“Can I hypnotise someone?!” is one of the most common worries my hypnotherapy students have. It doesn’t matter whether they’re completely new to the hypnotherapy business, or have been working as psychologists or counsellors for a number of years, there’s still this really worry about whether they are going to be able to work their magic. My starting point is…it’s not magic! Hypnosis is a completely natural state, and one which clients access on a daily basis when they’re daydreaming, absorbed in a book or movie or just before they fall asleep. As a hypnotherapist, your role is simply to help guide someone in to a state which is normal and natural. I spend a long time trying to get this through to my hypnotherapy students as the worry about being able to hypnotise clients can severely affect how they conduct a session. Instead of being at one with a client, trusting in the process, listening carefully and being there in the moment, it’s possible instead to focus on the feelings of anxiety which arise from thinking ‘is this person really hypnotised?’.
In addition to hypnosis being a completely natural state which the vast majority of people can access, there is also the question of how important the state of ‘hypnosis’ is in terms of creating therapeutic change. On the one hand, there are some hypnotherapists who believe that achieving a deep state of hypnosis is crucial to produce a good therapeutic outcome. At the other end of the scale are hypnotherapists who believe that the social interaction between therapist and client is far more important than whether a client is in a state of ‘hypnosis’. What is important is the degree of client-therapist rapport, client motivation and other psycho-social factors. I sit somewhere in the middle of this debate. I know that, personally, I have achieved incredible therapeutic change within hypnotherapy sessions where I haven’t felt very ‘hypnotised’ at all. I’ve had the opposite effect of being very deeply hypnotised, where I have not created any therapeutic change – perhaps because I lacked motivation, for instance, or because I didn’t have good rapport with the hypnotherapist.
The point of what you will be doing as a hypnotherapist is not to make your client enter the deepest possible state of hypnosis – it is to help guide your client to a state in which they can accept positive suggestion and utilise their imaginative and creative states to produce positive changes. Some clients might experience quite deep states of hypnosis, and other’s won’t, but if you are a good, responsive, empathic hypnotherapist and you are working with a motivated client, you will help them achieve the changes they desire.
So perhaps the question should shift from, ‘Can I hypnotise someone?’, to ‘How can I create the best environment for a client to create positive change’ and my belief is that helping someone achieve their state of hypnosis, in a sensitive, ethical and supportive way is a part of helping them achieve that transformative environment.