Most of our clients want to know the details of what is going to happen in hypnosis, and we want to give them the information they need to make an informed decision. Last month we explored the hypnotic induction, it’s history, and how is it used in a hypnotherapeutic setting. This month we will be continuing our “Stages of Hypnosis” series, and looking into the technique most commonly used directly after the hypnotic induction: deepening. This is an important technique to help reach a state of deep, open trance, which will allow for more effective suggestions.
To start with, we’ll need to clear up a few misconceptions around hypnosis, specifically for deepening. Many of our clients come in to our clinic with the idea that being “deep” in hypnosis means that they are in a powerless state where the hypnotist has total control over them, and can suggest “anything”, even something against their nature. This often stems from movies and pop culture references of hypnosis, which are often misinformed, or are purposefully using tropes for dramatic effect. Being “deep” in hypnosis doesn’t mean that you’ll lose your memory, the hypnotist won’t have “Manchurian candidate” levels of total control and influence, and you won’t be out of control.
So, if you aren’t going to lose control during a deep state of hypnosis, what exactly is a “deep” state of hypnosis? Hypnotherapists often use the term “deep”, but in reference to hypnotic depth: The client is in a state where they are open and receptive to suggestions from the hypnotherapist. The deeper the client goes into hypnosis, the more open they are to change. Hypnotherapists use deepening techniques to help get the client into that open and receptive state quickly.
Hypnotic deepening is commonly done directly after the induction. It can also be done throughout the session, and can either be just a short suggestion, or a longer, more formal process. It isn’t a required part of hypnotherapy, but most hypnotherapy will use deepeners to ensure that the client is in a receptive state for further work under hypnosis. Let’s go through a simple deepener in a typical situation, and see what the process is like.
After a client has successfully entered hypnosis, and gone through the induction process, the hypnotherapist may decide that they would like to further deepen the hypnotic trance. One of the most commonly used styles of deepener is the classic “staircase” deepener. In this, the hypnotherapist guides the client through a mental image of them descending a staircase. They often begin by describing the staircase in detail, so the client has a strong mental image already in mind. For us, we normally count down from 20 steps, but the exact number isn’t important. At each step, the client is prompted to double their mental relaxation. When they reach the bottom of the staircase, they have reached a very relaxed and calm state. The hypnotherapist counts down the staircase, giving carefully worded recommendations to relax further and let go of worries. When they reach the bottom of the staircase, the deepener is complete, and they can move on to either further deepeners, or techniques such as direct suggestion, age regression, parts therapy, or visualizations.
The deepener we just went over is one of them most common styles, but there are several other methods of deepening a hypnotic trance. Hypnotherapists tend towards using relaxing, straightforward techniques, since they are most effective for therapeutic uses. The staircase deepener is one such technique. There are other, such as the fractionalization method (where the client is taken in and out of hypnosis), progressive relaxation (which you may have already practiced, as part of a yoga or meditation program.), a simple countdown, or other styles of visualization based deepeners. A stage hypnotist, on the other hand, might be more interested in delighting or astonishing his volunteers and audience. Instead of relaxing, they might try to use a shock or surprise based induction, and avoid the more relaxing deepeners all together, since they don’t make for a great show.
Next time on the stages of hypnotherapy, we’ll skip over the meat of the work done in hypnosis, and straight to the last part of a session: emerging a client out of hypnosis at the end of their session. This is called emergence, and although it is done at the end of the session, it is just as critical as the beginning. Together, induction, deepening, and emergence make up the framework which allows hypnotherapy to take place.