Is there anything worse than having your therapeutic pearls founder on the rocks of distraction?
When we therapists, counsellors, or coaches see what our client needs, there is often only one chance to make that intervention stick. And for that, we need resolute, focussed attention from our client.
But how can we capture client attention in therapy when that precious opportunity presents itself?
One of the many reasons I use hypnosis in therapy is because I’ve found it’s the best way to help clients focus so they can really listen and take on board new, more productive ideas and emotional responses.
And once focus becomes narrowed, it gains great power – like the magnifying glass gathering the heat of the sun to ignite a flame.
Here are 4 ways to help you focus the attention of your clients for quicker therapeutic results
1. Be ambiguous about what is going to happen
When we’re expecting something but aren’t sure what it is, we narrow our focus in order to check our expectation.
Implying by what you say that something will occur, but you don’t know what it is yet creates curiosity, which fixates attention.
And I’m very curious… and you can be very curious too… to discover… in just a few moments… just how… your unconscious mind is going to produce a profound hypnotic trance state… and neither of us know yet… just how that’s going to happen… maybe you’ll just start to feel a little sleepy… or perhaps you’ll begin to feel kind of far away in your mind… or those hands of yours will feel a little warmer first… and you have no idea yet… just what the first signs will be… that you have gone into trance… but you can enjoy waiting for a few moments…
Another way to use this ambiguity is to presuppose that your client will begin to notice the changes they want to see in themselves, but that how and when can surprise them:
I wonder who will be the first person to notice that you’re feeling a growing confidence in your work.
What will you be doing when you first notice you’re free of that drinking habit?
2. Use what is already fascinating to them
If our clients are clearly fascinated by something, then we can utilize that interest, which already has their attention, and narrow their focus even more.
For example, Ross kept talking about how he just couldn’t believe he’d been able, as a child, to play the piano in front of large audiences – something he felt he could “never do the equivalent of now”. Because he had expressed amazement (and therefore was easily focussed by this subject), I began to talk about it as a way to capture his attention even more:
And there is still a part of you that remembers… that knows the exact feeling of being so focussed… on playing the piano… that the crowd just kind of disappeared… a particular room… a particular piece of music… being in total flow… your hands still remembering the precise sensations… of moving over the keys… as your eyes remember what they saw… and your ears what they heard… even if you don’t know that… yet…
Because I was talking about what already fascinated him and I was talking about it in an unfamiliar way, Ross was able to enter a profound and spontaneous trance without me even asking him to “go into hypnosis”.
3. Home in on their symptoms
People know very well how to focus on their problems (that’s often a big part of the problem!).
So with someone who had been having panic attacks, you might talk about how ‘people’ experience “faster breathing, feeling hot in the face, feeling like they want to run away…” and so forth, as a prelude to focussing them more positively.
Or I might say to a blusher:
And blushing is a kind of post-hypnotic response… and wonderful evidence of the mind/body connection…and perhaps you can just close your eyes… and notice what that feels like… by imagining you are beginning to blush right now… and as you do that… you can also notice what it’s like… not to blush in that situation… and to feel really chilled… cool and calm…
If I’m working with a smoker, I’ll invariably start off fixing their attention by getting them to ‘have a cigarette’ in their mind – step by step. This is their area of expertise, so it’s easy for them to focus on it.
Doing this is a way of getting people used to focussing on ideas presented by you through making sure that what you are presenting is already familiar. And if they can’t focus on the reality of having a cigarette or blushing, then you can even use that inability to feel the problem as a way to help them overcome it permanently. Win/win.
This technique of focussing your client’s mind on what has troubled them should not be confused with ‘bringing on a panic attack’ or some other symptom. Rather it’s a controlled way of discussing their symptoms, touching upon them so that you can catch – and hold – their focus of attention. But once the catalyst has done its work, you can quickly move on to positively focussed interventions.
4. Vary your tone and delivery
“I use a soft voice because that compels attention.” ~ Dr Milton Erickson
Some people still have an idea about hypnotists that we all speak in a dramatic whisper or – worse still – a dull monotone. But effective hypnosis can use all the tones in the scale.
Because hypnosis isn’t about boring the client into a stupor. Its aim is to capture and hone the client’s focus. Sometimes this means using a soft voice to encourage relaxed inner focus, but sometimes the conspiratorial phrasing of a gossip works just as well.
So you can engage your client’s attention by shifting your tone and inflection, in the same way that an actor focuses an audience’s attention through emotion and emphasis.
By working flexibly with your clients, picking up on their individualities and passions, you can better understand what makes them unique and find the best way to help them more quickly. Once you’ve helped them narrow their attention, you’ll find it becomes easier to effectively direct their focus in helpful ways, so they can begin to respond to and deal with whatever is troubling them.
Join me on the Precision Hypnosis course for advanced skills in focussing your clients’ attention. If you don’t yet know hypnosis, you can learn it on the Uncommon Hypnotherapy course.
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