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Ideomotor Signal Finger Lift

I was asked what I meant by 'finger lift', and whether this was the same thing as 'ideomotor signalling'. To me they are different. I think the finger lift gives an honest and reliable test for trance that is very difficult to fake. 'Ideomotor' has acquired a unique meaning in hypnotherapy. 

A 'finger lift' is a form of ideomotor response, but a very simple one, without setting it up in advance.

For example... from one of my scripts... this script shows how I typically use the finger lift...

and as you drift deeper and deeper... become aware that one of your fingers or perhaps a thumb will feel a need, a desire, a compulsion... to move... without thought... just allow that to happen ... don't assist in any way... a finger or a thumb will want to move... or maybe the whole hand... It may begin as just a tiny tremor... and you may be surprised at what you experience... that's right...

Testing for trance with finger lift

This is meant to be a test of trance. The client doesn't know how they are supposed to react, so the reaction you get is genuine. If the finger lifts straight up immediately then they are faking it. If it takes a long time to get any movement, if the finger trembles a little, and moves a tiny bit, or if several fingers move like closing a fist, or the whole hand jerks, then the client is in trance, and genuinely experiencing involuntary movement.

Talking to the unconscious mind with ideomotor signals

Ideomotor signalling is actually something else. 'Ideo' means unique to the person, and Ideomotor should mean the movements uniquely made by each individual. But the way that ideomotor signalling is used actually means that it is not unique. The person is told specifically how to signal a 'yes' or 'no' answer and what counts as a valid movement. This means everyone signals the same way for that hypnotist. This is the exact opposite of the original meaning of 'ideomotor'. Some hypnotists use one finger, most two, and few try to get the person to use all ten.  

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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brain habits

How to change Habits

It is hard to change habits. Why do people start smoking again? Why is it so easy to start, and then hard to stop?

Changing habits has to do with how the human brain works. Research suggests that behavior is controlled by two different parts of the brain. There are goal directed actions, and there are automatic actions.

Goal directed actions are behaviours we consciously try to control. Automatic actions are things we do unconsciously without thinking about them.

Goal directed actions are controlled by the pre-frontal cortex. Goal directed actions focus your attention on getting something done. You will put a lot of effort in thinking about how to get what you want.  Automatic actions are controlled deep inside the brain, in the basal ganglia, part of the reptilian brain. Automatic actions react automatically, without thinking about it at all.

Put simply, the prefrontal cortex is responsible for new behaviours, the basal ganglia controls old behaviours.

Triggering automatic habits

When someone decides to give up smoking, their pre-frontal cortex is what they use to try to change their behavior. The basal ganglia ignores the pre-frontal cortex. The basal ganglia doesn't think. It doesn't know what is going on in the pre-frontal cortex. And doesn't care. It just waits patiently for a stimulus and acts on it, starting the automatic pre-programmed behavior, over and over.

The basal ganglia knows that there is a stored behavior routine to deal with whatever the stimulus is. All it has to do is to find it and start it. Once the routine is started, the basal ganglia can go back into its crocodile dream state. Until the next stimulus wakes it up. Then it searches for the right bundle of behaviors, starts it going, and goes back to sleep again. It never considers whether the behavior routine is good or bad for you, it just starts it running and forgets all about it.

Origin of habits

The automatic behavior got programmed into the basal ganglia in the first place by the prefrontal cortex. A stimulus happened, the prefrontal cortex thought about it and told you to react in some way.  If the result successfully deals with the stimulus (the problem) then the basal ganglia notes this. If the next time you meet that problem, you do the same behavior and it solves the problem, then you reinforce the basal ganglia memory. After the same thing happens again and again, the response becomes automatic. You never think of a different response because you have an automatic one that works just fine. 

The job of the basal ganglia is to identify the stimulus and find the matching response. It learns that when that particular stimulus appears, some particular response is the thing to do. Once the basal ganglia learns the routine, the prefrontal cortex leaves the basal ganglia to get on with it. In simple terms, your conscious mind passes it to your unconscious mind. Your unconscious mind then triggers an automatic behavior routine.

