The Structure of Magic. A Book about Language & Therapy. Part I, Richard Bandler and John Grinder, 1975.

What we have attempted to do in Volume I of The Structure of Magic is not to create a new school of psychotherapy, but rather to make understandable and learnable some of the langauge skills of the world's most talented psychotherapists. We do this in a way that shows both the simplicity and the similarities of the techniques of these seemingly divergent therapists. [---]

--from the introduction

The way the two authors, both practicing psychotherapists, went about pursuing that goal was to develop a theory of psychotherapy based on Chomsky's linguistic theory of transformational generative grammar (which was reasonably in-vouge at the time). In their theory, the client's fundamental problem is that ommisions in her model of the world prevents her from becoming aware of the existance of choises that would make her happy. Then the role of the therapist is to examine the client's statements, reconstruct the deep structures of those statements and through them become aware of discrepancies between the client's model and the therapist's. The therapist can then use guiding questions to point out additional alternatives.

Bandler and Grinder call this theory "the Meta-Model", to emphasise that they do not consider it a new theory of psychotherapy. Instead, they claim that all therapists, regardless of the particular "school" they belong to, are using the above technique without being aware of it. The authors then formulate some "Meta-Tactics", which should be possible to incorporate into any form of therapy.

This book addresses what I think is a serious weakness of psychotherapy as usually presented: while therapy clearly gives tangiable results in practice, its theoretical justfication is frequently given as quaint psychoanalytical ideas that seem more suited for the field of literary criticism. Structure of Magic, by contrast, is "Therapy for Hackers": it takes a rational, no-nonsense approach to the problem, and makes frequent use of parse trees and truth tables in its presentation.

The Structure of Magic became a bestseller, an instant classic, a PhD thesis (Bandler's), and attained a certain cult status. It is regarded as the seminal work of neurolinguistic programming (aka NLP).