Is hypnotherapy like stage hypnosis?

In just about every respect, hypnotherapy is pretty much completely different from stage hypnosis. The mannerisms, speech and general attitude of a therapist will generally be gentle and therapeutic. The aim of the stage hypnotist is to wow the audience – often at the ridicule of the subjects on stage. A hypnotherapist, by contrast, is aiming for a completely therapeutic ambience and usually makes it clear to the client that they will remain in a state of altered awareness and in control throughout.


In a stage show, you will typically see a number of people that aren’t properly hypnotised or don’t stay hypnotised – the stage hypnotist will quickly send these people off stage. Therapists don’t have that option – our clients want to stay hypnotised and complete their therapy.

Most people’s experience of being put into a trance by a hypnotherapist (the induction) will be a gentle relaxation to get the person to the trance-like state that normally exists between waking and sleeping. It is gentle and relaxing.

When might you see elements of stage hypnosis?

Well, probably only one. Consider if the client was extremely anxious and fidgety then asking them to lie back and relax could well be counterproductive. Although there is an expectation from the client that they will be hypnotised, they may also anticipate that this should happen very quickly based on what they have already seen on TV and stage. In this situation, their anxiety can sabotage relaxation.

“I can’t relax. I’m not feeling anything. What will the hypnotherapist think of me if he/she can’t hypnotise me?” These are the thoughts of someone with extremely heightened anxiety and are not at all uncommon. If the person is anxious, they can be in a state of high alert almost akin to paranoia and perceive all sorts of things as a threat.

Sometimes the hypnotherapist's rapport alone will not be enough to calm such clients down. Just the idea of having to relax can make the client anxious. This is an area where standard techniques of progressive relaxation used by many hypnotherapists may not be quite fast enough.

Many hypnotherapists will be taught one or two rapid induction techniques such as the handshake technique. Even this technique though requires the client to co-operate with the therapist and relax enough to allow the therapist to complete it. If the client struggles to relax their arm, we can get their own negative self-talk taking over again “Oh god I can’t relax. What must the therapist think of me?”

In this set of circumstances, it could be desirable to use a 'rapid' or 'shock induction'. This is often used by stage hypnotists and may be the only element that stage hypnotists share with hypnotherapists.

If you are extremely anxious then, when choosing a hypnotherapist, you could discuss if they know these fast induction techniques. When selecting a hypnotherapist, ensure that you find one that is a good fit for you and that seems to have a good grasp of your issues.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Hypnotherapy Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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