This is a guest post from our head Hypnosis Downloads script writer and hypnotherapy trainer Joe Kao.
As I leaned forward and spoke into the microphone, I looked out at row after row of people, all sitting with their eyes closed.
Many people’s eyes were flicking beneath their eyelids, as if they were vividly dreaming. Some had their arms floating in the air. And a few of them were slowly touching their noses and bursting out with giggles.
What an unusual situation I’d found myself in!
This was back in 2006, when I first began teaching hypnotherapy for Uncommon Knowledge. My role was to guide the group in how to experience hypnotic phenomena for themselves.
My façade of confidence hid a whole lot of uncertainty. I’d never done this with a large group of people, and I had no way of knowing how people would respond.
But the uncertainty didn’t last long, and since then I’ve had many opportunities to do hypnosis with large groups, and I’ve found it incredibly rewarding.
If you’re thinking about venturing into group work but aren’t sure how to go about it, you’re not alone. But as intimidating as it may seem, the benefits to your skills and confidence will be well worth it.
Let me share a few key insights that you may find helpful.
1. Remember that the power of the group-mind is on your side
First of all, recognize that you can’t tailor group hypnosis to each individual. It can never be a complete substitute for one-on-one therapy.
However, working with a group comes with unique advantages. Not only does it allow you to help many people at the same time, but the power of experiencing hypnosis in a large group can actually deepen and intensify the effect of the hypnosis.
We are a social species, and from the very moment we are born, we are tremendously sensitive to the subtle social cues going on all around us. When a group of people assembles together for a collective purpose, and then the room goes quiet and everyone begins breathing deeply and focusing inwardly, it can significantly heighten and intensify the experience.
So if you’ve ever felt nervous about doing group hypnosis, remember, the fact that everyone is in a group actually makes your job easier, because the group-mind acts as a powerful amplifier for your words.
2. Use universal, inclusive, catch-all language patterns
For the hypnotist, group hypnosis offers a great opportunity to practise ‘catch-all language patterns‘. This means speaking in a way that each member of the group can respond to, while also allowing for each person’s experience of hypnosis to be unique.
For example, imagine you told the group:
a) “You are now very relaxed.”
This could jar with some people’s experience if they weren’t feeling very relaxed yet. Instead it’s much more effective to say:
b) “Maybe you’re drifting deeply inside already… or perhaps your conscious mind is focusing on the sound of these words… as your unconscious mind is responding to them without you even realizing it yet.”
Similarly, imagine you told them:
a) “You are in a beautiful garden… full of flowers… with the gentle hum of bees in the background.”
This might not go down too well with someone who had intense hay fever or a phobia of bees! Instead, it’s much better to be permissive and artfully vague, in a way that is inclusive of everyone’s experience. For example:
b) “And as I talk… a very pleasant memory can begin to come to mind… of a place you really enjoyed visiting… maybe quite some years ago… or more recently… and it’s a place you can revisit… here… and enjoy all over again… as you prepare to take in the sights… the sounds… and the sensations of this place… now or in a few moments.”
Notice how the second example in each case is much harder to disagree with, because you’re allowing for a broader range of possible responses. This means that they are likely to connect with far more people in the group.
3. Focus on who is most responsive to your words
There is a rule of thumb in stand-up comedy that it’s best to focus on the people who are laughing at your jokes, rather than worrying about the curmudgeon who’s glaring at you in the second row. Put your primary focus on the people that are responding best to your words, and it will tend to lift the mood of the whole crowd over the course of the session.
The same is true of group hypnosis.
There will always be some people in a group who go very deeply into hypnosis, who look like they’re away with the fairies, or like they’re going through a really transformational change. Others may appear restless, as if they’re still trying to get comfortable. One or two might choose to sit with their eyes open. Or, as occasionally happens, someone may well start snoring!
All we can do is incorporate whatever happens. And from experience, I find it most effective to begin by directing my attention towards the people who are going most deeply into hypnosis. This immediately increases my own confidence and flow, which helps to deepen the group’s experience.
Then, further into the hypnosis, I’ll start to broaden my attention to include the whole room.
This is a way of applying a solution-focused mindset to group hypnosis. You first focus on the people who are responding most to your words, and notice where in the room the hypnosis is working best. Then you aim, with your voice and your choice of words, to help other people to get to that state too.
As for me, back on that training course in 2006, I found it exhilarating to be able to guide so many people to experience hypnotic phenomena for themselves. It definitely gave me greater confidence in my skills as a hypnotist, and if you’d like to further develop your own hypnotic ability, I’d highly recommend that you give it a go.
You can experience Joe’s training on our advanced Precision Hypnosis course which he co-presents with Mark Tyrrell.
Read more therapy techniques »