When I am working with a client, I am often not sure what to do next. Clients come to me with all sorts of problems, and expect me to know how to fix them. Quite often I don't know. Over the years I have come to realise that there are two sources you can go to for help. They both involve asking the expert. So who is this expert? Actually there are two. One is your own unconscious mind, and the other is the client.
Asking the expert - the client
Always bear in mind that the client comes to for a reason, and knows exactly what they want, even if you don't. And the client is the expert. Nobody knows more about their problem than they do. So I ask the expert what to do.
The way I do this is to use the equivalent of the My Friend John induction as hypnotherapy.
I ask the client to tell me what they would do if they were in my seat.
I ask them 'How would you go about dealing with this problem?'. 'What would you able to try to make you feel better?'. 'How could the situation be seen differently if you took different perspectives?'
You can also ask the client the Miracle Question 'If everything you wanted happened to you overnight, what would be different when you woke up? What would see, what would you feel, how would you know that it had happened?'.
You will be surprised at how inventive your client can be. Even if they don't come up with a complete solution, they will often suggest a way forward that you haven't thought of.
Ask the expert - Your own subconscious
The other expert is you. At least the part of you that holds all your expertise and intuition. Part of hypnotherapy professional practice is being comfortable with ambiguity, and uncertainty. Therapists don't have all the answers. You sometimes have to wing it. And that is exactly what I do.
I listen to the client describe what they want, what they feel, what they have tried. Even if I'm not aware of it, my unconscious mind is thinking about this and assessing various possibilities. As the client talks, various words and phrases will strike you as being of particular interest and importance. When I consider how to go about the therapy part, I read over my notes. And I take a moment to think about those words and phrases. This primes my unconscious mind, and sets up images and associations at the unconscious level.
Then I start on the induction. I guide the client into trance, deepen, and tester make sure the client is somnambulistic. I find that by the time I put the client into trance, there is always something that occurs to me as a way forward. Something will suggest itself to me from the workings of my unconscious mind. It may be an image, and I was start describing the image. Usually this turns into a metaphor that I develop for the client. Sometimes I would just repeat the word or phrase, and again something will resonate with me and my unconscious mind will guide me in what to do.
It's always good to ask the expert in the room.
I got this email about client refunds:
I just want your opinion re this situation that came up today
Group session of 6 for smoking cessation.
45 mins later got a message that it hadn’t worked and it was my fault because I didn’t do stage hypnosis induction etc. she could have done the session herself.
So I replied answering her points. Now she has come back wanting her money back. Paid 1/2 price as it was a group session and I travelled about an hour to get to the venue.
She was told it was a group session but she complained that there were others there.
Given her strong belief in what she thought I should be doing and saying and clearly not following my suggestions and her complete denial that it worked within 45 mins would you offer a refund?
Your thoughts please.
My attitude to client refunds:
You get customers like this. Everyone does. You cannot avoid them.
You do your best and they throw it back in your face. Unfortunately, that is just the business we are in. We deal with people with mental health problems, and they do not act rationally.
If it was me, I would give her the money back immediately.
Life is too short to let these people upset you. There is nothing you can do. In our business the clients hold all the aces. When it comes to a dispute the client will always win. Even if you succeed in not refunding her payment, she will gleefully spend the next 10 years telling everyone who will listen what a crap hypnotist you are, and how she was right all along and you just could not help her.
You don’t need that kind of publicity. Refund her money and write it off to experience. Send her a nice little note saying you are sorry that it didn’t work out for her and you hope that she will find someone who can help her.
She has probably been to every health professional in the area and dismissed them all as useless. You were just the next in line. It doesn’t mean anything. And she is not worth spending time on.
All you can do is think back to see if you can identify any indicators that you can use to identify this kind of person in the future. And refuse to deal with them.
Recent research suggests that hypnosis has a role to play as a front line treatment to prevent heart attacks. Doctors have known for a long time that stress is associated with increased risk of heart attack. However there was only a correlation, and no direct proof that stress caused heart attacks. It was just as likely that the factors that lead to heart attacks also lead to stress.
Two new studies show that stress actually has a direct effect on the brain. The brain responds as if to a threat. It orders the body to produce new white cells. The increased blood cells then cause inflammation in the walls of the blood vessels. And this leads to narrowing of the arteries and a higher chance of being blocked by blood clots. Blockages lead to heart attacks, angina and strokes. According to the study, this is the first time that a direct link between stress and cardiovascular disease has been proved.
