Clinical hypnotherapy techniques


What is clinical Hypnotherapy?

How does Clinical Hypnotherapy work?

Scientists may not understood exactly how hypnotherapy works, but  a century of scientific research has proved that it does work. There are many theories that try to explain how hypnotherapy gets the powerful effects it does.

Core Belief Theory

This theory states that there are essential core beliefs about the self. These are beliefs about Identity, Behavior and Capability. There is also an associated area of beliefs, usually not consciously examined, about how to survive in the world. These can be expressed as Rules. Accepting this theory gives a useful and effective target for hypnotherapy techniques.

Behavior Cycle Theory

The behavior cycle theory of clinical hypnotherapy states that much unconscious behavior arises from the inappropriate use of generalized solutions in specific situations. The essence of the theory is that people over-generalize from experience and distort current information to make current situations appear to be the same as past situations. Accepting this theory offers an elegant and consistent way to deal with many recurring problems and phobias.

Hypnotize Yourself Theory

This theory of clinical hypnotherapy states that many of the problems people have are the result of constantly thinking of negative outcomes. The constant repetition of negative words and images has the effect of hypnotising their own mind. Hypnotizing yourself maintains and worsens the Behaviour Cycle. Accepting this theory leads to therapies based on teaching people how to stop their negative thoughts and how to replace them with helpful positive thoughts. The result is often rapid and permanent improvement in many aspects of the client's life.

Anchoring Theory

Anchoring theory states that behaviour that is automatic and seems to be outside the client's control is the result of conditioned responses. The human mind is adept at learning to generalise from repeated experiences and once a satisfactory response has developed to deal with a class of events, then the mind makes these responses automatic and removes them from conscious awareness. The client is then forced to use an inappropriate behaviour in response to events which are overgeneralised. Accepting this theory leads to a set of powerful techniques for removing anchors and conditioned behaviour.

Resource Atrophy Theory

This theory states that the human mind has a learning mechanism that takes input from the world and creates memories of those inputs and associated behaviours. However, under certain conditions the mind can lose contact with its own memories and thus appears to have lost the resources needed to deal with particular situations. Accepting this theory leads to a therapy which seeks to identify and consolidate similar resources and thus re-connect the mind with appropriate memories of how to deal with its problems.


Clinical hypnotherapy techniques

There are three main ways of effecting change in hypnotherapy: Direct Suggestion, Indirect Suggestion and Metaphor methods.

Direct Suggestion

Direct suggestion hypnotherapy is the simplest and most direct way of affecting the subconscious mind. Direct suggestion has the advantage of being easy to formulate, easy to understand and easy to deliver. It has the disadvantage of being so plain and direct that the subconscious mind may reject the suggestion if it conflicts with core beliefs. The structure and wording of direct suggestions needs considerable skill to achieve maximum effect.

Indirect Suggestion

Indirect suggestion hypnotherapy was developed to avoid the disadvantages of direct suggestion. Indirect suggestions are elegant and subtle and slide around the subconscious mind's resistance to direct suggestion. The disadvantages of indirect suggestion are that they are difficult to construct on the fly, and they can sometimes be so indirect that the subconscious mind either does not react at all, or takes the wrong meaning from them. There is a long standing debate as to whether direct or indirect suggestions are best. Research suggests that both are equally effective when done well.

Metaphor Methods

Metaphors are a form of indirect suggestion when they are delivered as stories that invite the client to identify with the events in the story. Metaphors can also lead the client through a specially prepared situation using action metaphors. The most sophisticated use of metaphor uses the client's own metaphor or reality and works with the client interactively to develop their metaphoric representations and find resources that will allow them to remove whatever is blocking their development.

Cognitive Methods

Cognitive Modelling is a type of metaphor modelling. It is widely used and is the basis of much of the therapy used in NLP and in CBT. Cognitive modelling consists of getting the client to visualize their problem as a particular situation, and then guiding them to mentally alter that visualization.


Regression is a standard way of treating incident based fears. In trance the client is taken back to the critical incident in childhood. The client is then guided gently forward through the incident and asked to look objectively at what is going on, to realise that the affair was in reality harmless, that the person in charge should have done more to protect that child. The purpose of this is to create a different view of the incident, seeing it from an adult perspective, instead of from the child's perspective.

Very often reasssessing the incident is enough to destroy the fear. The regression sometimes consists of replaying the incident, but this time with the client's adult mind guiding the child through to a successful conclusion. Instead of being humiliated, the child triumphs. These impressions replace the old feelings of fear and dread. The result is that the next time the client thinks about their problem issue, feelings of triumph and control come to mind, not fears. Regression is very effective.


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