There are several styles of hypnotherapy that are commonly adopted by practitioners and not all styles work well for all clients. One way to access what style might work best for you is to respond to this question: How do you normally respond to people telling you what to do? If you are the type of person who feels secure when you have instructions and direct requests, the directive approach will most likely work for you. If you find you are rebellious when people tell you what to do, a more permissive approach will suit you better. When you interview a prospective hypnotherapist you might want to question her about her training and style to discover if you will feel comfortable and be responsive to her approach. The following is a basic overview of the different styles of hypnotherapy to help you understand your options.
In the directive approach, the hypnotherapist guides the client into a state of hypnosis and the hypnotherapist gives the client suggestions. People are most familiar with this approach to hypnotherapy because it is the technique that is most similar to what we witness with stage hypnosis and see in the movies. And, clients expect that if they go for a hypnotherapy session that the hypnotherapist will give direct suggestions.
All styles of hypnotherapy will adopt aspects of this style. Simply, telling the client to sit comfortably and to take a deep breath is a direct suggestion. If the client is suggestible, open and receptive to the process, and if the client is without inner conflicts about the focus of the session, direct suggestion can work. These “ifs” are the big issues with the direct suggestion approach. New clients may not yet trust the hyypnotherapist or trust their own abilities to respond to hypnosis. Clients may also have misunderstandings about what hypnosis is and how it works that contributes to anxiety about being hypnotized.
Misperceptions about what to expect from hypnosis can make it difficult for the client to relax and flow with the process. For instance, many people falsely believe that the hypnotherapist can control them or make them do things they would not normally allow themselves to do.
But, most importantly, clients often cannot respond to direct suggestions because they come in for hypnotherapy living with many inner conflicts about the issues they want to work on. The subconscious’ limiting beliefs, negative attitudes, misperceptions, and encoded traumatic past experiences will usually override any positive suggestions.
Most experiments in directive hypnosis are controlled with the use of one specific induction or script using direct suggestions. The results in these studies typically show that not everyone responds to direct suggestion. And, if a person responds to direct suggestion, it is probable that the suggestions will wear off over time when a client has subconscious beliefs or perceptions that are contrary to the suggestions. If the directive approach doesn’t work for everyone and the effect of the suggestions can wear off, what are some alternative approaches to hypnosis?
Non-directive, Open-ended Style
The open-ended and more permissive style of hypnosis came into vogue in the 1970’s and 1980’s, with the work of a famous hypnotherapist and physician named Milton Erickson. In the field of hypnotherapy, Erickson is renown for both teaching medical students hypnosis and working individually with patients. He taught hypnosis by hypnotizing his students through story telling, using teaching metaphors and by using hypnotic language patterns that speak directly to the unconscious. His hypnotic techniques are effective because they are a back door approach to the unconscious. Instead of telling a client to close her eyes (a direct suggestion), a hypnotherapist using a permissive style of hypnosis might use an embedded or permissive suggestion like, “You notice that your eyes are open and you may find you will be more comfortable when you close your eyes.” In this embedded suggestion the language mirrors what the client is already experiencing and that she has freedom to respond to the suggestion, or not. The client’s unconscious, however “hears” the suggestion, “ Close your eyes”. A permissive approach builds into the session that the client has choice. The hypnotherapist’s utilizing what is already true and happening in the process of hypnotizing the client takes the stress out of whether the client can be hypnotized and relieves the client’s conscious mind of the task of wondering or scrutinizing if she is “doing it right”. Commonly, with an open-ended style, the hypnotherapist will use the language of metaphor to teach the client new inner responses to situations or to expand the client’s perceptions and resources about an issue or problem. The client of this non-directive style typically experiences hypnosis as being more organic, fluid and effortless than the directive approach which requires the client’s willingness and receptivity to respond to direct suggestions. The client simply listens and goes with her natural responses to the process. She may close her eyes or experience the hypnotic state with her eyes open. This style is excellent for the client who fears being controlled, is unable to stop the mind chatter, or has self-consciousness that can create resistance to experiencing hypnosis.
Somewhat new to the field of hypnotherapy, but as old as the traditions of most indigenous cultures, is the transpersonal approach to hypnotherapy. In traditional hypnotherapy and psychology, there is an understanding that we have both a conscious and an unconscious aspect of mind. In the transpersonal paradigm, there is also a superconscious aspect of mind that goes beyond the personal self. This superconscious aspect is called by many names, such as: Higher Power, Atman, Christ within, higher Self, or intuition, In the transpersonal approach, this greater mind or higher Self is an active co-therapist in the hypnotherapy process. Of all the styles of hypnotherapy the transpersonal approach is the most client-focused and non-directive. The client and hypnotherapist co-create the session through a verbal and energetic interplay as the session unfolds. The transpersonal approach is more about “being”, rather than “doing.” Often the hypnotherapist will directly invoke the client’s inner wisdom and ask it for support in guiding the session. The client accesses this wisdom and works directly with it in trance through voice dialogue, symbolic communication and inner knowing that has direct access to healing, wisdom, insight and creativity. This style supports the cultivation of the client’s ongoing relationship with this inner wisdom. A transpersonal approach may likely include directive and non-directive languaging as needed, depending on the inner guidance of the client’s higher Self.
Which style is right for you?
Knowing about these different hypnotherapeutic approaches will help you interview a hypnotherapist so you can learn about his or her training and hypnotic style. If you are a new client to hypnotherapy, you may not yet know what style works best for you. So perhaps, it will be wise to work with someone who has training in all the styles who can be flexible in his or her approach as you learn about your own responsiveness. A transpersonal hypnotherapist can be directive if necessary, but a traditional, directive hypnotherapist may not know about the more contemporary non-directive or transpersonal approach.
Whatever approach you choose, accessing the state of hypnotic consciousness will give you access to your inner resources and the power to transform yourself.