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  • Writer's pictureLinda Campbell

The ABC(DE) Model: Organizing Client Information for Effective Hypnotherapy

In hypnotherapy, organizing and understanding the material collected from clients is crucial for creating effective and targeted sessions. The ABCDE method is one of the approaches I use to achieve this. It helps chronologically organize a client's life experiences and recognize the impact of those experiences on their beliefs and symptoms. This model is based on the principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) but expands upon it to include additional steps for a more comprehensive approach.

Understanding the ABC(DE) Model

The ABCDE model builds on the well-known ABC model of CBT, which posits that it’s not the events of our lives that cause problems, but rather our thoughts or perceptions about those events. These perceptions lead to emotions and coping mechanisms. By identifying and addressing problematic beliefs, we can change emotions, behaviors, and experiences for the better.

In hypnotherapy, the goal is to help clients change their beliefs (B), which in turn alters their emotions and behaviors.

The ABCDE Model Explained:

  • A - Activating Event: The real, external event that has triggered the client's issue. It could be a one-time incident or a series of events, such as living with an alcoholic parent.

  • B - Beliefs: The client's beliefs about themselves, the world, and others that have formed as a result of the activating event. These beliefs are what we work on changing in hypnosis.

  • C - Consequences: The symptoms the client experiences because of their beliefs, such as insomnia, anxiety, or low self-esteem.

  • D - Desired Outcome: What the client wants to achieve, expressed in their own words. These are also your goals for the client.

  • E - Execution: The interventions you will use to help the client achieve their desired outcomes.

In hypnosis, we aim to change the “B” (beliefs) to lead to different behaviors, emotions, and sensations.

Benefits of the ABCDE Model

Using the ABCDE model offers several advantages:

  • Clarity: It clarifies what needs to be addressed. Clients often focus on their symptoms (C) without considering underlying beliefs (B) or activating events (A).

  • Organization: It helps you organize information, making it clear where to begin and providing a roadmap for continued work.

  • Self-Awareness: Clients gain self-awareness by understanding the origins of their symptoms and seeing the logic behind your strategy.

  • Hope and Rapport: It gives clients hope and builds rapport, showing them you have a clear, structured plan.

  • Client Buy-In: It helps get the client’s buy-in and provides you with credibility, facilitating collaboration.

How to Use the ABCDE Model

  1. Review Consultation Notes: Use three highlighters to mark events (A), symptoms (B and C), and desired outcomes (D) in your notes.

  2. Create a Chronological Chart: Organize the events chronologically.

  3. Identify Beliefs and Consequences: For each event, write down the beliefs formed and the resulting symptoms. If necessary, speculate based on the client's history and confirm with them.

Case Study: Weight Loss Client

Let's consider a 68-year-old woman seeking help for weight loss. During the consultation, you learn that she was born premature and fed highly caloric food to survive. She was the youngest of seven children and always ate last, which made food scarce for her. When she was eight, her older sister died of leukemia, leading to a somber family atmosphere. She learned to comfort herself with food and not burden her parents.

Desired Outcomes: Feel in control of her food intake, stop binging, not overeat, and lose weight. She also wants to improve her self-esteem, which is tied to her weight.

Here's how her ABCDE chart might look:

Activating Event



Birth - premature. High caloric foods to survive

Have to eat high-calorie food to survive

Eating more than necessary

Youngest of 7. Got fed last. Food was scarce

My needs don't matter

Low self-esteem, negative self-talk, overeating

Sister died at age 8

Thin = death, food = comfort, don't burden parents

Stay heavy, overeat, be quiet, use food for comfort

By creating this chart, we can see the client's beliefs, the context in which they were formed, the symptoms resulting from these events, and the order in which to address them. This structured approach allows for a targeted and effective hypnotherapy plan.

The ABCDE model is a powerful tool for organizing client information and developing effective hypnotherapy sessions. By understanding the client’s life chronologically and recognizing the impact of their experiences on their beliefs and symptoms, we can create a clear, structured approach to help them achieve their desired outcomes. This method not only provides clarity and direction for the therapist but also fosters self-awareness and hope in the client, building a strong foundation for successful hypnotherapy.

At The Horizon Center, we are dedicated to providing comprehensive and personalized hypnotherapy training. Contact us today to learn more about how our methods can help you achieve your goals and transform your practice.

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