by C. Roy Hunter
I teach and practice a client-centered approach to hypnosis, which means that we fit the technique to the client rather than vice-versa. That being said, when a client sees me for habit control or motivation, I start with an enjoyable session in order to increase a client’s desire for change.
The best way for me to describe this is to reproduce part of Chapter 4 of my hypnosis text published by Kendall/Hunt Publishing, The Art of Hypnotherapy. The title is the same as this article. Note that the article stops before the scripts in the text.
As Charles Tebbetts taught, post hypnotic suggestion alone may be sufficient when the motivating desire is strong. Also, Ormond McGill, a good friend of mine who was an expert in the art of hypnosis during his life (and author of numerous books), taught that any suggestion charged with emotion has a far greater impact on the subconscious. Experts from the scientific community shared this belief during the first half of the 20th Century (LeCron & Bordeaux, Hypnotism Today, 1947).
In light of this, I’ve taken what I learned from my former teacher and mentor and combined it with my extensive experience in professional sales, and developed what I call the benefits approach. It is based on a simple concept. Once we fall in love with the benefits of change, it’s much easier to pay the price of change. I call this process selling success to your subconscious.
The Subconscious Resists Force
When is the last time you refused to buy a product or service because somebody tried to force you to buy?
Will power and self discipline come across to the subconscious like a high pressure sales pitch. That’s why so many smokers find their New-Year’s resolutions literally going up in smoke. Also, that’s why diets work on the body but not the mind.
Any person competently trained in professional sales knows that people buy benefits rather than price. I explain this during a client’s intake interview or consultation. I go on to explain that even if the price is right, we all still tune in to mental station WII-FM, and I sometimes write these letters on my white board for clients to see. These call letters stand for: “What’s In It For Me?”
In other words, before the subconscious mind will buy the price of change, the benefits of change must be identified and effectively communicated to the subconscious. I employ programmed imagery (described in Chapter 9 of The Art of Hypnotherapy) to accomplish this. Scripts are provided at the end of this chapter to help get you started.
Identify the Benefits
Before I ever guide my clients into hypnosis, I ask them a simple question: “Let’s assume you’ve already achieved your goal… what’s in it for you?” I then proceed to write down their personal benefits on a form that I provide to them at the conclusion of the session. Meanwhile, I use their listed benefits during the session itself.
I suggest that you take whatever time is needed to help your client identify his or her personal benefits of change if he/she is seeing you for habit control or motivation. The reason is that it means more to clients if they tell you rather than if you tell them. This is salesmanship.
For example, most clients may tell you that better health is a benefit of quitting smoking; but if you tell your prospective client that he/she should list better health, you might unintentionally push the wrong button if that person is in excellent health and went through some aversion program that tried to scare him or her into quitting with gross pictures of diseased lungs, etc. While one client may enjoy having more money to spend after quitting, another client may think nothing of burning up $2000 a year in smoke!
If your client does need prodding, discuss some key benefits that others have given you, and ask whether that benefit is of personal importance – then take your client’s word for it. Don’t push.
In addition, we often need to provide assistance to keep the language positive.
For example, if a smoker says, “I won’t be short of breath,” I write down longer winded. If a smoker or overweight person says, “I won’t get so tired all the time,” I write down more energy. Why do I do this?
The reason is that I want clients imagining the benefits rather than the problems. This is very important, because the language of the subconscious is imagination – but more about this in a moment.
Let’s talk about a hidden purpose for asking our clients what their benefits are for habit control and motivation: it is easier to determine whether the desire to change is genuine! If they cannot get involved in the desire to enjoy the benefits, then they probably are not ready to make a change. Some people are manipulated into hypnosis by nagging relatives, etc.; and this will usually show up when they start discussing benefits (if not sooner). If this is the case, perhaps you’d better ask your prospective client to give further consideration before beginning hypnosis, or refer him/her elsewhere as appropriate.
Let’s assume that typical client benefits are identified…now what?
I ask my clients which one or two would be the most important – and put an asterisk (*) by the selections. Then I emphasize – as mentioned above – that imagination is the language of the subconscious, and that emotion is its motivating power or energy.
Explain the Role of Imagination
If we have effectively helped a client respond to one or more suggestibility tests, it is easy to refer back to how the subconscious responded to what was imagined. The imagination is our own private rehearsal room of the mind, where we have total power to do anything we wish. If my client loves Star Trek, I tell him/her that the imagination is the holodeck of the mind, where the desired reality can be programmed.
I discuss this analogy with my client before hypnosis begins, and go on to explain the importance of vividly imagining each of the benefits as I suggest them – because if I ask clients to imagine looking at reflections of themselves at their ideal weight, but they imagine eating cookies, guess what the subconscious buys!
It is positive imagining that gets results – not just positive thinking, which can be neutralized by a negative imagination.
Why do I say this? Well, I remember all too well a time in my life when I believed in positive thinking and found that my life got worse in spite of the daily use of affirmations. By imagining sales turning sour, even my best efforts were fruitless – destroying ten years of successful sales experience for me. Until hypnosis made a difference, I kept doing the very thing I did not want to do.
