A brief coaching intervention using NLP

Picture of shoreham tributes

A brief coaching intervention using NLP – by Peter Trenholme

I worked briefly during a Drop-In session with a young man (Dave, not real name) at the Young People’s Centre, Brighton. Dave was very upset and agitated about the Shoreham air disaster. He had a friend who was very close to the incident and had filmed and posted scenes on Facebook.

By repeat viewing of the FB images, and particularly because the scenes were filmed and posted by a close friend, Dave felt very associated with the disaster ‘almost as if I was there’.

Worry Head | NLP WorldHe had not been able to sleep well on the previous night and was constantly rerunning the images over and over again in his mind. My first thought is that it is much easier for people (and particularly young people) to become closely associated with disturbing events when graphic images are available on Facebook, YouTube etc.

In the case of the Shoreham disaster for us , it is local and many people will know the actual spot where the disaster took place, the social media connections mean that the chances of knowing someone who was there or knowing someone who knows someone who was there are also very high. This coupled with the ‘delivery’ of images into social media accounts from friends that then become permanent resources to run and rerun means that for some people the connection and association will be more upsetting and last longer.

Using a coaching approach, and particularly techniques drawn from NLP, we worked on practising the following techniques. Firstly versions of the ‘NOW’ state helped to calm and focus Dave so that his mind was not ‘racing’. By actively focusing on the present it becomes more difficult to associate with past events. Then we talked about how he was able to create and experience those feelings of agitation and anxiety. ‘How do you do that?’

Dave told me that he could see the pictures/images in his ‘mind’s eye’ re-running them as if they were on a playback loop. I asked him to relax, be aware that he was in a safe space now, with support and focus on the ‘video images’ and he described (the characteristics) as full colour and big i.e. covering the whole screen in his ‘mind’s eye’. They weren’t accompanied by any sounds, just silence.

I asked him to change a few things in the video; run it forwards at normal speed, stop and change the video from colour to black and white, run it backwards so its runs quicker than normal speed, I asked Dave to do this several times until the ‘feeling’ when he ran it forwards became less intense.

picture of self control thermostatThen I asked him to imagine himself ‘looking down on himself ‘watching you watching the video on Facebook on your phone’. We practised this a few times and Dave felt that it had helped him get some control over his ‘thoughts’. Lastly I asked Dave to imagine gradually shrinking the screen down to a very small one inch by one inch square and then move the small screen way back into the distance so he could hardly see it; in its place put an image of himself, at home, relaxed, sitting and listening to his favourite music.

These simple techniques are adapted from the NLP Fast phobia release script and I was able to work with Dave in a conversational mode at a Young People’s Drop In session for about 20 minutes. Simple, quick and effective with more or less immediate results.

So, there is no magic here – the technique supports Dave with a tool for disassociating from a highly emotionally charged image and also supports him to realise that he can control the images that come into his mind and the emotions he attaches to those images. The end result, Dave – calmer, more relaxed, more in control.

Still able to understand the gravity and tragedy of the event but not representing it in such a way that he is overcome and consumed by the images. Added bonus – Dave has ‘learnt/experienced’ a technique to use on any future occurrence which is similar.

Peter Trenholme 28th August 2015

Lifecoach@ Young People’s Centre.