Should you use scripts in your hypnotherapy practice?

Whether therapeutic scripts are a good thing, an occasional prop or absolutely to be avoided is a topic that comes up regularly in on-line discussions, so I thought I would say my piece and get it out there.
I'm going to start with what I think are the main arguments for and against, but I'm sure you will have ideas of your own. Feel free to post comments if you think I've missed something obvious, or not represented your point of view.

Yes, you should use scripts

  • If people who are at the top of the profession are prepared to tell you what works for them with their clients, why reinvent the wheel?
  • Your session is structured and complete, and you say everything you wanted to say in perfectly crafted suggestions
  • It avoids any blank spaces while you struggle to know what to say next
  • It gives you confidence, especially if you are a student, newly qualified or dealing with an issue for the first time
  • By preparing in advance you have thinking time to make more effective suggestions for your client

No, you shouldn't use scripts

  • It inhibits the creativity and spontaneity which should be an integral part of a hypnotherapy session
  • It’s not personal or relevant enough to your client, they may as well listen to a CD which is cheaper than a therapist
  • It sounds stilted when you are reading instead of extemporising 
  • It’s a safety blanket used by therapists who are not very good at their jobs
  • You can’t observe your client's reactions closely enough if your attention is on a script

Getting off the fence

I suppose having started this discussion, and attempted to be fair to both sides,  I need to climb down from that famous metaphorical barrier and state my own views.

First, let’s get the confession out of the way, I give out scripts when I am training students or running a CPD course, but use them only occasionally in my therapy sessions with clients. I use a script most often in sessions with children - if I have looked up the offside rule or their favourite computer game so I can include it in a metaphor, I want to make sure I get the terminology right!

Having said that, I used them regularly with a variety of client issues when I first qualified, and I still read quite a few as part of my CPD. I don’t commit them to memory, but I do retain general ideas, phrases, stories, and metaphors which I then work into some of my sessions in my own words.

I think the problem is that both sides of the argument have some good points to make. Perhaps the question we should be asking is not 'should you use scripts?' but 'how should we use them?' so we can provide the best service possible to our clients. After all, isn't that what everyone wants to do?

How should you use hypnotherapy scripts?

  • If you want to use scripts, write original ones - you'll sound much more confident, compelling and natural when using your own words and ways of expressing your ideas. (This, of course, means being competent and confident about crafting compelling hypnotic suggestions. I'll write another blog soon on how to do this.)
  • Use scripts from books and websites as a basic framework or outline if you’re short of ideas, but try to avoid simply reading one to your client. Take bits from more than one script, and personalise - weave the client's own words and ideas in there as much as you can. (Again you need to know how - see the previous comment!)
  • If you want to avoid the rustle of paper, having the script on an iPad or tablet can be good, you just scroll down. However, you don't really need to hide scripts as if you are ashamed of them. If you can't justify them to any clients who ask, you probably shouldn't be using them at all.
  • Practice and become confident using at least a couple of inductions and deepeners without scripts, you should also be able to deal with an abreaction and bring a client out of trance.
  • Know a few general-purpose, adaptable metaphors or techniques so if the ideas (or script) you had planned to use are made inappropriate by a change in the client's circumstances, you can be flexible and confidently provide them with effective therapy. Things like 'fork in the road', 'control room', and so on provide an excellent framework for working with most issues.
  • As you get more experienced, shorten your scripts down to bullet points of key words and phrases, it keeps you on track and stops you drying up, but leaves you more able to observe your client and say what your intuition tells you is the right thing.
  • Most important of all, don’t be afraid to go 'off script' and trust your intuition when ideas just pop into your head. These come from your unconscious, which may have picked up clues and details from your client that your conscious mind didn’t notice.

That's my thoughts, anyway.

I was trained to work with scripts and admit to having had some confidence issues about giving them up. (Perhaps hypnotherapy could have helped?) I was finally forced into it, about a year after qualifying, when a smoking cessation client arrived unexpectedly at the centre where I worked and asked if I could fit her in that day. She'd slipped up and wanted to act immediately to stop it happening again. I’d just finished telling the receptionist I’d had a cancellation, leaving me a big empty gap in the middle of my day, so she said 'yes' before I could think of a graceful way to refuse. 

I had no time to panic - or think - and we went straight into it. And I was amazed at how easy it was. I found myself recalling bits of what I’d used before, making up new material and slotting in what the client had just told me. So even if you think you can’t do it, I'm confident you can.

Go on, try it. Go script-less for a session and let me know how it goes.

For my guide to the best free scripts see HERE


Author: is Senior Tutor At Yorkshire Hypnotherapy Training, which offers multi accredited hypnotherapy practitioner training in Wakefield and York, along with taster days and foundation levels. Debbie has written a chapter on working with IBS in The Hypnotherapy Handbook, aimed at students and newly qualified hypnotherapists and also offers supervision and continuous professional development (CPD) for those in practice. Please contact Debbie to find out more.


  1. I think it's fine to use scripts have their place.

    When I can I prefer to just add lib something based around an idea although will sometimes write a pretty full script ahead of time. When dealing with something like anxiety it seems that what the client is going through and therefore needs right now can change quickly between sessions so even when using a prepared script be ready to fill in the gaps with relevant post hypnotic suggestions.

    I have some great scripts that I have bought, and occasionally read them 'as is'. More likely I will take ideas from scripts to weave into my own.

    Some of the best I have are from Key Hypnosis and the guy who wrote those said "if you don't know exactly what each line in the script is there for, you may as well just be reading poetry to your client" I agree with that totally, use a script if it's useful but not for laziness. If you are going to use someone else's script read it thoroughly to make sure it is fully compatible and tweak if necessary.

    1. Thanks for your comment, I agree that scripts definitely have their place, but also that simply reading someone else's words to your client without understanding doesn't make effective therapy. I like the key hypnosis scripts too as they come with lots of explanations about what each section is doing so they are easy to adapt and use as a template to suit your client.

  2. From John Covell
    The structure of the original question asks "should you use scripts in your hypnotherapy practice?"

    When I began my training with YHT we were set the task of developing out Hypnotherapy skills with volunteers. At that time I felt really scared and unskilled in the art of preparing for an managing a hypnotherapy session. My motto at that time was "You only learn how to do it, by doing it". We were required to produce evidence of having done at least 25 hours of work with volunteers. I chose to do over 40 hours. For me practice makes perfect.

    As for the question. At the beginning of the cause I needed a model. A structure. Some guidance. The scripts we were given did all these things and were a reflection of what was demonstrated for us by our tutor.
    The provided scripts provided the models we needed. The were our support and to begin with they were our strength.

    I am now a qualified and GHR registered Hypnotherapist and I find that, because of my learning and extensive practice using scripts prepared by other people are only used by me a guides, providing structure to the work that I am now able to create myself.
    Work that I create myself is always in my language. It always fits the way I speak when I am managing a hypnotherapy session.
    I imagine that with time my experiences will progressively enable me to work without a script.
    In all my work both as a hypnotherapist and CBT counsellor it is the needs of my client that is the focus of my work. If this means using a script which either I have written or have developed and adapted then so be it.
    If my work with a client enables them to function more effectively in their life then, for me, that is all that matters.
    With the passage of time I know I am becoming more and more confident in my Hypnotherapy work. That's what is meant by EXPERIENCE.

    1. Thanks John, I agree. There's no need to re-invent the wheel, we learn language best by being immersed in it and hypnotic language is no different. Scripts are one way of achieving that immersion and people do generally use them progressively less as they get more experienced.


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