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Hypnotherapy > A new understanding look from the inside out

Hypnotherapy > A new understanding look from the inside out

This article is based on Roy Hunters notes for his keynote address at the AHA World Hypnosis Conference in Sydney in September, 2009 titled ‘The Four Cornerstones of Successful Hypnotherapy’.

He also refers to them as ‘The Four Hypnotherapy Objectives’ and advocates that accomplishing all four of these objectives maximizes the probability of long term client success. During the 1800’s, the pioneers of hypnosis used primarily suggestion alone to get results. Although most advances in the use of hypnosis took place in Europe and the British Isles during the 19th Century, before the dawn of the 20th Century it became apparent that suggestion alone was not enough to provide permanent benefits.

Unfortunately for the hypnosis profession, one of the reasons Freud discarded hypnosis was because he grew tired of the monotonous sleep suggestions (Zanuso, 1986). This had a negative impact for decades on the use of hypnosis as a modality for helping people resolve problems.

The 20th Century saw a gradual revival of interest in hypnosis after its successful use in helping World War I veterans deal with battle fatigue. By the latter half of the century, many thousands of practitioners started using hypnosis with clients.

Along with this increased interest came thousands of hypnosis scripts for various goals and problems, often promising results. Many scripts incorporated guided imagery and/or Erickson Ian metaphors, making them attractive to numerous hypnosis professionals.


 Why are scripts so popular?

Hypnotic suggestion and imagery (and scripts) have proven their ability to help some of the people some of the time, as evidenced by many testimonials. Upon examining numerous hypnosis scripts, it easily becomes apparent that some clients would fail to have success.

Scripts may fail to help a client because of inadequate or inappropriate wording. Even in 1947 experts understood the importance of suggestion structure, as evidenced in Hypnotism Today (LeCron & Bordeaux). The authors devoted an entire chapter to the Principles of Suggestion.

For example, “You will not lose your temper” is not as effective as suggesting that someone be cheerful and happy (LeCron & Bordeaux, 1947).

Also, subconscious resistance often exists that may inhibit total acceptance of any or all of the positive suggestions for change.

Some hypnosis professionals refer to subconscious resistance as “blocks.” Some clients may exhibit this resistance immediately, such as a smoker lighting up after a session before even driving out of the parking lot. Others may demonstrate temporary success until the subconscious blocks gradually erode the benefits of the positive suggestions and imagery and the client eventually backslides. When stronger subconscious resistance inhibits the response to suggestions and imagery, the client needs other hypnotic techniques.

When direct suggestion and imagery are not enough to provide the client with long term change, it becomes necessary to achieve all four hypnotherapy objectives.

These four objectives form the foundation of client centred hypnosis.

 Objective # 1. Suggestion and imagery:

This objective is listed first because suggestion and imagery are enough to help some of the people some of the time.

There are literally thousands of scripts available for any hypnosis professional who wishes to start with suggestion and imagery. Even when the therapist thinks that a client will likely require regression or parts therapy, Roy devotes the first session to suggestion and imagery. The two primary benefits of creating an enjoyable firstsession are -

1. It helps to increase the desire to change.

2. It leaves a good first impression of hypnosis, reducing the risk of a no-show for the next session.

However, many clients claim total success after just one or two sessions with hypnotic scripts. Why is this sufficient for some people? In the words of the late Charles Tebbetts, problems that are not rooted with strong emotion may be removed by direct or indirect suggestions as long as there is a strong motivating desire to change (Tebbetts, 1985). This may even be more true when suggestions are coupled with guided imagery for success. However, without a strong motivating desire to change, either the conscious or the subconscious may easily block some or most of the suggestions.

(This is further evidence that the person in hypnosis is not under the control of the hypnotist!) In other words, hypnotic suggestion helps a client succeed as long as there is a strong motivating desire to change, and minimal subconscious resistance exists. Charles Tebbetts referred to suggestion and imagery as “band aid therapy” because the results are only temporary for most people if the core cause of the problem remains buried in the subconscious.

