When I first started as a Hypnotherapist, 20 years ago, when a new client would come to see me, I would research their issue, photocopy scripts from script books, print material related to their issue that I found on the internet, and create what I now call “Franken-scripts”; cut and paste scripts compiled from several different sources with my own scribbled notes in the margins. These scripts would be at least 7 or 8 two-sided pages of material and would take me hours to research and write.
A session would then consist of me reading my script to the client while they passively received it in the chair.
One day I was treating a client who had come to see me for weight loss. She really wanted to eat smaller portions. I was doing the standard, "You eat only when hungry, you eat only what you need to feel satisfied" patter and, much to my dismay as well as hers, after 3 sessions she was actually gaining weight!
While she was in hypnosis, in a moment of frustration I exclaimed aloud, "There must be some reason why you are not following my suggestions!" And, to my surprise, my client began to speak.
She told me about being 7 years old and being taken repeatedly to visit her grandmother in hospice. My client didn't really understand at that time that grandma was very ill. She just saw that over the course of her visits, grandma got thinner and thinner and thinner and then one day she was dead. As a result, my client had a belief that weight loss led to death. So, all this time that I have been giving her suggestions to take weight off and, in a sense, her SC was hearing me say, "I am going to kill you" and it was responding by putting weight on--it was trying to keep her alive!
In this case, my client did not need to hear, "You eat only when hungry. You reduce your food intake". In fact, hearing that was causing the client to go backwards. It was causing the exact opposite of the results we were aiming for!
My client needed reassurance that weight loss was not going to kill her the way she thought it killed grandma. What she actually needed to hear was that grandma died because she had an illness and that weight loss was not what killed her. She needed to hear that it was safe for her to take-off weight, that it would add to her longevity and well-being, that if she ever felt unhealthy as a result of taking weight off, she had the power to stop taking weight off.
When I took this approach with my client, reassuring her as to the safety of taking weight off and the difference between her situation and grandmas, she started taking weight off without me having to give her suggestions around healthy food or healthy behaviors.
This moment was eye opening for me for several reasons and forever changed the way I do hypnosis.
I realized several things:
• The client can communicate in hypnosis • The SC is a storehouse of experience and it "knows" what events in a person's life are connected to their symptoms • That suggesting away symptoms does not always work if the client has a SC reason for hanging onto then
Over the years I learned other key things as well
• That the SC is typically protective-- it is concerned about self-preservation. No matter how dysfunctional a client's behavior may appear to be, often it is the SC trying to keep the person safe • The SC can be convinced to do things differently if the right argument is made
This approach to hypnosis that I was taught of passively reading suggestions to my client never really sat well with me. It felt shallow, unconvincing and disconnected and was not effective enough in getting results for me to feel good. And over time I realized why.
We are led to believe that all it takes for a client to follow suggestions is for them to be in hypnosis-- preferable as deeply into hypnosis as you can get them! But Hypnosis, itself, does not automatically make a person open to suggestion. And the truth is that only about 10% of clients will go really deeply into hypnosis. If a client is struggling with anxiety, fear of the unknown, trust issues, discomfort with "losing control"--they will hang out a little lighter in hypnosis because they are fearful of really letting go.
There are also many other factors which influence depth such as comfort with the therapist, comfort with the material being covered, expectations of hypnosis and familiarity with trance.
So, not everyone is cut out for going super deep--nor is it required!
What matters, way more than the depth of hypnosis, is that they are RECEPTIVE to what is being said. And it matters as well that the right thing is being said.
Contrary to what many people believe, most clients can hear what is being said to them while in hypnosis. AND during a hypnotic state, the client’s own thoughts get accepted into their mind, just like a hypnotic suggestion. The SC does not differentiate between the two types of stimuli; my suggestions and the client's own thoughts.
So, if we are simply telling a client with low self-esteem that they feel good about themselves, like themselves, walk with confidence and talk with confidence, and the client is thinking, “No. I don’t feel good about myself. My self-esteem is in the toilet”, then their thoughts will cancel out my suggestions and there will be no results. In fact, the problem could be made even worse!
If the client is arguing with my suggestions, they are cancelling out everything I say. When I tell the overweight woman she is “slim and healthy” and she is thinking to herself, “No. I’m not. That’s not true”, then no changes occur. When I tell the man with fear of public speaking that he will “speak with confidence and be calm and natural when speaking”, if he's telling himself, “No way! Speaking terrifies me. I sweat. I shake. I am not confident at all”, then everything I am saying will be ignored.
So it is important that we are saying the correct thing to the client--not simply offering generic suggestions in an attempt to remove symptoms.
The majority of the clients we see for therapy are analytical types who will still be thinking and paying attention while we are talking to them during a session. So, we need to take into consideration how receptive they will be to what we are saying.
An analogy that I use with my clients is that the subconscious (SC) mind is like a castle and the conscious mind is the guard at the gate. We want to get into the castle. It’s nice if the guard is wandering off, making daisy chains in the meadow because when the guard is “away” we are able to get into the castle. However, for many people the guard remains at the gate. This is the case with clients who stay a bit lighter in hypnosis, who are nervous, who are analytical and therefore likely to hang out to try and understand the hypnotic process, who are afraid to “lose control” and who are simply curious about the process. And it doesn’t matter if the guard is at the gate! We don’t need to guard to go away. We just need the guard to let us in. If the person is thinking, “These suggestions are not true” the guard is blocking our entry. But if the guard is saying, “I cannot dispute that. Yes, I like how that sounds. Yes, I agree.” then the guard is allowing access.
So, the receptivity of the guard is the most important thing.
So, as a result of this realization, I began to create what I call a “hypnotic argument”—this is a compelling argument that the client cannot dispute. This argument is personalized; it takes into consideration the client's history, pivotal moments, and the "big players" in the client's life. It considers the clients beliefs and provides a counter argument, to talk the client's SC mind into thinking differently.
This approach is VERY different from using a generic script that one finds online and simply inserting the clients name into the appropriate blanks. I have been shocked, as a teacher of Hypnotherapy, how often I run into people who have been trained to use generic scripts and to read to their client in hypnosis. A script written BY someone else with someone else in mind is not designed to meet your client’s needs. Your client is an individual and must be treated as such.
So..in a nutshell, my approach involves: - taking a really good history so you know factors that may be impacting the client -taking the client into whatever depth of hypnosis they are conformable with (and proving to them that they are there so there is no questioning of the process) - addressing whatever relevant experiences have set them up to have the challenges or beliefs that they are trying to change - offering"hypnotic argument" that they cannot poke holes in -using approaches that appeal to the conscious mind (a client is listening, afterall) as well as the subconscious)
Interested in learning hypnotherapy that really works? Next class starts Sept. Message me for info