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Does NLP Work for Coaching? What You Need to Know with Kathleen Oh

In this episode, we’re exploring the world of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and its use in the online business and coaching world, with a focus on what you, as a consumer, need to be aware of.

I’m joined by Kathleen Oh, a coach trained as a Master Practitioner in NLP, to get her perspective on its problems and the potential for harm.

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I’ve wanted to do an episode on Neuro-Linguistic Programming or NLP for years, but honestly, I didn’t know where to start. I’ve touched on it many times in my work, but it’s such a big topic that I knew I needed to have a conversation with someone who had more expertise on it than I did.

This is where our guest for this episode, Kathleen, comes in. I’ve known of her for a couple of years as we have mutual business friends, but we finally connected last fall. Over the last year, she’s been sharing her personal story, including disillusionment with the wellness community, concerns with NLP, and more.

After a chat on Zoom, and many DMs, I decided to invite her on the show to chat with me about NLP. Some of what she has to say about NLP may confirm how you’ve been feeling about it, and other parts may surprise you.

But before we cut to our conversation, I wanted to give you a little background on NLP.

What Is NLP?

NLP is a field of “study” developed in the 1970s by Richard Bandler and John Grinder. Bandler was a mathematician and computer scientist, while Grinder was a linguist. They were interested in studying the communication patterns of successful therapists, including Milton Erickson, Virginia Satir, and Fritz Perls.

Their work led to the development of NLP, which is based on the idea that language and behavior are interconnected and that by changing how we use language, we can change our thoughts, emotions, and actions. They make some wild claims about what NLP can quickly solve, from learning disabilities to phobias to depression.

A 2020 article by Tracy Flory-Clark on Jezebel provides a look at how Bandler and Grinder’s book Frogs into Princes, inspired pick-up artists andcults, such as NVIXM, and is the basis of self-help guru Tony Robbins’ work.

NLP has been widely criticized for its lack of scientific evidence and the commercialization of it by creating trainings and certifications where people can become “qualified” to use it in a matter of days. As a result, thousands of coaches (and other individuals) use NLP with no oversight or accountability in the online business world.

This is particularly important as critics of NLP argue that it can be used to manipulate vulnerable individuals. In the context of online business NLP is another tool being used to exert control and convince people to buy.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • What NLP actually is.
  • How Kathleen discovered NLP and became a Master Practitioner.
  • Why she opted to stop using it as a coach.
  • The origins of NLP  and how big-name self-help teachers propelled its popularity. 
  • Examples of NLP and where you may encounter it.
  • What to watch for with coaches and online teachers in terms of coercive control and where you may be being manipulated. 
  • The one thing we both think should give you pause when considering making an investment. 
  • The current NLP training landscape and why you should steer clear of people using it. 

Kathleen’s Bio

Kathleen Oh (she/her) is a coach, writer, and safe drug use advocate and educator specializing in psychedelic integration. She offers coaching services focusing on clients’ continued care and well-being from high-stress, high-performance careers as the center of their work. She practices trauma-informed and integrative, positive psychology, solution-focused coaching, and Internal Family Systems Informed approaches through the lens of an anti-oppressive framework.

Kathleen openly practices as a learner and student of cultic studies. She continues to decondition and recover from systems of cultic indoctrination in the New Age Spirituality and Wellness industry. This combination of skills is uncommon in coaching communities.

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Maggie Patterson Abou the Author

I’m Maggie Patterson (she/her), and services businesses are my business.

I have 20+ years of experience with client services, am a consultant for agency owners, creatives, and consultants, and vocal advocate for humane business practices rooted in empathy, respect, and trust.

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