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Inseparable: NLP and Coaching


4 Years of Integrating Coaching into our NLP-Trainings

By Nandana and Karl Nielsen


In our view, NLP-Trainings facilitate the development of communicative competencies and enhance personal change and development within the framework of client-centered coaching. We integrate coaching into our NLP-Practitioner-Trainings, beginning on the very first day. We explain to our participants how the NLP methods that we convey in our trainings are applicable in a uniquely effective and efficient way within the context of coaching and self-coaching. This we show and practice in the trainings, and we encourage our participants to meet in between training weekends for exercise sessions. Thus, we evade the risk that participants offer therapy to each other without having an official license to do so. While we show how NLP methods can be used as therapeutic interventions, we explain to the participants who are not licensed therapists the legal framework within which coaching may be conducted and we insist that they abide by the rules specified therein. This includes a method that we have expanded upon, the feedback method with the integration of an „emotion guard“.


The development of communicative competencies as a psychosocial ability enhances flexibility and enables new options in dealing with oneself and with others. It is also about discerning and overcoming one’s own well-established limiting beliefs and habits, in order to try out new and more promising behaviors and to experiment with these on a mental and behavioral level. The NLP techniques are particularly well suited for these aims, as the main principle of NLP is to model, improve and integrate into NLP all that is ethically sound and useful in communicating with oneself and others. Thus, we are correct in saying: “If it works, it’s NLP.” For this reason, NLP will always remain a work in progress, since new wonderful communicative techniques are added that constantly call into question old and “well tested” NLP knowledge.


Long-term experience

The 4th generation of NLP places particular importance on the permanent review of the consequences (ecology check) of actions and on the recognition of the deeper and unique core of human beings. Contrary to the teachings of previous “NLP gurus”, it is not about how anyone can become a Schwarzenegger or the President of the United States. Rather, it is about exploring the unique purpose of one’s own being and to develop and expand that which is rooted in the depth of the soul of a human being. Ethical coaching within the 4th generation of NLP is described in our new textbook on NLP titled “NLP mit Weisheit”1 (“NLP with Wisdom”) and based on the ethics codex of the International Association of NLP-Institutes2. Thus far it has met with outstanding success.


In May, 2000, we have begun with the integration of coaching into our NLP-Trainings. It is now a joint training that qualifies participants as coaches and as NLP-Trainers. We assume that an NLP-Trainer should also be qualified in coaching and that training for future NLP-Trainers is useful for leaders who wish to support the persons under their supervision through coaching processes, i.e. through “Management by Coaching”. For the journal MultiMind we have written the article “An NLP-Trainer Should Be a Good Coach” which was published in November, 2000. In this article we have elaborated on our new project. 11 NLP-Master-Trainers and one coach were part of our teaching staff for our joint training that encompassed 12 workshop weekends over the course of one year. In this training we conveyed crucial knowledge for trainers as well as for coaches. In the second training of this kind we have repeated this experiment successfully. Due to the newly developing standards that call for at least 12 days of coaching training in addition to the 20 days of trainer’s training (including 2 days with 15 hours of supervision), in the third training course in 2003 we have introduced a separate training just for coaches, but have retained the contents of our previous coaching lessons in our training course for NLP-Trainers. In a survey of former and potential clients we have found that extending our training course to 32 days over the period of 1 ½ years is not attractive. Given the current economic situation, such a concept would have slim chances for success. Currently, “accelerated NLP trainings” are en vogue in English-speaking countries, and even the largest international association of NLP-Trainers (INLPTA) requires only 14 days of training for NLP-Trainers (and only 15 days each for NLP-Practitioners and NLP-Masters, by the way). Thus 32 days over the course of 1 ½ years are not particularly appealing when considering supply and demand. 

Over and over again: Coaching

The idea of integrating coaching into our NLP trainings has proved successful, and therefore we have introduced an emphasis on coaching into our NLP-Master trainings as of January, 2003. Additionally, we have been experimenting with conveying coaching knowledge in our NLP-Practitioner trainings. As of January, 2004, we have officially integrated coaching into all our NLP trainings.

