NLP in the world - Interview Series

Richard Bolstad – New Zealand – Integrating NLP when dealing with trauma

Today it’s my great pleasure to welcome on this interview series, Richard Bolstad. Richard is based in New Zealand, and can be contacted on LinkedIn or at

Talking4Good (T4g): How did you come into contact with NLP?
Richard: I was working as a Psychotherapist and some friends of mine went along to an NLP weekend. I thought the claims they made on their return were utterly absurd, so I decided to learn everything I could about this new “hype”, so as to be able to refute their theories. As I experimented with NLP, though, the processes seemed to work, and eventually I decided to get NLP Practitioner training myself (still planning to use it as an adjunct to my Gestalt psychotherapy). That theory lasted until my first client with a phobia. I realised that I could spend the next year exploring the inner conflicts that might theoretically lie behind this, using Gestalt processes, or I could just show the person how to fix it and get on with their life in one session. My sense of ethics stopped me ever using the old techniques again.

T4g: What NLP qualification do you have and which NLP association would your qualifications be accredited by?
Richard: Well, my qualification depends on which NLP association you check with. I certify students with several. According to the (American based) INLPA and the (Swiss based) IANLP, I’m a Fellow NLP Trainer (that’s their highest qualification). According to the (German based) IN, I’m a Master Trainer.

T4g: Have you joined an NLP association?
Richard: Yes, several.

T4g: Which ones?
Richard: Well, aside from the ones mentioned above, I also train for Tad James’ Time Line Therapy® Association, and for the ICI Coaching association. Most importantly in New Zealand, I belong to the New Zealand Association of NLP, of which I am a Past President.

T4g: What do you expect from those various NLP associations?
Richard: Well, I mainly want the best international recognition for my students, and so I belong to organisations that have a realistic certification timing (18 days per level) and an expectation that we actually check whether people know their facts and can do the processes. The New Zealand Association has a complaints procedure, an extensive code of ethics and practice, and provides professional backup arrangements such as supervision and indemnity insurance, as well as a forum for various NLP training schools allied to various international groups, which otherwise would be functionally separate.

T4g: What do you like best in NLP?
Richard: The sense of sanity that the notion of the map not equalling the territory gives. It means that there is no requirement to “follow” the founders of NLP or to argue out a “party line” on each issue.

T4g: So tell us about NLP and Trauma Recovery?
Richard: I first got involved in this soon after the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. I was invited over to teach first Psychiatrists and then aid workers the standard NLP Trauma Recovery process. It was a pretty amazing thing to work with people who had lived through the worst experiences that human beings face, and in one session, help them let go of nightmares, panic attacks, and all the resulting self-coping such as alcoholism. In a post-war situation, you are working with people who are usually pretty functional. They don’t have convoluted “secondary gain” or ecology reasons for panicking. They just have a (perfectly sensible) anchored response to anything that reminds them of seeing and hearing mass murder happening – things like hearing loud banging noises or seeing uniformed men. When we went back the next year we met people who had nightmares every night for years, and that had completely stopped after one 20 minute session. After a year, they were often surprised to be reminded how dramatic PTSD had been. So the next place I went was Pyatigorsk, the Russian city near Chechnya. All psychologists trained at the university there do a course based on one of my books, and learn the NLP trauma process. The funding came through after that tragic mass killing of children at the village of Beslan, in a shoot-out between Chechyan rebels and Russian troops. Since initiating that training in Chechnya, I’ve run training in a number of places where natural disasters have happened. One of the most fun was the training we ran in Samoa after the tsunami there in 2009. Samoa is a small place and so we had half the police force on the training, along with the United Nations people, and – for a while – the prime Minister. At the end of the training, we were doing feedback and the head of Police was in tears. He said “I’ve made a big mistake. I realise now that I should have gotten all the prison staff to attend too. Because the kind of symptoms you call PTSD – that’s what almost everyone in jail has.”

T4g: You have recently worked in Japan, how is NLP present in Japan?
Richard: I’ve trained in Japan each year for two decades now. Culturally, Japan is the most unique country in the world. It’s a developed nation with a set of values unlike any other developed nation. NLP has been received very enthusiastically there, but because people have very short holidays, the first thing that happened was the shorter NLP “certifications” prevailed. So we had lots of people who did an 8 day Practitioner training, and 8 day Master practitioner training, an 8 day Trainer Training, and had no idea what NLP was about, and no experience using the NLP patterns. Long term, that has meant that a lot of those people now fill out their knowledge on our 18 day trainings. Japan is the only country in the world where a 500 strong organisation of NLP trained medical practitioners exists, so there’s no doubt NLP is booming in Japan.

