Book review - RESOLVE: A new model of therapy by Richard Bolstad

Richard Bolstad's book RESOLVE: A New Model of Therapy is excellent on several levels and is highly recommended for anyone interested in advancing the science of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) or the use of NLP is psychotherapeutic practice. It is extensively referenced, citing research, other NLP developer's ideas, and non-NLP models of change. This is not a book focused on NLP "pyrotechnics" (his term), rather it is integrative and practical. Bolstad makes connections between NLP and other models of psychotherapy. He presents a perspective on the utility of NLP as an explanatory model, as NLP concepts are useful for explaining what therapist from many orientations do. His RESOLVE model is essentially a well articulated synthesis of the use of the NLP in the context of an NLP informed psychotherapy model.

The book provides a historical perspective on NLP and psychotherapy. Bolstad makes the point that NLP's roots and assumptions have connections with other forms of psychotherapy. He devotes a chapter providing a clear, science based, linkage between NLP and how the brain functions. Bolstad discusses several aspects of the model (representational systems, submodalities, emotional states, etc.) and relates these to what has been learned in recent years about neurological functioning. For instance, his discussion of the state-dependent qualities of neural encoding and the implications of this for intervention was fascinating.

Bolstad makes the point that research into NLP is still needed to make it more useful for psychotherapists. He notes that since the earliest NLP writings this need has been recognized, "but it was 20 years before the field of NLP itself began to respond effectively to this need." He goes on to describe several studies published over the last ten years that examined the use of NLP in psychotherapy that found positive results. But research supporting that NLP is successful "in a general sense" has not been enough to draw a great deal of attention to it among psychotherapists. He also notes that few attempts to link NLP techniques and those used in other models of psychotherapy have been made since NLP's inception, with a notable exception being Practical Magic: A Translation of Basic Neuro-Linguistic Programming into Clinical Psychotherapy by Stephen Lankton, published in 1980. Bolstad notes that it has been more than 20 years since Lankton's book and "both NLP and psychotherapy have evolved." Clearly Bolstad feels that more attention to the use of NLP in psychotherapy is warranted. A major accomplishment of this book is to systematically address how NLP fits into psychotherapy as it is practiced today. Among other things, he advocates the incorporation of NLP interventions into the context of the therapist preferred modality to speed the achievement of many specific results.

In my estimation one of the critical points Bolstad makes relates to what type of information constitutes data supporting the validity of NLP as a change technology. While advocating more clinical research, he also contends that "Because much of NLP is a metadiscipline (a way of analyzing and describing other disciplines), research conducted in these other disciplines will often validate NLP hypotheses (page 6)." This seems to be a recurrent theme as he draws parallels between what various therapeutic modalities do, many of which have more direct empirical support (than NLP per se), and the NLP interventions that use similar processes; just described with different terminology.

In Chapter three, Choices for Change, he contends that most therapeutic modalities have some variant of the techniques of NLP interventions. Bolstad divides NLP interventions in 10 general categories: anchoring, installing new strategies, changing sub modalities, trance-work, parts integration, timeline changes, linguistic reframing, changing interpersonal dynamics, changing physiological contexts, and tasking. He gives examples of the use of these intervention types then describes how these processes are evident in other models of psychotherapy. This part of the book was both provocative and integrative and left me wanting more of this useful style of analysis. It highlighted how change work from various modalities can be understood utilizing NLP as an explanatory model. This book illustrates what many therapists who utilize NLP already know, "NLP" is evident in what therapists do whether they call it NLP or not. He provides information to assist therapists trained in other systems to begin to see the "NLP" in what they do.

Chapter four, the last major section of the book, presents the RESOLVE model. The model is an NLP informed framework for the process of psychotherapy. Though the core ideas (such as presuppositions) and skill-sets (such as rapport building skills) are from NLP, it is clear how his model would be useful for therapists even they are not using NLP change processes per se. RESOLVE is an acronym with each letter corresponding to a part of the model. The letters denote the following: "R" denotes the Resourceful state the therapist should generate in themselves in order to most effectively work with the client. "E" denotes Establish rapport. "S" is Specify the outcome, noting that establishing a well formed outcome is a central NLP premise for change work. "O" is Open up [the client's] model of the world. In some ways this is an intervention but it is also a preparatory task, testing their commitment to change. "L" in the RESOLVE model is Leading to desired state. This is a specific change intervention or process designed to achieve the specified outcome. "V" is Verify Change. "E" is Ecological exit. He discusses each component of the model in detail and continued to make connections and place his ideas in the context of the broader field of psychotherapy. The concepts Bolstad chose to explain and explore were also very useful, practical, and compelling.

In the book Bolstad also makes several points differentiating NLP techniques from a broader view of NLP in the context of psychotherapy. For instance, he makes the point that the techniques of NLP are not simply tools to be used; they are tools requiring a context to be most efficacious. Specifically he notes that "For a person new to NLP, it is tempting to think of "leading" as the real NLP change process. In fact, each step of the RESOLVE model is equally significant in the achievement of change. The steps overlap and reinforce each other, forming a system that increases the chances of success dramatically."

Another point he discusses is that a frequent criticism about NLP and psychotherapy is that NLP fails to understand the importance of the therapeutic relationship. Bolstad argues that, on the contrary, NLP psychotherapy has its foundation in a new and innovative framing of this relationship. It is "educative and consultative" rather than therapeutic in the traditional sense. He believes that how the NLP practitioner structures this relationship is one NLP's most original contributions to the therapeutic theory. He notes the importance of this relationship in facilitating the effectiveness of the change processes themselves.

In sum this book is impressive. Bolstad's RESOLVE model is one way to formulate the integration of NLP in psychotherapy and it is very well done. His supporting citations and reasoning are equally valuable. It is essentially structured as a text book, replete with references. He notes in his introductory chapter if you want to know the research behind what you are doing, as opposed to just an introduction to NLP, "this book will give you those extra pieces." The book delivers on this promise. It is packed with useful information, explanation, and ideas to consider. Psychotherapists, NLP practitioners and trainers, and researchers need to read this book.

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Psychology Book Reviews