Haven’t you ever wondered why so many people do things they tell themselves not to do? Remember that the subconscious is like the child inside each of us. While the conscious mind could engage in volumes of theories and/or techniques to try to force the subconscious mind into success habits, we still tend to do whatever we consistently imagine ourselves doing. If you don’t believe this, try telling a ten year old who is perfectly content at play that he/she cannot have any freshly baked chocolate chip cookies! By telling that child what you do not want him or her to do, you’ve actually increased the desire to do that very act – because of what that child now imagines doing. It does not take a psychologist to understand this concept.
The ex smoker who keeps imagining lighting up will consistently have the urge to do so – and will find it difficult or impossible to avoid backsliding. Likewise, the person on a diet who keeps imagining the taste of chocolate will eventually find a way to get some.
The imagination can make or break one’s success; so it is my opinion that one of the most valuable things I can do for my clients is to teach them how to use self hypnosis to control what they imagine. This becomes very self empowering; but if my clients learn self hypnosis, then why do they need hypnosis?
Self hypnosis is like a muscle. I can move a chair, but I can move a couch more easily if someone is on the other end helping me lift. So I give my clients that initial mental lift, and teach them to continue imagining benefits long after they leave my office. If the motivating desire is strong enough, the benefits approach is very powerful.
What about the Price of Change?
Most clients know the price of change – they just don’t know how to get the subconscious to cooperate. (By “price” of change, I do not mean the cost of the sessions!)
For example, a smoker wishing to quit smoking must avoid buying cigarettes for the rest of his/her life. Since it’s easier to replace habits than it is to try to erase them, I suggest that my clients replace the breath of smoke with a breath of air – which has no calories and no side effects. This deep breath of air that replaces the breath of smoke represents another part of the price of change.
People wishing to reduce also can easily tell me what changes of habit would make a difference in their weight, such as resigning from the clean plate club, drinking water instead of snacking, eating good foods, exercising, etc. The challenge is in getting the subconscious to accept those changes (the price of change). Note: if you facilitate weight management sessions, remember to avoid giving nutritional advice unless you are qualified to do so!
Doing Hypnosis: Benefits Approach
So now my client and I are ready to begin, and I’ve asked the magic question. The magic question is “Are you ready to be hypnotized?” Where do I go from here?
After the appropriate induction and deepening techniques, I project my client forward in time, doing what could be called a hypnotic progression. Using the listed benefits as my guide for programmed imagery, I then ask my client to vividly imagine – with as many of the five senses as possible – enjoyment and appreciation of each of his/her benefits.
I go through the benefits one by one, suggesting that clients imagine situations where they enjoy each particular benefit. My clients are asked to imagine a sense of appreciation for these benefits – and to imagine them so vividly that they feel as though they currently enjoy success. This helps to enhance the motivating desire, facilitating subconscious acceptance of the post hypnotic suggestions for success (to strengthen the first hypnotic objective as described in Chapter 3).
Each client imagines emotional feelings associated with fulfillment of the desired goal. This positive emotional desire to enjoy the benefits creates an energy that may propel the client into success. Some clients actually get so emotionally involved with success that the positive feelings linger long after they leave my office.
So what makes the benefits approach effective?
When someone falls in love with the benefits of success, that person will usually find a way to pay the price of change. In short, I am teaching my clients to use selling skills on their own subconscious minds – because the subconscious is one tough customer that doesn’t want to be forced to buy. Yet just as we have all paid more than we thought we should for a product once we bonded emotionally with it, the subconscious is capable of doing more than we think when energized with the power of positive emotion!
The suggestibility test previously given to a client demonstrated the first of two important concepts: imagination is the language of the subconscious (refer to my text, The Art of Hypnosis, Kendall/Hunt Publishing). Additionally, my clients learn the second concept: emotion is the motivating energy of the subconscious. This second concept makes the benefits approach effective.
As I complete the final edits of the third edition of this text, the movie entitled “The Secret” is taking the world by storm (available online and by DVD). Those who have seen it know that part of this “secret” involves getting emotionally excited about achieving your desired goal. This totally harmonizes with the concept behind the benefits approach, because of the power of emotional energy.
Let me emphasize this important concept in different words: emotion is the motivating power of the mind.
What Are Typical Client Benefits?
Since some clients may desire prompting by asking what benefits others give, let’s look at the more common benefits given for habit control and motivation:
Typical benefits for smokers wishing to quit are: better health, more energy, longer winded, clear throat and lungs, more money, cleaner environment (residence, car, clothes, etc.), greater social acceptance, pride of success, better parental example, greater professional image, better self image, better sense of taste and/or smell, freedom (from the habit), and whiter teeth. There are other, less common benefits that I list upon request, but I will not use them for prompting.
