Should hypnotherapists use scripts?
In the world of hypnotherapy there has long been the debate about ‘hypnotherapy scripts’. Should you use pre-made hypnotherapy scripts or should you just let the words flow from you by following your own intuition? This is a contentious point for some hypnotherapists but in reality, the answer is not quite black or white, although I am personally in favour of letting go of scripts, or at least not having to rely on them, as early on in your hypnotherapy career as possible. However, just ‘letting the words flow from your subconscious’ will only work if you have the necessary information there in the first place!
In this blog I will talk about how scripts can be useful, when to use them and how to get the most out of them. I will also talk about how an intuitive approach is different to ‘scriptnosis’ and how to move away from using scripts in your practice where possible, when you are ready to.
Reading hypnotherapy scripts
Scripts definitely have a place in hypnotherapy (no, not the bin!) and those hypnotherapists who are able to use scripts effectively will likely be able to do some great changework with them. The key word there being ‘effectively’. I’m pretty sure that anyone calling themselves a hypnotherapist will have the necessary skill-level to be able to read words off a piece of paper or electronic device, but there’s a huge difference between standard reading and effectively reading a hypnotherapy script.
It goes without saying that your hypnotherapy script should be read in a way that is congruent with a professional hypnotherapy session. Those ‘therapists’ who just read out words as if they’re a child in class who’s been forced to stand up and read a passage from a book, not thinking about delivery, just thinking about getting the words over and done with… Well, they aren’t likely to be very inspiring or engaging, are they..?
Hypnotherapy script delivery tips
To use a hypnotherapy script effectively, it is important that you check all the boxes. By following these four important points, if you do need to use a hypnotherapy script, you will be able to get the most out of it:
1. Use all aspects of your voice and delivery to get the point(s) across
You are performing hypnotherapy, you’re not reading out your shopping list. So, ensure that you present with the right style, pacing, pauses, inflections, etc. Your voice and overall delivery is something that you will have learned early on in your hypnotherapy training and this is something that you should perhaps focus on even more when using hypnotherapy scripts, which brings us neatly on to point #2:
2. Make it sound like you are not reading a script
Most clients may not like paying you their hard-earned cash for you to just read them something that they could have downloaded and read to themselves. I know I’d be pissed off it I was that client! Clients are paying you for your assumed expertise in the subject of hypnotherapy. Yes, sometimes it is OK to use a script, especially one containing very specific or complex language patterns and phrases, but the skill is in making sure that if you do use a hypnotherapy script that it doesn’t show! If you went to the dentist and they got the ‘instruction manual’ out, you’d be pretty concerned too, right?
3. Know the script and know why you are saying what you are saying
If you didn’t write the hypnotherapy script you are using, ensure that the message it is delivering is fully congruent with what your client actually wants and with your own hypnotherapy style. If you are using a commercially available hypnosis script, remember, the person who wrote the script is not you and they did not have this particular client in front of them, so do ensure that it actually makes sense and works for the client. Not all clients are the same, and even if they have the same condition, their goal and symptoms may be completely different. This is why a bespoke hypnotherapy session, or a bespoke script for that specific client, is usually going to be a lot more effective than a general ‘out of the box’ script for a specific condition.
4. Continue to be observant
The professional hypnotherapist watches their client for various cues, signals and responses throughout a session. This process of ‘active listening’ is bloody tricky to do when you have a piece of paper in between yourself and your client (unless you have previously been hypnotised at a stage hypnosis show to have x-ray vision). Paying attention to your client is of ultimate importance, so if you must read a script, learn to read in such a way that allows you to continue to watch your client. You are able to achieve this by holding up the script so it is adjacent to the clients face along your horizontal eyeline, allowing you to more easily look back and forth from script to client. This method also helps you to recognise and then appropriately deal with any unexpected reactions your client might have during the reading of the script.
Hypnotherapy script content
So, now we come on to the actual ‘content’ of the script. As mentioned above, and contrary to some beliefs, not all clients’ problems are the same across the board. By this, I mean average Joe smoker is not just a smoker. If everyone had the exact same problem for the exact same reason, it would make sense that we could use the exact same approach to help them and achieve exactly the same level of success each time. However, any hypnotherapist working with clients on a day-to-day basis will be able to tell you that this is not the case. Different people have similar problems but sometimes for hugely different reasons, so to assume that a generic ‘stop smoking script’ will work with every smoking-cessation client that you see is a one-way road to Failure Town. Now, I’m not saying hypnotherapy scripts aren’t effective, just that, depending on the script and the client, they’re not always effective. Some people say it’s 50/50, so half the time it will work and half the time it won’t, but I’d guess the success rate is probably a little less than that, unless it’s a really great script, rather than a direct and simplistic “just stop doing that” kind of approach.
