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Monday, 14 December 2015

My first client

As trainers we do our best to prepare our students for working as effective and confident hypnotherapists, but can anything really prepare you for that first client after graduation?

We interviewed four hypnotherapists, two of whom have just set up in practice, two of whom have been working as hypnotherapists for a while, about their experiences.

The contributors:

 Vanessa Bowman-Reeves of Choice Hypnotherapy, Stockton on Tees who's been qualified 7 years.
 Kim Rowan of
KR Hypnotherapy, Hull,
who qualified in May 2015.
Verena Groom-White of
Verena Hypnotherapy, York
 Sarah Howard of Ashfield Healing
in Oldham, who qualified in July 2015.

How long had you been qualified when you saw your first paying client?

[Vanessa] About three months – I’d spent time after qualifying setting up the business and website, and getting my consulting room ready. I think it took about two or three weeks after my website went online before my first client booked in, which felt quite quick.
[Kim] I qualified at the end of May, and I saw my first client on 27th July.
[Verena] Six months, though I had 'practised' on family and friends
[Sarah] I got my first e-mail the day I got my diploma in the post! I had all my marketing and website set up and ready to go!

What did your first client want you to help them with?

[Vanessa] Stop smoking.
[Kim] Weight control.
[Verena] Nail biting.
[Sarah] She wanted to stop smoking.

How did you feel when you realised you were taking your first booking?

[Vanessa] Amazed, delighted, nervous – couldn’t believe it was actually happening!
[Kim] I felt scared, excited, apprehensive and totally out of my comfort zone as this time someone was paying me to help them!
[Verena] Terrified. Despite having previously been seeing clients for homeopathy for many years, I was still anxious because it is a different process. Also, I was recommended by a homeopathy client of mine, who said I had had 'great results' She was getting mixed up with homeopathy! So no pressure at all!!
[Sarah] I had many emotions, excitement, nerves … and panic! During my training I had always thought I’d stay away from smokers as I am the worlds worst non-smoker, I’ve never smoked and really dislike the habit! I thought I’d be really intolerant and therefore not ‘good enough’ or effective!

How did you prepare for the session?

[Vanessa] I read back through all of my coursework and notes relating to Stop Smoking sessions; and printed off an induction, a progressive relaxation, and a script that we had been given during training, so I wouldn’t need to rely on my memory. I work from home, and also seem to recall spending quite a while looking at the room layout from various angles, trying to assess it as a client might, wanting it to look both welcoming and professional.
[Kim] I read and read and read as much as I could and looked at loads of scripts.
[Verena] Lots and lots. I spent ages reading about the topic. After I had prepared my therapy plan,  I also went through everything in my head to rehearse the session.
[Sarah] I did lots of research on the ill effects of smoking, I made leaflets and laminated information cards. I found out the specific reason for my client wanting to quit, which was so she could try for a baby, and geared the whole session around that.

How did you feel going into the session?

[Vanessa] Until she arrived, I kept wondering whether my client would actually turn up as arranged – and whether I’d be relieved if she didn’t! I just kept telling myself ‘Everyone has to start somewhere. As long as you do a decent session, like you’ve been taught, then that’s ok’.
[Kim] I was surprisingly relaxed, not nervous and felt I came across as confident enough.
[Verena] I was still terrified but felt OK when I actually met my client. She was very friendly and welcoming.
[Sarah] I was very nervous and also not very confident at first, but I quickly realised that I could do it and my client was relying on me to do my very best for her. As the session went on I grew in confidence.

Did it go as planned? If not, why not?

[Vanessa] It went fine – my client was a lovely lady, and I don’t think she knew it was my first session. (I decided not to tell her, as I didn’t want to do anything to lower her confidence in me or the therapy.) I use a GSR meter, and was hugely reassured to see the reading go down as she relaxed.
[Kim] Yes, the session went smoothly although I did have a few worries about medical issues that were raised. As a precaution, I asked the client to inform her GP she was undertaking therapy, and I double-checked my approach with my supervisor. Everything was fine.
[Verena] The session did go pretty much as planned, though it was a home visit and the client had two large dogs who despite being banished to  the kitchen, managed to make some noise rubbing up against the door trying to get out!
[Sarah] All went to plan, and the client was responsive and enthusiastic.

How did you feel afterwards?

[Vanessa] When my client placed money in my hand before leaving, I remember feeling absolutely amazed! Afterwards, I was on a high – I’d done it!
[Kim] Elated!
[Verena] Afterwards I felt relieved, and quite pleased with myself.
[Sarah] Afterwards my emotions were like a rollercoaster … up and down … I was elated at her response as she left me but then worried about her for the next couple of days. I sent her a text four weeks later to ask how she was doing and I didn’t get a reply!

How many times did you see that client and was the therapy successful?

[Vanessa] It was a single Stop Smoking session, so sadly I never saw her again. At that time, I didn’t request feedback, so I don’t know whether she quit but I hope so, as she was such a lovely person to have as my first client.
[Kim] I saw the client for four sessions and the feedback was that her clothes were fitting her better, she was now conscious of not only what she ate but how she shopped for food too.
[Verena] I saw her three times in total and yes it was successful. At the end of the third session, my client had lovely nails she was proud of. I also saw my homeopathy client some months later and was told she had beautiful long nails!
[Sarah] In those 4 weeks I had several other clients for stopping smoking: I enhanced my package and incorporated some EFT, gave each client a Bach flower essence and had some really good feedback … I could do it … it was working … phew!

With the benefit of hindsight and experience, would you have done anything differently?

[Vanessa] I still do stop smoking sessions along broadly similar lines, although experience allows me to be more adaptable to meet individual needs. Nowadays, I always request feedback.
[Kim] Yes, I probably would have had a longer gap between the sessions so that the client could see the changes that were being made.
[Verena] I rarely do home visits anyway, but when I do, I am far more careful to ensure there are no distractions.
[Sarah] My first client text me back only 2 weeks ago. She apologised for not replying and said yes, she was still not smoking; she admitted she found it difficult sometimes but she was working through it.

Any advice for new therapists about to see their first client?

[Vanessa] To begin with, only advertise and offer help for straightforward issues with which you feel most familiar and comfortable. Prepare as much as you can, so you’re ready to work in the way you were taught. Remember that your client does not know exactly what to expect, so he or she won’t know if you do something a little differently from the way you planned. Be kind, be positive, and enjoy learning!
[Kim] My advice would be to read and prepare as much as possible and to believe in yourself and your abilities. There is no better feeling than knowing that you have helped make a difference in someone's life.
[Verena] Do lots of preparation beforehand as it will help during the session and also will give you that much needed confidence. Also, try to ensure your environment is as quiet as possible.
[Sarah] My advice is to prepare for your client, treat the person specifically and not just the habit … personalise your session and your script but above all be confident … believe in yourself. Clients who want to quit smoking are now my favourite clients.

Please feel free to post comments about your first client experience below (being very respectful of confidentiality, of course) and/or your best advice for newly qualified therapists about to see their first client.

If you have enjoyed this article, please use the buttons on the grey bar (below the author details) to share it with others who might enjoy it too. Thank you.

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. Great article!

    It shows people thinking of training that becoming a hypnotherapist is a process that anyone can follow and not the luck of the draw.

    1. Thanks for your comment, I'm glad you enjoyed the article.