Interviewed by Chris Collingwood
Steve Andreas is an NLP trainer, author, publisher, modeler, and developer, with over 24 years experience in the field. With his wife Connirae Andreas he founded NLP Comprehensive in Colorado, one of the earliest NLP training institutes. Besides being certified as an NLP trainer by Bandler and Grinder, Steve has a BS in chemistry and an MA in psychology.
Before becoming involved in NLP in 1977, (and before changing his name from John O. Stevens to Steve Andreas) he was involved in Gestalt Therapy for ten years, and he also published two books by Fritz Perls, Gestalt Therapy Verbatim and Perls’ autobiography In and Out the Garbage Pail. He also wrote Awareness: exploring, experiencing, experimenting, a book of group exercises based on Gestalt Therapy.
Through their publishing company, Real People Press, Steve and Connirae edited and published a number of classic NLP books by the original co-developers Richard Bandler and John Grinder: Frogs into Princes, Trance-formations, Reframing, and Using Your Brain-for a Change.
Steve and Connirae went on to author several books on NLP. They co-authored Heart of the Mind and Change Your Mind-and Keep the Change. Connirae wrote Core Transformations with her sister Tamara Andreas, and Steve wrote Virginia Satir, the Patterns of Her Magic.
Steve and Connirae have developed a number of NLP patterns and processes, most of them based on their extensive work with submodalities. NLP Comprehensive was the first NLP training institute to incorporate submodalities into their Practitioner training.
Steve will be teaching two NLP seminars for us titled “Recreating Yourself” and “Logical levels of Meaning in Language and Experiencer” here in Sydney Australia October 2001. The following are Steve’s responses to questions that we asked him by email:
1. You were quite active in Gestalt Therapy for many years. What led you from that to NLP?
I had organized the first Gestalt Therapy conference in 1975 in Estes Park Colorado, which is where I met Connirae. I turned the conference over to others, and in August 1977 we went to the 3rd Annual Conference in Berkeley, California. There Connirae and I went to an impromptu talk about NLP by another Gestalt Therapist. He had just been to a 5-day workshop with Richard and John, and was really excited. He said a lot of things that we found very hard to believe, but they were all easily tested. So Connirae and I asked everyone we met questions and watched their eye-accessing cues. The results of that hooked us, and I put Gestalt on the shelf and we started going to seminars.
2. What do you perceive as the most significant NLP patterns of your many contributions to the field of NLP?
I think you should probably ask that question of someone a little less biased than I am. But if I have to answer, I’d say our forgiveness pattern is particularly elegant and useful. If it were more widely used, it could do a great deal to end the anger, resentment, blaming and revenge that does so much violence and harm in the world. That would free up a lot of human energy for figuring out how to solve problems instead of blaming others for them. My next choice would be the self-concept modeling that I have done more recently. The problems resulting from self-importance and ego are legendary and have been discussed by sages and saints for thousands of years, but without an effective methodology for doing anything about it.
2. How did you come to discover timelines?
Connirae and I modeled Timelines in early 1984, at a time when we were learning about submodalities in depth from Richard Bandler, and we taught it as part of our first Advanced Submodalities training in March 1984. We assumed that there was a submodality structure underlying all experience, and the experience of time was one of the things we investigated. People can read about that in more detail in our 1991 article “A Brief History of Timelines.”
3. Does it bother you that many people are unaware that you made these important discoveries and attribute them to others?
Well, it’s always nice to get credit. Some developments have many different roots, so sometimes it’s difficult to determine the relative contributions of different people. But when we have copyrighted seminar notes dated 1984, and someone who was first introduced to NLP in 1985 claims credit for it, it’s time to put our forgiveness pattern to work.
4. What draws your attention to your next area for modeling and what criteria do you use to decide to go ahead with a project?
Personal interest, mostly, and that is something that waxes and wanes over time. I modeled the first small piece of self-concept about twelve years ago, which appears as Chapter 3 in our book Heart of the Mind. Although it was a very limited piece, it was quite useful, and quite profound in its widespread results. Then a couple of years later I scheduled a low-cost “research” seminar for master practitioners, in which we explored self-concept in a lot more detail, enough that I felt comfortable teaching it in a weekend workshop. Each time I have taught it over the years, I have learned even more, and now that I am writing it up in book form, I am learning more still. So modeling is a process that never really ends, and I don’t think of it as a “project,” but more just continuing to follow up on what interests me, as time permits, and as long as it’s productive.
