NLP and ICF-Style Coaching – Are They Congruent?

It is a common misconception that you cannot use NLP in ICF-style coaching. They are not mutually exclusive, and that line of thought is simply incorrect!

Let’s start with an overview of both models. ICF accreditation is achieved through a demonstration of understanding of The Coach Federation core competencies and ethical guidelines in a recorded coaching session and in the Coach Credentialing Examination. This accreditation process takes a Federation’s minimum of 3 months, assuming you have ICF-approved coach training.

NLP certification is attained through demonstrated learning of specific techniques to assist in communication and behavioural changes for your clients. ICF defines coaching as the partnering, with clients, in thought-provoking and creative conversations that maximize a client’s personal and professional potential.

Essentially, coaching is the practice of assisting the client to self-enable to realize their desired outcome. The coaching methods utilized to support this self-enabling process will depend on what will serve the client towards their learning and growth.

NLP can be considered the methodology of studying human communication and behavior and Coaching, as the method of empowering the client using a variety of approaches. The scope of which will depend on the level of mastery of the coach and most importantly, what would serve the client.

The overlap here is clear; NLP aligns with the identification of strategies and coaching facilitates achievement. So where does the apparent conflict arise in people’s thinking? ICF is a client-centered and client-directed conversation designed to evoke awareness and possibility. The coach is expected to provide most of the session time to the client’s thinking, processing, and talking.

If a coach utilized techniques derived from NLP, in a scripted format, it is clear where the conflict occurs; the coach has now taken center stage and becomes the director of the session and by necessity, assumes a much larger portion of the conversation; all of which is contrary to the ICF model.

An important distinction is required here, an NLP Practitioner is different to a Life Coach that integrates NLP in their sessions. The techniques and models learned in the NLP training are the products of NLP, not the process of NLP, and should therefore be adapted when used in Life Coaching sessions.

Given that NLP is fundamentally based on language and sensory processing, integrating NLP into the ICF coaching model can be relatively simple. Understanding the process of NLP methodology will facilitate the ICF coach in effectively utilizing powerful, awareness-evoking strategies into simple conversations.

NLP is compatible with ICF, you simply need to modify your approach. This is something that you will learn in the ICF clinics and the Master Coach Training.

Steve McVey
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