by Elronn Ferguson
Client results, in terms of cognitive, behavioral, and emotional shifts, can range from disappointing to spectacular. One of the contingencies for success, is the client’s internal level of involvement in the process. Knowing how to engage and encourage this critical factor (pun intended) rests in the hands of the hypnotist. The clients internal thought process is out of our control, and being skilled in your approach isn’t enough if the client remains dissociated from the process.
For those of you who use a directive approach, and integrate it with insight oriented techniques such as Age Regression, the clients level of openness and participation will have just as much of an effect on their progress as their inherent level of insightfulness. Occasionally, a client go through the standard process and experience average results, only to admit to you later, that there is content they have been avoiding. Sometimes you can see this situation coming a mile away, sometimes you can’t. This is why rapport is so important, as it encourages your client to feel safe enough to reveal what bubbles up, and follow your lead. But talking about rapport is not the only key to success when setting the stage for optimal client involvement.
There are many ways that the client can be, shall we say, elusive: not following instructions, being overly guarded about their past, having a totally wrong set of expectations, being over analytical, or having a limited amount of insight into what you are trying to do. Without getting too case specific, the following points will help provide a general approach to integrate into practice, encouraging your client to give it that little bit extra.
“I’m a professional”
This goes without saying and needs to be defined further. There are many articles written about how to dress and design your environment that should be thoroughly understood. For me, professionalism comes into play when interacting with the client before and after each session. One should not talk about irrelevant subject matter, or engage in too much socialization once inside the office. Joking should be kept to a minimum, and used only for direct purposes of hypnosis. Create the mindset that everything you do is for the client, never for you. You mean business, in a nice way of course! After all, they are laying down a good chunk of change for your undivided attention, and having relevant communication is your responsibility to the client. Limit self disclosure to the point where the relationship ends at the door of your office. Dual relationships and transference can hurt your client and your confidence; setting an intention to avoid these mistakes will create a healthy hypnotic relationship.
“Let’s do great things together”
Let them know in little ways that you expect great things. One of the best ways to do that is to make promises. What’s expected tends to be realized. No matter how negative their language is, don’t get rattled, ever, even if they come back in for the 3rd time without many tangible benefits. If negative emotions are emerging after Age Regression, and they call you up with concerns, let them know that it’s part of the natural cycle of returning to a more balanced state, and is to be expected.
Talk about the outcome and their role in the process. This is a good time to convey that following instructions and focusing are the most important part of the process and lead to great results. Doing insight oriented work in hypnosis is a cooperative dance we do with our clients, and the more that they understand this, the better. A little statement like, “You’re going to be on the other side of this issue, we do it all the time”, can make all the difference.
“Anything can happen”
Sometimes we will have clients who are over analytical in all the wrong ways. Most of the time, this can be bypassed by having an airtight pre-talk that removes any false expectancies about hypnosis, such as the myth of “feeling hypnotized”. Some people are very literal in their thought process and are concerned with accuracy and reality when in the middle of a hypnotic process. This kind of thinking usually stems from a combination of inherent personality, and a set of entrenched beliefs. If you are able to catch wind of this before the hypnosis, casually mention that being accurate is not as important as following instructions, and giving you whatever ideas, thoughts or images that come to mind as you ask for them.
Begin planting suggestions in their mindset regarding what happens in hypnosis to be less concrete and factual, and more about letting things happen. Talk to them about being able to enjoy the benefits without having to know exactly how or why it works. If it’s not in your pre-talk, make sure they understand that hypnosis is not a “truth serum”, and that being literal or truthful isn’t as important as thinking in terms of “as ifs”. They are about to embark on a journey that will have them doing nothing but essentially sitting in the chair with their eyes closed. Think conceptually about creating a “surprise space” within your clients mind for everything that happens in the chair.
Some clients will want to play hypnotist right away because of a preconceived set of thoughts about the cause of the problem. I like to tell my clients to have the attitude of the “spectator” and to just sit back and take my lead in whatever I decide to do, which leaves them with an understanding that anything is to be expected. Using language to convey “Let’s see what happens”, can cultivate an element of unknown that leaves their mind open to a realm of greater possibility.
“A little more effort please”
Do they want to have good results or great results? Some people have the experience of putting in less effort and having mediocre success. As described in The Secret Language of Feelings, emotions provide you with the drive to do the sometimes DIFFICULT things necessary to fulfill your needs, wants and desires. If a client wants you to just wave a magic wand, you need to find a way to create space around this idea. One of the stories I like to tell is about the client who left the office and lit up a cigarette right away, only to call me to complain that he could still smoke, at which point I told him that the hypnosis does not make it impossible to smoke, but easy to quit. This type of reframe (borrowed from Terance Watts) reminds the client of their part of the accountability. The conveyance of “It’s me and you against the problem” can stimulate their involvement. Sometimes, pointing out how long they have had this problem can cause the appropriate amount of pain, enlisting them to give a little more honest effort. Doing insight oriented techniques such as Forgiveness Works are not easy, and being able to encourage the client to give it their all, takes determination and goal oriented thinking. Strive for the correct balance of your effort vs. the clients. As you work together, they will understand that you can’t do it for them. Remember the old saying: Never work harder than your client.
“You are just one more success story”
Phrases like “we do it all the time” help the client to feel like they are part of something greater , and take their attention off of what they may have come to believe is their problem alone. Experiencing emotional pain or having difficulty understanding instructions might cause the client to feel slightly negative about their experience from time to time. The phrase, “Everybody does” or something like it can help alleviate concerns that their experience of abreaction was somehow unique. In fact, they are a part of a successful whole within your client base, and they need to know that what is happening is standard operating procedure, and necessary. The truth is, most people don’t like opening up. Letting the client know that they are not alone creates an environment that allows them to be more open with their feelings and fosters compliance. Always have the end in mind.
“What type of client is this?”
After you have seen a sizable stream of clients, take stock of your different experiences. Take out their files and arrange them into different categories, drawing correlations between different “types”. Personality psychology definitely plays a role in the chemistry between client and hypnotist. A knowledge of personality or temperament types can aid in your ability to profile your clients. Having a communication strategy in your back pocket ads to your capacity to work with your clients natural disposition, and encourages further participation, both directly and indirectly.
Knowing that your client has their own level of arbitrary compliance, insight, and commitment, among other things, is something to always be aware of. Appropriate application of the above strategies will support the hypnotist to guide the client toward maximal participation with greater frequency. Without our clients, we couldn’t do what we do, and having their fullest possible cooperation, openness and involvement can make all the difference in the world when shooting for the results that will elevate being a hypnotist to higher level of respect in the professional market.