How Homer can help you create more effective sessions

Not Homer the philosopher, but Homer Simpson, that doughnut loving chap from Springfield. Really. The reason is a story of my husband's, which he uses when he's giving lectures on change management to business managers. Over the years we've realised that the work I do with clients is actually very similar.

We both have to get people motivated to face big changes, and to stick with those changes even when it’s not as easy as they'd hoped. And it all comes down to benefits and features.

The story

'My car is a white Vauxhall*, exactly the type used by the Police to catch people speeding on the motorway. When people see me behind them they assume I am driving a police car (the blue roof-rack helps…). They slow down and get out of my way. The result of this is that I travel a bit quicker than everyone else in the rush hour, and get home in time to watch The Simpsons on TV with my daughters.'

Benefits and features

Broadly, a benefit is what the customer in his case, or client in mine, gets out of making the change. Features are what makes the benefits happen. In the story, the feature of the car that's important is that it looks like a Police car. By using this feature Dave gets the benefit he wants i.e. to enjoy his favourite programme with the kids.

If I was writing an ad for this car my tag-line wouldn’t be 'Buy this, it looks like a Police car', it would be 'Buy this and get home in time to watch the Simpsons'. In just the same way, the benefits your client will achieve by making a change are what you need to highlight in your hypnotherapy session.

Say you have a client who wants to quit smoking and you ask, 'How do you see yourself as a non-smoker?'. The client might say 'Healthier, more money in my pocket, my partner would nag less.' You could certainly include those things in your session content, but before you do, have a closer look. They are all features, not benefits. 

As an example, most people would agree that having a bit more money would be a good thing, but why? It's unlikely that you just like having your pockets filled with heavy coins, more probable that you have ideas about what you could spend it on - things that you can’t afford now. Having more money is a feature of a life without cigarettes, the benefits are the things it could get for you.

So when creating your session content, which of these would be the more powerful suggestion?
  • imagine yourself with more money in your pocket at the end of the week
  • imagine yourself setting off on that wonderful holiday that you couldn’t afford before

Do features always have benefits?

There is a second part to the car story. It goes like this.

'My wife doesn’t like The Simpsons. She would rather spend longer in traffic, listening to her favourite music and chilling out, than get home to a house filled with Simpson fans laughing at something she doesn’t find funny.'

In other words, Dave's big benefit, which comes from the car helping him to get home earlier, isn’t a benefit to me at all. Quite the opposite.

In the same way, saving money may be a feature for everyone who quits smoking, but it may not always have any relevant benefits. What if your client is a millionaire? Or they spend only a few quid a week on roll-ups, and the savings won’t have any significant impact on their lives?

In this case, you would need to explore the other features they've mentioned and find the benefits there. What could they do if they were healthier that they can’t do now? How would it affect their wellbeing - or relationship - if their partner didn’t nag about the smoking?

What are the relevant benefits?

In therapeutic terms, a benefit might be something concrete, like a holiday, or something emotional, like a feeling of freedom. When you are talking to your client about why they want to change, it’s your job to find this out, to make sure you drill down past the obvious and get to what’s really important.

If you can do this, you will be sure to include just the right personal details in your session to inspire your clients to achieve their goals.

And you can get more ideas about improving your session content from my new book Their Worlds, Your Words: the hypnotherapist's guide to effective scripts and sessions

Do you want more information about how to make your sessions more effective?

The author of this blog has a book coming out on December 10th which will help you do just that.
Their Worlds, Your Words is a guide for hypnotherapists who want to improve and personalise their hypnotic sessions, giving the best service possible to their clients.
Free gift for pre-orders.

* Just to be clear, I am not encouraging people to impersonate a Police Officer! We have never actually owned a white Vauxhall (and even the Police prefer day-glo panels these days). It's just an illustration, although there is a grain of truth; I would rather listen to my music than watch the Simpsons any day.


Blog Author: is an experienced hypnotherapist, author and hypnotherapy trainer. Please feel free to visit the sites.
Yorkshire Hypnotherapy Training - multi accredited hypnotherapy practitioner training, taster days and foundation levels.
CPD Expert - accredited CPD courses (on line and workshops options), expert supervision
Their Words, Your Words - hints, tips and challenges from Debbie's latest book due out late 2016