Objective # 2. Discover the cause:

If subconscious resistance exists, there is a reason - and a variety of techniques may be used to enable the subconscious to reveal the cause (or causes) of a problem.

“Discover” does NOT mean diagnose.

Preconceived opinions about the cause could have consequences if the hypnotherapist takes the client down the wrong path. The result could be false memories, or worse (Durbin, 2001). Even if you are trained and licensed to diagnose, what happens if your opinion regarding the core cause of a client’s problem is incorrect?

In Roy Hunter’s opinion, diversified client centred hypnosis not only includes fitting the technique to the client (rather than vice versa); it also is based on the concept that the client’s subconscious can reveal the core cause(s) of the problem when we employ proper hypnotic techniques.



 It is ALSO important to ask the client to set aside his or her preconceived opinion regarding the cause, and allow the subconscious to reveal the core cause. Gordon Emmerson states in Ego StateTherapy (Emmerson, 2003) that both the client’s and the therapist’s speculations regarding the cause are often inaccurate.


Regression therapy is a very popular method of discovering subconscious causes of problems. However, it is extremely important to set aside any preconceived opinions about the cause, in order to reduce the risk of false memories   (Churchill, 2002; Yapko, 1995).


There are numerous regression techniques, although two commonly used ones are:

Affect Bridge (use emotions regarding a problem to guide client back to the first time he/she felt those same emotions), and Age Regression (count back by age, asking client to stop you when you get to a very important age). The Art of Hypnotherapy (Hunter 2007) has a very long chapter on regression therapy.

If a client fails to respond to either of these two regression techniques, other techniques can be used. Parts therapy can be very effective in helping to discover the causes of inner conflicts. Charles Tebbetts pioneered parts therapy over a number of years, based on the work of Paul Federn.


Ego state therapy is equally effective, and can also help the subconscious to reveal the causes of problems (Emmerson, 2003).

It was pioneered by Dr. Helen Watkins and Dr. John Watkins over a number of years, and was also based on the work of Paul Federn.


When the therapist is uncertain as to whether to use parts therapy or regression therapy, ideomotor response questions often provide important clues to help determine the most appropriate technique.

The client’s subconscious mind chooses finger responses for “yes”, “no” and a third response for “I don’t know” or “I’m not

ready to disclose”.


Questions asked are whether the cause is related to:

• Imprint from an authority figure

• Present unresolved issue

• Something else to gain, or some other

benefit (secondary gain)

• Identification or mentor (desire to be

like someone else)

• Inner conflict

• Past painful event

• Punishing self or someone else

Ask ALL the chosen yes/no questions before exploring any “yes” responses. Speak in a monotone in order to avoid inappropriate

leading. The technique chosen is based on which questions receive a “yes” response. (If there are no “yes” responses, then “I don’t

know” or “I’m not ready to disclose” is considered a “yes”.


Some responses require additional information, such as knowing what

authority figure gave the imprint…or who the client identifies with, etc. This leads to other discovering techniques.

 Open ended questions often result in the client verbalizing more information, which is often helpful in deciding which technique to

use for accomplishing release and relearning after asking the finger response questions.


Some professionals use NLP techniques; but they might not be as effective with analytical resisters unless deep hypnosis is

also employed. Nonetheless, voice dialogue (often considered an NLP

technique) is often very effective in discovering the causes of inner conflicts (Stone & Stone, 1989).


We can also use other variations of parts therapy and ego state therapy to discover cause of problem, such as sub personalities

(Rowan, 1993); but Roy Hunter believes

that these techniques may be more effective when combined with hypnosis.

In some instances, imagery could also be used to have a client imagine something related to the cause of a problem.

However, since a client can perjure themselves, even in a deep state of hypnosis, it is preferable to use ideomotor response questions BEFORE asking open ended questions regarding any YES



Objective # 3. Release:

The relationship of the symptom to the cause is established emotionally as well as intellectually, and then one or more

hypnotherapy techniques can be used to facilitate forgiveness and/or

understanding and subconscious release  the cause of a problem (Tebbetts, 1985).


