There are a series of factors that intertwine in determining the effectiveness of hypnotherapy. The interaction of these factors can be analyzed through communication patterns, conversational inductions and hypnotic strategies such as age progression. The paper shall relate my experiences with the latter three parameters during practice sessions and through a hypnosis tape.
Conversational inductions practiced on two people
It should be noted that there are different structures and styles that can be utilized in hypnosis. However, the dominant approach was guided by Ericksonian Hypnotherapy. Another terminology for this approach is permissive hypnosis. In other words, the hypnotist does not use a scripted series of words to guide his subject as is the case with the authoritarian style. Instead, the administrator immediately analyzes his subjects and comes up with the most effective way of causing a trance state.
One way in which the conversational induction demonstrated the use of this particular approach was through establishment of rapport at the beginning of the therapeutic process. In the authoritarian approach, one is merely expected to lead the client while in the former method; the administrator’s role is more directory in nature.
A number of ethical considerations must be incorporated during hypnosis and especially in the latter case where the subject went into the “deep trance state”. The client was informed about these issues prior to hypnosis as he was afraid of loosing control to the therapist or being coerced into doing things that were against his will. The client placed a lot of trust in the therapist’s hands and this implies that I had to behave professionally to ascertain that only the desired outcomes were reached. Besides this, one of the two clients feared that something dangerous may emanate from the trance state.
She stated the example of the therapist using a trigger word to spread a certain message and that she could get into a ‘sleep’ state when cooking or driving upon hearing that word. It was therefore my ethical imperative as a hypnotist to ensure that I eliminated the occurrence of such negative outcomes by following a rigorous hypnotic scheme. (Wells, 2000)
Any good hypnotist must also realize that not all personality types can lead him/her to the desired responses. As part of the conversational induction, it was my duty to stay away from certain paths that would accelerate the condition being treated. It should also be noted that not all conversations will work on all subjects. Sometimes, one may anticipate a particular occurrence only to find that the outcome has not been achieved. During the practice session, we were trying to get rid of a certain behavioral aspect i.e. an addiction. Since it would be unethical to promise the client an immediate result, I was quick to inform him that I could not deliver it.
Before trying hypnosis, it was imperative for me to obtain informed consent from the subject because the hypnosis may reveal some deep and painful issues that can cause tremendous risks. Aside from that, I ensured that the entire session was done confidentially. (Poling, 1999)
The latter subject wanted to get rid of smoking and I placed the subject in a relaxed atmosphere where i asked him to lie on a couch in a manner that was comfortable to him. I asked the subject to think of all the good things that could emanate out of leaving this habit of smoking. He was supposed to state all the happiness and ease with which he could quite smoking. The individual was then asked to take a mental picture of all these wonderful things that can occur in a smoke free state and then associate them to a certain object. This exercise was then repeated while holding onto that object and I instructed the subject that the same ought to be done whenever the urge to smoke arises.
Experiences from an age progression strategy
After use of the age progression strategy, it was found that the unconscious is a huge resource on what motivates people’s behavior. During the hypnosis session, age progression was also able to reveal the kinds of feelings that the client really felt. Additionally, some insight was drawn on the interactions and behaviors that the subject had experienced in his life. Through this strategy, I was able to get some ideas about possible future issues that could emanate in the client’s life since a relatively accurate picture of what was going on in the present and the past had been formed. It should be noted that predicting future outcomes is a relatively easy task once one fully understand what a client is going through and this can even be done by a non hypnotist as long as the latter knows a client’s behavior. (Stern, 1979)
In the practice session, hypnosis was used as a means of carrying out therapy and not as a check for how accurate the administrator was going to be. Prior to the session, it was my purpose to align the subject’s intended outcomes with his behavior. In this regard, it was necessary to think about expectancy and its role in hypnosis. Through this session, I found that age progression works by making a leap in time in that the client was able to jump into another sphere of life where he had already achieved what he had expected. This made the session seem real in the mind of the client because his ambitions did not seem that alienated from his conscious after application of the strategy.
It should be noted that the purpose of the practice session was to deal with a certain flashback that the client had encountered. Here, I found that there were a lot of conflicts between the unconscious and the conscious. In this regard, the latter came in the way of the former and impeded achievement of hypnotic outcomes within planned time schedules. Aside from that, it was also found that the subject had unconsciously placed himself far from the traumatic issue. (Yapko, 2006)
It was also found that the there were certain assumptions that the subject had made in his mind and these had to be challenged during hypnosis. The purpose ion doing this was to merge the needs of the physical with those of the unconscious. The intended outcomes of the session will be assessed after some months because the subject will be asked whether that traumatic event was still disturbing him through the form of flashbacks.
