In training and supervising hypnotherapists at our center I have found that an old fashioned idea often persists, which if not eliminated will hold back these hypnotherapists, and keep them from developing into the really powerful helping professionals that they can be. What is that old belief? It is that hypnotists and hypnotherapists need to speak to their clients in a slow rate and low and soft monotone voice.
As a profession, we need to learn that very little of hypnosis and hypnotherapy requires a slow mono-toned voice!
Perhaps we have seen too many movies and allowed the stereotype of the soft and slow speaking Hypnotherapist to thoroughly make its way into the combined psyche of our profession. Whatever the cause, we must get beyond such old fashioned ideas. Over use of the low and slow approach is detrimental to the practice of hypnotherapy.
The Dynamic Voice is Necessary for the Most Effective Techniques
We need to do more if we are to be successful in conducting our hypnotherapy sessions in a more powerful way. This is especially true if we want to successfully move beyond the restrictions of using direct suggestion and visualization techniques exclusively.
As Hypnotherapists we want to continue to grow and evolve professionally and begin to use more and more powerful tools such as age regression and forgiveness therapy. In order to begin to utilize such powerful insight therapies one must get beyond the habitual use of the slow monotone voice. This is because you will not be able to evoke sufficient emotional energy in your clients without mastering your dynamic hypnotic voice.
The professional and highly skilled hypnotherapist is more than a hypnotist. You must be able to do more than hypnotize subjects and provide them with hypnotic suggestions in order to reach your highest potential as a hypnotherapist. The hypnotherapist must be someone who can help the client overcome old problems in a more powerful way than the hypnotist can. Often times more powerful techniques are required than merely suggesting changes to the hypnotized client. The powerful insight oriented processes mentioned above are very different tasks than those conducted by reading a hypnotic script to a client in a monotone fashion. A dynamic approach with powerful tools, are often required to get long term change for problems that are more difficult to work with than those which are only based in habit. Problems and issues that have a strong emotional component such as anger, guilt, grief, frustration and so on are not reliably changed by the techniques used with the monotone approach, at least not in the long term.
A Dynamic Voice Gives Us Many Tools To Work With
For the Hypnotherapists, our main tool is our voice. But our voice is not just one tool. It is a very dynamic human ability! Yes, it can be slow and soft, but it can also be fast and energetic. It can be maternal, soothing and permissive in tone. Or, it can be paternal, motivating, energizing and directive!
Of course a whole book could be written on this topic. But let me make a few suggestions which I think will greatly increase your success in using these more powerful therapies.
Here is the secret to proper tone, rhythm, volume and speed of delivery when doing hypnosis and hypnotherapy: Your voice should be consistent with what you are suggesting or directing your client to do.
I've worked with both new and experienced hypnotherapists who attempt age regression and forgiveness therapies without success because of the monotone approach. They tell me that "I just have a soft voice," or "I prefer to be more maternalistic with my clients." I tell the student with the "soft voice" that the dynamic range is relative to her normal tone. She can be very effective and very dynamic as she becomes louder or more energetic relative to her usual tone. She can also become more dynamic by increasing or decreasing her rate of speech or raising or lowering the pitch of her voice. This will all be picked up by her client and lead to a greater ability. I tell the student who says that she prefers to use the maternal approach, which tends to be more soft and low, that it does not really matter what she prefers, what matters is what will be most effective for her clients.
Direct Suggestion and the Soft and Slow Approach
When is the slow, rhythmic and even monotonous tone useful during a hypnotherapy session? It is most useful when inducing hypnosis, when using inductions that require that the client relax, and when doing deepening techniques that rely on relaxation. Or, when the hypnotherapist needs to suggest that his or her client experience feelings of being calm, safe and secure.
However, not all hypnotic inductions rely on relaxation. In doing many instant or rapid inductions you will be more successful using a more directive tone and speaking at a normal or even fast pace. In classes when I demonstrate the Eight Word Induction, students are surprised when I induce hypnosis so quickly. It only takes 4 seconds! And, none of it is spoken in a soft tone. (See my previous article for an explanation of how to conduct this induction.)
Here is another example where the hypnotherapist who uses only direct suggestion would benefit from being more dynamic. Do not use a low and slow voice when emerging a client from hypnosis if you want your clients to emerge feeling fully awake and energized. Use a voice that shifts upward in rate of speech and energy to the more crisp and energetic tone! This will eliminate "hypnosis hangover." This is what I call it when clients emerge feeling tired and lethargic.
