How to use NLP technique of Time Line Therapy in Coaching

Nov 17, 2019

The NLP technique of Time Line therapy is generally considered a therapy as it delves into experiencing one’s past to overcome memories of trauma stored in the unconscious mind. It can be a reframing process that allows the client to experience the past in the present moment to evoke awareness and embark on remedial action. A more powerful use of this technique is to create one’s future.

The underlying principle of Time Line therapy is that we store our memories in predictable ways as if they are files in a cabinet. Most often we file past behind and keep the future in front; we are linear and rigid in respect of time. Some file past on the left and future on right, or vice versa; we are flexible in respect of time. A few file past below and future above. Whatever we do, we do this consistently. So, we have a way of figuring out where our past has been and the future is likely to be. Most, almost all of us, keep the present centered on us, generally just above our head. A good starting point in Time Line therapy is to establish how the client views their own Time Line, front and behind, left and right, up and down or some other way. The coach can then request the client to move above that Time Line and center oneself through deep breathing. Coach then requests the client to request the unconscious mind to guide in moving forward and backward and interpreting what is being observed.

Creating the Future

A good practice is for the client to then request the unconscious to guide forward into the future, the coach continuously verifying whether the client can see clearly. Sometimes the client may need a flashlight. Sometimes despite best efforts, the client may not see. If the client can see the future clearly, the coach can move the client forward as far as the client can go, say 20 years ahead, and describe what the client’s life is like. What has the client become, what is the client doing, what is the client having? With experience, a skilled coach can help the client create a visual as well as the sensory experience of what the client desires to be in 20 years. It may seem strange, yet true. Allow the client to absorb this future space; then request the client to move backward in time from this future 20 years ahead, in steps of say 5 years, to the present moment, describing at each point what the client sees as the future. Record this conversation with the client’s permission for their benefit. The client can convert them later into documents of action. Let the client come to the present moment and center again. The coach can ask the client to recapture observations on the future to anchor in the client’s conscious mind what they experienced. The coach can ask the client whether the client has any barriers that may impede this envisioned future.

Relieving the Past by Reliving

If there are possible barriers, or if the future vision is fuzzy and unclear, the coach can request the client to travel back into the past from the present moment space. The coach would ask the client to request his unconscious to go back to a time when the client had an experience, disempowering or traumatic, which is rendering the journey into the future difficult. The client may have a few false starts, and would eventually land on a past location that left behind a disempowering memory as a barrier. At a coaching level, it would be best to merely allow the client to look into this event and share sensations, emotions and thoughts on this event as to why and how it is a barrier. This process needs to be repeated a few times more to ensure that all such disempowering memories are addressed. At the coaching level, the process does not go deeper into these past experiences. It is merely to have the client observe these events, share and then reflect on what the client can do to reframe and overcome these memories. In the hands of a trained person, it would be possible to guide the client to experience and relive the trauma and reframe the experience to relieve the negative impact.

Coaching Applications of NLP Time Line Therapy

The Time Line therapy process can be a powerful tool both to help create a future vision and to become aware of limiting beliefs, within the guidelines and ethics of coaching. The process requires trust between the two parties, unconditional positive regard, and empathy of the coach with the client.

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Ram Ramanathan, MCC
Ram Ramanathan, MCC


Ram is the Founder and a Principal at Coacharya. As the resident Master and mentor coach, Ram oversees and conducts all aspects of coaching and training services offered under the Coacharya banner.

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