5. Have you ever started investigating a potential modeling project and then decided it was not suitable? If so, what criteria were not met?
That’s a tough question. I can’t think of an example of that. I have often guided participants with the modeling projects that have been an optional, though highly-recommended, part of NLP Comprehensive’s Master Practitioner Training for years. I think almost any question is useful to follow up on if it is chunked small enough – and probably very few questions are very useful if they are chunked too large.
6. What would you advise people to do if they want to get really good at NLP?
Our favorite story in that regard is about a man who is trying of find his way to a concert in New York City. He sees a guy with a violin case, and thinks, “Oh, I’ll bet he knows where it is,” so he walks up and asks him “How can I get to Carnegie Hall?” And the man with the violin case says emphatically, “Practice, man, practice!” When we have developed a new pattern like the grief resolution process, we only become moderately confident of it after we have run about 30 clients through it, and at that point there are usually still some surprises ahead for us.
7. How do you know when someone is really accomplished at NLP?
Primarily by the results s/he gets. Secondarily by the overall understandings that unify all the different specific methods into a whole. It is this kind of understanding that can keep you going in a useful direction when the specific method doesn’t work. I have written about a few of these understandings in an article, “What Makes a Good NLPer.”
8. Do you think it is necessary to train to apply NLP to therapy, business or education after becoming a practitioner or master practitioner of NLP?
Well, certainly the applications in those different areas require different skills. That depends a lot on how the Practitioner or Master Practitioner training is designed and focused. But basically training never ends. When he was 95, someone asked Pablo Casals (then the world’s greatest cellist) why he still practiced six hours a day. Casals replied, “Because I think I am still making progress.”
9. How would you like to see NLP develop from its present state?
Iwould like to see NLP develop more into a personal practice that empowers people, rather than only a way to influence others by selling more widgets, or curing phobias faster than anyone else. I would like to see NLP applied more to the problems that are tearing apart our world and threaten to leave no safe place for us to live. Unfortunately that often means working with people who have little money to spend on such things, and often even less interest in doing so. I would also like NLP to develop into a coherent field, but that will probably take some time.
10. Do you have any hopes for the NLP community?
Not many. There really isn’t an NLP community at this time, though perhaps there are a number of different communities. I don’t think there will be a single one until everyone involved agrees on a set of fundamental presuppositions, and begins to look on NLP as a field of inquiry, and not just a way to make a quick dollar. Quite a number of NLP trainers, including some of the bigger names in the field, are teaching unecological “patterns” without any ecology frames whatsoever. That doesn’t solve problems, it only exchanges one problem for another, and the new one is sometimes worse than the first. In the early days of physics there were many subgroups and personal attacks, until they came to agreement about what physics was all about, and what constituted appropriate ways to confirm theories, and so on. That is sorely lacking in NLP, and I think it is an absolute prerequisite for a real community, and for the consolidation of the field as a whole.
11. What is your opinion of the shortening of NLP Practitioner trainings from 24 days to 16, then 9 and now 7 day trainings?
I have written a little about this in a sort article titled “NLPers doing therapy?!” Briefly, twenty-four days is less than one-eighth of a freshman year in college, barely long enough to start learning NLP. In the US, manicurists and barbers are required to train considerably longer than 24 days for their certificates. Would you want to go to a medical doctor who had only 24 days of training? Most of the people I know who are really good at NLP assisted at several trainings after being certified, in order to consolidate and expand on what they had learned. As new methods and patterns were developed over the years, we kept adding them into our trainings, because we thought of it all as basic material that everyone should know, but then we had to decide what else to leave out of the 24 days. Short trainings are accommodations to people’s desire for a cheap training with a certificate, not the need for quality, and I think that they really should be called “short change” trainings?
12. With some NLP Training organisations it is possible to go from no NLP experience to having NLP Trainer certification in as little as 6 months and to be out there teaching NLP Practitioner and Master Practitioner certifications. How much training over what period of time would you consider appropriate for someone to become a competent NLP Trainer starting with no experience?
