When I come to self-hypnosis training, a recurrent question is “How to formulate, or create the hypnotic suggestions?” What’s the typical “rules of suggestion” and other factors contributing to the effective use of suggestions? The truth is that “rules” of suggestions are not different from the rules of mantras, self-talk techniques or other types of suggestions. There is suggestion everywhere all the time: Verbal, non-verbal all of that can be conscious or unconscious.
I say “rules” because it’s a commonly used term when we talk about self-hypnosis but the typical “rules of suggestion,” rely mainly on common-sense principles.
To make our suggestions stand, we need to make them practical and efficient. Therefore, both hetero ( give by the hypnotherapist ) and auto suggestions should be:
- Meaningful and evocative. For a suggestion to be useful, the subject must be able to think and imagine along with it. Therefore, it must be personally relevant to the client. It is sometimes essential to use preliminary techniques as symbols of a suggestion script, or also imaginary recall to be able to gather information.
- In the present tense. A formulation of the suggestion in the present tense will make it easier for the subject to project inward. The therapist aims to create change that can be generalised into the future. That is why, a hypnotherapist ask the clients to project themselves, asking them to imagine their target situation “as if it was happening right now”. It’s to allow the client to incorporate and rehearsed the ideas and suggestions.
- Positive. Suggestions should always be positively phrased. It seems logical; however, a suggestion should be positive not just on the level of its meaning but also on a grammatical level. If you ask someone not to stress or not to tense their body, they will
focus on that. For that reason, in the case of relaxation, the suggestion “you are now
calm” is much more efficient.
- Realistic. Hypnosis is not a magic wand. We do not suggest things that are not possible or not controllable in real life. It also means that it has to be believed without
resistance; in other words, it should be realistic for the subject himself. Sometimes,
preliminary work must be done to address unhelpful thoughts that can counteract positive
- Repeated in different forms. It is a little bit like the principle of the “MILK exercise” or other defusion exercises from the ACT method. In this exercise, people are asking to say a word, for example, MILK. There are asked to focus on what that word evokes to them: what’s their mind it’s telling about it ( image, negative or positive memory… ) Then they are asked to repeat that same word for a minute or so. By the end of the exercise, this word has so much less effect on them. Their mind is not hooked by it anymore. If you repeat the same words too many times, they tend to lose their evocative power. Therefore, different phrasing should be used to evoke a single idea so that all phrasings can reinforce each other.
- Congruent. Last but not least! This rule is not always included among the typical rules of suggestions. However, I consider that it’s an important point. It emphasises our responsibility as therapists. The client should be able to feel that we mean it. That is also why we have been taught to adapt our tone of voice to the kinds of suggestions we deliver.
- Gradual. The step in the door principle. It is another rule of suggestion. Some types of suggestions are more likely to be successful than others. More accessible kinds of suggestions will be used first, and the difficulty will be gradually increased to build the confidence and response expectations of the client. There are multiples forms of suggestions:
- Physical or behavioural suggestions – ideo-sensory suggestions (positive or negative), e.g., muscular contraction; relaxation ideomotor suggestions, e.g., eyelid closure, arm levitation, postural sway.
- Challenge suggestions – suggest a form of inhibition and that some behaviour will be impossible; eyelid catalepsy, finger lock, arm rigidity.
- Cognitive suggestions – imply hallucinations or delusions that includes sensory hallucinations like the lemon taste, a fly buzzing in the ear, or also complex experiences such as age regression and amnesia.
Physical suggestions tend to be easier than challenge suggestions, and cognitive suggestions seem to be the ones less likely to be responded. So I advise to start with those king of suggestions. However, all individuals respond differently and will find some suggestions easier to be answered. Therefore, another rule is too really tailor the suggestions to the client’s needs and styles.
All suggestions can be addressed in different styles, direct, indirect, permissive, authoritarian making endless the form a suggestion can take. So play with it, try and choose what’s best for you.Learn More
Since a few decades, hypnotherapy has grown in popularity. As a result, there is a lot of things said on tv, written on the internet, and it can be confusing. What’s the different types of hypnotherapy and the differences and similarities between them.
