Hypnotic suggestions form the basis of all that we do as hypnotherapists. Aside from when we use various ‘techniques’ (think NLP, psychotherapy, CBT, etc.) in our sessions, the rest of our ‘therapy work’ is generally suggestion-based. But what makes a good hypnotic suggestion? Do you need to ensure that it is a certain length? Should it be directly or indirectly phrased? Do you need to use sneaky ’embedded’ language? What about turning your suggestions into metaphors? These are all valid questions, and ones that I hear quite frequently.
Delivering effective hypnotic suggestions
The key problem with delivering effective hypnotic suggestions, is that many people try to run before they can walk. Trying to include complex language patterns, ’embedding’ your suggestions conversationally and creating in-depth therapeutic metaphors (just as a few examples) are all great ways of delivering suggestion, but only if you already know how to deliver basic ‘direct suggestions’. If you can’t create simple direct suggestions, you’re probably not going to get very far with the more complex stuff. When you get to a point that you do understand how to effectively create direct suggestions, you will be much more able to effortlessly expand your suggestion-creating skills into more indirect and complex areas, maybe without even realising how good you have become in such a short space of time.
Direct hypnotic suggestions
So, what is a direct suggestion? Well, it is exactly what it says it is; suggesting that someone do something, using direct language. For example; “take a nice deep breath, then exhale and relax…” – you are directly suggesting the resulting behaviour (or thought) that you wish the client to engage in. It’s pretty simple as you can see. But how do you get good at doing that?
How to create hypnotic suggestions
The best thing you can do, especially if developing suggestions isn’t one of your strong points yet, is to get to grips with how to directly suggest your desired result. Figure out how to most simply state the thing you want to happen, or want someone to do or think in hypnosis, and then work on figuring out numerous, slightly different ways to say the same thing. It is good to create variations on a theme, because although verbatim repetition can be good, it can be more effective to give many similar suggestions rather than the same one over and over. This delivers what is fundamentally the same suggestion, but in different ways, giving your hypnotic subject or hypnotherapy client the chance to fully engage with your suggestions, responding to the specific suggestion that resonates most with them!
As an example, if you want to tell a smoking cessation client how bad cigarettes are going to taste after the session, you could suggest any one of the following things, or even all of them:
“Any time you smell cigarette smoke, you will notice how awful it smells”
“When you pass by a smoker, it will smell horrendous”
“The longer you don’t smoke, the more the smell of cigarettes repulses you”
“Even just thinking of smoking will cause you to imagine a foul, stinking taste in your mouth”
“Cigarettes make you smell horrible, each puff staining your body, teeth, hair and clothes with its gross stench”
The above examples are all pretty much telling the client to understand and accept that ‘cigarettes smell gross’. You could create a whole direct suggestion script based on how cigarettes smell gross, and, for the right clients, depending on their motivations and drivers, it would probably be a very useful thing to add in to your smoking cessation therapy session.
The direct suggestion creation process
Initially, it is good to start simple. Here is a quick process that you can use to create irresistible hypnotic suggestions. You can even do this right now if you want. First, think of some things that you might want to tell different client with different issues or goals, and write these things down in a list. Here are a couple of examples to get you started. What would you say to someone who:
Wants to stop eating chocolate?
Has a phobia of birds?
Has trouble getting to sleep at night?
Once you have a few things listed, then think of one key phrase or suggestion that would fit with that issue/goal. To follow with the examples above, some key suggestions might be:
“Any time you think of chocolate, you will take a deep breath and re-direct your thoughts.”
“You will easily relax whenever you see a bird. In fact, the more birds, the more you will relax.”
“When you lay down in bed, you will find that you mind clears, and you will quickly and easily go to sleep.”
Once you have done that, then start to think of various different and direct ways to tell them the same thing (or similar), creating a number of different, direct hypnotic suggestions. Keep your suggestions framed positively, i.e. towards positive things, rather than away from negative things, and as descriptive as possible in as few words as needed.
Once you have practiced this, you can then get used to doing it ‘on the fly’, such as during a hypnotherapy / hypnosis session. Just remember, think in terms of ‘what can I say to get them to do what I want them to do, in as few words as possible, without diluting the message and without being indirect / permissive’? Maybe even try going through an entire session of hypnosis or hypnotherapy using only direct suggestions. This will definitely get you on the road to becoming a direct hypnotic suggestion master!
What about indirect hypnotic suggestions?
Once you have gotten used to creating and using direct suggestions, you can begin to move onto more ‘indirect’ methods. You can check out this blog on the topic of indirect suggestions and Ericksonian language patterns. Also, a great tool that can help you out with your hypnotic suggestions, whether you’re just starting out or looking to improve from where you’re currently at, is our deck of ‘Hypnotic Language Cards’.
Based on the hypnotic language patterns of Milton H. Erickson, and adapted for use by the modern hypnotist, these language cards will definitely help you on the road to becoming a master of hypnotic suggestions. Something that all hypnotists and hypnotherapists should certainly be working towards!