The Four Cornerstones of Successful Hypnosis

Hypnotist C, Roy Hunter

by C. Roy Hunter

Occasionally professionals ask me my opinion regarding a flier promoting a workshop, and claiming to offer a unique technique that is “so effective” that it will work for almost everyone. I personally have received numerous such fliers over the years, and perhaps you have too.

How can you evaluate the efficacy of such techniques?

At the core foundation of client-centered hypnosis there are four cornerstones, which are also four important hypnotic objectives. Accomplishing all four of these objectives increases the probability of obtaining lasting results with clients.

Charles Tebbetts referred to these objectives as four main hypnotic steps to facilitate change (helping a client remove problems), and he described them in the very first chapter of Miracles on Demand (2nd Edition). I discussed them briefly in both The Art of Hypnosis and The Art of Hypnotherapy. I expanded on them in Hypnosis for Inner Conflict Resolution.

What Are They?

These four cornerstones are at the foundation of client-centered hypnosis. Building your hypnotism practice on a solid foundation with these cornerstones will increase the probability of permanent client success:

  1. Suggestion and imagery
  2. Discover the cause
  3. Release
  4. Subconscious relearning

Refer to the diagram.

Roy Hunter Diagram

1. Post-hypnotic Suggestion and Imagery

With a strong motivating desire to change, post-hypnotic suggestion (direct or indirect) may be sufficient for some of the clients some of the time. This is because emotion is the motivating power (or energy) of the inner mind. Many hypnotists who excel at marketing skills often gather great testimonials from the few who require only suggestion and imagery in order to achieve goals.

Without a strong emotional desire to accept the suggestions, either the conscious or the subconscious may easily block hypnotic suggestions and/or affirmations. (This is further evidence that the person in hypnosis is not under the control of the hypnotist!) This is what Charles Tebbetts called band-aid work, because often the improvement is only temporary. Our 19th Century pioneers of hypnosis called it prestige suggestion. Hypnosis script books abound; but without a strong emotional desire to accept the suggestions, either the conscious or the subconscious may easily block hypnotic suggestions and/or affirmations.

That being said, my first session normally begins with suggestion and imagery. Even when I believe there is a high probability of subconscious blocks, I begin the first session with suggestion and imagery in order to enhance the client’s desire to achieve the desired goal. For example, we can induce positive feelings associated with the fulfillment of a desired goal by using a hypnotic progression: progressing a person forward in time in the imagination. This enjoyable first trance trip also increases the probability of the client returning for the important follow-up sessions.

After employing the next three steps at a subsequent session, I return to this first step. In other words, when any subconscious resistance (or blocks) are discovered and removed, we can (and should) employ suggestion and imagery techniques to help a client achieve the desired goal(s). This enhances subconscious re-learning, which is the fourth step. Now let’s discuss Steps 2, 3 and 4.

2. Discover the Cause

If subconscious resistance exists, there is a reason, whether from the past or the present, and we must somehow discover the core cause.

Note that I use the word “discover” rather than diagnose. First, a hypnotist does NOT diagnose unless licensed to do so. Second, when facilitating client-centered hypnosis, my approach is based on the concept that the client’s inner mind can reveal the core cause of a problem by employing appropriate hypnotic techniques. If we take it upon ourselves to form our own opinions as to the causes of our clients’ problems, our preconceived opinions could easily result in inappropriate leading – which may take many clients down the wrong path. This is hypnotist-directed trance work, which often leads to wrong conclusions.

Many hypnotic techniques may help uncover the cause(s) of resistance, whether the cause lies in the client’s past or in the present. Sometimes the subconscious can discover and release a cause without emotional discharges, such as with an overweight client of mine whose subconscious indicated that she would keep snacking until she started creating some “fun time” for herself. She had to make an agreement with herself in order to be released from the problem.

Although certain hypnosis techniques may sometimes gain release without the client ever consciously knowing the cause(s), Tebbetts taught that if the problem (or symptoms) resulted from a childhood perception of a past event, we should guide the client back to the past in his (or her) imagination. This is called a hypnotic regression. Recall of the event(s) during hypnosis can provoke the emotions associated with the event(s) and bring them into awareness, resulting in an emotional discharge. This is called an abreaction, and is easily accomplished in hypnosis, because we are dealing with the emotional mind rather than the intellectual mind. Once the emotional energy comes into awareness, it can be redirected and/or released in a positive way.

Parts work is another advanced hypnotic technique that a trained facilitator may employ to discover the cause(s) of a problem, especially when a client has inner conflicts.

If the cause is an unresolved issue from the client’s present, then the client may have to make some decisions at a conscious level. Sometimes the hypnotist may need to refer that client to cognitive counseling or other professional help.

3. Release

After the relationship of the symptom to the cause(s) is established emotionally as well as intellectually, we may use one or more hypnosis techniques to facilitate forgiveness and/or release from the cause(s) of a problem.

