“What if I can’t be hypnotized?”
“How do I know if I’m actually hypnotized?”
“I heard (or didn’t hear) every word – did it really work?!”
Have you noticed that some clients feel under pressure to ‘perform’ or ‘do it right’ when it comes to the hypnosis part of therapy?
Fortunately, there are ways to take that pressure off. Simply explaining that there is no right or wrong way to go into hypnosis can ease the minds of many clients.
But sometimes it can help to go a bit further…
Here are 3 of my favourite approaches for minimizing hypnotic performance anxiety
1. Cover all the bases
You can really let your clients know that there is no strictly defined or prescribed way for them to respond when it comes to hypnosis.
The best way to do this is to describe, as fully as possible, both before and during trance induction, a range of different responses they might experience. And while you do, reassure them that all of these possible responses, along with any responses you haven’t described, are just fine.
Here’s an example script:
Now, some people find that gently restful images come to mind as they drift into hypnosis… Whereas others find themselves focussing on the sound of my words… And some people drift into trance without really paying that much attention to what I say… And sometimes people know they are going into trance… and know they have been in hypnosis later… And other people go into hypnosis without knowing it… or even knowing they’ve been in a trance later… And whatever happens is fine… Maybe you’ll feel more relaxed in your upper body first… or your lower body first… You may go into trance before you have fully relaxed… or after your mind has become completely still… or while you are gradually beginning to feel more comfortable and calm… And perhaps you’ll be aware of everything I say… and clearly recall it later… and perhaps not…
When you see signs that your client is clearly becoming hypnotically responsive, you can begin to be a little more directive. But covering all the bases like this is a very effective way to neutralize that little voice that keeps piping up with, “Am I doing this right?”
2. Normalize trance
I’ll often describe trance in great detail and also spend time talking about how it regularly occurs in everyday life.
You can discuss the ‘trance’ of enjoyable focus while watching a favourite TV show, reading a gripping book, doing something you really love, or whatever. Then get them to tell you their natural trance experiences.
This will normalize the idea of trance and reframe hypnosis from something they have to ‘get right’ to something that occurs naturally and inevitably anyway.
3. Pretend trance
To take even more pressure off, you might ask your client to imagine for themselves ‘what it would be like’ to drift deeply into a hypnotic trance.
For instance, during an induction, I might say something like:
You don’t have to relax twice as deeply as you are now… But you can just imagine what it would feel like… to go that deep right now…
Now, what, exactly, is the difference between
relaxing twice as deeply now
imagining what it feels like to relax twice as deeply now?
Milton Erickson, exemplar par excellence of how to do successful hypnotherapy, found that asking people to pretend to be in a hypnotic trance and display all the characteristics of someone in a trance was a most effective way of generating a real trance.
By just encouraging them to do what comes naturally, we can protect our clients from getting caught up in internal “Can I/Can’t I?” and “Was I/Wasn’t I?” debates.
And that frees up their emotional energy to focus on what they came to see you for in the first place – to feel better.
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