What makes a successful hypnotherapy client?
What makes a successful hypnotherapy client?
There is a rule of thumb in hypnotherapy which says that about 90% of people can be successfully hypnotised. Certainly, experience shows that roughly this percentage of people will derive benefit from hypnotherapy, but still many people worry about the hypnotic state and wonder whether it will work for them. The problem is that often, people do not understand what it means to be in hypnosis and their perceptions have been influenced by seeing stage hypnosis. People wrongly assume that they must be “put under”, be “out of it” or otherwise under the control of the hypnotherapist. These misconceptions are a shame because they play on people’s fears about the unknown and prevent many people coming forward for hypnotherapy who would otherwise benefit from doing so.
Hypnotherapy cannot make you do, say, think or feel anything that you don’t want. You can only be helped to get rid of an addiction, eat less chocolate, be less anxious, get rid of a fear or whatever else you have come to be helped with because you have consciously decided you must make this change. Only with this conscious co-operation can hypnotherapy start to work on the change in your mental conditioning which is needed to support this desire for change.
Clients should also understand that hypnosis is not about being “out of it” but rather “into it.” We enter trance-like states all the time like when we watch a film or listen to a piece of music. A trance is a total focus on one particular thing to the exception of all else. In that sense, it is a state of heightened consciousness and it is the intensity of the experience which brings about that lasting shift the client is seeking. The hypnotic state is not something magical where you become a puppet, but rather one of relaxed concentration where you take control of yourself.
The important point to keep in mind with hypnotherapy is that the human mind is incredibly flexible and powerful. The mind is also very energetic; although the brain is only 2% of the body’s mass, it uses 20% of the body’s energy. It's this mind flexibility and energy which is directed during hypnotherapy to make changes in our mental outlook. Neurologists constantly remark on how flexible the mind can be, we have all heard cases where brain-damaged clients recover functions as the brain appears to re-wire itself.
In hypnotherapy a client is guided to focus their imagination on the solution to their problem. The more the client focuses on what the hypnotherapist is saying and the greater the intensity of the experience, the easier it will be to effectively “re-wire” the way they deal with their problem. It is the total focus on what is being said and experienced which constitutes the hypnotic state. The skill of the hypnotherapist is bringing about that focus.
A good way to imagine what makes a successful hypnotherapy client is to consider the people who have undergone hypno-anaesthesia prior to a surgical procedure. There are some people, say those with a weak heart, who cannot take a general anaesthetic but may require an operation. How are they going to survive the pain of the knife? Some operations are now carried out using hypnosis to block the pain.
How is it possible to block pain? Well, put yourself in the position of the patient on the operating table. Surely, he or she is going to be so overwhelmingly determined this is going to work that they go 100% with what the hypnotherapist is putting into their head. The patient is hardly likely to be saying to themselves, “I don’t think this is working”. In a nutshell that is how hypnotherapy works. The complete conjunction between what the patient wants (in this case to feel no pain) and what the hypnotherapist is suggesting creates a closed circle of mind-over-matter which is so astounding that even today no-one really knows what is happening.
So it is perhaps possible to see what it takes to be a successful hypnotherapy client. The patient has to want the solution so badly, without any doubt whatsoever, and the hypnotherapy can just carry you to where you want to be. For an experienced hypnotherapist it is usually not difficult to spot a client who is going to be resistant. Hypnotherapists can employ a range of “suggestibility” tests to see how responsive the client will be. But these are not always necessary or a good guide. Often it is actually possible to tell in an initial telephone conversation how a prospective client is likely to respond. Those individuals who are not good at listening or taking advice from others, who tend to “know it all”, are sceptical, talk too much and cut across you in conversation will probably struggle with hypnotherapy. Even though hypnotherapists are trained in ways to deal with the resistance, it can be better to advise them against having sessions if they appear unsuitable.
The good news for hypnotherapy, however, is that most people are actually very good at hypnotic work and invariably enjoy the experience. Successful hypnosis can be conducted regardless of age or background. Yes, young people usually have more flexible, open minds than older people but the hypnotherapist knows how to pitch the treatment, how long to make it, how to pace it and how to keep the clients alert. Hypnotherapists are used to working with older clients because these tend to be more health conscious and often have related conditions for which they need relief. At the other end, children can be very responsive and use their imaginations well.
Lastly, those considering a course of hypnotherapy should realise the different types of intervention suiting different types of people. For example, there is a type of person (though rare) who has difficulty visualising things when closing their eyes. Since a lot of hypnotherapy relies strongly on visual symbolism, inability to visualise could be a problem. But other types of hypnotherapy like the cognitive, solution-focused or non-directive approaches can usefully be employed to help those who struggle with imagination. There are very few people who cannot benefit from hypnotherapy, if you keep in mind how it works for the patient on the operating table then you already know how to be a successful client.