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Tuesday, 17 February 2015

12 tips for compelling hypnotic suggestions

Whether you adapt other people's scripts, write your own, or extemporise your therapy sessions (= make them up as you go!) understanding how to craft the perfect suggestion for your client is an absolute necessity for every hypnotherapist.
In this article I'm going to look at what makes that perfect hypnotic suggestion to help your client make the changes they want to make.
  1. Use the present tense
    ‘You are calm and relaxed’ instead of ‘you will be calm and relaxed’
    ‘Will be’ allows too much of a get-out clause, because it doesn’t specify how quickly. You should use this technique when you’re referring to a future event as well, even if it means the grammar is not perfect e.g. ‘when you walk into the exam room on Monday you are calm and relaxed’.
    The exception to using the present tense is when dealing with a physical reality like a broken leg. In this case ‘your leg is strong and healthy’ is clearly not true and invites your client to reject all of your suggestions. ‘Every day your leg is stronger and healthier’ is better.
  2. Stick with what you want!
    The unconscious mind finds it much easier to deal with positives, so ‘You reject cigarettes’ is generally better than ‘you don’t want to smoke any more’
    Negatives simply remind a client of what they are trying to avoid, e.g. don’t think of a pink elephant. You have to think of one in order not to. Create a vivid word picture of what the client does want to engage their emotions, imagination and unconscious ability to create it.
  3. Be realistic
    ‘You enjoy running more and more, feeling exhilarated whenever you improve your time’ instead of ‘you are in the Olympic team this time next month’ for someone who’s just started running.
  4. Don't link to triggers that may not exist
    It may sound as if you are obeying the last couple of rules but avoid suggestions like 'as you walk into room 12 for your exam you feel calm and confident'. If the exam is moved to another room you may have a problem.
  5. Suggest actions and emotions, not ability
    Basically, don’t make promises the client may not be able to keep! ‘You are calm, relaxed and focussed in your driving test’ works better than ‘you are the best driver on the road’.
  6. Be specific and detailed
    Where you can do it without breaking the rules above, more detail helps the client to really imagine themselves where you want them to be and to understand exactly what why they're making a change.
    This takes close questioning in your initial interview: try to develop answers like ‘my health will be better' and find out how they'll know that. Then build it into your session. ‘Imagine playing football in the park with little Johnny, your breath coming easily, your lungs healthy, full of energy in mind and body’ rather than ‘you feel healthier as a non smoker’.
  7. Use exciting and emotive words
    ‘Whenever you look at your long, strong healthy nails you feel a sense of pride and achievement’ not ‘you like having longer nails’. Emotion ‘sells’ these ideas to the unconscious mind, so it puts the changes you want in place.
  8. Simplicity is best
    ‘You extrapolate this positivism into a multiplicity of environments’ will flummox most clients. And therapists probably.
    ‘You take this confidence with you wherever you go’ is better. Of course, you need to balance simplicity with the need not to sound condescending or patronising. You can include complex ideas if you express them in plain English.
    It's also better to deal with one issue at a time unless they are interacting with one another such as stress eating.
  9. Don’t promise change in other people
    ‘You accept your mother in law as she is, understanding that her attitudes are a product of her life and her feelings’ instead of ‘your mother in law will respect you and not nag’.
  10. Personalise
    Other people’s scripts (or your own generic ones) can be a great start to constructing a therapy session, especially if you are newly qualified or working in a new area. But you should always adapt them to include the client’s own examples, words, feelings and beliefs about their problem and its solution etc. There's another blog on this site on just that topic!
  11. But …
    But cancels out everything that went before it . ‘I love your new hair style, but …’ is never going to be followed by a complement. (See item 10 above as another example)
    ‘Although’ or ‘however’ can be used as gentler alternatives. Keep ‘but’ for times when you deliberately intend to cancel out ideas; ‘you used to be a smoker like them, BUT now you are free’.
  12. Link what is happening (e.g. hypnotic phenomena) to what you want to happen
    ‘as the sounds in the room fade into the background you can allow your [fear of spiders or whatever else] to fade with them …’
Thanks for reading, if you have other tips please share them below.

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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.

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