During a hypnotherapy session, a trained hypnotherapist guides the subject through a well-defined process which starts with establishing rapport. The hypnotherapist will then interview the subject to establish what outcomes they would like, and to give them an overview of what to expect during the session. After the interviewing process is complete, the subject is taken into hypnosis and works towards their outcome with the hypnotherapist.
Naturally, any particular hypnotherapy session may contain any combination of these parts.
For more complex problems requiring multiple sessions, it is not uncommon for the entire first session to be spent only on the interview portion.
Here is the basic structure of a typical hypnotherapy session.
1. Establish Rapport
In order for a hypnotherapy session to be effective, it is of critical importance that the hypnotherapist establishes some form of rapport with the subject from the outset. Hypnotherapy requires that the subject be fully onboard with the process at hand. This can usually only happen if they trust the hypnotherapist with whom they are working.
One way to look at rapport is that it is what happens when the hypnotherapist and subject are synchronized to some degree.
Rapport is what happens when the hypnotherapist and subject are synchronized to some degree.
It may seem like a small thing, but in practical terms, rapport makes the session flow much more smoothly.
The good news is that from the point of view of the subject, this part is easy. As a subject, all you are likely to notice is that the hypnotherapist is positive, polite, and on your side.
Usually this step takes only a few seconds.
2. Hypnotherapy Intake Interview
The intake interview at the start of a hypnotherapy session allows the hypnotherapist to gain an understanding of what the subject would like to achieve. It also enables the hypnotherapist to choose an appropriate hypnotherapeutic process with which to begin.
There are hundreds of different processes contained within hypnotherapy. While a skilled hypnotist might be able to apply many of them to any problem, the reality is that some processes are known to be highly effective with specific issues.
For example, when someone sees me for Quit Smoking Hypnosis, there is a very specific process that we follow. This process has evolved out of the work of hundreds of hypnotherapists across tens of years, and is known to be highly effective.
Similarly, there are processes that are known to be highly effective for other issues. These include removing phobias, helping people deal with stress, weight loss, pain control, and many more.
The hypnotherapist will often set expectations around how many sessions are likely to be needed to resolve the issue.
3. What Hypnosis Is And Is Not
Most people out in the world have some fairly significant misunderstandings about hypnosis. Many of these can lead to fears that have no basis in reality. In turn, these fears can inhibit the subject getting the results they want. Therefore, most hypnotherapists spend a few minutes identifying the subject’s beliefs about hypnosis, and then explaining what hypnosis really is around any that are unhelpful.
As an example, many people believe that the hypnotherapist will be in control and doing something to them. In reality, a much closer analogy is that the hypnotherapist is a guide who leads the subject in useful directions to overcome their issues.
While a skilled hypnotherapist can and will use covert hypnosis to help the subject achieve their goals, the subject is always ultimately in control.
Just as you can watch an ad and choose not to buy the product, you can choose whether or not to go to the places your hypnotherapist leads you.
If you’d like to know more about the common things people believe about hypnosis that just aren’t true, check out my article on myths and misconceptions about hypnosis.
4. What to Expect During A Hypnotherapy Session
Hypnotherapy is an alien process to most people, so the hypnotherapist will usually help to set them at ease by going over exactly what’s going to happen in the specific session.
Going over what happens during the specific hypnotherapy session may include an outline of the processes that will be used, what the subject can expect from the experience, reassurances that the subject will always be control, and reassurances that the subject will always be aware of what’s going on even if they do not necessarily recall the session afterwards.
5. Transformational Hypnotherapy
The transformational hypnotherapy step is the part where the actual change work is done. The subject is hypnotized. They are guided through the change. And then they are brought out of hypnosis.
It is impossible to say exactly what this will look like.
There are hundreds of distinct formal processes that a hypnotherapist can run. On top of that, many hypnotherapists will switch processes mid-stream when it becomes apparent that something else might work better in the particular situation.
Usually there is a formal hypnotic induction which places the subject into hypnosis.
What the hypnosis feels like depends on the kind of induction the hypnotist chooses. Typically this may include relaxation, calmness, enhanced focus, and other states that people associate with hypnosis.
It’s important to be aware that the only things required for hypnosis are unconscious focus and a lack of conscious interference.
It is possible to have a successful hypnotherapy session without relaxation, calmness, or even becoming consciously aware that anything has happened.
This can be especially true when the hypnotherapist uses things like clean language to facilitate the change.
After inducing hypnosis, the hypnotist will run one or more formal hypnotic processes to guide the subject to their desired outcome.
These processes are designed to work with the unconscious mind, so the results often seem like magic to the uninitiated.
Most modern hypnotherapy processes are interactive and require ongoing feedback from the subject.
Finally, the hypnotherapist brings the subject back out of hypnosis.
6. Testing The Change
When we want our hypnotherapy to be effective, it is of vital importance to test that it worked.
Usually the hypnotist will spend a little time asking the subject about their experience of hypnosis immediately after they come out.
Then, once the subject is out of hypnosis and alert again, it is time to test that it worked.
The nature of the test depends on the specific change.
For example, to test effectiveness for Quit Smoking Hypnosis, it’s often enough to wind up the subject’s nicotine cravings, and see what happens.
Similarly, if the subject came in to have some work done around anxiety, we can have them imagine a stressful situation and discover what happens.
There is one over-arching rule around testing of change work: If the change is going to fail, we want it to do so in the session so we can fix it. This may be achieved by putting the subject into situations where the change might fail, and then fixing it if it does.
In the event that something needs to be fixed, the hypnotherapist may talk a little about the repair process, and then will re-hypnotize the subject right away.
The process of talk, hypnotize, repair, and test repeats until either the issue is resolved, or time runs out.
7. At the End of The Hypnotherapy Session
At the end of the hypnotherapy session, the hypnotherapist will usually assess how the subject is progressing towards their desired outcome. Sometimes they will give the subject exercises to help reinforce the change. And usually they will book in the next session when required.
The truth is that while some simple problems may be fixed during just one hypnotherapy session, many require a course of between 6 and 12 sessions.
The hypnotherapist will usually have an idea of how many sessions the subject is likely to require by the end of the first session.
Usually the hypnotherapist will have an idea of how many sessions are typically required for that type of problem by the end of the intake interview.
And usually they will have an idea of how many the subject is likely to require by the end of the first session.
At the end of each session, the hypnotherapist will suggest a course of action to overcome the issue, and will offer to book the subject in for their next session.