NLP SWISH Technique Example – Changing Behaviours for the Better

The best way to understand the NLP Swish method is with simple examples. It is used in NLP therapy to aid in changing an unwanted behaviour or feeling into a more positive behaviour of feeling the client does want. In other words, it’s used to change a bad automatic action or emotion into a good automatic action or emotion. So, this is what I will give you here an example. I had a client (who gave me permission to use this story anonymously) who was having an issue with getting angry and upset at video games. We went through Swish and changed this to be a more positive experience, just like he wanted it to be.

1) Identify the Problem

Therapist: So, what have you come to see me about today?

Client: I play video games and have done most of my life. At the moment I am not enjoying them like I used to I am just getting stressed out and angry because of them. I get angry when video games don’t respond to me and do the things I ask them to do.

2) Identify the Trigger - What Actually Sets Things in Motion?

Therapist: Just to clarify, can you tell me exactly what is it that triggers your anger and stress?

Client: OK. You have to press buttons on ipads to get them to do things. Usually when you are working the machine responds quickly. You press and in a second the action you requested has happened. That’s not always the case when you are playing games online. You press a button, but nothing happens. So you press it again and then I start to get angry and yelling at it. So it all starts when the game does not respond to button pressing, my requests.  

3) Identify the Solution

Therapist: Ok. That’s great thanks for sharing. So instead of getting angry what would you like to happen instead?

Client: Well, I guess I just want to enjoy the game and have fun playing it like I used to really. 

4) Create a Black and White Image or Cartoon of the Problem

Therapist: OK. Please can I ask you to close your eyes? Good. Imagine you are a camera on the wall (disassociating from being in the situation) looking at you playing video games as a black and white film. You can imagine the film on a computer screen or a tv it’s up to you. Now describe the black and white scene you see in some detail, please.  

Client: I am sat in the front room on my couch. I am sometimes playing this competitive game against the computer itself as the opponent and sometimes against other humans. I am getting into a situation in the game where I want it to do something specific.  I press a button but, nothing happens. I shout “No!! Stupid game!”. I get angry at the game and the machine and my slow internet connection. At this point, I am not enjoying the game. I can see the look on my face and it is one of angry frustration. I see myself getting stressed out, which is not much fun at all. I see my other half responding negatively to my outburst and my obvious distress. If they were to get involved unfortunately all the anger and negative feeling would be transferred to them. Nothing good is happening here.

Therapist: OK. Thank you. Now create a black-and-white picture in your minds eye of the peak of these bad feelings while playing. You might want to exaggerate it by making it a black-and-white drawing or cartoon image. When you can see that photo or picture clearly please nod your head or say yes to let me know.

Client: Nods

5) Create a Full-Colour Realistic Picture of the Solution

Therapist: Please open your eyes again for a moment. OK and close your eyes again. Now imagine you are a camera on the wall and you are looking down at yourself in your seat really enjoying the game like you want to. This time imagine it as a real movie as though it’s happening now or in full vivid colour. Now describe that situation in detail to me, please.

Client: I am sat comfortably on my couch. I am playing the game with my head over the ipad pressing buttons now and then to play the game. I am winning. I am beating my opponent. I press a few more buttons but, the game doesn’t respond. I laugh it off. “Ha ha ha. Oh well.” I am playing again and winning. I press some buttons and the game is responding well now. This round is nearly over, I am in the lead. I press some buttons in a specific order and “YES!” I win. I can see myself satisfied, having fun playing with a smile on my face and even laughing when things don’t go right. This is how I want things to happen this is how I want to behave.

Therapist: Ok. That’s good. Now take a picture in your imagination of when you are the happiest playing the game.  A photograph of the situation that is very vivid and full of joyful colours. When you can see that image clearly in full colour please nod or say yes.

Client: nods

6) Explain the NLP SWISH Technique and Use It

Therapist: OK that’s great. Now, it’s time to use a useful NLP technique called Swish. Here is how we do it. When I ask you to close your eye again in a moment, I would like you to imagine that picture of you in black and white getting angry and stressed and not enjoying the game. I will count 1, 2, 3 and then make a noise like “Swish!” At this time, I want you to replace the black and white picture with the colour picture of you really enjoying the game. Is that all clear to you?

Client: Ummm. Yes.

Therapist: (repeats for clarity) So after you close your eyes you imagine the black and white photo. I count 1, 2, 3 and say “Swish!” and you replace the image in your mind’s eye with the colour image of you enjoying the game. OK?    

Client: OK sure.

Therapist: Ok. Please close your eyes again. Imagine as best you can the black and white picture or cartoon of you not enjoying the game, getting stressed or angry or both. See that black and white image and nod or say yes to me when you see it.

Client: nods

Therapist: (wait 5 seconds) “1, 2, 3 Swish!“ (I may also clap my hands here) see that colour picture or image now. See how much you are enjoying the game. (wait 5 seconds)

Ok. That’s great please open your eyes. We are going to do that a few more times.

Please close your eyes again and see that black and white image. (waits 4 seconds) “1, 2, 3 Swish!”  See the colour image. (wait 5 seconds)

Ok. That’s great open your eyes again and close your eyes.

Black and white. (wait 3 seconds) “1, 2, 3, Swish!” colour. (wait 5 seconds)

Good. Open your eyes and close them again please.    

Black and white. (wait 2 seconds) “1, 2, 3, Swish!” colour. (wait 5 seconds)

Open your eyes and close them again.

Black and white. (wait 1 second and don’t say 1, 2, 3) “Swish!” colour. (wait 5 seconds)

Yes. Open your eyes, close them again. (wait 1 second) “Swish!” (wait 5 seconds)

Great. Open your eyes, close them again. (wait 1 second) “Swish!” (wait 5 seconds)

Well done. One more time. Open your eyes and close them again please. (wait 1 second) “Swish!” (wait 5 seconds)

Ok. You can open your eyes again. How’s it going?

Client: OK. I’m getting the hang of this now.

Therapist: Well done, that’s great. Do it 5 more times on your own. This time you make the “Swish!” sound. Close your eyes and try to see the black and white image, say “Swish!” and see the positive colour image. Wait a few seconds and open your eyes again before you repeat it. OK?

Client: Ok! Swish! Swish! Swish! Swish! Swish!

Therapist: Ok. Now lets do a test just to see how we have done. Can I ask you to close your eyes and tell me how clearly can you see the black and white image now., or can see the at all?

Client: Wow! I can’t see it! That’s great!

Therapist: Good. Well done. Now if you had been able to see it we could have done that “Swish!” a few more times but, that’s not necessary for you. That’s great.

So, this is now a great tool you can use to change any behaviour for the better. Try using it at home when you get back just to reinforce the new behaviour you want, enjoying playing your game. It doesn’t take long to do it. If at any point you find yourself slipping back into your old ways just do the “Swish!” again a few times OK? You should be able to do all this by yourself now but, if you do need a refresher about it, we can sort something out.


Centre of Excellence (2020) NLP Master Practitioner- Module 7 Eliciting and Utilising Strategies

Dotz T et al (2013) NLP the Essential Guide HarperCollins. Kindle Edition

Waller D (No Year) Module 5B, Working with habits & smoking cessation

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