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NLP and CBT – Two Sides of the Same Coin?


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If you have been looking to build your skills as therapist, you have probably heard about these terms more than once – NLP or Neuro Linguistic Programming and CBT or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

Read on to understand how the two are similar or different.

NLP and CBT are similar, in the sense that both provide a framework using which you can attempt to understand the way your clients think and help them move beyond limiting beliefs to what is more beneficial to them.

[easy-tweet tweet=”But then there are differences in the way both NLP and CBT describe how people operate and how the methodologies can be applied.” user=”icharsonline” hashtags=”NLP, CBT” template=”light”]

Before we go any further, let us understand what both mean.


You may have read or heard about the famous phobia cure of NLP. NLP is the study of subjective experience – how language and perception affects our behaviour. In NLP, you study about how we filter the information we receive to make sense of it and how we communicate and behave based on our interpretation.

For example, the generalisation that all foreigners look down upon Indians may negatively impact my relationship with my European boss at work.

Changing the perception, to see and hear what truly ‘is’ and the communication to become more productive can help us overcome what seems to be stopping us from achieving what we want. Many coaches and corporate leaders use NLP today but NLP can be utilised by anyone who wants to set and achieve any goals.


CBT developed primarily as a therapeutic technique to enable people to understand how thoughts trigger behaviour and affect how they feel.

CBT is mainly used in therapeutic contexts to help people reprogram their patterns of thought. For instance, many rules we learn as kids may need to be updated as our experience broadens. When we don’t, it starts causing problems as adults.

For example, you may have realised that you should stay away from authority figures, because your father was very strict. But doing the same with your boss at work may not be the best thing for you today.

NLP and CBT: Same or Different?

  1. While CBT involves cognitive processes that may require the input about the situation and behaviour that the individual is working to change by changing his/her own thoughts, beliefs and attitudes. NLP techniques on the other hand are content independent. Which means specific details about the situation or the behaviour may not be required.
  2. NLP also helps us with a model of how the mind adds meaning to data that we receive through our senses.
  3. Both NLP and CBT help people overcome limiting beliefs to move towards a more ecological way of living.
  4. While CBT can be utilised to identify and challenge the limiting beliefs as they arise, NLP offers a framework to reframe them to ones more realistic and helpful ones. Since NLP change processes are based in hypnosis, it becomes vital to understand and learn hypnosis to help clients efficiently and effectively.

In this sense, all the three: Hypnosis, NLP and CBT can be integrated to create a powerful change process. Cognitive Hypnotic Psychotherapy™ Program offers a powerful framework based on this integration.