An Awesome Tool for Hypnotherapists
By Charles Hopkins
Published 09/20/2007 | Health
What do a magician and a hypnotist have in common?
They both require a varied bag of tricks to be successful.
We are not talking about a stage hypnotist who uses flamboyant
devices to entertain an audience. We are talking about the professional
hypnotherapist who must have multiple strategies in his or her
therapeutic bag to address the needs of different clients who present
with a variety of problems and issues. For example, one strategy would
be to use maternalism (a rhythmic, lulling induction to coax
emotionally suggestible subjects into the hypnotic state) rather than
paternalism (an authoritarian technique for physically suggestible
subjects). Other strategies are the use of stories and metaphors rather
than direct suggestion, the use of parts therapy, regression and
Neurolinguistic programming (NLP) offers an array of useful
techniques that a hypnotherapist may want to incorporate into his or
her practice. Of particular interest is the technique known as
anchoring. Anchoring is the process by which a memory or feeling is
linked to (anchored to) some activity. In therapeutic terms, an anchor
offers a simple way to create a stimulus-response pattern -- a trigger
-- that ignites a specific feeling in the subject and helps to support
a desired behavior. This trigger provides a bridge to take the client
from an undesirable state (e.g., anxiety) to a desirable state (e.g.,
feelings of confidence).
Creating an anchor is a simple five-step process:
The client first must identify what undesirable state is creating
the discomfort -- anxiety, fear, shyness, lack of confidence, et
The client then determines what state s/he wants to experience
instead. The client MUST be specific about what outcome s/he wants to
achieve. It is not sufficient to say, "I don't want to be anxious
anymore" or "I want to be better". The desired positive outcome needs
to be described in specific terms. How does it FEEL? Rather than "I
don't want to be anxious anymore", the desired positive outcome becomes
"I feel calm and in control". Rather than "I want to be more
confident", the client chooses "to feel centered, balanced and
Once the client identifies the desired outcome and states it in
specific terms, the next step is to remember a time when s/he actually
felt or experienced the desired state. The client should recall a time
when s/he FELT calm and peaceful, a time when s/he FELT centered and
balanced. The key is to relive an especially strong experience when
those feelings were full-blown and powerful.
The hypnotic state is an ideal state in which to retrieve memories
and re-experience powerful feelings. While totally relaxed, the client
can more easily allow all the sights and smells and sounds to
re-emerge. The more senses that are involved -- visual, auditory,
kinesthetic -- the more vivid the experience will be and the more vivid
the experience, the more successful the anchoring process will be.
To create an anchor that the client can use at will to ignite the
desired feeling, the hypnotherapist has the client re-live the powerful
memory. As the client re-experiences the situation, s/he will feel the
desired state build and build in intensity, then gradually subside. The
key is for the hypnotherapist to take advantage of the desired feeling
at its peak -- at the point just before the feeling begins to wane.
As the desired feeling grows stronger, the hypnotherapist instructs
the client to make some unique hand gesture and has the client link
that gesture to a word or phrase and to a corresponding image. For
example, the hypnotherapist might instruct the client to press together
the thumb and middle finger of the left hand (touch) while mentally
saying the word "balance" (sound) and visualizing a person in a perfect
yoga pose (sight). The hypnotherapist allows the client to savor the
desired emotional state for a few moments. S/he then breaks the mood by
refocusing the client's attention on the hypnotist's voice.
As the client continues to relax, the hypnotherapist again takes
him or her through the anchoring process -- the association of the
desired feeling with the hand gesture, the word or phrase and the
visual image. The client again recalls the strong memory that embodies
the desired feeling. As the feeling reaches its strongest point, the
client makes the hand gesture, says the keyword or phrase, and
visualizes the corresponding image -- all the while feeling the desired
Repeating this process five or six times will cement the anchor and
will allow the client to trigger the desired emotion at will.
Repetition "carves a groove in the brain". The client now can easily
retrieve the desired emotional state simply by firing any of the
triggers -- the hand gesture, the word or phrase, the visual image.
Anchoring is a simple, yet highly effective strategy that works
almost like magic. With this awesome tool, it may look to some people
as though the hypnotist is performing miracles. Indeed, the lines
between magician and hypnotist begin to blur.