Lisa's counselor asks her specific questions - he wants to know more about her goals and how she plans to achieve them. As he listens, the counselor guides Lisa’s responses to help her avoid generalizing, distorting and committing other common communication mistakes we all tend to make. To help Lisa feel more comfortable, he mimics her body posture and even uses some of the same hand gestures Lisa's using.
So, what is Lisa's counselor doing? Well, he's using a lesser-known (and incredibly effective) form of therapy known as Neurolinguistic Programming - or NLP.
How Does NLP work?
NLP focuses on interactions between the mind (neuro) and language (linguistic). And for an addicted teenager, it helps her develop healthier patterns of internal and external communication, aids in processing information and uses communication as a way to achieve goals.
In talking to an NLP expert, you'll notice they truly believe there's nothing we can’t learn to handle. The trick is to look at how we express thoughts, then consciously change unhealthy communication patterns to healthy patterns of expression.
One of the best things about this form of therapy is that the strategies work for people on both sides of the fence - and that quality alone makes NLP worth its weight in gold to the parents of addicted teenagers. You can apply the NLP counseling techniques to your own communication, ultimately improving your listening skills and ability to connect with your teen on a more personal level.
It's also important to point out that NLP therapy is only successful when there's an established and trustworthy relationship with the counselor. Both you and your teen must trust this person and feel comfortable sharing with him. As a way to help form this connection, most NLP practitioners make an effort to build rapport through matching. Specifically, they work to match modality, physiology and voice/language.
Here's a look at how "matching" works:
- Modality: What mode does the client usually use to process information? Auditory, visual, or kinesthetic? Once this is determined, the counselor uses this mode to help communicate better with the client and help them feel understood.
- Physiology: The counselor matches posture and hand movements of the client. This delivers an unconscious message that they are alike.
- Voice and Language: Their connection is strengthened further when the counselor matches the client’s tempo, volume, and tone. She may even use some of the same vocabulary.
The Meta Model
According to the Meta Model, the studying or 'modelling' of communication skills started by an NLP originator named Richard Bandler, those suffering in addiction are in pain because their worldview is destroyed. They are trapped in negative, limited thinking which convinces them they have few or no choices. Attempts to verbalize their situation often involves deletion or distortion of information.
The goal with this unique therapy, then, is to change your teen's communication with herself and others to eliminate negative patterns that include:
- Deletions: Leaving out parts of an experience
- Distortions: Falsely making an experience less or more important than it was
- Generalizations: Creating an “always” or “never” mindset from one experience
- Mind Reading: Expecting others to know what you are thinking
- Modal Operators: Improper use of words such as must, should, can’t
What Can You Expect?
To avoid communication errors and provide a method that helps your teen clarify her goals, an NLP counselor will ask "Outcome Specification" questions.
Some examples include the following:
- What do you want?
- How will you know when you have it? What will be evidence of success?
- Where will the goal be relevant and/or irrelevant?
- What stops you from pursuing the goal wholeheartedly?
- What personal resources that you already possess can you draw upon to help you achieve this goal?
- What additional resources will you need in order to achieve the goal?
- How might the pursuit of the goal affect important people in your life? Is there any risk associated with achieving this goal?
- What are daily actions you will need to take in order to achieve your goal? What is the first step?
- Given everything you have considered to this point, is achieving the goal worth it?
If your teen is struggling with addiction, NLP methods might be the key to enhancing her communication and thinking patterns. These methods can also help you effectively guide and support her on the path to recovery.
Remember: To a teenager, there's no substitute for the love, support and wisdom of a parent.
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