Maybe there is a genius somewhere who could learn to be a good practitioner-level trainer in six months, but I don’t know anyone who has done it in less than about four years of very diligent work, and all of those had prior experience in teaching. Training is a complex task that requires a quite a number of different skills, and there are many people who either are not suited for it, or who are not interested in putting in the time to learn those skills. The idea that anyone can be taught to be a competent trainer in a short training is outright deception. In our entire career, Connirae and I have only certified twelve people as trainers, and that was always only after many years of practice with detailed video feedback. For us, trainer certification was always completely separate from trainer training, and it meant that we considered someone capable enough to begin to train at the practitioner level.
13. What do you think of the trend of some NLP training organisations to certify Master trainers and more recently Master Trainer Elite?
I think it is a rather bad joke – not funny at all, really. I know only one so-called “Master Trainer” that I would personally allow to teach in a practitioner training, and his ability has absolutely nothing to do with that designation, which he does not use in publicity. I haven’t even heard of the “Master Trainer Elite” designation! Next I suppose we can expect “Supreme Master NLP Trainer of the Universe.” Like the “short change” workshops, those titles are self-serving market-driven attempts to appear superior to the competition, and nothing more. Many years ago Connirae and I wrote up our “Consumer’s Guide to Good Training,” and the title that a trainer had played absolutely no part in it. We advise people to go to trainings by people who can demonstrate what they do, not just give themselves superior-sounding names.
14. You are continuing to model and develop new NLP patterns. What are your current areas of interest and exploration and are we likely to see a new book from you sometime soon?
I am working hard right now on a book about the self-concept material – in between the demands of being the father of three teenage boys, and being the owner of a small publishing business, and teaching workshops. I hope to have the book out sometime later this year. Recently I went back to reexamine Modal Operators and learned quite a lot about them that is not taught in any training that I know of. In response to an email, I recently wrote up a piece on Certainty and Uncertainty that pleased me greatly. Certainty is a meta-level evaluation of an experience or belief that locks it in and makes it very difficult to change. So before you can change the belief, you first need to work with the degree of certainty about it. In this situation, trying to change the belief or experience first is a complete waste of time. Exploring this kind of meta-frame is something that isn’t often taught, and it is an area that I’m sure has much more in it. Very few people have any notion of the different logical levels of generalization from experience, and fewer yet are able to track these levels and move among them systematically to work at the most useful and appropriate level. Another example of this appears in the self-concept material. The self-concept is a generalization from experience, and my modeling of this has determined the different ways that people select experiences to include in their self-concept and how to represent them. Self-esteem is a meta-level generalization about the self-concept, whether you like your self-concept or not. Yet most people use the words self-concept and self-esteem interchangeably, and have no idea how futile it is to work with self-esteem rather than self-concept.
15. If NLP is a neutral study of pattern detection and utilisation in and between living systems, how can something described as spirituality, be it practical or otherwise, be taught in the context of NLP other than as a content area to which NLP is applied?
Everything that we do in this field is applying NLP to a content area, to determine the patterns evident in that content area, and spirituality is simply another one of these content areas. Spirituality is just a word, of course, that has many different meanings to different people. But one of the common meanings of the word is for a person to have a felt sense of connection to a much larger universe. I think of spirituality and religion as distinctly separate, and I would say that for most people it is easier to experience spirituality without religion that within it. The felt sense of connection is something that even atheists like myself can experience through Connirae’s Core Transformation process, and it can be thought of as the largest frame, the largest chunk of all. A scientist contemplating the profundity and universality of E=MC2 (in a universe at least 13 billion light years across (and growing as we get better telescopes!) is really very close to the mystic who does something similar from a less rigorously mathematical perspective. We seem to be creatures who are determined to ask about these larger frames of meaning, and our answers to them are very important to us in organizing our lives. History is replete with examples of people who have transformed their entire lives profoundly after a spiritual experience. Given that, the structure of spiritual experience is worth exploring to find out what it is made up of, how we can gain some understanding of it, and ultimately how to create that experience and utilize it well.
© 2000 Steve Andreas, Chris and Jules Collingwood
Andreas, Connirae., Andreas, Steve. A Brief History of Timelines. VAK International NLP Newsletter Vol 10, No 1. Winter 1991-1992.
Andreas, Steve. NLPers Doing Therapy. Anchor Point, June 2000, Vol. 14, No. 6, pp. 26-27.
Andreas, Steve. Modal Operators. Anchor Point, January 2001, Vol. 15, No. 1, pp.19-26.
Andreas, Steve. Certainty and Uncertainty. Anchor Point, October, 2000, Vol. 14, No. 10, pp. 3-8.