The participants obviously enjoy this and provide us with positive feedback. When we convey NLP techniques such as “SCORE”, “Circle of personal excellence”, “Was this the aim of your communication?”, “1st, 2nd, and 3rd Position”, “Backtrack with verbalization of emotional experiences”, “SMART sp”3 or others within a Practitioner training, we always mention how these techniques could be used within the context of coaching. We assume that our participants coach themselves and others with NLP techniques. For questions in this regard we provide a special framework at the beginning of each workshop weekend, and we support our participants with emails that contain pertinent questions and answers.

As a special form of coaching within the context of our NLP trainings each participant is to coach another participant once a week for up to 20 minutes, of which 15 minutes are to be used for coaching in the form of asking about goals, establishing clarity regarding milestones, checking for ecology, reframing possible doubts or restrictions, backtracking with verbalization of emotional experiences instead of stating opinions, providing feedback specific to particular sensory perceptions, employing SCORE for establishing the map, and, of course, all forms of “conversational NLP”, if deemed useful. An example for Conversational NLP is when a coach who has heard about the first position of the coached person about a conflict with another person gently asks what this other person’s view might be and how this other person might view the coached individual. After some time, the coach then asks what both involved persons might be missing if they interact with each other in this way. Thus, the coach has employed the NLP technique “1st, 2nd, and 3rd Position” casually within a conversation. The same is possible with “SCORE”, the “Logical Levels” without ground anchors, “Change History” without the inner child, “was this the aim of your communication?” or other outstanding NLP techniques. It is very helpful if one has understood the deeper wisdom of the respective technique, so that one can use it flexibly, elegantly, and inconspicuously in a conversation. In our NLP trainings we hone these skills, and for the first two NLP weekends we have described 26 such basic NLP techniques in detail.

The last 5 of the 20 minutes of coaching are for inquiring about what the coached person wishes to accomplish until next time and what he or she definitely wants to be asked about in the next coaching session. The coach writes this down and follows up on this the next week.

Not an alternative, but a vital component

These weekly coachings are very thought-provoking and support the participants in realizing their goals. At the same time, the coach develops professional communicative competencies. Moreover, the sessions enhance structured, success-oriented work in teams. In practice teams as well as in our NLP training workshops and in self-organized practice workshops in between the NLP training weekends we have introduced the “emotion guard” E as an additional corrective aside from the traditional ABC positions. A chooses B, who leads the exercise, as well as E, who gives emotional support and intervenes in the exercise if he or she feels that B might be too directive, either consciously or unconsciously, or that B might in some other way exert a negative influence on A. Just like a bodyguard who protects the body of his or her client, an emotion guard protects the feelings of his or her client. This requires that the emotion guard is able to deeply feel and sympathize with the emotions that A is experiencing, while at the same time reflecting on how this relates to the words and nonverbal actions of B. This, too, enhances the development of professional coaching competencies.


In our NLP-Practitioner trainings, our participants already learn more than 50 NLP techniques that they can use within their own coachings. For the development of professional coaching competencies we offer a training course for those who have completed the NLP-Practitioner training. This additional training course qualifies the participant for working as a coach, as it conveys topics such as field competence, skills in clinical and social psychology, process orientation, knowledge in systemic theories, protection rituals for the coach, market analysis, a coaching conception, a self-description, supervision etc.4


In summary, we are of the opinion that coaching is a useful and crucial component of NLP training and that it can effectively support the realization of goals within the context of an NLP training course. Based on our experience, we therefore do not think that it belongs at the end of an NLP-Master course or, even worse, that it should be viewed as an alternative to a trainer’s training course (as is recommended by the DVNLP). Rather, we view its rightful place to be at the end of an NLP-Practitioner training course. On the basis of the rich experiences of successful NLP-Institutes worldwide – from Berlin and Rio to Hongkong – we in the International Association of NLP-Institutes5 support this position and have established it as a standard of our training guidelines for coaches.6 For us, coaching is no alternative to a training program for NLP-Trainers. We believe that an NLP-Trainer should also be a good coach. Therefore, we are thinking about making it mandatory within our curricula that those who wish to obtain the qualification as an NLP-Trainer must first complete a training program for coaches.


1 see:


3 for sp in the sense of system ecology and professional activation see our detailed description over several pages at

4 more information at:




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