Treating anxiety and depression using NLP

Neuro-linguistic programming is ideal for the treatment of depression.

Depression is overtaking back pain as the chief cause of absence from work. One in four consultations is now related to depression.

GPs are at the front line of the attempt to combat anxiety and depression and it can sometimes feel overwhelming to be confronted with the misery of those patients.

The patient who enters your room and bursts into tears can often throw your timekeeping severely off kilter, not to mention create a strong feeling of inadequacy for not providing quick solutions to their problems.

Antidepressant medication works best when combined with talking therapies which, in most areas of the UK, are in very short supply.

What we as GPs need are easy techniques to help patients leave the consulting room feeling better.

It would also be good if we were left feeling we had facilitated a positive change in the patient. A positive relationship between health professional and patient is key to compliance and influences recovery.

Positive emotions such as warmth, happiness and calm have been shown to have beneficial effects on a patient's overall health. Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is an interpersonal communication model and an alternative approach to psychotherapy. Learning NLP can provide the skills to make a difference to even the most difficult of patients and give you greater satisfaction.

Neuro-linguistic programming
NLP is known as the study of subjective experience, and of how we can achieve excellence in any area of life.

Richard Bandler, a cybernetics student and John Grinder, a linguistics professor, found a way to 'model' the best therapists to uncover how they were achieving their results.

Their work produced 'a trail of techniques' that provide the best levers for personal change. Some of the main ideas include:

  • Problems, desires, feelings, beliefs and outcomes are represented in visual, auditory and kinaesthetic systems.
  • When communicating with someone, rather than just listening to and responding to what a person has said, NLP aims to respond to the structure of verbal and non-verbal cues.
  • Certain language patterns can help clarify what has been left out or distorted in communication, to specify thinking and outcomes, reframe beliefs and set goals.
  • The state someone is in when setting a goal or choosing a course of action is important. NLP is about understanding thinking at both the conscious and unconscious level.

The first step is about feeling good yourself. You find yourself influencing the negative state of your patient in a positive way.

The next step looks at developing rapport. Helping patients set their own health goals is part of empowering them to take charge of their overall well-being.

Some patients become trapped into believing that they will not recover or can do nothing to help themselves; NLP teaches strategies to challenge these beliefs.

Many health professionals find that NLP gives them the skills they need to create change and empowerment in patients.

  •  Dr Everden is a GP in Norfolk and a master practitioner and trainer in NLP and Ms Bayliss is a change worker and master trainer in NLP in Norfolk
  • The authors will be running a masterclass in NLP at the RCGP on 12 November 2008. For more information see or telephone (020) 7344 3124.

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