I think many people perceiving the field of hypnosis and hypnotherapy from outside of the field, that is, people without a great deal of knowledge about these subjects, often think that hypnosis is something which is done by one person to another.
Poorly informed hypnotherapy clients or members of the public think that clients/patients take on a passive role and wait for changes to happen to them as a result of what they hypnotist says and does.
Hypnosis and hypnotherapy are at their best when they are collaborative. Therapy in general tends to get better results when there is active collaboration and any visit to a therapeutic journal archive or Google scholar will show research and evidence to support this. However, I can recommend seeking out and reading Hypnotic Susceptibility (1965) by Ernest Hilgard to advance the notion that hypnosis depends as much on the subject as the hypnotherapist or clinical hypnosis professional, and also a paper by Lynn, Rhue and Weekes (1990) entitled Hypnotic involuntariness: A social-cognitive analysis featured in Psychological Review, 97, 169-184. Both support what I am writing here today.
Good quality, well-trained hypnotherapists and clinical hypnosis professionals do explain this to their clients when they educate them about hypnosis and the therapeutic relationship and start to create the correct expectations.
Therefore, clinical hypnosis professionals should really be considering collaboration and involving the client in many more aspects of the hypnotherapy process than they might initially think. Collaboration is not just about stating and understanding the roles and responsibilities of client and hypnotherapist, it means involving the client in much of what you do. I mean, most hypnotherapists agree their treatment plan with their clients and check they understand the rationale for doing so, don’t they? But how many take collaboration into the details of the hypnosis session itself?
This includes running by some of the means and ways you use suggestions and how you communicate them, so of course we respond to the feedback and information we elicit from our clients, we all knew that anyway, right? But how many actually ask about whether the pace is right for the client? How many hypnosis professionals ever enquire “am I speaking too slow or too fast for you?” Then alter how they speak instead of just assuming that some affected, slow drawl is what is needed for the perfect hypnosis session.
What about the volume and tone of how you are speaking too? “can you hear me ok, or would prefer me to speak louder, softer or is it ok? it takes a few seconds to really tailor how you are communicating and delivering suggestions. Any client is going to prefer and appreciate clearly stated, easy to understand suggestions that are delivered in the way they prefer rather than you giving them no choice and doing things purely how you think are best as a trained hypnosis professional, aren’t they?
I have previously disputed facets of NLP (neuro linguistic programming) which suggest we need to match and mirror and match the way people talk in order to build rapport – there is no real evidence to suggest this is efficacious for therapeutic results at all. However, why not collaborate with the client and ask them for their preferences about visual imagery or auditory imagery used within the session? Even though there is no evidence to suggest indirect language patterns are any more beneficial when it comes to therapeutic results than direct language patterns, why not ask if they prefer to be spoken to in a direct manner or a permissive one and give examples explaining the difference?
When we collaborate with the client, we are enhancing and developing the working alliance and therapeutic relationship we (the hypnotherapist) have with them. We are also demonstrating a depth of respect and trust for the client and when we collaborate well, the client stops being a client in a manner and becomes a partner in the process that you are working with. Collaboration also ensures that the client learns to take ownership of the process and be responsible for it – and that gives greater therapeutic results for sure.