Life is difficult enough without having to consider afresh what to do every time you come to a door, or if someone smiles at you. Why waste energy thinking when you can just delegate it to another part of the brain, and let it react for you? And that is how a habit is born.

How to change habits

However, we are not condemned to repeat the same behaviour for life. People can and do change their habits. The prefrontal cortex can over ride the basal ganglia. And if it does it often enough, and in exactly the same way, the basal ganglia will learn a new habit for the old stimulus. You can retrain it. But the prefrontal cortex can only over ride the basal ganglia when it is paying attention and acting deliberately in the new way. The instant the prefrontal cortex gets distracted, it forgets. So the basal ganglia automatically takes over and produces the old behavior again.

Origin of Cravings

When one part of your mind is distracted, and the other part is trying to perform its automatic behaviour but can't, that is when the cravings start. The automatic part of the brain, the basal ganglia, knows what it is supposed to do when it gets that particular stimulus. It knows that to end that problem it has to go through a predefined routine. The problem will not end until it does that routine. It believes that until the routine is done your body is in danger. And that cannot be allowed. So the basal ganglia runs a program that it knows will make the body uncomfortable until the behavior routine is performed. That way it is keeping you safe. The more distracted you are the more automatic the process is, and the harder the basal ganglia will try to make the behavior happen.

And what stops the prefrontal cortex from paying attention? Other things happening. Or stress. Stress is just another name for a situation where you need to focus on something to the exclusion of all else, and just let the body run on automatic pilot. And that is why people start smoking again. Stress makes them forget their good intentions. Before they are even aware of it, they are lighting up, just going through the old routine that always worked in the past, that doesn't even need thinking about.

Retraining habits

The basal ganglia can relearn, but it only responds to rewards and repetition. So the prefrontal cortex has be vigilant long enough, and repeat the new behaviour often enough, for the basal ganglia to give up its old behaviour and learn the new behaviour.

The problem of course, is that basal ganglia will learn anything. And if the repeated behaviour is to keep starting again at every bit of stress, then that is what it will learn. You can train yourself into being unable to give up!

What do you think?

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impossible to hypnotize

Everyone can be hypnotized

Everyone can be hypnotized. But it might take a while. Last week I had one of those nightmare clients. No matter what you do, they will not go into trance. I had no reason to think that there would be any problem with this client. She seemed ready to go into trance and really wanted to give up smoking. I had treated her husband the day before and she wanted to help him give up as well as herself.

However, when I started with my usual induction it was clear that she was not responding they way I expected. She kept opening her eyes. When I asked her what she was experiencing she said "I can't visualize going down a corridor as you are asking me to". She also was not able to relax either.

So I used a different progressive muscle relaxation induction, and she seemed to be relaxing a bit. I then tried an Elman induction but she couldn't make the numbers disappear. I tried induction after induction and every time I tried for eye catalepsy her eyes opened.

She was not responding to the inductions at all. In fact she could not do anything that would lead to trance. I tested her for visualization ability. I found that she could not visualize at all. She did have a little kinesthetic orientation, but nothing else that I could find.

Stair Case induction

The Going down the Stairs induction is supposed to be ideal for kinesthetic people, but it didn't work either. In this case I had to admit defeat. But I was determined not to give up. So I asked her to let me think about it, and for her come back the following day. I spend the night thinking about what to do, and really worrying about "what if I just can't get her into trance?". I like to think that I know what I am doing, but this was a real challenge.

Feel the colors induction

The following day I had decided on a strategy. She came in I set up an instant induction and fired it. Nothing. She didn't even flinch. Then I did a color induction. You invited to think of feelings associated with a color. This is supposed to be a full proof induction for kinesthetics. By the third color she told me she didn't feel any associations with colors.