If the cause(s) resulted from perceptions of past events, not only does this involve forgiving (without condoning), or at least releasing others who might have victimized the client, it also includes forgiving one’s self for participating and/or carrying grudges, etc. If we hold a grudge against someone who hurt us, we are the ones in bondage to that grudge. We can still protect ourselves without staying angry. Whether the client’s memories are real memories, false perceptions, or a combination of both, the client can still release them in a hypnotic way without the necessity of “confronting” another relative for what might not have been an accurate perception in the first place.

Numerous techniques can be used to facilitate release, including (but not limited to) regression work and parts work.

4. Subconscious relearning

We may choose from among numerous client-centered techniques in order to facilitate adult understanding at a subconscious level, where it gets results. The goal is to help a client create a more mature understanding (or new perception) of the problem, including its cause(s) and solution(s). Sometimes it is sufficient simply to have the subconscious relearn; however, the client-centered techniques taught by Charles Tebbetts often result in total conscious recall of the entire hypnotic process.

Note that many qualified and trained counselors employ hypnosis to discover causes; but instead of completing the vital third and fourth hypnotic steps with a client in hypnosis, they often try to deal with those causes at a conscious level – and sometimes needlessly keep clients in work for months or years!

Each of these four work objectives serves as a stepping-stone towards the next step. Although the first step may be sufficient for some of the people some of the time, if the problem remains, consider the accomplishment of ALL FOUR steps as your prime hypnotic goal.

After accomplishing the third objective, I often ask a client to verbalize his or her own relearning. Then I paraphrase their words back in the form of suggestions and imagery, which help to accomplish subconscious relearning. Notice the arrow going both directions between #1 and #4 on the diagram. Suggestions and imagery enhance subconscious relearning, and become much more powerful once the subconscious has discovered and released the cause(s) of a problem.

As you learn other hypnotic techniques from various places, consider how each technique you learn can help accomplish one or more of these four steps. In my opinion, all hypnotic techniques should accomplish one or more of these four very important objectives. I suggest that you memorize them and make them an integral part of your work.

The numbers of various hypnotic techniques keep growing as new ones are invented and old ones are updated or modified. While it is not necessary to know every technique ever invented, the competent master of The Art of Hypnotherapy should have width and depth of training, as there is NO technique that is effective enough to work for all the people all the time.

While hypnotists using their pet programs do help some of the people some of the time, their success rates are often overstated. I wish that they would call themselves “hypnotists” rather than hypnotists, and refer resistant clients to competent hypnotists. As I have stated many times in public and in print, the competent hypnotist can help most of the people most of the time by practicing diversified client-centered hypnosis. Additionally, an understanding of the four hypnosis objectives will give the hypnotist a way of evaluating the efficacy of any hypnotic technique simply by determining which of the four hypnosis objectives that technique will accomplish when employed. Some technicians claim to teach a technique that is “so effective” that you do not need other techniques. That is an immediate red flag to me! A technique for releasing may have only temporary results if the core cause remains in the subconscious. Likewise, discovering the core cause of a problem will not be sufficient unless that cause is properly released at a subconscious level, with subconscious relearning following said release.

Some years ago, a major business decided to send a top manager to Sydney, Australia. He had a severe fear of flying, and saw a hypnotist who employed an NLP technique combined with hypnosis for releasing phobias. He enjoyed a calm outbound flight to Sydney; but the core cause was never discovered, and remained rooted in his subconscious. By the time he returned from Australia to the USA, his subconscious bought back the fear of flying, and he experienced 15 of most terrifying hours of his life…and almost suffered a heart attack from the stress of the flight.

It is quite possible that many of these techniques work alone with some of the people some of the time because all four hypnosis objectives are accomplished spontaneously by the inner mind. Here is my professional opinion: let’s accomplish these hypnosis objectives on purpose. Why leave them to chance?

My students learn to evaluate the efficacy of any hypnotic technique by discerning which of the four hypnosis objectives it may accomplish. This provides a solid foundation for practicing diversified client-centered hypnosis and obtaining results without the necessity of asking my opinion regarding someone else’s technique.

If any hypnotic technique works without risk to the client, use it; but learn to understand which objective(s) the technique accomplishes. A technique that accomplishes release and relearning may be combined with another technique used to discover the cause of a problem, etc. Likewise, a technique that uncovers the cause and facilitates release must be combined with a technique for subconscious relearning…and the session must be concluded with suggestion and imagery. Skipping any of these four hypnosis objectives reduces the probability of lasting results.

Most hypnotists help some of the people some of the time. The skilled practitioner of client-centered hypnosis will help most of the people most of the time. Successful accomplishment of all four steps presented in this article increases the probability of client success, which is why I also call them the four cornerstones of successful hypnosis! Scripts