(This blog was originally posted on April 5, 2016)
There is an unwritten guideline in hypnotherapy that the client should do most (about 80 percent) of the talking and the hypnotherapist will do the rest (20 percent). And vice versa. During hypnotherapy, it is the client’s “responsibility” to describe the motivations for seeking this therapy, desires about changing an unwanted behavior and to express emotions about and during this therapeutic process. Similarly, it is the hypnotherapist’s “responsibility” to listen to what the client is saying and use this information to create an effective hypnotic script that will facilitate the achievement of the person’s therapeutic goals. This policy is very important for several reasons.
First, when someone comes in for hypnotherapy, that individual is not only looking for a possible solution to help change an unwanted belief or behavior. The person is also subconsciously looking for and needs a space in which to vent his or her emotions—a sounding board, if you will—to explain how and why the habit started in the first place. The last thing the client needs is to wonder if the expert from whom he or she is seeking help is somehow subtly dismissing those concerns by comparing them to the hypnotherapist’s own issues. At that point, the client would be justified in wondering whether the therapist’s problems might be more significant than his or her own. This is also the point at which rapport and trust are destroyed.
Second, especially during the cognitive (alert and aware) portion of the hypnotherapy session, the hypnotherapist needs to focus on what the client is saying to create the hypnotic script. This script is based on the key words, metaphors and even emotions that the client expresses to describe his or her self-improvement goals and motivations. During the cognitive portion of the first session, I reassure my hypnotherapy clients that they will essentially hypnotize themselves based on the words and motivations to change an unwanted behavior, which I incorporate into the hypnotic script. As I explain in my previous blog titled Creating Your Hypnotic Script, we are all most suggestible to ourselves. Conversely, if the hypnotherapist does most of the talking, the hypnotic script is less likely to be effective because the client’s subconscious mind does not recognize these motivational words, phrases and images as his or her own.
Third, unlike traditional forms of psychotherapy such as licensed marriage and family therapy, psychology and licensed social work or even psychiatry, hypnotherapy is not “talk therapy.” According to the Business and Professions Code 2908, hypnotherapists must provide hypnosis during the therapeutic session. In addition, they must also seek a referral from these professionals if a client wants to address an issue outside of the scope of hypnotherapy. Our role as hypnotherapists is to help our clients find solutions to problems and achieve vocational and avocational goals by working with the subconscious mind in hypnosis, not discussing these issues in a cognitive, alert and aware state.