Cloud Induction

I tried her on an induction where the client imagines a cloud around them, and by increasing their depth of relaxation they can make the cloud dissipate. Several rounds of this did produce a noticeable level of relaxation.

Confusion Induction

I then threw in a long confusion induction, about the unconscious being conscious of the subconsciouis while the conscious was unconscious of the unconscious, and so on. She finally showed clear signs of trance. I then flowed straight into an elevator deeper where she pushed buttons to go down and down... and finally I got eye catalepsy.

So the lesson I take from this is that yes, everyone can be hypnotised, but sometimes it a real battle of wills. She went on to enjoy the feeling of being hypnotized and to give up smoking.

What do you do?

How do you deal with hard to hypnotize clients?

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placebo effect of hypnosis

Placebo effect of hypnosis therapy

I got this email from a hypnotherapist in the UK:

Some time back I ordered the whole collection of your scripts. I find myself coming back to them over and over again because they are just so excellent. Clients have commented very favorably, which is so rewarding for me.

I wondered if I can ask you for your suggestions regarding a new client who I will see next week? He talks of having a 'low mood' most of his life. He has seen many counselors over the years and said 'counselling didn't work at all' (said he hated CBT and filling in forms). He is adamant he wants hypnotherapy this time which he hasn't tried before.

In our brief phone conversation, he mentioned the following things: general low mood as the most pressing problem, mentioned 'depression' but not diagnosed, no sleep issues, is able to function well enough in the workplace, is anxious at times as well, part of him is always thinking and analyzing everything, often has a sense of hopelessness. He felt quite depressed about a year ago when a relationship ended. However he is now in a new relationship which is going well. He wants to rid himself of the low mood once and for all. He does not want to consider taking medication. He has always been very physically active because he knows that exercise helps him.

Perhaps this is a dysthymic disorder!

Anyway I really wanted to do the best I could for this chap and am asking for advice about which of the scripts in your opinion would be most likely to benefit him to get us started.



I replied:  This guy definitely has depression. All the classic symptoms are there.

What he needs is a lifestyle change, more exercise, better diet and training in how to deal with his negative thought processes. However, he either does these already or has ruled them out so your options are limited.

The leaves the only thing you can do for him is to teach him self-hypnosis. During that teaching you can plant suggestions as to how he should deal with his negative thinking patterns.

Explain the benefits of self-hypnosis - quieting the inner voice, instilling calm into his mind, resetting his feelings etc. Then show him how to put himself into trance. Teach him a fixed routine, e.g. muscle relaxation, breathing, stairs etc.

Placebo effect of hypnosis

The idea is to make his first experience of hypnosis real and immediate. By doing that you will be able to exploit the placebo effect of hypnosis. Hypnosis is a strange experience for most people. It is so strange, so unknown, so powerful that it can fix anything, For example, many smokers stop because hypnosis felt so weird that it must have done something to them. The hypnotist just suggests that they right: now they can stop smoking. So, now that they believe they can stop, they do stop.

Take him through all the standard exercises of eye catalepsy, finger lifts, dissociation and so on. Use the whole range of hypnotic convincers. Then get him to open his eyes while in trance and leave all the rest of his body frozen. This will convince him of the power of the mind and he will follow whatever you say.

Put in some suggestions about challenging his thinking, getting out and about, recognizing his triggers, etc. Then bring him out of trance. Tell him to go back into the state all by himself. Coach him some more if necessary.

Then leave it up to him. Tell him you have provided the tools. He now knows how to hypnotize himself so he can control his anxiety. It is up to him to apply them and he can come back to see you anytime he feels he should.

That should improve the client's outlook, and do a lot of good therapeutically.


What would you recommend to help this type of client?

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learn in your sleep

Can you learn in your sleep?

It is too easy to convince yourself that a quiet client is a good client. But when the client is lying there with his eyes closed and you are talking away at him, how do you know that your client hasn't just gone to sleep? And does it matter? Can you learn in your sleep?

Can you learn in your sleep?

