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Time for change

by: Paul Maverick - Last updated: 2004-05-19

Paul McKenna

Paul McKenna

Have you ever wanted to change something in your life? Perhaps you want to change a personal behaviour, stop smoking, lose those few extra pounds or eliminate a phobia.

Maybe you have a need to change something about the way you do business or enhance your powers of persuasion.

What if you could learn the skills necessary to achieve all of this and much much more… in just seven days? Intrigued? So was I, which is why I decided to attend Paul McKenna’s recent 7 day NLP Practitioner, 9 Day NLP Master Practitioner and 5 day Hypnosis seminars.

Many people will know Paul McKenna as the transatlantic television hypnotist, turned personal change guru and now best selling author. Some people will have heard of NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming), a set of technologies for personal transformation developed in the mid seventies by Richard Bandler and John Grinder. Yup, NLP has been around for a while. In fact, I first heard about it almost twenty years ago, when reading a book about Accelerated Learning.

In the intervening years, I have met people from various organisations claiming to teach NLP, I have even attended the odd lecture, but quickly became aware of a very great disparity between the technology itself and the ability of many self appointed authorities to practice and teach this technology. So when I discovered that Paul McKenna (one of only one hundred certified NLP Master Trainers worldwide) is running NLP courses in conjunction with Dr. Richard Bandler (NLP’s founder) and Michael Breen (also a certified Master Trainer and an extremely successful NLP business consultant) I knew that I was onto something good.

So what exactly is NLP? Well, as the title suggests it is a means of programming yours or somebody else’s brain and neurology (nervous system), through the use of language, to influence and to change physical, mental and emotional behaviours. Thus it has extensive therapeutic, personal development and business applications.

And why are these trainings different from all other trainings? Firstly because Bandler, McKenna and Breen know their subject inside out and make it a key point to teach NLP using NLP and secondly because, as McKenna and Breen explain right at the start of day one, neuroscientists have linked the state of learning to endorphin release (endorphins being the body’s natural opiates, which are released when, pleasure, amongst other things, is experienced) and that the easiest way to trigger endorphin release is through laughter. Thus, from the word go, everyone is put into optimal states, ensuring that learning is just as effortless as it is enjoyable, fun and full of laughter.

The structure of the Practitioner and Master Practitioner trainings is essentially the same. Most days start with Michael Breen, who combines a high energy delivery with a talent for explaining clearly, simply and humorously, how to use NLP techniques and language patterns. In between these explanations and demonstrations, participants (450 on the Practitioner, 160 on the Master Practitioner) get to try them out on each other. Participants are encouraged to work with a different partner each time and there are always a large amount of highly trained and experienced assistants on hand to help out (all of whom are trained in NLP and many of whom are successful therapists in their own right).

The next session of the day is usually with Richard Bandler, who is perhaps best described as a deeply compassionate human being….with attitude cubed! He is also extremely funny and uses his natural comic ability to keep his audience in a state of constant amusement throughout. Unlike Michael Breen or Paul McKenna, Richard Bandler does not teach in the conventional sense,  instead he tells stories, within stories, within stories within stories (metaphor is one of many devices common to both NLP and Hypnosis), much like subroutines in a computer program.

Embedded within these are suggestions designed to reprogram the mind at the unconscious level, to bring about positive changes and to install understanding of NLP. While weaving these stories, he brings participants onto stage, using hypnosis and NLP and in the process elegantly demonstrating how these techniques are used to best effect.

The final session of the day is usually with Paul McKenna, who combines his consummate skills as a performer and presenter, with a fairly unique ability to distil complex scientific, psychological, metaphysical and even spiritual concepts into simple to understand chunks of information. McKenna’s sessions lie halfway between Breen’s and Bandler’s, as he addresses, both the conscious and unconscious minds. He finishes each day with a group hypnosis session designed to consolidate the day’s learning and to leave participants in optimal states of positivity.

So what’s the difference between these two seminars? Well, the Practitioner seminar focuses more on the basics of NLP and upon set techniques while the Master Practitioner seminar provides a sufficiently deep level of understanding of what is behind these techniques and of NLP itself, to allow participants to create their own, brand new, applications and NLP techniques.

Also, whereas the former focuses on creating individual changes in behaviour, the latter focuses on ‘generative change’ i.e. changes that are so powerful that they will have a knock on effect, precipitating numerous other changes in a life altering cascade.

The format of the hypnosis seminar is similar to both of these trainings, but without Michael Breen. Picking up where the NLP Practitioner seminar leaves off, it provides the perfect bridge between the Practitioner and Master Practitioner seminars and turns participants into competent hypnotists in just five days by giving them a really deep insight into what hypnosis is really all about. This course (which, like the others, can be taken on its own) also provides an opportunity to become a fully qualified hypnotherapist by taking additional courses with The Langford Academy (who work in association with Paul McKenna trainings).

Of the numerous magical things that I witnessed and experienced at these seminars, perhaps three of my personal favourites were the ‘phobias day’ (Practitioner), the ‘creativity day’ (Master Practitioner) and Paul McKenna’s stage hypnosis demonstration (Hypnosis).

Although the focus of the hypnosis seminar is anything but stage hypnosis, watching Paul McKenna performing a stage show, whilst simultaneously forensically deconstructing precisely what he is doing, is a rare opportunity to gain insight into both hypnosis in general and the art of stage hypnosis in particular. Surprisingly it also provides insight into hypnosis in a therapeutic context.
During the phobias day, participants were taught how to quickly and permanently eliminate phobias in themselves and others. By quickly I mean in a matter of minutes and by phobias I do not mean mild ones; some participants had such extreme phobias that the mere mention of what it was that they were phobic of would bring on a severe reaction. However, just teaching techniques was not enough. A team of professional animal wranglers were on hand with, wait for it…boa constrictors and tarantulas, to ensure that everyone who previously had a phobia of spiders or snakes, was now cured and once everyone had been cured of these and a multitude of other phobias those with a fear of public speaking were then given the opportunity to get on stage and chat to the audience of 450 people.

During the creativity day, four people, who had been given a belief by their ignorant primary school teachers, that they could not either draw, paint, write poetry or make music and who had held this belief ever since, were asked to join Richard Bandler on stage. Through the combination of hypnosis and ‘strategy installation’ (an NLP technique that gives someone a strategy for doing something) and with the aid of some art materials and an electronic wind instrument hooked up to a midi keyboard, each person, within a short space of time, found themselves doing precisely that which for years they had believed they could not….and doing it well!  As a musician, I particularly enjoyed the extremely competent Blues solo played by the guy who had, at nine years of age, been told that he was not musical because he couldn’t play the penny whistle and who had never played a note since.

In conclusion, these three seminars were organised and delivered with total professionalism and the highest of integrity at all times. Learning was made such a hugely enjoyable and pleasurable experience that it was effortless from the very start and my already high expectations were greatly exceeded. If you want to change your life in seven days you will want to do the Practitioner seminar. If you have an interest in becoming a hypnotist or a hypnotherapist, you will want to do the hypnosis seminar and if you want to get deeply into NLP and hypnosis, you will want to do all three of these courses, all of which I thoroughly recommend to anyone and everyone….especially primary school teachers!

The NLP Practitioner course costs £799 (+ VAT) and next runs September 24-30 2004. The hypnosis seminar costs £999 (+ VAT) and next runs September 9-13th 2004. The Master Practitioner course costs £1799 (+ VAT) and next runs in April 2005. Anyone taking the Practitioner course is eligible for a 10% discount on the other two courses.

For further information contact or, if you want to see an NLP Master Practitioner for personal or business change, contact