NLP Addiction Technique: Addiction Through the Lens of NLP Presuppositions

In this article, we discuss the NLP (Neurolinguistic Programming) Presuppositions as they apply to a client experiencing addiction issues.

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What is Addiction?

The definition of addiction I like to use is found on the website: and states:

“Addiction is a persistent,compulsivedependence on a behavior or substance. . . researchers speak of twotypes of addiction: substance addiction such as alcoholism, drug abuse, and moking; and process addictio nsuch as gambling, shopping, and eating.”

In other words, addiction can refer to more than just substance abuse.

Our Beliefs Influence How We Treat Addiction

A counselor’s beliefs about addiction determine the assessment and treatment approaches employed. While addiction is typically thought of as a disease to be treated and cured, I want to include four other possible explanations: tolerance, overreaction, reaction to stress, and habit.

1. Tolerance refers to the biological state in which the body habituates to a drug. The drug, no longer has the original effect and greater amounts must be ingested to get the desired effect.
2. Overreaction refers to the brain’sresponse to drugs or to the cues associated with a drug. Forexample, an “alcoholic”may walk into a barand havean overwhelmingdesire to drink because of environmental triggers such as the sound of clinking glasses or the smell of cigarette smoke
3. Reaction to stress refers to psychologically based addictions. These reactions may explain why people switch their addiction of choice from one drug to another or to a process. The focus of the addiction isn’t what matters; the need to act in a certain way under certain stresses is the issue.
4. Habit refers to preforming an action repeatedly in response to a cue such as brushing the teeth after every meal. Over time, the action becomes encoded in the brain as an automatic response to the cue; a complete and automatic action that occurs without a conscious decision.

It is also known that behaviors which repeatedly stimulate the release of dopamine in the brain’s reward pathway can form a habit. When dopamine is released, a person feels pleasure and wants to repeat the behavior (taken from:

What is NLP?

Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) is the study of subjective experience. This set of strategies explores the connection between neurological processes, language, and experiential behaviors that enable success as illustrated in the following diagram.

How can beliefs influence addictive behavior 3

People can unlock their full potential and solve problems with which they struggle – including addiction – by employing NLP strategies. In summary, it can be said that NLP is a set of powerful skills, as well as a philosophy, and a useful attitude.

What are NLP Presuppositions?

Presuppositions are perceptual filters; attitudes, biases, or perspectives about an object, person, or situation. These filters provide a starting point for communication and a way to increase awareness of one’s perceptual filters. While presuppositions vary depending on the source, the following Google Image provides an overview.

NLP Presuppositions

7 Presuppositions That Can Improve Clinical Practice

I want to discuss seven presuppositions and then apply them to a hypothetical case.

PRESUPPOSITION 1: The map is not the territory. People respond to their map of reality, not to reality itself. By changing a person’s map, it is possible to change the response.
PRESUPPOSITION 2: People work perfectly. No one is wrong or broken; rather it’s a matter of identifying how the person currently functions; then he or she can effectively change to something more useful.
PRESUPPOSITION 3: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results.
PRESUPPOSITION 4: Behavior can be modeled and learned.
PRESUPPOSITION 5: Everyone has or can create the resources they need to attain their desired outcomes.
PRESUPPOSITION 6: There is no such thing as failure, only feedback. Every response can be utilized.
PRESUPPOSITION 7: Behind every behavior is a positive intent.

A counselor’s underlying philosophy determines the assessment and treatment approach implemented.

Applying the NLP Presuppositions in a Hypothetical Case

Ben is a 30-year-old man, who began drinking when he was 15. He drinks when stressed, but the drinking has become a habit over the years and he needs an increasing number of drinks to make a difference. While there may be predisposing factors, three causes are in place for him; stress, habit, and tolerance.

Ben was recently fired from his job and his wife got a divorce a year ago because of his constant drinking. He completes an inpatient treatment program, attends A.A., and continues to drink heavily. He made an appointment with me, an NLP practitioner, because nothing has been effective and he really wants to change.

NLP presuppositions set the foundation for how Ben’s presenting problem is viewed and how the treatment plan is formulated based on NLP interventions. For example:

The map is not the territory. Ben responds to his perception of reality.

Intervention: The Logical Levels and the Time Line strategies provide insight into his perceptions of the situation and how he sees the future.

People work perfectly. Ben made the best choices he could at the time, albeit choices that were dysfunctional.
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results.

Intervention: Teach Ben ways to make wiser choices and stop the insanity. One specific NLP strategy is to identify the structure of his current decision-making process and develop more effective ones.
Behavior can be modeled and taught to others. People have stopped drinking, it is possible.

Intervention: Assign Ben the homework of exploring the thinking and patterns of people who have successfully stopped drinking. Then, teach him to model those behaviors.

Everyone has or can create the resources they need to attain their desired outcomes. Ben has all the resources he needs or he can access them.

Intervention: Teach him how to access needed resources.

There is no such thing as failure only feedback. Ben’s feedback, the job loss and divorce, tell him that his drinking is not working too well.

Intervention: Brainstorm options, identify motivating strategies, and teach the Swish Pattern.
Behind every behavior is a positive intent. What is the positive intent for Ben’s drinking?

Intervention: Identify the positive intent and find more effective solutions.

Questions about NLP Technique?

In this article, I introduced ways that the NLP presuppositions lay the foundation and play a role in a counselor’s approach to working with a client experiencing addiction issues. However, if you are still left with questions, I invite you to leave them in the comments section. We love to hear from our readers and will do our best to respond to you personally and promptly!

About the author
Dr. Walton has a doctorate in Psychology and is a licensed Marriage Family Therapist. After following traditional counseling approaches for years, she became interested in neurolinguistic programming and how those techniques can be used with individuals whose lives are affected by addiction. To this end, she joined the staff of the iNLP Center and has recently developed a course for professionals entitled "NLP for Addictions". All courses offered by the Center can be viewed at:; the link to Dr. Walton's website is:
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