 Note that the release must be accomplished at a subconscious level, and not at the conscious level alone. While forgiving does not mean condoning, some clients may find the words "let it go" or "release it" to be more comfortable than "forgive" -but it is usually very important that they forgive themselves.


Charles Tebbetts taught an effective way to facilitate regression therapy. After asking a client to re-experience an event in

their imagination, he would take the client to a safe, peaceful place after the initial abreactions. From the safe place, he asked the client to go BACK with all the present adult understanding to be the child WITH  an adult mind, and provide a new perception of the event. Then he incorporated Gestalt, asking the client to imagine the perpetrator was sitting in front of the client. He started with the

client speaking first, then afterwards taking on the role of the perpetrator.


Randal Churchill, an authority on regression, also includes Gestalt role play during regression therapy (Churchill, 2002), as does Gil Boyne (Boyne, 1989), who originally taught Churchill in 1968.

The Gestalt leads to understanding, which is often a prerequisite to release for clients experiencing hypnotic regression; so the

first goal of Tebbetts during the Gestalt was to confirm that the client now understands where the other person was coming from. After asking the client to forgive without condoning (or release) the

perpetrator,it is also important that the client forgives himself or herself.

To confirm the release, the client returns to the safe place, and is asked: “Please answer with the appropriate finger response: Has that cause been successfully released?” If “yes”, move on to the next

phase of regression otherwise there is more regression work to do. Sometimes a client will verbally say “yes” but the NO finger moves, in which case the ideomotor response is believed.

During the process of parts therapy or ego state therapy, ego parts (or ego states) that are in conflict are guided through a mediation process in order to resolve the inner conflicts. Once the parts (or states) in

conflict come to terms of agreement, the former inner conflicts are released.

Both of these techniques are combined with hypnosis.

After asking ideomotor response questions to discover the cause, the

therapist may help release the causes of problems simply by asking the client to verbalise release in his or her peaceful place (after the core cause has been discovered).

NLP can occasionally be used to facilitate release however, unless the core cause is discovered, the subconscious can buy back

the problem. While the subconscious can sometimes discover the cause spontaneously, why leave it to chance?

The same holds true for EFT. A client can tap both the hand and face and say numerous affirmations; but if the cause of the problem remains buried in thesubconscious, any successful results might

be only temporary.

Regarding imagery, object projection canbe quite effective for some clients after the core cause has been discovered. Using object projection as a standalone technique may have only temporary

results if the core cause remains buried in the subconscious. However, object projection can be a very effective technique for pain management.

Because some clients can be their own worst critics, also ask clients to forgive themselves after releasing (or forgiving) others. If the client indulges in prolonged guilt and self-criticism, the RELEASE will not be complete. Once a client understands WHY he/she was unable to overcome an undesired habit (or achieve a goal), and has forgiven or released any perceived perpetrators, the RELEASE is completed when self-forgiveness occurs. If the client is unable or unwilling to forgive

himself or herself, a referral to other professional help might be necessary.


Objective # 4. Subconscious relearning

(or reprogramming):

Numerous client-centred techniques can also be used to facilitate adult understanding at a subconscious level, where it gets results. Once the subconscious mind believes that a problem is resolved, unencumbered by cause(s) previously discovered and released, the client is free to become self-empowered and achieve the desired goal.

After confirming release, the therapist may ask: “As a result of what was discovered and released, how will you best benefit in the here and now?”

The client’s response is paraphrased into positive suggestions.

The first hypnotherapy objective helps enhance the relearning process, with more suggestion and imagery. If the original goal was to overcome an undesired habit (such as smoking or overeating), we can add programmed imagery of the clients benefits for achieving the desired goal.

Regardless of the techniques used to discover and release the cause(s) of a client’s problem, suggestion and imagery help to enhance and reinforce subconscious relearning (or reprogramming).


Written By Lisa Webber

Posted by Nanaimo Hypnotherapy Center