NLP for Health

Written by Mel Abbott
For enquiries about NLP for Health,
contact Mel at

Neuro-linguistic programming is a method for modelling excellence. It is the study of how we do what we do, especially the behaviour that works well. By studying thinking patterns and behaviours that create excellent outcomes, NLP professionals can teach other people strategies for achieving their own best outcomes. These goals range from personal (such as improving self-confidence, quitting an addiction, resolving trauma and health problems, becoming happier...) through to corporate success (such as increasing sales, improving public speaking, developing better marketing strategies, creating better workplace dynamics). NLP supporters love NLP because it creates rapid change by providing tangible steps for a person or an organisation to put in place to create great outcomes.

How NLP may be useful in the Health Industry

Research is showing that health is an interplay of mind and body – thinking patterns, emotional states, lifestyle choices and beliefs are all impacting on whether someone is healthy or not. NLP Researchers have used the method of modelling excellence (observing people who are great at wellness, as well as people who are ill) to uncover thinking patterns, behaviour patterns and belief patterns that enhance or hinder good health. Doctors and nurses can learn language patterns and short techniques to use with clients to improve health outcomes within their mainstream care. NLP Practitioners can use longer NLP processes to target specific health problems and remove the underlying cause of illness.


Some of the most common health problems that people use NLP for are:

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

  • Allergies and food intolerances

  • Addictions

  • Chronic fatigue

  • Chronic pain


NLP Technique for Health

Yoga by the Ocean

One of the big barriers to recovery from chronic illness is that people become so focused on the health problem that their constant thinking about it actually maintains and exacerbates it. Here are some simple ways to start wiring up your (or your patient’s) brain for recovery. These are obviously very simple interventions and you may need some more comprehensive NLP processes to get a full recovery, but these simple steps can already make a big difference.

NLP Interventions
  1. Body scanning is a HUGE part of chronic illness – constantly checking the problem to see how it is now, is it getting a bit worse, a lot worse? What times of day do you expect it to be worse? Every time you notice that you are body scanning, immediately think “STOP” and shift your attention to think about anything else.

  2. Your body heals best when calm. Throughout the day, do patches of slow breathing (6 counts in and 6 counts out) to balance your nervous system and calm down. It can be helpful to do the out breath through your mouth for even more calming effect. Once your nervous system is calmer, your body has more resources for healing.

  3. Spend 5 minutes before going to sleep and five minutes when you first wake up imagining yourself with great health. Really feel into what it would be like to be healthy again, what you would do in your day, how you would feel. This will help your brain to start rewiring back into healthy patterns that promote health.

  4. If you are a health professional, ask your patients “what’s improved since I last saw you?” “how much more comfortable is your knee now?” rather than “what’s the problem?” and “how painful is your knee?” Use comfort and energy scales instead of pain and fatigue scales. You can still get the same info out of people by asking “how comfortable are you out of 10?” than “how much pain are you in?”, but it helps their brain to shift away from the problem.


NLP Technique for Health

Here is a movie of a radio interview between a Nurse and an NLP Practitioner who use NLP within the healthcare industry.

After a somewhat stilted introduction, they have a very interesting discussion about the power of belief and language patterns working with patients.


Research About NLP in Health


One of the most exciting NLP studies was by Muss in 1991, who used the NLP Trauma Method to help PTSD sufferers from the forces. 100% of the trial group got rid of their symptoms and maintained wellness.

“Re-minding the body of its own abilities” is an article by NLP trainer and nurse Richard Bolstad, looking at placebo studies, the role of the mind in overcoming pain, and in increasing immune function.


Books About NLP for Health and Healthcare Professionals

NLP and Coaching for Healthcare Professionals

Dr Suzanne Henwood is an NLP Researcher from the UK who now lives in NZ and has written a book specifically to support healthcare professionals with NLP techniques.

Trance-Formations: NLP and the Structure of Hypnosis

The founders of NLP (John Grinder and Richard Bandler) wrote this excellent book about inducing hypnotic states and interrupting habitual patterns that may keep people trapped in illness or other unhelpful patterns.


How the Writer of this Page Uses NLP in Healthcare

Mel Abbott

I was on an invalids benefit for 11 years with chronic fatigue syndrome, digestive issues, a goitre and chronic neck pain. I tried everything, but nothing worked. It was suddenly an NLP-based course that got me completely well in just two weeks! I therefore did NLP Practitioner and Master Practitioner training and now specialise in chronic illness recovery.

I teach a four day course called The Switch in which people learn to calm the stress response to allow natural healing, change illness thinking patterns and beliefs, resolve past trauma that caused the illness, and make lifestyle changes. I have seen around 80-90% of my clients recover from a wide range of chronic health conditions. I also enjoy presenting at national GP Conferences, so that mainstream practitioners can start incorporating some mind-body concepts into their practice.


For enquiries about using NLP in healthcare, or to join our NLP for Health online professional development and supervision group (for associate and professional members of NZANLP), contact Mel Abbott: