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6 step reframing is a very popular concept of NLP(Neuro Linguistic Programming), it is mostly used in psychological interventions. It is about changing habits, behavior, and beliefs of an individual. It helps to develop emotional, neurological, and intuitive skills. It is a really useful pattern which is used for any real unconscious behavior. As in any NLP, it is said that behind any behavior there is positive intention. Regardless of what layer is destructive it seems to be but at some level there is a positive intention behind it. This technique is really really powerful, and its results are seen very quickly as compared to other techniques. This technique is most suitable for psychosomatic symptoms.

In this new behavior choices are established by identifying the older part which was responsible for the older behavior and letting it take measures to work in order to implement other behavior that satisfies the same positive behavior but do not have negative effects associated with it. The process of reframing can be used with a wide variety of behaviors, habits, feelings, emotions or physical symptoms.

Reframing focuses on fostering positive intentions. We all have some habits, behaviors or feelings which we started earlier and they use to serve a purpose or after doing that we felt happy or content but after sometime they felt like a burden or a wasteful activity. After that also we are not able to quiet them easily. Reframing tells that every behavior or feeling has some hidden positive intention or purpose associated with it.

The six step reframing includes-

  • Identify the unwanted behavior that is to be changed. First of all, it is the identification. It is basically about the behavior you want to change but are unable to. For example, Ms Lihiri wants to start dieting and she wants a fit body but she is unable to stop herself from binge eating junk food. This is basically the 1st step which one might follow.

  • Secondly, try to establish a communication with the parts causing the behavior. Be aware of the unconscious signals from the part which is actually influencing the behavior. For example, when someone offers pizza to Ms Lihiri she takes it despite knowing that she is on a diet. So, a bunch of involuntary signals caused that tingling feeling in her stomach and her approach changed. All these are basically unconscious shifts or signals.

  • Then try to discover the positive intent of the part. There is always a hidden positive intention behind a behavior which may differ from person to person and thank that particular part which is sending positive intentions. Look for the reasons why it is sending these intentions.

  • Think of the alternative and create new behavior using the creativity part. Express gratitude to your creativity part as well.

  • Then after doing all this comes the next step that is, taking responsibility for your actions. For example, after this therapy session Ms Mindy decided to finally take charge of her life and started leading a healthy life by exercising and eating healthy food. She made a pact now she will not binge on junk and will eat more healthy stuff.

  • Last but not the least, check the whole ecology.

It is quite commonly used as a formal reframing technique. It uses the process called Lateral Chunking of Positive Emotions. In this, we find a positive intention behind a behavior and then try to give rise to a new behavior for that same positive intention. The process of 6 step reframing can also be applied to other reframing methods such as context reframing. This most commonly used formal reframing technique uses the ‘lateral chunking’ of positive intentions. So when talking about 6-step reframing, it is usually about lateral chunking of the positive intention.


This technique has its roots from the family therapy system which was influenced by the work of Virginia Satir. John Grinder and Richard Bandler created this after “Modeling” basically after the process of observing and mapping the behavior of different people.

Some important people were directly or indirectly associated with cognitive reframing and one of them was Milton H. Erikson.

This technique gives very effective results. You can see a significant amount of change in one's behavior and personality as reframing helps an individual to change their perspective by looking towards a brighter side and also helps in fostering a positive attitude. Since ages, saints, psychologists, philosophers have always reiterated the value of loving and respecting oneself before being able to respect and love the ones around us. But, they haven't actually told us exactly how we can do it. Reframing teaches us that. It helps us to accept the way we are by accepting the feelings or behavior we possess and using them for positive purposes.

If we are feeling angry, irritated or guilty instead of cribbing over them and criticizing them we start accepting them and we try to find a positive regard for them. Our sufferings could be minimised. Understanding your positive intentions can also help us to deal with toxic people. For instance - your boss had a rough day so he/ she/they yell(s) at you to release their frustration on you and this makes them feel better. Or, you are in a relationship with someone who doesn't value you or is jealous of your progress. That is basically because they lack self worth. They don't think that they are capable enough to do things you are doing. This notion of positive intention gives us the power to fight with such situations without doubting one’s capability.

Theory of unconscious mind in the terms of NLP -

According to NLP, the unconscious mind represents the physiological processes like respiration, hormonal response etc. and cognitive processes include dreaming, learned unconsciousness like letter recognition, word recognition and other stuff similar to it which occurs outside one’s conscious awareness. Our ability to perceive is also mostly unconscious. There is a huge amount of sensory processing that occurs before conscious awareness. NLP makes use of various external behavioral clues in order to look beyond the activities of the conscious mind to check on the processes running at unconscious level. One major reason why NLP has marked a huge success is that it has techniques that make the conscious mind work directly with the unconscious mind, which is responsible for controlling most of our behavior.

How can NLP help us in creating change -

Training the unconscious mind can help us in creating change in behavior and states including feelings and emotions. This can be done by reviewing and sorting the patterns of experiences which can help to reduce pain, integrate new skills and develop new understanding. All these processes developed in NLP help us to alter our mindset and become the best versions of ourselves. John Grinder in his book “Whispering in the woods” quoted that “The unconscious is capable of enormously complex and creative acts when the proper framing and context have been established and the lead is released to unconsciousness”.

How to make conscious mind and unconscious mind work in collaboration-

Before focusing on the unconscious mind, we have to start by considering the context within which we want a change, this may include questions like “what do I want?”, “how would I know if I had that result?”, “why do I want that change?”, “what is my intention for having this change?”, “If I had this change what would be its impact on my life?” or “what is the outcome we want?”. Now, it is important to have some predesigned signal system within the unconscious mind like some involuntary responses for “yes” and other involuntary responses for “no”.

Now after pondering upon all these things, we are ready to make the proposal to the unconscious mind. Ask your unconscious mind. Is this proposal acceptable to you? If you get “yes” in response then simply invite your unconscious to begin with searching and sorting for the resources to be applied in support of the outcome in that context. If you get a “no” as a response then thank your unconscious and request it to communicate with the nature of the objection to that outcome and now propose some alternative outcome for that context. This is how the communication between the unconscious and conscious minds works. Here, negotiations are made. Within NLP, there are many strategies and refinements that can be used to facilitate the communication between the conscious and the unconscious.

As discussed earlier, reframing can help us to change the way an individual thinks, reacts, behaves etc.

  • Reframing can help us to treat wide variety of conditions like-

  • Addiction

  • Anxiety

  • Pain

  • Depression

  • Stress

  • It also helps us cope with grief and loss and helps us to build our self esteem.

The process of reframing can also be used in Family therapy or Individual therapy. For example-

  • In family therapy, a client named Mindy tells the therapist that her elder brother is constantly intruding in her life. He always restricts her from going out with her friends and constantly nags her about what she should be doing. In order to shift Mindy’s negative view of her brother, the therapist tries to reframe her thoughts by searching for a positive intent in her brother's concern towards her by saying, “Isn’t it a way for your brother to show his love and concern towards you? Maybe he cares for you and doesn't want you to get hurt.”

  • During Individual therapy, John tells his therapist that he is really stressed and pissed off because he is not being promoted, even after working hard for it. He told his therapist that he was confident that he would surely get the promotion this time. But he did not. The therapist asks him what positive things could come from not being promoted. The man might note that the new job came with some unwanted additional stresses and that he might be able to work towards another role that is better suited to his needs and long-term career goals. Therefore, with this example, you can understand how the therapist tried to reframe John's thoughts.

The process of reframing can be marked as a helpful way to convert one's negative thoughts into opportunities for growth and change. It is something which you can learn to always remind yourself that there is always room for improvement.

This therapy helps us to -

  • Change our view point

  • Gives validation to your emotions

  • Helps us to be compassionate

This activity is proven to be highly effective and has helped to reduce anxiety and depression and enhance quality of life during COVID 19. According to a research conducted in 2014, reframing or cognitive reframing have reduced the chances of post-event processing, or the reflective thoughts one has after a social situation especially in people suffering from social anxiety disorder.

This article on ' 6 step reframing ' has been contributed by Sukriti Bansal who is a student of Psychology from University of Lucknow. and peer reviewed by Ishita Vashisht who is a psychology student from Keshav Mahavidyalaya, Delhi University.

Sukriti and Ishita are both part of the Global Internship Research Program (GIRP), which is mentored by Anil Thomas.

Sukriti 's future plan is to Learn Psychology and raise awareness in subject .

Ishita hopes to pursue a doctoral degree in psychology and understand human behaviour, their attachment styles and clinical disorders through her own lens.

GIRP is an initiative by (International Journal of Neurolinguistics & Gestalt Psychology) IJNGP and Umang Foundation Trust to encourage young adults across our globe to showcase their research skills in psychology and to present it in creative content expression.

Anil is an internationally certified NLP Master Practitioner and Gestalt Therapist. He has conducted NLP Training in Mumbai, and across 6 other countries. The NLP practitioner course is conducted twice every year. To get your NLP certification


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