NLP Certifications – What do they mean?

Written by Lee Avery

Are you an NLP Practitioner, Master Practitioner, Licensed or Certified? Did you take 1 week, 10 weekends, 20 days or a 2 week residential course? How about Business vs Personal training? Does it matter, and what do any of them really mean?

For anyone setting out to learn NLP these are all very valuable questions which few within the industry are really willing to answer. Too many trainers have some level of self interest in pushing their particular ‘flavour’ of certification and training, with a great deal of doubt and uncertainty about what is enough training at the right level.

Having spent a small fortune and a considerable amount of time on training (much to my wife’s annoyance) I have a pretty clear idea of what it all means…nothing!

A Brief History of NLP Training

According to the creators of NLP the origin of the training courses is simply one of expedience. The first NLP certification courses were designed to meet the CPD (Continuing Professional Development) training requirements of therapists who attended the courses, these stipulated that a training program had to last a certain number of hours for it to count towards their ongoing professional training.

These original courses were 3 days long and based on a small subset of what we now know as a practitioner program. As the experience and knowledge increased so the course length expanded up to a 5 day program.

Eventually the amount of information and examples became too great for a single program and so the Master Practitioner program was created. It didn’t require any great experience to attend, it was simply a follow on course that needed the attendee to have knowledge from the first course to be able to understand what was going on.

And that’s it…two courses, no special sauce just an abundance of information to cover and a way to break it down into 2 different courses for more CPD credits.

For the Masses

By the end of the 1970’s NLP had become popular outside of the therapy circles and the two courses became available for anyone to attend. The Practitioner and Master Practitioner titles stuck and the misunderstanding was created between the two programs with the Master practitioner being aimed at the experienced Practitioner as a ‘step up’ when the original idea was to fill in some of the gaps from the Practitioner training.

With more people becoming involved in NLP and new trainers appearing almost weekly there was never any standardisation to the Practitioner or Master Practitioner programs and it would be down to the trainer to decide what went where, how long the training should last, and how the training should be delivered.

More tools and techniques were added and a course that started as a 3 day workshop grew to 20 day training programs, mostly covering the same amount of information just at a slower pace to accommodate those who didn’t have a therapy background.

Typical Practitioner and Master Practitioner training programs today take about 40 days of training and often cover no more than the original 6 or 10 days of the courses run in the 1970’s and 1980’s

The Value of Certification

Many courses offer a piece of paper at the end (usually a very fancy piece of paper at that) which gives the participant the title of NLP Practitioner or NLP Master Practitioner. In reality these pieces of paper are of little value, no two training schools offer the same level of training, the content and the quality are variable and there is no central governing body.

I have met ‘Master Practitioners’ who know less that ‘Practitioners’ and I have met Trainers who have little or no knowledge of some of the more useful NLP Patterns that are taught on some of the better courses.

When all is said and done the Certifications aren’t worth very much and are certificates of attendance and not of capability or quality. What has always concerned me the most is the confusion as to what an NLP Practitioner really is…it is someone who knows how to practice NLP, it is not a professional therapist although many with the certificate set themselves up as therapists on the basis of a 7 day training course.

A Warning About Licensing

There has been a recent push by Richard Bandler to create ‘Licensed’ NLP Practitioners, Master Practitioners and Trainers. Usually with a license there is some standards body that checks the quality of those who are licensed, however with the NLP License program this isn’t true. It appears that this version of the certification program is more about recurring fees to the license issuer rather than anything else and the licence offers no more as a measure of quality than the Certification program offered by others.

If you wish to go down this route then think carefully about your future obligations and costs involved and be aware that there is still no guarantee of quality no matter what the people involved would like you to think.

A Cornucopia of Confusion

And so we come to the nub of the problem. Too many titles and no standards, what one organisation sells as Master Practitioner another will include in their Practitioner, a 5 day course could be better than a 20 day one purely because there is less time ‘faffing’ around covering the basics. A Business Practitioner program offers the same information, just with a business based slant (often with business based examples).

At the end of the day there is no one-size fits all approach to the training or the certification. Don’t get caught up in the piece of paper and focus on learning the material, and most of all practice, practice, practice. That is far better than having a nice certificate in a frame on the wall, because it may as well just be a pretty picture for all of the guarantee you get with it.


About the author

Lee Avery

Professional Therapist, Clinical Hypnosis & NLP Trainer with over 25 years of experience in training new professionals and treating clients. He specialises in Trauma related Psychological health issues. After years of running training classes Lee has decided to publish his training materials online to further the accessibility of NLP and Hypnosis. He is an advocate for Clinical Hypnosis Excellence and is constantly looking to improve the professional standing of Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy within the medical community.

He also runs Achieving Greatness a software development company producing mobile apps for the mental health community.

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