What happens in a first hypnotherapy session?
Updated: Dec 26, 2019
What happens when you go to a hypnotherapy session for the first time? You may be curious about that!
Hypnotists have very different styles, so what I am writing applies mostly to my own practice of transformational hypnotherapy but there should be some general truths too for those of you who might be wondering just what happens - will I be made to do the funky chicken?
Talking about the issue
It may surprise you, but the first thing you are likely to do is not hypnosis. It is to talk about the issue that prompted you to seek hypnosis in the first place. Part of that is for you to be able to explain what you want to explain and part of it is for the hypnotherapist to begin to get an understanding for how you are ‘doing’ your problem.
‘Doing’ here does not mean you are deliberately and wilfully having a problem, but rather it is unpicking the way your mind and body are experiencing and coding the problem feeling, thinking and behaviour. For example, if anxiety is the issue, when do you become anxious, what are the triggers, the automatic thoughts and feelings, the avoidance behaviours? All of this will become part of the eventual treatment plan.
Talking about hypnosis
People have all sorts of questions and misunderstandings about hypnosis…
Will you make me dance like a chicken? Yes, but only if you want to and that costs extra…
Can you make me tell you my PIN number? Well, for me, I’m 60 years old. If I could do that I would probably be on a beach sipping a drink with an umbrella by now…
And there are more serious questions embedded in there about control.
Is hypnosis mind control? It’s a good question and the usual answer is to say, no, it’s not. But that isn’t quite true even if it makes people feel safer.
Hypnosis is about mind control and that control is a collaborative venture. It is not a case of the all powerful hypnotist zapping you into unconscious compliance. Hypnotherapy today is about working together to rewire the connections in your mind. Hypnotherapy today is the artful appliance of neuroscience, and it is a joint venture between you and the hypnotist working together to achieve YOUR goals.
Can I be hypnotised? Hypnotisability seems to occur on a normal bell curve. This means that a very few people are not very hypnotisable, a very few people are superstars, and most people are hypnotisable to a good extent.
Hypnosis is also something we do, rather than something we are subjected to. Therefore, like any activity it is a skill that we can all improve on.
Of course you have gone for hypnosis, so after the talking you should actually experience hypnosis! This is partly to show you that you can engage in hypnosis and partly to show the hypnotherapist what kind of approach suits you best.
You may be guided through some of the activities more familiar to stage hypnotists! You may be led through having your palms feel as if they are magnetically moving together, that your hands are stuck together, one hand may feel heavy and sink down whilst the other gets lighter and floats up. All of these are employed in order to show you that you can respond to the hypnotist’s suggestions automatically and experience the results in what is referred to as the ‘classic suggestion effect’ which is to say that the experience feels involuntary and you were not involved in the sense that you ’made’ your hands move together. It just happened!
You may also be guided through a deep relaxation. This is a lovely experience but do not confuse it with hypnosis. Relaxation is not hypnosis, relaxation can be a product of hypnotic suggestion.
Setting goals and evidence for success
Once you have discovered that you can indeed experience hypnosis through the various hypnotic exercises, perhaps even having your hand stuck to your head (!) then it is time to get clear on what you want a successful outcome to be. Someone who is anxious about making phone calls, as an example, needs to decide how they want to feel about the same activity, perhaps, relaxed and in control. They also need to have a sense of how they would know that they were relaxed and in control - it may be time for a mini hypnosis session to get in touch with those feelings.
When you have a clear goal for treatment and a clear evidence procedure established you are ready to continue with the main hypnotic work.
So, overall, in a first session, you will have experienced the hypnotherapist taking a certain amount of relevant history and they will probably have had you fill in an intake form to gather more information before you get to the first session. You will have also experienced hypnosis and should be in no doubt that you can respond positively to hypnotic suggestion. You will have also established what your treatment goals are and an evidence procedure to show you whether or not you have achieved your goals.
All very cool, and you are really ready for the main treatment session. Different hypnotherapists work in their own ways. I work across three sessions as a rule. My first session will include all of the above and then a longer hypnosis session that will send you on your way with as much of the negative mental ‘junk’ we all accumulate throughout life released and let go of, and some very positive and proactive resource states and attitudes strengthened within you.
You will also probably be taught to do self hypnosis so you can practise and become even more responsive before the main change work session. For my clients, that would usually be the next week and finally a review and ‘tweaking’ session to finish off and check that you have got what you came for (and more).
So hopefully you have an idea of what happens in a first hypnotherapy session, remembering that people work in different ways. I have one colleague who normally does a two hour single session, and that is a pattern that works for him and his clients whereas others work across four to six sessions. In general though the same process will be followed through.
Do feel free to ask any questions in the comments section or get in touch with me through my website richardingatehypnotherapy.com