Article from

First published in NLP World, Volume 1, No. 2, July 1994

The Royal Road To Recognition:
NLP in Psychotherapy and Counselling

 James Lawley

NLP Psychotherapy and Counselling has made great strides in becoming accepted, and even respected in Great Britain. Five years ago the Association for NLP (ANLP) decided to follow the route of accreditation for its psychotherpists. This article is a report on the progress made to date. It covers the background, the validation process, and the factors underlying the success of the Association in gaining recognition.


In 1981, a Parliamentary private member's bill attempted to introduce legislation to control psychotherapy within Britain. Following the failure of this bill, the British Association for Counselling (BAC) organised a symposium amongst psychotherapy organisations. The aim of this initiative was to establish a dialogue about regulation of the profession. This was the beginning of a series of annual meetings which culminated after seven years in the formation of the UK Standing Conference for Psychotherapy (UKSCP).

Four years later, the UKSCP realised its dream of becoming the national Council for the profession of Psychotherapy in Britain. It marked the occasion by changing its name to the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) and published the first National Register of Psychotherapists. The Register, which contains around 3,000 names of which 52 are NLP Psychotherapists, was presented to the Government at the House of Lords in May 1993. The current Government prefers not to introduce legislation to control professions who adequately regulate themselves. This means the UKCP governs by persuasion rather than statute.

The UKCP currently has around 70 member organisations representing the broad spectrum of approaches to psychotherapy in the UK. It is structured by grouping organisations with similar approaches to psychotherapy; for example Analytical, Behavioural, Family, Humanistic and Hypnotherapy. Finding a pigeon hole for NLP was quite a source of debate within UKCP and we are now in a group called Experiential Constructivists which is made up of the ANLP and Personal Construct Psychology. PCP grew out of the work of George Kelly in the 1950's.

The UKCP also operates at a European level and is the sole UK representative on the Board of the European Association for Psychotherapy. This umbrella organisation has members representing almost every European country.

The Association for NLP

NLP Psychotherapists and Counsellors in the United Kingdom are now eligible to register with the UK Council for Psychotherapy. The only NLP accrediting body recognised by UKCP is the Association for NLP. The ANLP has been a member organisation of UKCP and its forerunners since 1987. It is a Registered Charity and a Limited Company with over 600 members, and is probably the largest NLP Association outside of the USA.

In 1992, the ANLP established a Psychotherapy and Counselling Section (PCS) for the purpose of:

  • Developing and maintaining standards for the practice of NLP Psychotherapy and Counselling
  • Monitoring the activities, and furthering the interest, of its members
  • Representing the interest of ANLP to other professional and regulatory authorities engaged in the field of psychotherapy and counselling
  • Promoting NLP Psychotherapy and Counselling to a wider public and furthering the use of the techniques, training and practice of NLP in personal development
  • The Psychotherapy and Counselling Section has 120 members of which 52 are currently Registered with UKCP.

The NLP Route to Registration

Each organisation within UKCP defines its own procedures for validating psychotherapists. These procedures have to be compatible with the UKCP guidelines and member organisations are reviewed every 5 years.

Unlike many of the bodies within UKCP who provide for their own training and assessment, the ANLP is not a training organisation and therefore cannot accredit psychotherapists directly. Instead, the Psychotherapy and Counselling Section has established a set of validation criteria and a Validation Panel which assess applications from those members seeking registration with UKCP.

The Validation Panel consists of three members of the PCS Committee, two distinguished NLP psychotherapists and six external validators. The external validators are chosen for their experience and reputation in the field of psychotherapy. They bring credibility and an independent eye to the process.

Validation Criteria

The Validation Panel considers applications only from Full Members of the ANLP PCS who practice Psychotherapy/Counselling in the United Kingdom. A prerequisite of membership of the PCS is acceptance of the PCS Code of Ethics. The Code covers therapists responsibilities to the client, confidentiality, and relationships with third parties. Applicants to the Panel are awarded a Validated Status and registered with UKCP upon evidence of:

  • A minimum of 400 hours formal training in NLP and related subjects including Practitioner and Master Practitioner certification;
  • Knowledge of other psychotherapeutic approaches which come under the auspices of UKCP and BAC;
  • Graduate level of education or equivalent work experience which satisfies MA course entry requirements;
  • A minimum of two years experience of supervised work with clients (totalling at least 400 client contact hours);
  • Ability to identify and manage appropriately their own involvement in the psychotherapeutic process;
  • Ongoing supervision (good practice is considered to be 1 hour of supervision to every 20 client contact hours);
  • Continued professional development after training; and
  • Adequate malpractice and public liability insurance.

