The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the view of the American Council of Hypnotist Examiners.
by Roberta A. Swartz
Helping people to help themselves is the main premise of our work. This includes educating them about hypnosis and the mind. Whether teaching classes in self-hypnosis, presenting to a larger audience at a conference, or offering professional hypnotism training for certification, acquiring skills for effective teaching is highly beneficial. At the core level, all teaching serves the same purpose, that of providing new information. Once new ideas are understood they can be accepted and integrated. The final step is to be able to retrieve and use this knowledge when desired.
The following information is based on my teaching background along with 30+ years of clinical hypnotherapy work. These ideas can be tailored to suit your own personality and style. Let’s begin with a few questions for your consideration.
1. What life skills, past training or experience did you bring with you when you decided to become a trained hypnotherapist?
2. How do these experiences influence you as a hypnotherapist? Are they a part of how you educate or help your clients?
3. Do you consider yourself to be an educator as well as a hypnotherapist?
I recall being so excited for my first opportunity to teach self-hypnosis classes in 1984. I was getting good results with my clients, I had plenty of amazing experiences of my own and I loved the idea of empowering others! Never once did I consider that my young age would pose a problem for me, but I learned otherwise rather quickly during my very first class! Most of my students were older than me and they had adult children who also surpassed my years. One man who sat in the back of the room asked good questions, but it felt like he was more interested in undermining my authority than in learning. He stated that “I was too young to be teaching him about the mind!” My confidence began to crumble, but I didn’t let it show and the class went rather well.
When life poses a challenge, how do you respond?
I realize there are many variables that come in to play with this question, but we each have options for how we can respond to difficult moments. We can be: 1) Intimidated, 2) Defensive, or 3) Receptive. Feeling intimidated comes from the fearful or insecure Child Ego, Defensive reactions can come from the critical Parent Ego and/or the negative Child Ego states. Therefore, the only way to be an effective teacher is to be Receptive. This means teaching from the Adult Ego State, independent of your age or experience! So, check your ego at the door and be the Adult!
What is your reason for teaching? Is it to share knowledge? Once you share the information, do you have control over what your students do with that information? Of course not! Each person is free to interpret the information as they choose so let go of attachment to outcome. Remember that you have nothing to prove; you simply are sharing knowledge, so relax. Let your students come to their own decisions about hypnosis for reasons that make sense to them! It really is the only way. Good teachers know their audience. When you learn to read your audience and address their needs, you will keep them engaged and their attendance will hold strong and true. In addition, your students will turn to you for help because they know you are the authority that can be trusted.
Navigating Different Personalities
I find that there are 4 basic personalities which emerge in the classroom. When we know how to deal with each one effectively the results are good for everyone involved.
Believers make your work easy. They’ve probably had a favorable experience or have some knowledge about hypnosis and they are ready to learn. Believers may sit towards the front of the room. They make good eye contact and listen to your every word. Their body language and facial expressions show interest. Believers may be one of your own clients or a student from a previous class.
Encourage Believers to share their personal experiences with hypnosis at the beginning or your program if they are comfortable doing so. Your audience will easily accept another student’s opinion and experience because they are on an even playing field. It’s a win-win situation when you let others share their story and you’ll feel the energy and anticipation in the room increase. Believers will happily volunteer for demonstrations and they tend to make great subjects. If possible, choose someone that you have not worked with before. This will bring greater validity to those who are observing.
Curious people are great to have in your audience. They may lack personal experience but they’ve heard many interesting things about hypnosis. These students might state that, “I’ve been interested in hypnosis for my entire life!” They are open, receptive and willing to learn. Once they start having their own successes they will advocate your work with enthusiasm. Curious students often make great subjects for demonstrations since their motivation is sincere.
Dis-believers and “Know-It-Alls”
Dis-believers and “Know-It-Alls.” can either become your advocate or they can be a nightmare in the classroom, depending on how you handle them. I have combined these two types, as you can respond to them similarly. These students tend to sit in the back of the room and their body language is closed. They may share a personal experience from a stage show or talk about a negative experience with hypnosis. This must be addressed immediately. Thank the person for sharing and then be sure to educate your audience accordingly. This is definitely a “teaching moment.” In a way, it also is a test. Your audience is waiting to see how you’ll respond. By remaining calm, professional and informative, you’ll pass “the test” and your students will gain confidence in you as the authority. This naturally opens the mind and makes it more receptive for learning. These personalities are often the “hecklers” and they may want to undermine you. Why? Because it is who they are and it is what they do! This is subconsciously driven and a demonstration of how they approach life itself so NEVER take these maneuvers personally. Disbelievers and “Know-It-Alls” tend not to trust authority so it is best to take charge or they will run the show.
Teach with Multiple Approaches
As Hypnotherapists we do our best to help clients integrate new ideas, both with their thoughts and through their senses. We strive to know how they process information and we meet them on their level for optimal learning. In a group setting there will be multiple ways in which your students learn. Therefore, it is your job to provide multiple avenues for them to process the information so that each person feels satisfied. Combine both left and right brain learning. Satisfy the intellect with interesting and useful information. This is the “lecturing” part of your course. Be sure to read your audience and keep your audience engaged. The use of your voice, fluctuations, pauses etc. are key to accomplishing this. Keep your own energy strong. Is your audience focused and involved or are they squirming and distracted? Follow their lead. Keep the “lecture” portion manageable. Break it up with activities which stimulate right brain functions. Be sure to provide multiple sensory opportunities for efficient learning.
The Power of Questions
Allow time for questions throughout your program as well as at the end. Questions provide teaching moments and I believe it best to address these right away, at least to some degree. You may choose to answer the question completely if appropriate. If a brief response is needed then let the class know you’ll share more about this particular subject in time. If you don’t know the answer then you can give “your opinion” and let your students know you’ll explore it more and get back to them. You can also keep their minds engaged by asking them questions. If no one answers voluntarily, then ask one student for his or her opinion. Encourage an open dialog but monitor those who try to “take over” as the authority.
So what are teaching moments? Teaching moments happen all of the time. They can start with a question, a concern, a doubt, a distraction or an experience. For example: After an imagery which included wild flowers, a student approached me with concern. “I wish that you hadn’t mentioned wild flowers! I am allergic to them and now I’m having a reaction!” I explained what had happened and helped her remove her “symptoms.” I then asked if we could share her experience with the rest of the class. She agreed. This became a great teaching moment for everyone.
In closing, I’d like to say that this is only the beginning. If there is enough interest, I will happily build upon these ideas in the future. I greatly encourage you to teach others about hypnosis whenever you can. Local Adult Education programs are a perfect venue for doing so. It is a public forum therefore it is neutral and safe. Not only is teaching fun but you’ll establish yourself professionally in your community and easily increase your clientele while getting paid to do so.
Roberta Swartz combined her background in teaching with clinical hypnotherapy work for more than 30 years. She was a seasoned instructor and a dynamic speaker. She received rave reviews from those who attend her presentations and workshops. She knew how to establish herself as the authority in the classroom and how to build a successful hypnotherapy practice through effective teaching techniques. Roberta passed away suddenly in June 2017.