I do mostly cognitive-behavioural hypnotherapy. I picked this approach for some reasons. But let’s be clear there is not a good or a wrong approach. I just profoundly think that knowing the differences between the different types of hypnotherapy will help you to choose the therapy that can serve your goals the best.
The so-called “Ericksonian” approach is one of the most popular approaches to Hypnotherapynowadays. It is derived loosely from the work of Milton Erikson. The Milton Erikson method is well-known due to the particular way it recommends communicating the hypnotic suggestions to the client to avoid his “resistance”. Therefore the suggestions in these approaches often are indirect, covert, and permissive suggestions. These principles conflict with the non-deceptive, non-state-based, evidence-based approaches to cognitive and behavioural hypnotherapy. However, it has similarities with behavioural in that they both principally address a behaviour that creates a disturbance.
Because Milton Erikson never set up a protocol or used a systematic methodology. Therefore there is only weak research evidence on the positive outcomes of the Ericksonian approach, which is a difference with cognitive-behavioural hypnotherapy.
These principles conflict with the non-deceptive, evidence-based approaches of cognitive and behavioural HypnotherapyHypnotherapy. However, it has similarities with behavioural in that they both principally address a behaviour that creates a disturbance.
The hypnoanalytic approach
The hypnoanalytic (“regression”) approach began with Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis. The similarities between this approach and Ericksonian therapy is that they both claim they can access an “unconscious” part of the mind through their protocol. They are among the so-called “state theories” and are poorly evidenced.
For the hypnoanalytic therapist, a disturbance is due to an originating problem (often a repressed memory) which creates defence mechanisms, acquired to cope with trauma and anxiety-inducing situations. The main difference between the hypnoanalytic approach and the other approach of hypnotherapy is the conceptualisation of the problem. The first approach focuses on “why” and not “how.” Hypnoanalytic asks, “Why are they doing what they are doing?” whereas modern hypnotherapy seeks to answer the question, “How are they maintaining their problems?”
Cognitive and Behavioural Hypnotherapy
Behavioural approaches assume that most responses are learned by ongoing and complex conditioning and that disturbances are the result of learning maladaptive habits.
Cognitive approaches attempt to identify the irrational, unrealistic, and maladaptive ways of thinking to change them into more helpful.
Cognitive Hypnotherapy could be considered falling between behavioural and psychoanalytic approaches:
Behaviour approaches do not place the emphasises so much on the early experiences but are concerned to modify the habits. It focuses on how the problem is maintaining, attacking it on the visible part of the iceberg “the behaviour”. Even if both cognitive and behavioural approaches are not concerned to look at early-age events of life, the cognitive approach addresses it in some ways. Past experiences tend to create certain biases in the way people perceive their world. Their actual thoughts that are for sure influenced by those past experiences. But the focus is on the “here and now” of the vicious circle.
Two approaches cognitive / behavioural together are often combined. The following are three hypnotic techniques used in cognitive behavioural Hypnotherapy:
- Hypnotic Imagery-based Recall and Evocative Imagery: To be able to deal with negative and unhelpful cognitions, we must uncover them first. During the assessment, it is useful to help the client identify their negative thoughts. These techniques can seem similar, to those of “regression therapy”. However, the aim is not “abreaction” but merely seeking insight and increased awareness of cognitions and feelings to help, for example, build a multi-modal assessment.
- Hypnotic Graded Exposure: Also known as hypnotic desensitisation. Yes just like some people get desensitised from some allergens.
The good thing with hypnosis is that instead of physically expose you to your triggers, you do it mentally. This technique is powerful at exposing and confronting someone with their feared situation and allows them to rehearse their coping skills in a relaxed setting. The only cons are that the motivation and will of the client to deal with these situations does not always apply in real life, which is key to success. The skills and methods learned in therapy need to be “transfer” into your daily life if you want to maintain the benefits of them in the long term.
- Covert Sensitisation with Aversion Hypnotherapy: This is a sort of reverse principle of the technique above. I was reluctant to use this method because of the negative principle behind it. It leads someone to have an aversion for a product! However, I had come to understand the benefits of this technique when I studied the “smoking cessation” protocol. It’s mainly used for relapse prevention, mostly in smoking cessation protocols. It is useful to help clients deal with situations as addiction relapses. It involves the association of a habit with an unpleasant experience.