by Charles Curtis
Have you ever read or listened to a product description which describes the performance of the product in glowing terms, such as an informercial where all of the persons in the film are awesomely successful and way too positive. Then when you actually purchase the product or service, somewhere in the fine print it contains the phrase “results may vary” and that the experience of the people in the film is not necessarily representative of the results you will get.
This is something which applies just as much to hypnosis and NLP. People are always asking hypnotists whether hypnosis works, how it works, and why it works. And when we answer them, of course we always try to be as positive as possible, and trot out our best-case outcomes. And so we should.
But it’s important to bear in mind that “results may vary”. It’s important to let clients and other professionals know that every client and every session is different, and it’s very important to communicate, when necessary, that we can’t guarantee specific results.
HOW GOOD IS YOUR PROTOCOL?
Thus when someone asks me how good my stop-smoking protocol is, which is usually when they’re calling to find out my price and compare me to other hypnotists they have talked to, I say “My experience is that just about everyone quits in the first session using my method.” That’s a true statement, based on feedback I have heard.
But if they ask if I can guarantee that they will stop smoking with me, I tell them “No one can guarantee how you will react, as everyone is different. What I CAN guarantee you is that, if you really want to quit smoking, and give it your best shot, and are willing to give my method a try, based on my experience, there is a high probability that you’ll be a non-smoker by the end of the session.”
That’s a true statement also. It communicates the high effectiveness of my method, without guaranteeing something I cannot guarantee.
WHAT CAUSES VARYING RESULTS?
The subconscious mind of the client is where all the mental dust bunnies hang out. And some of this mental noise can interfere with the results you are trying to obtain, in a number of ways.
For example, some of these fuzzy balls of mental noise are secondary gain, which means the client is getting some kind of payoff from having the problem. Perhaps the client is getting some attention, or doesn’t have to work, or is receiving compensation money like a disability payment or injury settlement. Or maybe the client is in the middle of a personal injury trial, where s/he has to show evidence of severe unremitting physiological damage. Such clients typically show very little results with hypnosis, or they’ll make progress, then slide right back.
Sometimes, like a weed that’s hard to eradicate, the client’s entire personality is influenced by an overall sense of low-self esteem, a form of self-sabotage which causes them to fail at everything. Such a client is walking proof for the belief “Nothing works for me”. That’s called “psychological reversal”, and you won’t get a result with this client if you don’t shift that bad belief into a more benign form like “I haven’t gotten a result so far, but I’m hoping this time it will work”
And then there are the personality issues, the bad behaviors that get in the way. If your client is a master manipulator, s/he will bring that behavior to the session. Such clients, especially if their behavior reaches the level of a diagnosable personality disorder, do their best to make you wonder who’s in charge. Whether or not you can get a result with this kind of client depends on whether you can poke through the manipulative façade and find the real person underneath.
Then there are the problem behaviors, such as addictions. I called a client once to find out why she missed her session, and she said “Sorry, I was drunk.” At least she was honest. She was a good client, and while we got a good long-term result with her, on that particular day, she was just not in a good position to get the job done.
Other clients are not so honest, either with yourself or themselves, and either don’t do the assigned work or manage to make sure it doesn’t work, and rather than admitting it, make up some kind of excuse to explain the failure. Here, your skill at cutting through the BS (that means Belief System) will be helpful in determining whether a long-term result is obtained.
MEDICALLY REFFERED CLIENTS
Sometimes physiology itself gets in the way. I’ve had medically referred clients who told me “I can’t come today because my doctor changed my medication, and I’ve been dizzy and throwing up all day.” Quite obviously, it’s difficult to get a result with someone who is so concentrated on the discomfort in his or her physiology that they aren’t listening to you.
Sometimes a client has a diagnosed mood problem going on that interferes with a focused issue you’re trying to get results with. For example, if you’re working with a medically referred client with clinical depression, you’re very possibly going to have to shift them at least ever-so-slightly out of their depression if you’re going to get progress on any other issues.