Analysis of a hypnosis tape for its communication patterns
One of the most important factors that determine the kind of communication patterns used and their effectiveness is the hypnotic susceptibility of specific subjects. In the event that a certain individual scores highly in a hypnotic susceptibility test such as the Stanford Scale, then it is quite likely that less complicated communication patterns are required. In the tape under analysis, it was found that the most effective communication methods were the ones that could relate to the client’s personality. These were assessed by the subject’s ability to carry out complex motor and cognitive tasks such as Form A’s number eight and twelve which were verbal inhibition and amnesia respectively. (Barber, 2001)
During the hypnosis session under analysis, it was found that communication patterns varied before, during and after the subject had engaged in a trance. It should be noted here that the trance state is instrumental in every hypnotic session because this is usually the point in which administrators can alter behavior or achieve their intended outcomes. In order to achieve the trance state, a psychotherapist or hypnotist must ensure that one alters one’s interpersonal communication so as to induce the subject into a hypnotic state.
In the tape, it was found that there were two particular communication patterns that were necessary in this process and they included relaxing the subject and carrying out a suggestion that led the subject to enact a task synonymous to the hypnotic trance. It should be noted here that a number of hypnotists have chosen to focus on either task specific or relaxation centered hypnosis. (Stern, 1979) In the tape, greater emphasis was given to relaxation techniques.
It can be argued that the most important aspect during the hypnosis session in which communication patterns were instrumental was during the actual trance state. This is largely because through communication, the subject can give the administrator clues on whether true hypnosis has been achieved or not. In fact, a number of practitioners have asserted that verbal reports from subjects are more reliable than any empirical tests that can be carried out on the subject.
In the tape, it was found that when the subject was in a deep hypnotic state, then verbal reports were instrumental in determining what was going on in the mind of that individual. This was very important in creating intended outcomes. At the trance state, the administrator and the subject were found to process language very differently than they would if the subject was in an alert state.
It could be seen that the subject took words at face value rather than dwelling on any of the ideas being conveyed. In other words, the subjects did not seem to mind some of the inconsistencies being portrayed by the hypnotists.
Communication patterns utilized during the trance state were successful only when the administrator realized some important characteristics that were unique to this stage of hypnosis. For instance, it could be seen that the subject’s language skills and hence communication patterns had become child like. In reality, this ties to the fact that most psychological experiences in hypnosis tend to cause subjects to wane off into earlier stages of their development. It has been asserted that the latter phenomenon usually occurs because the said subject is operating outside of his/ her usual cognitive atmosphere.
It is also interesting to note that during the trance state, direct communication between the administrator and the subject are less obvious as seen in the tape. Part of the reason behind the latter observation was that some of the communication cues promoting behavior in the subject no longer held as much importance as internal prompts. Most hypnotists assert that these internal prompts are somehow difficult to observe by any external party thus making it difficult for the hypnotist to use communication patterns to cause certain change in the subject. (Hilgard, 2003)
It should also be noted that the hypnotic tape also utilized a unique style known as confusion technique. There were a few steps that the hypnotist adhered to while carrying this out. First of all, he studied the client and determined some non verbal communication patterns that were synonymous to him – in this case, the pattern chosen was a handshake. Thereafter, the therapist then decided to build a rapport with the client and this was mentioned earlier. However, the latter process entailed pacing the administrator’s patterns with the subject. This aspect was very important in order to ensure that the two groups were synchronized and that the subject did not dissociate from instructions given subsequently. (Barner, 2004)
After a rapport had been established, then some confusion was then introduced. This was achieved by continually disrupting the patterns. In the case of the subject under analysis, the therapist concentrated on induction though handshakes. Here, a number of fluctuations were carried out on the subject’s hands where different sensations were created. This was then followed by movement of the wrist upwards and then staring into the subject’s eyes followed by an abrupt hand release. By doing this, the therapist was trying to cause uncertainty. Subsequently, more confusion was added into the therapeutic process by behaving in a way that was meaningful and thus making the subject even more puzzled.
After immense confusion, it was found that the subject was willing to listen to whatever the hypnotist had to say in order to eliminate that confusion and this was the point at which he was prompted to enter into a trance state (Cytowic, 2003)
The communication patterns sought for analysis revolved around Ericksonian hypnosis and disruptive therapy. The success of these patterns depended upon a hypnotist’s ability to understand the subject’s personality and thus work with issues that can easily be dealt with.
Poling, J. (1999). Ethics in Pastoral Care and Counseling. Nashville: Abingdon press.
Stern, D. (1979). “Hypnotic Induction profiles.” Journal of American Clinical Hypnosis, 3(21), 130.
Cytowic, R. (2003). Reasoning, Consciousness and Emotions. California: Putnam Publishers.
Barber, T. (2001). “Hypnosis and its effects on motivational suggestion.” Clinical and Social Psychology. 3(5), 49.
Hilgard, M. (2003). “Hypnotic analgesia’s reality.” Experimental and Clinical Hypnosis, 41(3), 320.
Wells, W. (2000). The duration and extent of post hypnotic amnesia. Psychology Journal, 3(8), 150.
Barner, T. (2004). Physiology of hypnosis. Psychological Bulletin, 4(16), 390.
Yapko, M. (2006). Trance Work. New York: Routledge.