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Certification, standards and accreditation in NLP

(Disclaimer: this page has not been officially approved by the PFJ)

Time to bust some myths and apply a nice sharp needle
to the big shiny balloon of marketing hype.



Most NLP training companies will try to convince you that there is a recognised set of existing standards in the field of NLP training, and that their courses meet those standards – unlike other, lesser quality (or less advanced) courses.

If you've checked out the websites of a few NLP training providers, you will probably already recognise this common marketing tactic.


So let's straighten this out and cut the bollocks right now.

Don't get sucked in by people talking about recognised standards. Period.

Here's the real deal: NLP training, as a field, is totally unregulated anywhere in the world. Right now, you or anyone you know could run a 20 minute seminar about the best way to peel a granny smith apple – and call that NLP Practitioner training. You could even issue NLP Practitioner certificates … and nobody could stop you.

What does this mean? Well, it means quite a few things – and here are the two most important things you need to know:

Cold hard fact number one: the 'fast track' myth

If two training companies both offer courses with the title 'NLP Practitioner' – this does not mean that they are both offering the same course.

So it may be that you notice one company offering an NLP Practitioner course that is 20 days long, while another offers an NLP Practitioner course that is 7 days long. How can this be? Some trainers (unsurprisingly, the ones offering short courses) will try to convince you that they use magical accelerated learning techniques that other trainers don't know about, and that they can therefore teach their courses in a much shorter time frame.

Here's a much more straightforward explanation: they're simply not teaching the same course. Peeling apples, remember?  With one trainer you get 20 days of NLP training – with another, you only get seven.

Do the math.

Cold hard fact number two: the 'official recognition' myth

If you ever see that a particular course is "recognised by" or "accredited through" some organisation with a very official-sounding name - just stop for a second, back the truck up and hold everything.

Join me for a moment in a little thought experiment:

I'm an NLP trainer. Imagine for a second that I want to convince people that my courses conform to some kind of rigorous international standard. So … let's say I call a couple of my friends who are NLP trainers – maybe one in the US and another in the UK – and we jointly form a company and call it the NLP Training Standards Association (NLPTSA). We agree on what we think an NLP Practitioner course should look like – and we agree to recognise each others courses as meeting the standards that we agreed on as a group.

Then we have a graphic designer whip up an official-looking seal, and we have a web designer create the official NLPTSA website.

Et voila – I can now advertise that my courses are internationally recognised by the NLP Training Standards Association. Simple as that.

Easy enough to imagine?

So … what's the difference between the NLP Training Standards Association and any of the following organisations - all of which actually exist:

The International NLP Trainers Association (INLPTA)

The Society of NLP (SNLP)

The International Trainers Academy of NLP (ITANLP)

The Professional Guild of NLP (PGNLP)

The International NLP Association (INLPA)

The NLP Trainers Registration Body (NLPTRB)

The International Association of NLP (IANLP)

The Association of NLP (ANLP)

The Global Organisation of NLP (GONLP)

Well, there are two differences. Ready for them? Here they are:

1) Start date
2) Number of people

That's all. Some of those groups have lots of members, some have only a handful. Some were started many years ago, some were only started in the last few years.

But there's not a single one of them that is recognised by all the others.

Let me repeat that:

Not a single one of them is recognised by all the others.

Some people have even gone so far as to suggest that the situation bears some resemblance to this scene from Monty Python's The Life of Brian:
(Warning: the following clip contains some coarse language)



So whenever you see or hear any of these phrases:

"internationally recognised by … " "accredited by … " "officially endorsed by … "

... no matter what comes next, just remember: "The Peoples Front of Judea!"

And on a slightly more serious note:

Recognition, accreditation or endorsement by any of the organisations listed earlier doesn't mean that a particular trainer's courses conform to the official standards of NLP training – because the cold hard fact is that there are no universally recognised training standards in NLP. All it means is that they belong to (or have aligned themselves with) one of the various 'camps' in NLP. They're waving their flags, as it were.

This doesn't necessarily mean that their standards are dodgey, it just means that they aren't THE recognised standards - they are just the opinions of one group of people in the NLP community.

Watch this space if you'd like to learn more about the various camps in NLP - so you can recognise the flags people wave and what they mean. A special website section all about this is coming soon.


"Ok - so where does this James guy stand, then?"

In one way or another, I have been involved with three of those organisations over the years - and I believe that, on paper, I'm still registered with two of them. For a number of reasons, I have chosen to distance myself from all of them and remain (for all practical purposes) independent and unaffiliated. This is a choice I'm very passionate about, and it's central to how I do things as a trainer.

If you'd like to know more about my reasons for doing so, you can find out all about it by following this link: How we're different


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