Many hypnotists have been persuaded that even if the client is asleep, their unconscious mind is still awake, and is still taking in whatever is being said. This is based on analogies with the 'cocktail party effect'. This says that even if you are talking to someone at a party, and focusing on what is being said, if your name is mentioned at another table, you will instantly recognize this. The belief is that your unconscious mind is monitoring your environment all the time and never shuts down.

I am convinced that this is nonsense. If it was true, then all we would have to do is to record textbooks and play them to students while they were sleeping and we could close all the universities tomorrow. The fact is that there is no evidence whatsoever that people can learn while they are asleep. It has been tested hundreds of times and the outcome is always nil. You cannot learn while you are sleeping.

Therefore trying to do therapy while the client is asleep is also a waste of time. If your client is sleeping then you are just talking to yourself. No one else is listening.

The difference between trance and sleeping

So how do you tell the difference between a sleeping client and a hypnotized client?

This is all part of the philosophy of constantly interacting with your client in hypnosis. Hypnotherapy is not a one way process, the client has to be actively engaged all during the session. If you are constantly engaging with your client, he won't go to sleep.

The easiest way to test whether the client is still listening to you is to ask for a response. At the end of each section I say to the client 'Now take a deep breath, and allow your mind to clear'. If you get a deep breath, then your client is still responding, if not they are either deep in trance, or asleep.

If I don't get a response I repeat the instruction, a little more firmly 'Now I want you to take a deep breath, take a deep breath now and let it out... Ahhhh'. This usually produces a definite deep breath and I know I can carry on.

If it doesn't, then I have to wake the client. The first thing I try is to get them to move. 'I want you now to move into a more comfortable position, move your body so you are more comfortable'. I will repeat this possibly several times more forcefully and louder until the client moves and I know I am getting through.

If the request to move doesn't work then I say in a loud voice... 'I am going to count from Five up to One, when you get to one your eyes will open'. Even in deep somnambulism this will rouse the client. If the client is very tired then I might have to repeat it, almost shouting until the client responds. I never, never touch or shake the client.

Ensure trance by re-induction

When the client opens his eyes, I act as if this is a normal part of the session. I say something like 'That's very good. You are a very good subject. Now I want you to close your eyes again, and then try to open them. As you try to open them you will find it gets harder and harder to open those eyes. Try it now and you might be able to open them a bit, but the harder you try the harder they will want to stay closed, until you just can't open them at all'.

That will put them right back into trance and they are ready to continue. You might have to repeat parts of what you covered already, but that's OK. Repetition leads to a more definite effect anyway, and the client won't know the difference.

Then as you progress through the session keep testing with deep breath instructions, or asking the client to describe what he is experiencing and you will be sure that his unconscious mind really is listening.

What do you think?

What do you say after hypnosis? Have you developed something to say that makes a difference? Or is it quite unnecessary?

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Follow up after hypnosis

Follow up after hypnosis session

What to say after coming out of trance

Follow up after hypnosis is important. When the client is brought back out of trance it is usual to ask something like 'How was that?' or 'How do you feel?'. Neither is particularly helpful. What is better is to use the fact that the client is still partly in trance. Saying something like 'I think your mind knows you are a non-smoker now' is much more useful.

Igor Ledichowski has a useful tag line. He recommends saying to the client as soon as they open their eyes 'You were great!'. This immediately banishes any lingering doubts in the client that they might not have been responding well.

Andrew Newton suggests hustling the client out of the door as quickly as possible, but I think that is disrespectful. I like to send the client on their way in a good frame of mind. Very often the client needs to talk about what they have just been through and to ask questions about the therapy or how they are feeling. Spending a few minutes on that is worthwhile.

One thing that Newton recommends is that as the client leaves, to say 'Let me know how well you are getting on'. This uses the supposition that they will be doing well.

Follow up after hypnosis

But the session isn't really ended when the client departs. What distinguishes the average hypnotherapist from the outstanding hypnotherapist is follow up. You will never get any better unless you can measure how well what you are doing actually works.

