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Others have volunteered to be course assistants, paying their own flights and accommodation, just to be close to Bandler. "Is that because you weren't born with the 'art gene'? A table on the stage is kitted out with brushes, paints and paper and four non- artistic volunteers are plucked to sit at it, then put into a trance.

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And NLP practitioners – whose vocabulary is littered with phrases such as "installing strategies", "behavioural technologies", "cybernetics", "deletion", "content reframing" and "hypnosis" – seem scarier than most. The movement's not-for-profit representative body here claims that there are "at least 30,000 qualified NLP practitioners in the UK".

"It amazes me some of the stories I hear about myself," says Bandler, 59, a smartly dressed stocky man with piercing blue eyes and longish grey hair, a little thin on top, wearing a bulky gold and gemstone ring.

But in NLP circles Bandler is hailed as a sort of Messiah; indeed, while researching this piece, I lost count of the number of times I was told by its proponents that "NLP changed my life".

Which is surprising, perhaps, given our national, deep-rooted suspicion of anyone too happy or self-assured, and antipathy towards motivational speakers, self-help gurus and the sorts of people who run "positivity workshops".

But what inspired NLP's founding father to create an alternative to traditional psychotherapy, and does he practise what he preaches?

What, too, of NLP's patients – or "students" as Bandler prefers to call them – are they in safe hands?

Kate Burt signs up for a session How, exactly, does one go about interviewing a man who has dedicated his life's work to the art of mind control?

Are difficult questions going to be swept under a carpet of charm? Will this piece, mysteriously, write itself as a glowing appraisal?

He sniffs briskly: "But all I have ever tried to do is make people happier." Bandler's ideas were revolutionary.

In the wake of the Summer of Love, as a university student in Santa Cruz, California, he joined forces with a young linguistics professor called John Grinder.

In crude terms, NLP explores the relationships between how we think (neuro), how we communicate (linguistic) and our patterns of behaviour and emotions (programmes).