T4g: Could you tell us about your work there?
Richard: My partner Julia Kurusheva and I teach Practitioner, Master Practitioner and Trainer trainings there. We also run shorter trainings such as trainings on NLP and Spirituality, trainings for Japanese Management, and of course the Trauma Recovery trainings. We have a growing group of trainers certified by us to take these skills out there, including a group that focuses on support for the people of Tohoku, the area where the 2011 tsunami hit. We run trainings in Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, Kyoto and Okinawa, so we reach a lot of people. Our Trauma Recovery training is very different now to the ones I once ran in Sarajevo. We are training people how to go straight into disaster areas, where the events are still happening, and where people may in fact be in life-threatening danger. There’s no point running the NLP Trauma cure with someone in that situation because their brain knows that the story is not yet over. We teach people how to ask more useful internal questions, how to utilise the support they have, how to model the behaviours, in short, of Resilience. We teach the Trauma Cure, and the NLP Eye Movement process (The original and far more effective NLP version of “EMDR”), and we also teach a range of other processes.

T4g: How is it to transfer NLP learnings from English to Japanese?
Richard: Well, first and foremost, Japanese culture is more group oriented than western culture, and people are motivated more by goals about creating harmony and a sense of belonging, than by being “Number one in my field”, a goal that NLP students in the west frequently tell me they have. In a Japanese context, social harmony wins over what westerners call “honesty” every time, so people are not interested in what is true, so much as in what is best for everyone to agree on. In some ways, of course, NLP fits more elegantly in Japanese culture than in western culture because Eastern spirituality already is based on a systems approach to life, and on the sense that there is no one absolute truth. Also, Japanese students have not, as a generalisation, been corrupted by a century of psychotherapeutic nonsense, so they don’t come in claiming that they have a wounded inner child that needs healing, or that they have an internal saboteur that preserves their addictive personality. They just come in with problems and if you show them a process to solve that they simply do it. They don’t waste a lot of time arguing to protect their own worldview.

T4g: What opportunity do you have to meet with other NLP practitioners?
Richard: The conferences we attend in various places each year, in Europe and America, for example, are a great place to do that. Last year I was teaching in Boulder Colorado at the Mastery Training organised by Steve and Connirae Andreas. Nick Kemp was also training there (teaching his model of Provocative Change Works) so I got to experience that and meet a lot of wonderful NLP Practitioners from the USA, including people like Frank Bourke*, who is leading the movement there to create a systematic research base for NLP.

T4g: What about NLP and research?
Richard: Frank Bourke’s project has been approved by the US Senate, and they get US$3 million a year for the next 5 years, to research the NLP Trauma process. That’s so valuable, because the developers of NLP actually pulled their field out of the University context and out of research awareness early on, and we are only just getting back. Of course it means a kind of a deal with the devil because the funding comes for research with US veterans who have PTSD – that kind of money is available so that America can wage wars with impunity. However, the university doing the research has a long term plan, involving studying NLP processes such as the allergy cure too. Each time, they will study thousands of people, not just 10 or 50 people (which is what “evidence based medicine” calls a “pilot study”). They test and follow up the results with a battery of tests, rather than just asking the clients whether the process felt nice.

T4g: Any specific NLP research you would like to be involved with?
Richard: I like to think of myself as involved with the NLP Research Project (described above) and also I think of it as a positive step for NLP to have multi-perspective publications like the recent “Innovations in NLP” book**, which begin to create a scientific field where we share new ideas and results, rather than trying to prove that each of us is the only true creative genius in the field, and the only person with the “real” NLP, the “new code” NLP, the “generative” NLP etc. I’m not criticising those three models, by the way, merely the positioning of them as being the only true way; a kind of thinking worthy of traditional religion or sales hype, but not suited to a field that can offer humanity as much as NLP.

T4g: What would be your next step with NLP?
Richard: I teach traditional Chinese exercise and meditation, as well as NLP, and I am immensely interested in secular, scientific approaches to what we might call spirituality. I think of NLP as part of something extraordinary that is happening in the history of humanity, where human beings are waking up, are beginning to choose how to run the brain and body that evolution has given them. Surely, we won’t look back on this process in 1000 years and think “Well, that was a great time because human beings learned how to make more and more money.” We’ll look back, if we do this well, and think, “That was the time when love and the oneness of all life became real conscious priorities for all of humanity, when we transcended violence and fear, and created a world worth living in. NLP in itself is just a series of maps, a series of useful metaphors, which we are using at this time in the great drama of history, to do something vastly beyond maps, metaphors, names and personalities.

T4g: A last comment to conclude?
Richard: Actually 1000 years is quite a short time. When I decide whether I will do a certain project, I ask myself, will this still matter in 5000 years. Because we know that people 5000 years ago initiated processes that have influenced all of history since then. So one person can make a difference over that length of time. As long as you don’t mind that no-one will remember your name. Milton Erickson was such an extraordinary influencer because he thought about how his gifts could be utilised more fully after his own death. He became more and more successful in his life mission, after he was gone from the earth. When I wake up each morning, I feel like I’m part of the greatest adventure ever undertaken. Nothing I could do could thank the universe enough for the gift of this life, and yet, amazingly, this whole thing is freely given; no payment required. In Japan, the words for love and happiness have an obvious connection. In English, the two words sound like they are separate things. They are not. The Baha’i have a saying: “Happiness is doing the will of God.” To secularise it, I might say simply: Happiness is Love. Either this is what NLP is ultimately about, or NLP will blow away with the next wind. Because only love remains.

* See and ,


© 2012 Florence Dambricourt –

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