Imagine that you want to take a trip. The first step in this process is to decide where you want to go -- for example, from your hometown to San Francisco, California. What is your next step? Well, you cannot just point your nose in the direction of San Francisco and magically teleport to the City by the Bay. You have to do some planning. Will you drive, fly or take the train? How long will the trip take? What will you need to take with you?
The client who comes to the professional hypnotist is also planning a trip. S/he has every right to expect that the hypnotist will manage each detail necessary to ensure that the client's "trip" is successful. And just like a successful trip, a positive outcome to the hypnotic session is no accident. It is the result of following a specific procedure for each session. The first step in that procedure -- the first step in the successful hypnosis journey -- requires that the hypnotist provide the client with the information that the client needs to succeed. In other words, before the actual hypnotic induction, the hypnotist must educate the client about what hypnosis is and what it is not.
The primary element here is to make certain that the client understands who has the responsibility for the success or failure of the hypnosis session. It is the CLIENT -- not the hypnotist -- who controls the outcome. The client must understand that the hypnotist is not a magician, that the hypnotist cannot MAKE the client effect the desired change.
Having said that, the hypnotist CAN create an atmosphere for optimal success by enhancing the client's imagination and imbuing the client with a powerful mental expectancy of success. How? The successful hypnotist will establish a positive atmosphere from the moment that the client first contacts him or her. It is imperative that the hypnotist employs the power of waking hypnosis to convince the client that the client has located a professional with the skills necessary to help the client solve his or her problem. Invariably, the client will ask whether the hypnotist can help. It doesn't really matter what the goal or the problem is. The hypnotist begins to build the necessary confidence by assuring the client, "Of course that can be done. We've helped with situations like this before." What the mind EXPECTS to happen tends to happen. So from that moment until the client arrives for the actual session, the client's expectation of success increases. And that expectation enhances the probability for a successful outcome.
Once the client arrives, the hypnosis session itself comprises three equally important parts: the pre-induction interview, the hypnosis session and the post-hypnotic interview. For the purpose of this article, we will examine the pre-induction interview. (The remaining two components will be covered in "Anatomy of a Successful Hypnosis Session - Part 2.)
The pre-induction interview consists of two parts: the information provided by the client and the information provided by the hypnotist. First, the client explains to the hypnotist what the client believes the problem is. It is not unusual for the client to miss the mark when self-diagnosing the problem. S/he is working from a conscious level, while the real problem may lie in the subconscious realm. Nevertheless, it is important for the hypnotist to listen carefully to this information. This interlude allows the hypnotist to learn about the client and to establish rapport -- an element critical to success.
During the second part of the pre-induction interview, the hypnotist provides information to the client. It is the time when the hypnotist removes whatever fears or misconceptions the client may have about hypnosis. Why is this important? Because every subject accepts hypnosis in direct proportion to the amount of fear s/he has of the process. Contrary to popular belief, there are no bad subjects -- only subjects who resist entering the hypnotic state. And what will prevent a person of normal intelligence from entering hypnosis? Fear.
The person who insists that s/he cannot be hypnotized because the person "has a strong mind" is actually saying that s/he is frightened of the process -- frightened of "giving up control."
This fear, of course, comes from ignorance. That is why for the hypnotic session to succeed, the hypnotist must educate the client about hypnosis and remove that fear. A pre-induction interview provides the opportunity to present an in-depth discussion of how hypnosis works, what it can do and (just as importantly) what its limitations are. It is not enough simply to ask the client if s/he has any questions. The client may respond that s/he has no questions because s/he already knows all about hypnosis. And it turns out that what the client "knows" is that the hypnotist will control the client's mind and make the client do anything the hypnotist wants!
The hypnotist must be proactive about the pre-induction talk and dispel any such false notions. If the client is left with misconceptions, the client is left with fear. And as we have already seen, fear is the one thing that will cause a client to resist hypnotic induction. It is critical that the client understands (1) how hypnosis works, (2) what will happen during the session and (3) that the client -- NOT the hypnotist -- is in complete control.
As an added benefit, the pre-induction talk showcases the hypnotist's knowledge, enhancing the client's perception of the hypnotist as an authority. This, in turn, reinforces the client's expectancy of success.
Part 2 of "Anatomy of a Successful Hypnosis Session" will consider the remaining components: the actual induction and the post-hypnotic interview.