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Youth Workers and NLP

Youth workers

So what is it that Youth Workers do,
and what has that to do with NLP?

The key to being a successful Youth Worker is the ability to engage with young people – youth workers work with dialogue. They build relationships with young people – mostly through dialogue, talking with, in conversation with, listening to…

There is a difference between being good at this, as many/most successful youth workers are, and really knowing how it works. I have seen many youth workers able to engage well with young people without really knowing how they are achieving or maintaining this.

If one of the keys to effective youth work is the art of communication it would be useful to know something about the science of communication. This is where NLP comes in, particularly (but not exclusively) understanding the power involved in the conscious use of language. However, before that, it’s worth just looking at fundamental areas that are shared by both Youth Work practice and NLP.


The first is the importance of rapport.

The key to effective communication is the ability to build rapport… On a day to day basis I have observed youth workers ‘in rapport’ with the young people they work with. However if I asked what was happening in those interactions the workers concerned would not know how they were achieving that rapport or indeed what exactly was going on. They might say “We just seemed to hit it off”, “We clicked”, “I was able to empathise”, “We were on the same wavelength”. In very few cases would they say “We were in rapport and I established it by doing this… and maintained it by doing this… and used it to…”

So at a very basic level something that is essential for youth workers to understand and practice is also a fundamental element of NLP and explained very well through NLP.

NLP enables us to recognise rapport (and the lack of it); to achieve, enhance and maintain rapport and to break rapport. It also enables us to see how we can use rapport to develop a helping relationship with young people.
My point here is that we, youth workers, don’t fully understand, practice or develop the skill sets we use which underpin the work we do and as such we miss the opportunity of developing a real expertise in the very area which we say is at the heart of our work.

Our ability to engage with young people – especially vulnerable and disaffected young people.
My second point is that NLP offers us the possibility to breakthrough those very areas of understanding and practical skills which will enhance our practice and enable us to work so much more effectively with young people.

If I was just talking about the skills involved in building rapport, if that were all NLP could shed a light on I might stop there. It is when we go on to look at what we do with rapport that NLP adds even greater value to our practice. For a discipline which explains so much about how we work effectively as youth workers we fail to recognise its potential in providing a deep understanding and skill base for our work. So, let’s build NLP into our training sets and see how consciously competent our workers will become and how much more effective in their practice.

Four people in training room
Peter Trenholme (1st left) after completing his NLP Training in 2014

Youth Workers and NLP
Peter Trenholme – September 2014

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