We must also remember to use positive words. For example, people often say, “Save money.” During childhood, how did you feel if you suddenly found some money to spend and one of your parents told you to save it instead? So I list more money. It’s a little more negative if someone says, “I won’t have smoker’s cough every morning.” We may simply list clear throat and lungs. If they say that they won’t be ostracized any longer, we can list greater social acceptance. (Note my deliberate avoidance of the words peer pressure!)
Typical benefits for weight management are: better health, more energy, more physically active, more mobility, more attractive, greater freedom, more choices in clothes, happier spouse, pride of success, greater social acceptance, better self image, better professional image, and feeling good. Some clients actually list sexier or better sex life as a benefit; but I do NOT prompt a client with any benefit related to sex.
Also notice that I do weight management, not weight loss. We have been programmed to try to find what we lose! In light of this, I recommend that my clients release, discard, reduce, donate, take off, get rid of, or throw out excess weight – and start talking about weight reduction instead of weight loss.
Typical benefits for reaching sales quotas are: greater income, more vacations, new car, new home, pride of success, peace of mind, better self image, more free time, greater freedom, etc. At this point, however, I must say from experience that no one can empathize totally with a salesperson experiencing a slump more than someone with sales experience. If you have not had previous professional sales experience, please be ready to refer a slumping salesperson to a hypnotist who does!
What Do You Say?
The best way for me to answer this question is to provide two actual scripts: one for smoking cessation and another for weight management. You will find them at the end of this chapter. You may change the wording as appropriate – but keep the language positive, emphasizing the desired results. Remember that words are probably the most powerful tools of our profession. I also include some wording to have my clients imagine the attitude of gratitude, as though they have already realized their goals.
People are often surprised at how good they feel. Every person hypnotized will not necessarily respond to the degree you might wish. Be aware that there is NO technique that will work with all the people all the time; however, most of my clients enjoy their progressions into the benefits.
After a very brief discussion about the session, each client leaves the office with a hypnosis tape and the list of personal benefits. I recommend a brief review of the benefits just prior to the client listening to the hypnosis tape, in order to remember to vividly imagine them while listening.
You may wish either to record the individual session for your client, or make generic tapes or CD’s for smoking cessation and/or weight management, etc. (…or you may wish to buy mine at wholesale!)
Also, be certain to schedule the next appointment before the client leaves your office. I write the day and time down on one of my business cards and hand it to my client. In addition, I frequently give two or three extra business cards as well, asking my clients to share me with their friends.
I thank them for choosing me as their hypnotist, and send them on their way.
The Next Session
The second time clients come to my office, I check their progress and often spend some time teaching stress management as discussed in Chapter 10 of The Art of Hypnosis. Why?
First, smokers often light up when stress buttons get pushed. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so I almost always include a session on stress management when people see me for smoking cessation. Secondly, many people who have weight problems tend to eat more when stressed – so the majority of clients seeing me for weight management also have one session on managing stress. This stress management session includes the peaceful place meditation described at the end of Chapter 5 of this text.
If someone convinces me that he/she has very little stress, and no desire to learn self hypnosis, then I may skip this session and be flexible to the client’s wishes. Also, I frequently find clients who feel so stressed that they wish to begin with the stress management and wait until the second or third session for the Benefits Approach. Again, let’s adapt to each client’s individual needs.
Mapping the Motivation
So we’ve completed the hypnotic progression and the session on stress management. Where do we go next?
Although it may be professional for you to help the client with any appropriate hypnotic techniques within your training and experience, you might wish to consider spending the third session mapping the motivation for those clients who are very analytical. This survey of subconscious motivation is described in detail in Chapter 15; however, since it is optional (and original) for use at your discretion, I will not devote further space to it this early in the text. Instead, I’ll conclude this chapter by explaining why I start with the Benefits Approach for habit control and motivation rather than diving right into the subconscious to look for the cause.
Why Not Begin with Advanced Techniques?
Frequently the Benefits Approach is sufficient for smoking cessation when combined with stress management and motivation mapping, although weight management clients often need other techniques in later sessions to help them discover and release subconscious resistance. However, even those who might need regression work and/or parts work are left with good first impressions of hypnosis – which may benefit them greatly if it becomes necessary to use advanced techniques.
Going forward in time with a hypnotic progression triggering positive emotions is much more enjoyable than a regression back into past negative feelings – and some people are more apt to talk about pleasant and enjoyable experiences, which creates good public relations for hypnosis.
In short, I believe it is an excellent starting point – and then we may adapt from there based on the degree of client response.
Roy Hunter, M.S., FAPHP, CHI,
practices hypnosis near Seattle, in the Pacific Northwest region of the USA, and trains parts work to professionals around the world. He also works part time for the Franciscan Hospice facilitating hypnosis for terminal patients, and teaches a 9-month professional hypnosis training course based on the teachings of Charles Tebbetts. Roy is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Order of Braid (NGH) for lifetime achievement in the hypnosis profession. Roy also was awarded an honorary PhD from St. John’s University for lifetime achievement in hypnosis.