Age Regression and Other Powerful Techniques Benefit
We videotape all of our sessions at the Banyan Hypnosis Center, which enables me to better supervise and provide ongoing training for the Hypnotherapists on our staff. Almost anyone can learn to do hypnotic inductions and give suggestions using scripts. But when our therapists utilize age regression, the importance of mastering the hypnotherapeutic voice becomes even more essential. When doing age regression, the therapist needs to be very skilled. Among those skills is the ability to switch his or her tone of voice appropriately between the one that should be used with the client who is the adult in the normal (non-regressed) state, and the client who is in the regressed child-like state. The hypnotherapist must learn to speak in an appropriate manner depending on the age of the regressed client. When speaking to the age-regressed client she needs to speak as if you were speaking to a child if her client is regressed to that age. For example, she will need to be softer in tone and speak using a vocabulary that a child could understand.
Tone is even more important when conducting affect bridge age regressions. Affect bridge age regression is one of the most powerful tools available to the hypnotherapist. But the low and slow voice may cause the affect bridge to collapse or never form in the first place. In an affect bridge age regression, we are going to use the feeling or emotion (affect) associated with the problem as a way of uncovering the cause of the problem so that it can be neutralized. All problems begin somewhere and we are connected to that past event by the feeling associated with the problem (i.e., fear associated with phobias). In this procedure, the therapist suggests to his or her hypnotized client that this feeling will take him or her back to earlier events in his or her life and eventually to the first time that he or she felt that way. But before this suggestion can be successful, the feeling must first be brought up from inside the client and made as strong as necessary to resonate with the past experiences associated with it. This feeling is the "bridge".
If the hypnotherapist suggests that a feeling associated with the issue comes up, but his or her tone of voice suggests a calm and relaxed state then it may be difficult or impossible for the client to bring up the feeling. The Hypnotherapist's words say "the feeling is coming up" but her tone of voice says "remain relaxed and calm." At best this will reduce the strength of the emotion and at worst the soft tone can inhibit the feeling completely! With a dynamic tone you create an environment in your client's mind in which it is more likely that the emotions will come up. If you want your client to experience emotions then you need to become more excited and dramatic in your tone.
Many hypnotherapists are learning about forgiveness therapies such as the Chair Therapy created by Fritz Perls as a form of talk-therapy. Used in hypnotherapy the hypnotized client and an individual (the offender) from the client's past are brought together in order to bring about forgiveness in the client and remove issues such as anger. In this process the client actually hallucinates being with the offender and is then encouraged to talk to the offender about what was done, how it made him or her feel and how it affected him or her. During this process, the hypnotherapist's tone is very important. Sometimes the therapist needs to use a maternalistic tone, such as when the client is afraid. Other times the therapist needs to be more forceful, directive and paternalistic, such as when confronting the offender with what was done and saying the things that need to be said that will lead to forgiveness. Being limited to the low and slow tone would rarely be sufficient to accomplish this kind of work.
Furthermore, when doing forgiveness therapy, there are times when it benefits the client to express anger or other feelings toward the offender. When the hypnotherapist speaks louder and clearer in this situation he or she provides a model for the client. This encourages and teaches the client how to speak more forcefully to the offender.
Developing Your Dynamic Hypnotherapeutic Voice
So here are some things to keep in mind as you develop your dynamic voice:
Your tone of voice should be congruent with what you are suggesting. If you are suggesting relaxation use a relaxed tone of voice. When you suggest emotion, put some emotion in your voice.
When doing age regression keep in mind that you should use a tone and vocabulary appropriate to the age regressed client's age. When your client is regressed to the age of 5, speak to your client as if they were 5 years old.
Keep in mind that hypnosis is not a state of relaxation, but rather a state of heightened suggestibility. Clients can move about and even yell and hit a pillow when in hypnosis. You can speak loudly to your client if it is congruent with the suggestion that you are giving, such as that they speak loudly.
Hypnosis is not such a fragile state that you need to be concerned that if you speak too loudly it will emerge your client. Hypnosis is not sleep. You won't "wake them up" if you speak in a normal volume or even louder if it is congruent with your suggestions.
Speaking quickly can actually deepen hypnosis because it causes the client to have to focus on what you are saying.
Speaking more quickly adds more energy to your sessions and moves you through the material more quickly.
Being more dynamic deepens hypnosis without putting you clients to sleep.
The sentences that we speak to our clients have more meaning than that which is contained in the words in the sentence. A great deal of the power of our words is in the tone and rate at which we speak.
In short, it is time to let go of the old idea that hypnotists and hypnotherapists need to always speak in a flat, boring, low and slow tone of voice. We need to expand our range of vocal tools by learning to speak more dynamically to our clients in hypnosis.