Many people who are not familiar with hypnosis may believe that hypnosis has something to do with looking into the hypnotist's eyes.

  • This is mostly suggested on television and in films to create some type of mystery around the hypnotist.

The hypnotherapist's tool is their voice.

  • It is important that your voice that you use is your own natural style rather than copying some other therapist's style.

  • A good way to develop your style is to record your voice and listen to it with your eyes closed, noticing what effect it has on you.

  • Remember that the voice you use must be comfortable for you.

You can vary the pitch and volume of your voice which can help to make your voice more interesting and engaging.

  • Try to make them complement the suggestions you are giving.

  • For example, as you count down, you can bring your pitch down slightly.

You can also vary the speed and emphasis on the words and phrases you use and this can also be used to complement the suggestions.

  • As you count someone up out of trance, you should speak more rapidly than when guiding them into trance.

You can also emphasise key words, such as “deeper” or “drowsier”.

  • Often, we repeat suggestions several times, and varying your emphasis can make this more effective.

Is your tone authoritarian or permissive?

  • There is a spectrum of tones between the more commanding and authoritarian styles and the more relaxed and empathic permissive styles.

  • Most hypnotherapists have their own preference, which they vary depending on the client and the condition they are treating.

  • Often, they change their tone even within a single session.

  • For example, they may conduct a permissive induction for a nervous client, but still deliver direct suggestions in an authoritarian style during therapy.

Delivering Hypnotic Suggestions

  • Always make suggestions positive.

  • This advice may seem obvious, but in practice it is not always easy to avoid the word “not”, or the variations “won't”, “don't” and “can't”.

  • It is worth taking the time and trouble to put things in a positive way.

  • It is easier to imagine positives than negatives.

  • If you say “you will not fall” to someone, they have to think of falling in order to comprehend the suggestion.

  • Saying “you will balance perfectly” achieves the same thing, but without even bringing up the idea of falling.

  • Suggestions for comfort, relaxation, confidence, or reminders of successful past performances are more easily accepted and acted on.

  • Similarly, references to peace, calm, warmth, and relaxation will displace feelings of tension, pain, or anxiety without calling attention to the negative states.

  • Avoid any ambiguity because hypnotised clients respond literally to suggestions.

  • A suggestion that requires conscious interpretation can have undesirable effects.

Hartland (1971) gave the following example: “A client who was terrified to go into the street because of the traffic was once told by a hypnotist that when she left his room she would no longer bother about the traffic and would be able to cross the road without the slightest fear. She obeyed his instructions so literally that she ended up in a hospital.”

  • Vary your vocal delivery and introduce variety into the way your suggestions sound by:

Altering the volume.

Changing the pace.

Stressing key words.

Changing the inflection and modulation of your voice.

  • It is important to give only one suggestion at a time, because giving too many suggestions at once can burden the unconscious and cause confusion.

For example, if you give a suggestion that the client readily accepts at the same time as another that they resist, the client may reject both suggestions.

  • Make suggestions refer to the immediate future so that this will allow time for suggestions to be absorbed and acted upon.

  • Also, personalise suggestions for your client as it is easier to accept an idea that relates to one's own past experiences, beliefs, or habits than it is to absorb something totally new.

For this reason, you should tailor your suggestions to fit your client’s own representational system.

  • The client’s personality and expectations will also influence whether you use authoritarian or permissive language.

  • Create suggestions that use as many senses as possible because people have preferences for different senses.

  • Some people pay most attention to the way things look, and will tend to imagine things visually.

  • Others react more strongly to sounds or feelings.

  • Suggestions that appeal to all the senses have the greatest chance of striking a chord.

  • In any session, creating an image in all five senses will be more successful than verbal, linear suggestions.

For example, if you want a client to learn to warm their hands (excellent therapy for migraine headaches), don’t just say “you will feel your hands becoming warm”. Instead, help your client remember a time when they had warm hands – such as rubbing them in front of an open fire or radiator.

  • Use descriptive language to help your client to see the dancing flames, to hear the crackling of the wood, to smell its warm scent and to feel its warm glow on their hands.

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