How to Evaluate your Hypnotic Approach

Hypnotist Elronn Ferguson

by Elronn Ferguson

Sometimes our profession still feels like it is coming out of the dark ages. Myths about hypnosis perpetuate, alongside dissent in our community, as we move toward establishing standards for hypnosis practitioners. Most of us have been faced with the question, “How do you know that it works?”, regarding different approaches to hypnosis. This question can arise from our own inner critic, people who doubt hypnosis in general, and other hypnosis practitioners whose viewpoints about ones chosen approach differ. To answer this question objectively, a system of gathering and evaluating information, specific to client sessions, is essential. Once a system is put into place, a platform for self observation is made available for the hypnotist to view his or her work, and to assess its efficacy.

Since I have been asked this question many times, I was inspired to develop the following cognitive process, to prove to myself that I had evidence on my side.

The following steps outline various aspects required for building (or dismantling) a reservoir of evidence in your mind. This process is meant to increase understanding, and strengthen your backbone of confidence with your chosen hypnotic skill set.

I. List your significant experience

  1. Make a list of your 10 most impressive successes with clients.

  2. Note how you feel about each individual that made it on this list and ask yourself, “How are they doing now?”

  3. Notice your first impression about each case, then wait a moment and ask yourself… really? Often, making an accurate analysis is clouded by empathetic transference.

  4. Do a quick internal scoring of your successes and failures. Be objective! Do this quickly, focusing on the images that are forming in your mind.

Case examples where “it worked”

  • Client has PTSD from someone jumping off bridge on to their car at 75 mph…
    *Now client can get back to work, and drive on that highway again without crying and self-medicating.Able to sleep through night for first time in 3 years.

  • Client is bulimic, her parents have tried everything for 3 long years, her hair is falling out, seeing me is a last resort…
    *Now client has stopped throwing up, and is feeling more calm and confident and unafraid to go for a walk by herself without feeling bothered.

  • Client cannot drive on the Freeway without having panic attacks and wanting to call 911.Has been on Zanax for years…..
    * Now client drives to work the quicker way, and is fine with heavy traffic. No panic attacks for over a month for first time ever.

  • Client is falling asleep while driving and at work.No energy, hypersomnia, panic attacks, anti-narcoleptic meds, etc. Everything checks out medically and sleep apnea machine does not help at all…..
    * Now client gets out of bed in the morning feeling energized and not bothered by job, kids, ex, or her horrible past.Able to be around situations that used to be a problem and looking a great deal better. Regular sleep patterns.

II. Personal Review

  1. Think about your story. How did you get here? What was your training? How many hours have you put into learning your approach to hypnosis? What other skills have you brought to the table?

  2. Think about your relevant experience. What has worked? What has not worked? What processes did you do in the past? What number of different techniques are you familiar with?

  3. Compare what you know. Put what you have done side by side, and make a pro’s and con’s list. When you do this, the best techniques will stand out.

III. Objective information gathering

  1. Question other’s success. Is there a community of people who you can talk to that use the same techniques as you? Are they successful? When other people are using a specific approach exclusively, it’s a good sign. Alternatively, when other practitioners are successful and you aren’t, consider taking a refresher course. Look for a united front that is grounded in psychologically proven principles and practices. Watch out for subjective opinions that are based solely on a personal growth experience.

  2. Question the foundation. Many techniques rely on assumptions to back them up. Someone may tell you that they “know” when someone is in hypnosis, or that they “know” that doing a certain technique always elicits the exact causal relationship to a client’s issue. Frequently, there is no criteria to validate any of these assumptions, which leaves the practitioner without a map to follow. Know what your criteria is, so you that can keep track of what’s “working”, removing yourself from reliance upon “intuition”, which often crumbles under scrutiny.

  3. Uncover the synthesis. Most hypnotic approaches come from improving upon other peoples work. The approach one uses must have evolution as its backbone. Find the names of the men and women whose work is an integral part of the foundation. Do the research, and be glad you did. Hopefully, what you are doing didn’t come out of the vapor, but was systematically built upon the shoulders of the great hypnotists that came before you. Build your confidence upon the extensive testing and success of others.

  4. Develop the mindset of a scientist. To conclude that something is “working”, controlled studies are necessary. Conducting thirty client sessions is a good rule of thumb to form a hypothesis. Imagine having a self-fulfilling prophecy of success that perpetuates itself in your practice. Do enough sessions to consider your self past the evaluation stage. Track and test, while comparing similar cases with practitioners who use different techniques.

The previous three categories advocate 5-PATH®, which I use exclusively. Hopefully, reading this article will persuade you to take a closer look at this powerful approach. In my experience I have found that it “works” best, and fulfills the above criteria completely. However, the primary purpose of this article is to develop a framework useful for organizing evidence to answer the question, “how do you know that it works?” inside of yourself. When a person’s reasons are closer to the cognitive surface, it helps make the “how?” more objective. The information is there, all you have to do is put it in a straight line. It may take a little time to answer these questions; I assure you it is worth it.

Elronn Ferguson lives and works in Costa Mesa, California and has an independent practice out of the Banyan Hypnosis Center. Check out his relatively new column at for blogs, tips, and 5-PATH®. Scripts