If applicants do not meet the above criteria, other factors may be taken into account such as: research, publications and other contributions to the field of psychotherapy; together with accreditations from related professions (eg. medicine, psychiatry, psychology, social work, counselling, etc.).

Validation by PCS, and registration with UKCP is for a period of one year. After 12 months each NLP Psychotherapist has to reapply to the Validation Panel to seek an extension to validation for a further year.

Behavioural Flexibility

Although the above criteria have been in effect for the last two years, the ANLP PCS are continually reviewing the validation criteria based on changing UKCP directives. This gives us a wonderful opportunity to practice our behavioural flexibility. For example, the 1995 Validation Criteria will include the additional requirement that:

"Training shall be over a period of three-years and shall include a critical understanding of the relevance of studies in human development, psychopathology, sexuality, ethics, research, and social science."

In case you are thinking NLP is universally admired in Britain, let me assure you it is not. A recent piece in a national publication was headed "Neurolinguistic Nonsense" and within the UKCP there are many, especially those from analytic backgrounds, who express strong concerns about the validity of NLP. More than once ANLP delegates to the Annual General Meeting of the UKCP have had to defend the right of NLP to be represented at all!

Whence Credibility Comes?

So how have we managed to gain such a level of acceptance for NLP, albeit sometimes grudgingly given? In my opinion, two key factors have been: the quality and rigour of ANLP procedures and the ability of our delegates.

In addition to establishing the validation process, the PCS has produced By-Laws which govern the operation of the PCS Committee; A Code of Ethics by which all members agree to be bound; A complaints and disciplinary procedure; An appeals procedure and a Code of Practice for the Supervision of NLP Psychotherapists and Counsellors. The documented descriptions of these codes and processes have been so highly received within UKCP that several other organisations have used them as models for their own standards and procedures.

ANLP delegates have had to use all of their rapport skills when attending UKCP functions. We have taken the time to pace the fears of the more traditional approaches to psychotherapy before putting our case for recognition. We realise that it is not NLP itself that causes the reaction, rather the implications NLP raises for the established models of psychotherapy.

Our efforts have been rewarded, and for the first time the ANLP has a representative on the Governing Board of UKCP. This gives us an excellent opportunity to explain that the NLP model of psychotherapy is different, not invalid! We also get to find out what is going on within other organisations.

I would be delighted to hear from NLP organisations who already have an accreditation process for NLP Psychotherapists, or are establishing one.

James Lawley,

Chair of ANLP PCS 1993-1994
Chair of Validation Panel 1993-1995

(not included in the original article)
October ANLP established. Eileen Whicker is first chairperson.
Summer Rapport Issue 1, published as 6 page newsletter.
Frank Kevlin elected chair of ANLP and Jo Hogg appointed as Secretary.
  November First one day Conference - attended by 80 people
1988 Spring ANLP accepted for organisational membership of British Association for Counselling (BAC).
Membership of Association reaches 100.
Susan King becomes new editor of Rapport.
ANLP accepted to participate in Rugby Standing Conference on      Psychotherapy (RSCP)
  December Annual conference expanded to 2 days and attended by 160.
1989 Spring Membership exceeds 200.
Rapport Issue 9, produced in 16 page format.
Third Annual Conference attracts 226.
1990 January ANLP elected as full member of UK Standing Conference on Psychotherapy (UKSCP, formerly RSCP, to become UKCP).
  May First extra one-day conference held in conjunction with AGM.
  September Frank Kevlin dies and Sue Burke assumes the chair.
  November ANLP Annual Conference attended by 320.
1991 May Membership goes over 400.
  Summer Carol Harris becomes editor of Rapport at Issue 15.
1992 Spring Administrative Office and telephone Help Line established in the Midlands run by Sue Gazey.
    Issue 17 of Rapport fills 28 pages.
Psychotherapy and Counselling Section of ANLP is born.
Conference attracts over 400 delegates.
1993 January Dermot Grace becomes Secretary of NLP while Jo Hogg continues as Conference Organiser.
  May 38 NLP Psychotherapists accepted for first annual UKCP Register

Summer Conference extended to 2 days.
Membership exceeds 600.
1994 June Peter Child elected to Chair.
  Winter Rapport Issue 26 goes glossy with 60 pages having increased publication from 3 to 4 times a year.
Complied by James Lawley
13 July 1995


James LawleyJames Lawley offers psychotherapiy to individuals and couples, and coaching, research and consultancy to organisations. He is a co-developer of Symbolic Modelling and co-author (with Penny Tompkins) of Metaphors in Mind: Transformation through Symbolic Modelling, (with Marian Way) Insights in Space: How to use Clean Space to solve problems, generate ideas and spark creativity and an Online training in Clean Language and Symbolic Modelling. For a more detailed biography see about us and his blog.


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