Modeling in NLP is the process of adopting the behaviors, language, strategies and beliefs of another person or exemplar in order to ‘build a model of what they do…we know that our modeling has been successful when we can systematically get the same behavioral outcome as the person we have modeled’. The ‘model’ is then reduced to a pattern that can be taught to others.

The founders, Bandler and Grinder, started by analyzing in detail and then searching for what made successful psychotherapists different from their peers. The patterns discovered were developed over time and adapted for general communication and effecting change. The original models were: Milton Erickson (hypnotherapy), Virginia Satir (family therapy), and Fritz Perls (gestalt therapy).

NLP modeling methods are designed to unconsciously assimilate the tacit knowledge to learn what the master is doing of which the master is not aware. As an approach to learning it can involve modeling exceptional people. As Bandler and Grinder state “the function of NLP modeling is to arrive at descriptions which are useful.” Einspruch & Forman 1985 state that “when modeling another person the modeler suspends his or her own beliefs and adopts the structure of the physiology, language, strategies, and beliefs of the person being modeled. After the modeler is capable of behaviorally reproducing the patterns (of behavior, communication, and behavioral outcomes) of the one being modeled, a process occurs in which the modeler modifies and readopts his or her own belief system while also integrating the beliefs of the one who was modeled.”

Modeling is not confined to therapy, but can be, and is, applied to a broad range of human learning. Another aspect of modeling is understanding the patterns of one’s own behaviors in order to ‘model’ the more successful parts of oneself.