Using hypnosis to prevent heart attacks
What the study shows is that stress is just as important as diet and smoking. Hypnotherapists have an excellent record on stopping people smoking, and also help people to lose weight. These two outcomes both reduce the risk of heart problems. It seems that we can now play another role in keeping people healthy.
Hypnosis and relaxation therapy are very good ways of reducing stress. It now appears that teaching our clients how to relax, or how to go into self hypnosis, can have direct effects on their cardiovascular health.
This is something that hypnotherapists should develop. Perhaps we should emphasis stress reduction in advertising and when talking to clients. Perhaps one day we will have clients coming to hypnosis as the treatment of choice to deal with their general feelings of stress.
Tawakol, A., et al. (2017) Relation between resting amygdalar activity and cardiovascular events: a longitudinal and cohort study. The Lancet
Do you need to spend an hour with your client before you can start doing hypnosis? Or is insisting on an initial consultation a scam?
Many hypnotherapists make an initial consultation part of their business model. Their treatment plan consists of the initial meeting, and then one or more sessions of hypnosis. Clients sometimes refuse to go along with this, and often feel that the initial consultation, is a con, a waste of their time and money.
Those therapists who use an initial paid consultation put forward the arguments:
a) hypnosis is more successful when it is aimed at a precise and specific target. They say that without an extensive consultation you cannot identify exactly what the problem is. Until you know exactly what is wanted and what is causing it, you cannot fix it.
b) the initial meeting build rapport. The better the connection between the client and the therapist, the better the outcome is likely to be.
c) sometimes the client needs to talk to someone, to get their feelings out in the open, to know that somebody cares. Hearing themselves describe their problems sometimes helps them to put their problems into perspective.
I can see that there are merits in these arguments.
Analysing the arguments for an initial consultation
But do you actually need a whole hour to find out what the client's problem is?
If the client wants to stop nail biting, what else is there to know?
It seems to me that a competent therapist should be able to nail down exactly what the issue is within 15 minutes so. That leaves plenty of time to do some actual therapy. And if not, at least learn enough to be able to suggest some different type of therapy based on what was learned.
I suspect that the desire to know about the specific target is actually an outcome of NLP training. NLP practitioners try to know exactly how you do the behaviour, exactly what you feel when you do the behaviour, exactly how you will feel when you have stopped doing the behaviour. Without knowing this you cannot really apply NLP principles and expect to have much success. If your practice is based on NLP, and I think you need to be upfront with the client and explain that this is part of the process. It is a little deceiving to call it a consultation when you are really exploring whether they can identify feelings and not.
The second reason given is about building rapport. This is another principle of NLP. Having rapport is good, but not essential, in my view. If rapport was essential, then recorded CDs would never work. If you never meet the client, the person listening to the CD, then you cannot possibly have rapport. And yet CDs do work.
The third reason, that the client needs to talk to someone is perfectly valid. But if you're actually offering counselling, then you should tell the client that it is a counselling session, and do proper counselling.
My experience with initial consultation
When I first started doing hypnosis professionally, I had just come out of a training school. As part of the training I was taught basically NLP with a bit of hypnosis. The basic instruction was to get a client and then invite them to come to your office to discuss what it is you might do in some future session. I actually started off offering hypnosis sessions for free. And I quickly discovered, even if it was free, clients hated spending the first session without either getting hypnotised, or getting some explicit therapy. I therefore quickly adopted the strategy of finding out what the client wanted, agreeing what we would be able to do, and getting on with it. Over time I was able to work out ways of finding exactly what I needed to do in just a few minutes, or extending the session, at my cost, until I did know exactly what the problem was and felt confident I could fix it.
As far as I'm concerned, I am not prepared to waste the client's time, or more importantly, their money, just to indulge my own need to have a plan. Hypnotherapy involves a great deal of uncertainty. The therapist needs to be prepared to let things develop organically. I often start a client into hypnosis when I really don't have a clear idea of where it's going, and just allow my unconscious mind to interact with their unconscious mind until something new and powerful emerges. This process has never let me down.
If you think that for your own comfort you need an hour from every client, then I suppose if the client is willing to waste an hour and get nothing done, then that's okay. But I really don't think you should be charging for it.