Write your own hypnotherapy scripts
A good way to use scripts more effectively is to either write your own, or to re-write a pre-written script in your own words, using your own style and focusing on the client that you are working with. This makes the script more congruent (i.e. it works alongside your own style, speech and delivery) and also becomes more specific on a client-by-client basis. You can re-write a script into your words and save it as a ‘template’ that you can then modify for new clients, which saves you re-writing the same script over and over. By doing this with any script you use, you will be one step closer to a more intuitive therapeutic approach, which can only be a good thing!
The main time that hypnotherapy scripts tend to come in handy is at the very start of your career as a hypnotherapist, when you are studying. I started off using scripts, and then gradually transitioned to adapting them and then writing my own, before leaving them behind completely. But, if you know very little about how to do hypnotherapy, figuring out what other hypnotherapists talk about during a hypnotherapy session can be very useful. Short of sitting in on sessions with other therapists, reading scripts can be a great way to achieve this.
Choosing a good hypnotherapy script
A final point on hypnotherapy scripts: Keep in mind that not all hypnotherapists are good hypnotherapists. In just the same way, not all hypnotherapy scripts are good hypnotherapy scripts. Using the information you learned (or will learn) in your training, look at any potential hypnotherapy scripts with a critical eye and figure out exactly what suggestions are being given, what techniques or approaches are being used and why. Do they fit in with your own therapy model? Does it seem as if it would actually work? Does it fit the client you are planning on using it with? If so, use it or adapt it, but if not, then you need to scrap it and either pay out for yet another script, or bite the bullet and do some of the work yourself!
Intuitive hypnotherapy is a much more fluid approach than ‘scriptnosis’, it also means that you are able to do some hypnotherapy work ‘on the fly’. It doesn’t then matter if you didn’t bring your ‘hypnotherapy script book’ with you! Sometimes opportunities to help people will present themselves outside of your consultation room, so being prepared to deal with this and relying on your internal knowledge and skills is what we, as hypnotherapists, should be aiming towards. Now, obviously this process of becoming intuitive may not happen immediately, but it will begin to happen sooner if you allow it to happen! You may do a course and continue to use scripts, or perhaps use bullet pointed script-summaries, for the next few months or even years. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but don’t let that be your end-point. Remember that you have the ability to become a hypnotherapist, rather than a reader of scripts. Do enough hypnotherapy and you will begin to ‘get it’. Challenge yourself to use your memory and to adapt things, because if you continue to use and adapt a variety of techniques and approaches, eventually they will become embedded in your mind until they are readily available for you to use with ease. Just like you no longer need to spend too much energy thinking about how to tie your shoes or drive your car after you did it the first couple of hundred times…
As mentioned previously, when using scripts, you should be able to understand why the things in the script are being included, whether direct suggestions, indirect ones, stories and metaphors and any other techniques. This deeper understanding that goes beyond scripts is what’s integral for you to become a competent intuitive hypnotherapist. There are a great many approaches that can be used for various conditions and issues, and there is also a lot of crossover, so it becomes about knowing how and where to apply your techniques/skills so that they will be most effective for the specific client that you have in front of you. Going back to the smoker example; some smokers will respond brilliantly to positive direct suggestions; “you are now a non-smoker, and that feels good” whereas others will respond better to indirect, negative suggestions; “some people find that smoking causes the body to feel slow, sluggish and congested, and that unbearable feeling inside causes them to easily be able to leave smoking behind”. Others will respond better to metaphors, whereas some will do brilliantly with ‘aversion therapy’ and other techniques. Only the hypnotherapist (you) can know which approach to take based upon the information that the client will have given you.
Once you are at the level of understanding where you begin to think ‘aha, I could use this technique with this client’ or ‘this guy needs a lot of suggestions about XYZ’, this is your inner intuition developing (your knowledge along with your experience). When it does, you will find that it will help you to improve your therapeutic interventions moving forwards. Sure, it may take time and it will take a lot of practice, but everyone has to start somewhere. The more clients you see, the more you remember, adapt and learn, the better you will become at just putting down the hypnotherapy scripts and using your skills intuitively with a great deal of success.
…and who knows, maybe someone will be buying scripts from YOU one day!