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First published in NLP World, Volume 1, No. 2, July 1994


NLP in Psychotherapy and Counselling

by James Lawley

NLP Psychotherapy and Counselling has made great strides in becoming accepted, and even respected in Great Britain. Five years ago the Association for NLP (ANLP) decided to follow the route of accreditation for its psychotherpists. This article is a report on the progress made to date. It covers the background, the validation process, and the factors underlying the success of the Association in gaining recognition.


In 1981, a Parliamentary private member's bill attempted to introduce legislation to control psychotherapy within Britain. Following the failure of this bill, the British Association for Counselling (BAC) organised a symposium amongst

psychotherapy organisations. The aim of this initiative was to establish a dialogue about regulation of the profession. This was the beginning of a series of annual meetings which culminated after seven years in the formation of the UK Standing Conference for Psychotherapy (UKSCP).

Four years later, the UKSCP realised its dream of becoming the national Council for the profession of Psychotherapy in Britain. It marked the occasion by changing its name to the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) and published the first National Register of Psychotherapists. The Register, which contains around 3000 names of which 52 are NLP Psychotherapists, was presented to the Government at the House of Lords in May 1993. The current Government prefers not to introduce legislation to control professions who adequately regulate themselves. This means the UKCP governs by persuasion rather than statute.

The UKCP currently has around 70 member organisations representing the broad spectrum of approaches to psychotherapy in the UK. It is structured by grouping organisations with similar approaches to psychotherapy; for example Analytical, Behavioural, Family, Humanistic and Hypnotherapy. Finding a pigeon hole for NLP was quite a source of debate within UKCP and we are now in a group called Experiential Constructivists which is made up of the ANLP and Personal Construct Psychology. PCP grew out of the work of George Kelly in the 1950's.

The UKCP also operates at a European level and is the sole UK representative on the Board of the European Association for Psychotherapy. This umbrella organisation extends outside the EC and has members representing almost every European country.

The Association for NLP

NLP Psychotherapists and Counsellors in the United Kingdom are now eligible to register with the UK Council for Psychotherapy. The only NLP accrediting body recognised by UKCP is the Association for NLP. The ANLP has been a member organisation of UKCP and its forerunners since 1987. It is a Registered Charity and a Limited Company with over 600 members, and is probably the largest NLP Association outside of the USA.

In 1992, the ANLP established a Psychotherapy and Counselling Section (PCS) for the purpose of:

The NLP Route to Registration

Each organisation within UKCP defines its own procedures for validating psychotherapists. These procedures have to be compatible with the UKCP guidelines and member organisations are reviewed every 5 years.

Unlike many of the bodies within UKCP who provide for their own training and assessment, the ANLP is not a training organisation and therefore cannot accredit psychotherapists directly. Instead, the Psychotherapy and Counselling Section has established a set of validation criteria and a Validation Panel which assess applications from those members seeking registration with UKCP.

The Validation Panel consists of three members of the PCS Committee, two distinguished NLP psychotherapists and six external validators. The external validators are chosen for their experience and reputation in the field of psychotherapy. They bring credibility and an independent eye to the process.

Validation Criteria

The Validation Panel considers applications only from Full Members of the ANLP PCS who practice Psychotherapy/Counselling in the United Kingdom. A prerequisite of membership of the PCS is acceptance of the PCS Code of Ethics. The Code covers therapists responsibilities to the client, confidentiality, and relationships with third parties. Applicants to the Panel are awarded a Validated Status and registered with UKCP upon evidence of:

If applicants do not meet the above criteria, other factors may be taken into account such as: research, publications and other contributions to the field of psychotherapy; together with accreditations from related professions (eg. medicine, psychiatry, psychology, social work, counselling, etc.).

Validation by PCS, and registration with UKCP is for a period of one year. After 12 months each NLP Psychotherapist has to reapply to the Validation Panel to seek an extension to validation for a further year.

Behavioural Flexibility

Although the above criteria have been in effect for the last two years, the ANLP PCS are continually reviewing the validation criteria based on changing UKCP directives. This gives us a wonderful opportunity to practice our behavioural flexibility. For example, the 1995 Validation Criteria will include the additional requirement that:

"Training shall be over a period of three-years and shall include a critical understanding of the relevance of studies in human development, psychopathology, sexuality, ethics, research, and social science."

In case you are thinking NLP is universally admired in Britain, let me assure you it is not. A recent piece in a national publication was headed "Neurolinguistic Nonsense" and within the UKCP there are many, especially those from analytic backgrounds, who express strong concerns about the validity of NLP. More than once ANLP delegates to the Annual General Meeting of the UKCP have had to defend the right of NLP to be represented at all!

Whence Credibility Comes?

So how have we managed to gain such a level of acceptance for NLP, albeit sometimes grudgingly given? In my opinion, two key factors have been: the quality and rigour of ANLP procedures and the ability of our delegates.

In addition to establishing the validation process, the PCS has produced By-Laws which govern the operation of the PCS Committee; A Code of Ethics by which all members agree to be bound; A complaints and disciplinary procedure; An appeals procedure and a Code of Practice for the Supervision of NLP Psychotherapists and Counsellors. The documented descriptions of these codes and processes have been so highly received within UKCP that several other organisations have used them as models for their own standards and procedures.

ANLP delegates have had to use all of their rapport skills when attending UKCP functions. We have taken the time to pace the fears of the more traditional approaches to psychotherapy before putting our case for recognition. We realise that it is not NLP itself that causes the reaction, rather the implications NLP raises for the established models of psychotherapy.

Our efforts have been rewarded, and for the first time the ANLP has a representative on the Governing Board of UKCP. This gives us an excellent opportunity to explain that the NLP model of psychotherapy is different, not invalid! We also get to find out what is going on within other organisations.

I would be delighted to hear from NLP organisations who already have an accreditation process for NLP Psychotherapists, or are establishing one.

James Lawley,

Chair of ANLP PCS 1993-1994
Chair of Validation Panel 1993-1995

NLP World, the intercultural journal on the theory and practice of neuro-linguistic programming:

The Association for NLP (UK)

The United Kindon Council for Psychotherapy

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