Follow up simply consists of an email or phone to the client a week or ten days later to see how they are getting on. It should be a genuine enquiry showing concern for the client's wellbeing. Most therapists don't do this. I think it is because they are afraid they might learn that it didn't work. But without a fearless attitude to feedback it is very difficult to improve your work

What do you think?

What do you say after hypnosis? Have you developed something to say that makes a difference? Or is it quite unnecessary?

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Welcome to the Holidays Helpline Message


"Hello, and welcome to the mental health helpline. For service over the holiday break please follow the instructions:

"If you are dyslexic, press 9696969696969.

"If you are an obsessive-compulsive, press 1,2,3  repeatedly.

"If you are co-dependent, please ask someone to press 2 for you.

"If you have multiple personalities, press 3, 4, 5 and 6.

"If you have post-traumatic stress disorder, be careful not to press 5, or any numbers near it.

"If you are suffering from procrastination, press 1 or 5 or maybe 6 would be better. Depends."

"If you are delusional, press 666 and your call will be transferred to the mother ship.

"If you have amnesia press 8 and state your name, address, phone number, date of birth, your file number, and who you spoke to the time before last.

"If you have short-term memory loss, press 9. If you have short-term memory loss, press 9. If you have short-term memory loss, press 9. If you have short-term memory loss, press 9.

"If you are schizophrenic, listen carefully to the voice and you will know which number to press.

"If you are paranoid, it doesn’t matter what number you press, we already know who you are and what you want. You know this call is being traced, don’t you?

"If you have depression, there’s no point in pressing any of them, no one will want to listen to you, so you might as well hang up.

"If you are suicidal, please leave a message and we will get back to you after the holidays."

"If you have low self-esteem, please hang up now. Our operators have better things to do."

Happy Holidays!

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client sexual attraction

Client Therapist Sexual Attraction

Client sexual attraction 

Hypnotherapy is a very intimate profession. Two people spend many hours talking about deeply personal things in a secluded, private location. It is inevitable that issues of client sexual attraction will arise. This is especially the case when the hypnotist is in control and is working with the other person's subconscious mind.

Issues of sexual attraction between clients and hypnotists have been around for as long as hypnosis has been around. Before Freud developed psychoanalysis, he was a hypnotist. One day the maid unexpectedly entered his office when he was hypnotizing a young female patient. It was reported that the patient had her breasts exposed. Freud claimed that she had come on to him while in trance. The exact circumstances will never be known, but he never used hypnosis again after that.

Research on client sexual attraction

There have been a few surveys looking at the issue of sexual attraction client interaction. It appears that about 4% of therapists of various sorts have admitted to having sexual contact with current or previous clients. Around a fifth of therapists reported that some of their clients had admitted to a sexual relationship with other therapists. About 40% of therapists said they had heard of other therapists getting into a sexual relationship with one or more clients.

Some research tried to predict the risk factors. Gay therapists were more likely to have sexual contact with their clients. Therapists who themselves had an affair with their supervisor in training were more likely. Therapists who spend the most time in a training or mentoring relationship were also more likely to stray with their own clients. However, the numbers surveyed were small, and you should not give too much reliance to these indicators. 

How to deal with client sexual attraction

Some of the therapists in the survey felt that client sexual attraction was not something to avoid. They took the view that both parties were adults and both parties got something out of it. More than one well-known hypnotherapist has said that it is good for the client. According to him, a sexual relationship was exactly what they needed.

However most therapists said that they avoided client sexual contact for ethical reasons. They believed that the therapist client relationship is always one of power. Therefore it is never acceptable for the therapist to take sexual advantage, no matter how willing the other party might be.

Most therapists also thought that if such a relationship by another therapist was to come to their notice, then they were duty-bound to report it to their professional Association.

The same considerations apply in the supervisor-student relationships.

What do you do about sexually attractive clients?

