'm also interested in NLP. Did you see a practitioner for it and what techniques did you use? Was 'the cure' instant? Would love to know more, thanks!