Institute of Neuro-Semantics Europe

The Meta-Cognition of the Four Meta-Models of NLP

The Meta-Cognition of the Four Meta-Models of NLP

Source: taken from L. Michael Hall, Meta-Relfections #29, June 27, 2011,

Given the expansive effectiveness of meta-cognition (Meta Reflection #28), does it surprise you that there are four meta-cognition models that comprise the core of NLP?  What this means practically is that one way to describe NLP is to describe the four meta-models that make up the heart and soul of NLP.

So what are the four meta-models of NLP?  What may make this a bit confusion is that yes, one of these meta-models is called “The Meta-Model.”  That is actually the first one and why it got the name that it did.  The full name is “the Meta-Model of Language in therapy.”  And that’s because it arose from the linguistic distinctions that John Grinder identified in the patterning replication that Richard Bandler made from Fritz Perl’s use of language and Virginia Satir’s use of language.

But, as noted, that’s just the first of four meta-models.  It is strange that many NLP Trainers do not know the four meta-models.  Not too long ago I spoke to a NLP Trainers group and mentioned “the four meta-models.”  “Four?”  It was as if I had revealed some secret knowledge hidden in the mountains of Santa Cruz and only accessible to a few special people!

Now as a meta-discipline itself, NLP is a field about how all things human work, especially any aspect of the human experience that has a cognitive-behavioral structure to it.  This structure doesn’t have to be in a person’s conscious awareness, it can and in fact usually is in a person’s cognitive-behavioral unconscious awareness.   This is because Neuro-Linguistic Programming and Neuro-Semantics are most fundamentally about how we humans structure things.  And because we structure things with language, representations, perceptions, and self-reflexive states, NLP has four meta-models by which we can model things.

These four meta-models provide a redundant system of descriptions.  This explains why the models seem different, they approach the mind-body-system of experiences in different ways.  So even though they refer to the same thing, each one gives us another avenue of approach.  Each provides another systematic structure and description of the processes of an experience.  The four NLP meta-models are: