Can you learn NLP on your own?

Many people out there wonder if neuro-linguistic programming is something they need a certified professional for, or “can you learn NLP on your own?”

The fact is that you can undoubtedly learn NLP on your own – after you understand its theory and its inner workings.

How does Neuro-Linguistic Programming believe our minds work?

According to NLP, each individual’s mind creates a map of the world from sensory data. A person’s maps will differ depending on the importance that differing senses place on different inputs. Those who use their visual perceptions to understand the world are different from those who use their auditory perceptions.

The system that a person uses to process experiences is called a primary representational system (PRS), and knowledge of it is crucial to alter the individual’s personal map.

The PRS is assumed to be an influential part of the neuro-linguistic programming system.

How can NLP programming techniques create change?

The goal of neuro-linguistic programming is to improve one’s understanding of one’s cognition and behavior. Additionally, it enhances the communication between conscious and unconscious mental processes.

Once individuals understand their map of reality, they can determine what is effective for achieving their goals and what is not. In this way, they can evaluate what others do well and learn from their experience. Since NLP is primarily experiential, an individual has to perform an action to learn from it.

Practitioners of NLP focus on six logical hierarchies of learning, communication, and change. A logical level organizes the data below it. Changing a lower level will impact a higher level.

Here are the six levels in descending order:

  • Purpose and spirituality
  • Identity
  • Beliefs and values
  • Capabilities and skills
  • Behaviors
  • Environment

What takes place in an NLP programming session?

An NLP therapist works with a client to understand his/her thinking, behaviors, emotional states, and aspirations. In addition, they will try to outline the person’s world map, along with their primary representational system. They then use various techniques to change the way the person thinks, feels, or behaves.

During neuro-linguistic programming, a person must focus on what is happening right now, use their current feelings and thoughts, and work with their therapist to figure out what they want to be changed and how to move forward. Therefore, NLP sessions are strongly based on the present, and require the client to work towards change during the session.

NLP programming techniques

Assuming that you’ve understood everything to this point, we can now provide a brief overview of how some methods work. Whether or not you can do these NLP methods yourself entirely depends on you and your comfort level. Both approaches can work.

Let us look at some common techniques:


An action triggers an emotion when we associate it with an activity. One practitioner might help clients develop a feeling of confidence and then ask them to repeat a repetitive action, such as squeezing their forefinger and thumb together. In this way, confidence will later be generated as a result.


Rapport is a powerful ingredient of human nature. Through mirroring, the practitioner creates a rapport with the client and uses empathy to guide them toward their goals better. The practice is usually used in conjunction with other techniques to make them more powerful and effective.

Swish pattern

Clients are guided to visualize their regular patterns of behavior or thought, and these patterns are adjusted to lead to the desired outcome. When treating anxiety, the client can visualize its shape, size, and color. Then they monitor it as it spirals in its familiar direction. In order to achieve a better result and experience, they try to twist it in the opposite direction once they have made a vivid representation of it.

Visual dissociation

Visualization and other strategies are used to dissociate negative thoughts and feelings from a particular event. PTSD is often treated with this. Clients visualize the traumatic event as if it were a movie, observing it from a safe distance. The client is then encouraged to vividly visualize it ending in a safe place rather than the trauma.


It is also possible to use the opposite of the previous technique. The vomiting process is associated with repulsion in Kathy Welter-Nichols’ approach to treating bulimia. Since bulimic clients generally do not have a problem vomiting, she encourages them to have a strong adverse reaction.