I personally have had many clients who I would happily have had a relationship with, if I wasn't their therapist. I have actually had two clients who hinted heavily that they were very interested in pursuing something outside the office. However, I believe that such a relationship is always inappropriate. So I just ignore these overtures. 

I have also heard of two local hypnotists who have pursued relationships with current clients. And I have had quite a few clients tell me that they came to me after refusing to go back to a different therapist who they described as "creepy".

What has your experience been?

Have you heard of sexual relationships in your area? What would you do if a client suggested a different type or relationship. 

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Who do you blame when things go wrong?

Why blame yourself?

Most people blame themselves for everything that goes wrong. It is a very human tendency. Your client can describe in great detail everything they do wrong. But they seldom consider whether their failings are actually their fault. Maybe the problem belongs to someone else? 

I sometimes wonder if there any need to diagnose the client at all. With some clients you can almost predict what their problem is from examining their family.  I had a client today who told me about her alcoholic mother, a father who was away at sea for one month on and one month off. And a brother with a temper problem and alcoholic binges. Add to that a sister with a permanent negative attitude to everything, and a grandmother who was strict religious.

People tend to personalize their failings

You could predict that she would be withdrawn, lonely, depressive. And of course she was. The problem she brought was lack of motivation and a life long history of weight problems. She told me that she never seems to be able to keep the weight off. She sabotages herself constantly, has relationship issues, her life is a mess. And it's all her fault. 

The strange thing is, that even with that cast of characters in her background, she still blames herself. She blames her own personal weakness for her condition. I have endless sympathy for people brought up in dysfunctional families ( I am one myself). But I never understand how people invariably see the problem as a personal one, and not a family one. They should consider whether their problems might be from something done to them, not something they have done?

Maybe therapists should get family health training?

I wonder if the curriculum of hypnotherapy training shouldn't include sections on recognizing the origins of disorders. Not just how to treat the symptoms.  Lessons in how to correlate clinical problems with family situations. That would be a major aid to accurate diagnosis and targeted treatment, in my opinion.

What do you think?

I wonder what examples other people can remember? Does having a dysfunctional family always mean you will be affected psychologically? Should we ask about family history first?

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can be hypnotized

How do you know if your client can be hypnotized?

How do you know if your client can be hypnotized?

Previous experience

There are questions that you can ask to establish whether or not your client can be hypnotized or not.

The first question to ask is "Have you ever been hypnotized?". I find that quite a high proportion of people who come to me for hypnosis have already had some experience of hypnosis. Some will have been hypnotized at a stage show. Others may have consulted a hypnotherapist at some point in the past.

It is always useful to ask "and how did that go?". Very often my client will say "I don't think I was hypnotized". This opens up the way to a discussion about what the client expects from hypnosis, and why it didn't work at the time.

If the client has been successfully hypnotized in the past it is often useful to ask "What induction method did the other hypnotist use?".  The answers are always interesting, and may give you some pointers as to which method to use.

Establish their expectations about if they can be hypnotized

You can also ask "do you think you'll be easy to hypnotize?". A "Yes" answer suggests that you should go straight on with your simplest induction. A "No" answer should lead to a discussion of why the client feels that way. It will very often bring out one or more false beliefs about hypnosis. Clearing these away will make your induction much easier. Then you can ask questions about how close they are to their subconscious anyway.

Establish how open they are to their own subconscious

If the client has never been hypnotized, then there are several ways to establish how susceptible they will be.

  1. Are you the kind of person who daydreams?
  2. Have you sometimes driven home, and realize you can't remember anything about the journey?
  3. Do you find that you can lose yourself in a book, or a computer game, or a movie, and forget about time and everything else?
  4. Do you often find yourself thinking in pictures instead of in words?
  5. When someone is talking to you, or you're watching TV, do you sometimes "zone out" and you can't remember what they said?
  6. Do certain events trigger vivid memories for you? So strong you feel like you're there?

A "yes" answer to most of these will indicate that you have a client who is highly susceptible.

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