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Monday, 20 June 2016

How to GROW your hypnotherapy practice

Some hypnotherapists feel confident in using a variety of in-trance techniques, but less sure about talking to the client out of trance. Clean language and SMART goals are all very useful, but they have their limitations. They tell you how to ask questions but not what to ask, where you are going but not how to get there.

I've found that coaching skills can fill in the gaps, helping you to get right to the heart of a client's problems, and start you planning therapy together in a constructive and client centred way.


Before we go any further, let me say that although there is voluntary regulation here in the UK for hypnotherapists, coaching is entirely unregulated, and there are a variety of approaches that could be called coaching. This article isn’t even going to attempt to cover them all, just to introduce you to one that I've found useful - the GROW model.

What is GROW?

You generally have a broad idea about what the client wants to talk to you about or change before they arrive, but once they are in your therapy room you need to know more. For example, how they see that change manifesting itself and where to start. It can be tempting to leap in with suggestions or advice but it's better to involve the client in these decisions, and avoid a 'one size fits all' approach to your therapy. Using GROW helps you adapt your basic approach to the client as an individual, instead of classifying them by their presenting issue.

GROW, as you will have guessed, is an acronym. It stands for:
  • Goals
  • Reality & Resources
  • Obstacles & Options
  • Way Forward
Let’s look at each of these in turn.


Say a client comes to you to wishing to improve their sleep patterns, we start by pinning down exactly what they mean by this. 'Get a good night's sleep' is clearly a nice idea but it's vague. How will you know when you get there?

GROW tells us the first step is to set a goal - a SMART one if you are familiar with this approach. With a few clean language questions we could perhaps come up with something like: 'within two months I want to fall sleep within fifteen minutes of switching the light off, and sleep without waking for at least six hours'.

Reality and Resources

The next step is to check the client's reality, which is the past and present - how well do they sleep now and what is their bed time routine? Do other people affect or get affected by the situation? How long have problems been going on?  Is the intensity of the problem always the same? You could also ask what they are already doing, or what have they done in the past to try to change things.

Next, what resources do they have or need? In NLP terms a resource can be something concrete and physical like a comfortable mattress, or psychological/emotional like the ability to switch off worrying thoughts when settling down to sleep. What does the client already know or have that might help? What do they need to know or have? This will lead naturally to …

Obstacles and Options

Obstacles are things that might make goals hard to achieve.
Can the client guess at what these might be? What might prevent them from making the changes? What has prevented them from making change until now (for example, if they want a new mattress, is their partner is happy to change as well)?

Options are the solutions that put the resources into play and remove the obstacles.
How can your client make better use of resources they already have?
How can they avoid or get around the obstacles they’ve identified?
How could they find the resources they need but don’t currently possess?  What's the best first step towards doing this? (This one often also gives you your client's homework!)
Does that first step raise new obstacles? If it does, what can they do to get around them?

Way forward

Finally you summarise the conversation so far and start to put together a plan: the way forward.
What first steps will the client take before you meet again? Be specific about when, where and how they will take these, for example 'on Saturday morning my partner and I will buy a new mattress, and I will take a warm aromatherapy bath before bed each night starting tomorrow'.

This is also the time to discuss what support you will provide in the hypnotherapy sessions to help this along.

You may find the discussion is not quite as linear as this appears, many clients open the discussion with the reality and obstacles, for example, and move onto the goals later. But if you stick to the general outline and cover all the bases, the order in which you do so doesn’t really matter.

I've been using this approach for some time now and find it’s really helpful. Do give it a go and let me know how you get on.

And if you are interested in learning more, sign up for my CPD course on the subject It's available in both workshop and distance learning formats. If you contact me before ordering, quoting the URL of this article and I'll give you a 5% discount.

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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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