Certification, standards and accreditation in NLP

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

It’s time to call out marketing bullshit for what it is.

Most NLP training companies will tell you that there is some recognised set of standards in the field of NLP, and that their courses meet those high standards – unlike other, lower quality (or less advanced) courses.

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

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

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

Here’s the reality:  NLP training, as a field, is totally unregulated anywhere in the world.

What this means is that right now, you or anyone you know could run a 20 minute seminar on the best way to peel a potato – and call that NLP Practitioner training.  You could even issue NLP Practitioner certificates.

And nobody could stop you.

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

Cold hard fact number one: the ‘fast track’ myth

If two companies both offer courses with the title ‘NLP Practitioner’ – this absolutely does not mean they are both offering the same course.

So you may notice one company offering an NLP Practitioner course that is 20 days long, while another offers an NLP Practitioner course that is only 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 can therefore teach their courses in a much shorter time frame.

Here’s a much more straightforward explanation:  they’re not teaching the same course.

Peeling potatos, 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 certain course is “accredited” or “recognized” by some organisation with a very impressive and 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 get together with some 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).

Then we agree on what we think an NLP Practitioner course should look like – and we agree to recognise each others courses as conforming to the standards 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 say my courses are internationally recognised by the NLP Training Standards Association!

Easy enough to imagine?

So … what’s the difference between the NLPTSA 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 (or in some cases, three).

Ready for them?  Here they are:

1)  Start date
2)  Number of members

… and sometimes

3)  Association with an NLP celebrity

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.  And a few glorify some famous name in the NLP world.

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)

And on a slightly more serious note:

Recognition or accreditation by any of the groups listed earlier doesn’t mean that a particular trainer’s courses conform to the official standards of NLP training – because 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 dodgy, it just means that those standards 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 find out 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 groups 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 unaffiliated.  This is a personal 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