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 Roger Cooper Dent
One of the greatest challenges in interviewing new clients can be overcoming skepticism, fear and misinformation about hypnotherapy and hypnosis in general. While clients who seek out hypnotherapy on their own usually are open to the process, those referred to a practice often are, at a minimum, hesitant.
To improve my opportunity for success, I use very specific language in my introductory interviews to let prospective clients know that I’m open and not judgmental. I’m clear and honest about my beliefs and my approach, and emphasize that each session is about them. I solicit their input, and discuss my plan for working with them; always listening and observing their body language to ensure agreement. If I sense that they are not following me for any reason, I rephrase or ask questions to keep them engaged.
The interview is the tool that “closes the deal,” not only with regard to setting the stage for a business relationship, but in building a rapport with the client that will ensure successful sessions. I choose not to charge for most initial visits. While I understand that this may not work for everyone, I find that it builds trust and allows both the client and me to establish our relationship in a no-risk environment. It is uncommon that a client doesn’t continue after the initial meeting, and when it does happen, I believe that it’s appropriate. In some cases, the client will voice their reasons, in others it’s observable. In any case, the client and I have ventured only time and we’ve both learned something. The interview also provides me with an opportunity to suggest that the timing or situation may not be right for success, such as with smokers who visit me at the request of a partner or other, and clearly not with a personal investment in stopping tobacco use.
I like to offer a “sample” session as part of my initial interview. If done properly, this experience takes away any anxiety and sets the stage for the client’s first session. I refer to this as a “descriptive induction.” You likely will recognize components of any typical session. I based this induction on Elman’s rapid induction, and explain each step along the way. This is a great teaching tool for clients, gains their confidence, and typically results in successful induction into hypnosis.
For skeptics and those with reservations about hypnosis, I start by suggesting that this is a practice session to introduce them to the process. I explain that while most people will find the process relaxing to the point of some level of hypnosis, their experience will be one that is appropriate for them. I express no expectation, only offer the session as an example, so that when they return to begin working on their particular concerns, they will be familiar with the process.
The following is an abbreviated version of a typical introductory session. These sessions usually last only fifteen to twenty minutes and always provide a positive experience. The objective is to build comfort in the process and trust with the client. If hypnosis doesn’t result, the experience still is informative and enjoyable. We begin with the client in the “comfortable chair” in a conversational tone:
“There typically are five parts of a hypnotherapy session, eye closure, induction, deepening, suggestion, and arousal, or waking up.”
We begin with the eye closure, which doesn’t seem all that exciting, though it does result in meeting the objective of closing your eyes. It’s also a part of a very interesting phenomenon. Let me show you how it works. I’d like you to pick a spot on the ceiling, and look at it. Don’t let your eyes leave that spot. If you need to blink, that’s fine. The interesting part is that even though we spend most of our waking hours with our eyes comfortably open, when I ask you to keep your focus on that spot, your eyes begin to get tired. They may even begin to get uncomfortable, even sting or burn a bit. Just keep them open as long as you can, even though I know it may be becoming uncomfortable. In just a moment, I’m going to snap my fingers. When I do, you can close your eyes. When your eyes close, they will feel good instantly. Fluid will flush between your eyelids and your eyes, and this soothing bath will feel wonderful. It will feel so good that you’ll find yourself relaxing completely as soon as your eyes close (continue, while you watch for increased blinking).”
(Snap!) “Close your eyes now. It may surprise you to see how good it feels to just let your eyes relax this much. Let that relaxation continue to wash through your entire body. Really think about relaxation just working its way through your face, your neck, shoulders, down to the tips of your fingers and your toes. Your eyes are so comfortably closed, that even if you wanted to open them, you would find it very difficult. For now, though, just let them relax. The more your eyes relax, the deeper all of you relaxes. The deeper you go, the better you feel. The better you feel, the more relaxed you become. Just let yourself become as relaxed as you would like.”
“If you would like to go deeper you are welcome to do that. It’s completely your choice. You can let your mind wander in and out of my words, or you can let my voice take you deeper. It really doesn’t matter how deep you choose to go. You may allow your thoughts to drift, or you may choose to listen to each word that I say. Whatever you choose, you will find the next few minutes to be wonderfully relaxing. There are no rules, you have no responsibilities. You only have to relax and enjoy the experience. You might want to remember every part of this experience, or you may choose to store it away someplace where it is only a reminder of how relaxed you can become, how good it can feel.”
“It’s interesting that something as simple as counting down from, say, ten, can be such an effective deepening exercise. Imagine yourself at the top of a stairway with ten steps. And, as you probably have guessed, with each number I count, imagine yourself taking a step down. And as you do, of course your mind will begin to make the connection between counting down and stepping down, just as it does between stepping down and going deeper into relaxation. (Continue with a descriptive 10-1 countdown that is comfortable for you).”
(For the purpose of this initial “example” session I like to use generic suggestions that are positive and useful). “I suggest that when we next meet, I will tell you, ‘sleep now,’ and snap my fingers. When I do, you will instantly drift into a state of relaxation the same as you are experiencing right now.” (For clients with self-hypnosis experience, I also might suggest that they say ‘sleep now’ to themselves as a part of their individual session, as this will assist them and also reinforce a positive response for a rapid induction at our next meeting). “Imagine that you are surrounded by a beautiful color. It may be your favorite color or you may be surprised that it’s a color that you usually don’t think about often. Notice how relaxing and calming this color is for you. Each time you see this color, you will feel a wonderful sense of peace and calm that is just right for that moment.”
“In just a few moments I will begin to count from one to five. As I do, you will become more awake and aware with each number that I count, so that when I reach five, your eyes will open and you will be completely awake and aware, feeling wonderful.” (Continue with the arousal, using positive suggestions).
At the end of the session, take time to allow the new client a few moments to react to their experience. Let them enjoy the sense of relaxation. Offer positive comments…this is the very best opportunity to welcome a new client to your practice!
Roger Cooper Dent has enjoyed a successful hypnotherapy practice in Santa Rosa, California since 2010.