Beliefs are the basis for a person’s thoughts, words, and behaviors. Beliefs determine the meaning of events – they are judgments and evaluations about the self, others, and the world – a powerful influence in life.
The power of beliefs is demonstrated with the story of two teachers. At the beginning of the school year, one teacher was assigned a class of “gifted learners’ and another teacher was assigned a class of “slow learners.” Unbeknownst to the teachers, the two classes were switched. At the end of the school year, the “slow-learner” class had better grades than “gifted” class. Research showed that the teachers’ beliefs about their students’ ability to learn played a role. This is also true for mental health professionals working with clients.
NLP Strategies Used to Change Beliefs
Let’s explore how a mental health professional might use three NLP strategies to change long held ineffective beliefs. The strategies are: Association/Dissociation, The Swish, and Visual Squash.
Association and Dissociation
Association and disassociation are strategies used with The Swish and the Visual Squash exercises; so, let’s begin there. When associated, a person relives an experience as if part of the experience in the moment. When dissociated, a person listens to or observes an event as if watching a movie. Dissociation provides emotional distance and a broader view.
The Swish Strategy
The Swish strategy uses an unresourceful pattern to trigger a more empowering pattern – one better aligned with personal goals. The purpose of the strategy is to automatically replace a negative pattern produced by the mind with a more positive one. This simple and effective method, once installed, keeps the person focused on what is wanted in life.
The six steps of the Swish strategy when working with beliefs are as follows:
1. Choose a troubling belief to change.
2. Identify a single word that represents the belief. For example, if the belief is “I can’t do it” the word might be “defeated.”
3. To change the negative belief, think of a more desirable belief such as “I can do it” and a word that encapsulates that belief such as “confidence.”
4. Now picture the original word “defeated” in the mind’s eye. Next picture the desired word “confidence” at the bottom right hand corner of the original image so it is thumb nail size. Quickly increase the new word so it expands to override the old word.
5. The key to success is to have the swish pattern work automatically; therefore, repetition helps. This sends a strong message to the brain – replace the thought of defeated with the thought of confidence (taken from
6. Future pace by thinking of times when the belief may occur and practice the swish strategy; the goal is to be prepared whenever the negative thought occurs.
Visual Squash
Visual Squash is used to solve internal conflicts. The principles and elements of the technique have a wide range of applications.
Applying the Visual Squash Strategy
1. Identify an image of two conflicting beliefs and place one in each hand. Create a mental image for each. Feel the weight of each image.
2. Consider the positive intent of each conflicting belief. In other words, what is the belief doing for you? Let’s use the example mentioned above: the positive intent of the belief “I can’t do it” may be self-protection, the positive intent of the belief “I can do it” may be encouragement.
3. Create an image for each positive intention, and replace the existing images in your hands with these images. The images could be a thumb down and a thumb up. Again, feel the weight or lightness of these images in your hands.
4. Now, let the two hands merge. What happened: Did a third image arises? Did the hands refuse to join? Did the hands get in a fight? That is important information.
5. If a third image does arise, bring the image toward the chest and absorb it into the body. Let the change occur in exactly the right way.
6. When the change is fully noticed, return to the present (taken from
7. If not, the next step may be to explore the inner conflict more deeply.
These are just a few NLP strategies which can be used to address one’s beliefs.

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