And the same thing can be true even if the client has not been diagnosed with a mental health problem. For example, most medical clients are suffering some degree of depression for a number of reasons: feeling lousy, lost function, insurance problems, an avalanche of paperwork, lost time from work, and perhaps a lost job or deteriorating marriage too. If such a person smokes to relieve stress, you’re not going to turn this client into a permanent non-smoker until you are able to first help them with their stress, and then shift them into more positive “I can do it” thoughts”.
HOW DO YOU RATE YOURSELF?
It’s just as important that you, the hypnotist, also keep realistic expectations for yourself and not expect to get perfection instantly with every client. It works much better to “flow with the tide” and seek to get the best result with every client you can, and not worry about achieving perfection today.
For example, there is a large difference between the hypnotic potential of a healthy athletic person learning pain control to recover from an isolated injury and an elderly long-term nursing home chronic pain patient who has several illnesses and is taking many medications. While you can expect to get positive results with both, you will probably get an easier, more clear-cut result with the first client than the second.
That’s because it’s always a joy to work with a bright lively young person who is excited about working with you, who is following your instructions exactly, and who is anticipating a good result. In comparison, that nursing home client may very likely be harder to work with, as elderly persons are often so depressed they don’t expect anything to work, they have a hard time following instructions, they are afraid of hypnosis, they often can’t articulate their cognitions very well, and they are frequently so dosed up with medication that they aren’t even sure what’s going on.
Elderly clients will sooner or later die, and if they’re near the end of their life when they encounter you, you may end up providing palliative care rather than clear-cut remedial work. But that’s ok, as soothing someone’s discomfort, to any degree, in their final days, is just as important a job as providing a younger healthier client complete relief.
THE CLIENT’S PERCEPTION IS WHAT COUNTS
You must remember that what counts with clients is their perception of the results you have obtained.
So even though you might get a very clear-cut remission of pain with the younger patient rehabbing from the injury, and the elderly client may only get a diminution of discomfort, that may still be a successful outcome, and both clients may be highly satisfied.
In fact, the younger client may actually be more impatient and frustrated because of not being able to have normal function yet. And in comparison, to that elderly client, anything you can do to eliminate their discomfort to any degree is such a gift.
HOW MUCH EMOTIONAL BAGGAGE DOES THE CLIENT HAVE?
There is a huge difference between the relatively well-adjusted client who walks in the door with a clearly defined desired behavior change like a better golf game, and the person who walks in the door with a basket full of interlocking psychological problems. Such a person is frequently carrying a heavy load of dark emotion, sad and lonely thoughts, and lives in an environment where they are surrounded by drama, such as an alcoholic in the family.
One or a few sessions with that sports client may yield magnificent results. The other client, the one with the basket full of problems, even if they’re seeing you for a clearly definable problem like weight loss, will take some time to get a permanent result, as you’ll have to peel off the problems a layer at a time. But seeing such a client getting better is so worth your time, that it’s worth the frustration and patience required to get them there.
ALL HEALING PROFESSIONS HAVE THIS PROBLEM
Other professions like medicine and psychotherapy recognize that every client is different, and that not every client responds the same way to every surgical procedure, medication, or work. No doctor can guarantee the results of his recommended procedure or medication, and no one expects them to.
So if you do generally good work, no one will think the worse of you because you didn’t get a perfect result with one of their referrals, because they’ve had the same problem themselves many times. And they’ll appreciate your honesty and candor when, in discussing your services, you include a healthy dose of realism when describing your results.
And since all such professionals expect their procedures to take place over time, with a definite progression, they won’t think less of you because your procedure takes a series of sessions to get a permanent result.
And so the next time you’re tempted to wish a client had responded better, or that you could have been “Mr Wizard” and somehow done a magically better job in a tough situation, or someone from another profession asks you how effective your procedures are, remember to include the concept that “results may vary”.