Hypnotherapy Training Journal

Hypnotherapy Journal – Week 7

This weeks training is the one I’ve probably been looking forward to more than any other as it’s covering two of my favorite subjects: Ericksonian techniques and Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP).

Although there has been much talk about NLP and its achievements there has also been somewhat of a backlash because of its many unsubstantiated claims. This has led me to read more about the subject in order to gain a balanced view. NLP is a pseudo-science because nothing in its research can be verified or substantiated because of the non-scientific and sensationalist way it has been performed.

The following is an interesting excerpt from the Wikipedia entry on Hypnotherapy, Erickson and NLP:

“Milton H. Erickson, M.D. is considered one of the most influential modern hypnotherapists. He has written many books, journals and articles on the subject, and his accomplishments are well-documented.
During the 1960s, Erickson was responsible for popularizing an entirely new branch of hypnotherapy, which we now call Ericksonian hypnotherapy, characterized by, amongst other things, indirect suggestion, confusion techniques, and double binds.
The popularity of Erickson’s techniques has since led to the development of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), which has in turn found use in modern-day sales, advertising, and corporate training. However, NLP has been criticised by many eminent hypnotists as a distortion of Erickson’s work. For example, Andre Weitzenhoffer, a leading Stanford researcher and former colleague of Erickson, complained,
[…] Richard Bandler and John Grinder [the founders of NLP] have on the other hand, offered a much adulterated, and at times fanciful, version of what they perceived Erickson as saying or doing guided by their own personal theorising. (Weitzenhoffer, The Practice of Hypnotism, 2000: 592-593) “

But to the contrary many aspects of NLP do work because they are processes and patterns that have been derived from the very therapists its originators, Richard Bandler et al, were studying. Many of these patterns and therapeutic processes have also turned up in the mainstream and more accepted therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (NLP)

Milton Erickson’s very basic fundamental approach was one of utilization; meaning that he would use, for the objective of therapy, everything and anything the client bought with them. Erickson would also use everything in the environment to aid in therapy and trance induction including unavoidable distractions.

Erickson is also famous for his use of metaphors which is a form of language where a comparison is made between two seemingly unrelated things. In the book “My voice will go with you – The Teaching Tales of Milton H. Erickson” there are many wonderful and often strange tales that almost appear to have nothing to do with therapy. Many of us have watched a film and in the first instance only been aware of the story at a conscious level. Then after a period of time our unconscious mind has had time to process other hidden meanings. Disney films are especially filled with glorious metaphors.

We studied Erickson’s script ‘Early Learning Set’ this week and I’m reading through it again now. It’s not a very long script but it takes you to many different places by engaging your imagination to travel back in time to when you’re young and then to a special place (“…now you can go anywhere you want…”) and then the imagery of water. Then you’re bought back into your own body where you analyze how your eyes, breathing and pulse feel. It’s a wonderfully dreamy script that enables the client to realize how easy it is to learn and re-learn.

The use of metaphors are an excellent approach when dealing with some forms of resistance. Some clients, especially children, may not want to talk openly about certain painful experiences. By using indirect suggestion hidden within metaphors this can be overcome.

We were given cards on which fictional clients described their issues and we were asked to write a metaphor. Mine is below:

Client: Male, ‘can’t switch off’. He feels overloaded and he can’t sleep. He likes swimming, fishing and walking in the open countryside.

I attempted an Ericksonian-like metaphor:

 My friend John loves walking in the countryside, especially when he finds undue pressure constantly gnawing at him. The autumn is his favorite season. He finds that he’s stressed right up until the moment he parks his car and switches off his engine where he makes a transition into a calm and relaxed state. As he gets his fishing equipment out of the car and closes the boot on his weekly troubles he is then able to lose himself in the beauty of the surrounding countryside.

 As he casts his fishing rod out into the clear blue water he is able to sit back and relax deeply. He’s so relaxed that it feels like he’s in a trance. And he can let his mind gently drift. Allowing all tensions and worries to drift and dissipate.

 And although he’s completely relaxed he’s aware when a fish tugs on the line. And gently reeling in the fish in before releasing it he takes in the beauty of the fish which brings deep satisfaction.

 This whole experience makes him realize how these fishing trips are so important to maintaining his balance in life. Upon returning from each trip he’s then able to drift into a deep and relaxing sleep.
It is my belief that at least some of the subjects who talk about past-lives or imaginary fantasy are in fact telling us a story of themselves and this is the only way they have to do it which leads me on to another interesting form of metaphor, The Reverse Metaphor. This is where you can get the client to tell the story.

I tried this with my step-daughter with encouraging results. I had her imagine a corridor with three doors, as in the example script we were given, and then had her walk through one of the doors. She found herself in a room she described as an old-fashioned study with many interesting books on dinosaurs and an old grand father clock. She found this room to be very interesting and described it as restful. I left her with the post-hypnotic suggestion that she could return here whenever she felt stressed or needed to relax.

This in itself didn’t give any clues to underlying issues but it did formulate a place where she could feel comfortable. When dealing with sensitive and often painful memories under trance it is imperative that some groundwork is done beforehand and this is an ideal situation which could be utilized. When performing a ‘this life’ regression, for example, the client can be comforted by the fact that they can retreat at any time back to this ‘special place’.


We had Shaun Brookhouse and Fiona Biddle take the NLP part of the course which was quite entertaining. Taking on the persona of Richard Bandler himself Shaun systematically found a way to offend nearly every person in the room. I understand that there’s a way of thinking which believes you learn better when you’re in an uncomfortable state so perhaps that was his underlying intention.

The definition of NLP is a difficult one to comprehend but I like the brief synopsis given in our notes:

Neuro: The nervous system (the mind), through which our experience is processed via the five senses:

• Visual
• Auditory
• Kinesthetic
• Olfactory
• Gustatory

Each person will favor one, or a few, of these. This is what’s implied in NLP as a preferential reference system.

Linguistic: Language and other non-verbal communication systems through which our neural representations are coded, ordered and given meaning. These include:

• Pictures
• Sounds
• Feelings
• Tastes
• Smells
• Words (self talk)

For me, this is where the famous quote “the map is NOT the territory” comes from. We all process information in different ways this is why we all experience things differently.

Programming: The ability to discover and utilize the programs that we run (our communication to ourselves and others) in our neurological systems to achieve our specific and desired outcomes.

So, in conclusion NLP is understanding how our own internal programming works to interpret our experiences. Once you understand how this works within you, you can change it.

In today’s culture we are bombarded with about two-million bits of information every second and so in order to function we need a method to cope and the way we do this is to delete what we don’t think is relevant, distort what we believe we already know and generalize by grouping similar things together.

In other words we process information by filtering it through our previous life experiences our values and beliefs.

This gives us a picture of each experience that is unique to us.

Sometimes just gaining an understanding of how we filter this information is enough to provoke a change.

The Presuppositions of NLP

1. Have respect for the other person’s model of the world by understanding that their view has been created from their experiences, values and beliefs.
2. Behavior and change are to be evaluated in terms of context and ecology i.e. is it a good thing for this person to have this behavior in this situation – it’s good to be afraid of fire if your house is burning down!
3. Resistance in a client is a sign of a lack of rapport. There are no resistant clients, only inflexible communicators. Effective communicators accept and utilize (Erickson again) all communication presented to them.
4. People are not their behaviors – Accept the person; change the behavior.
5. Everyone is doing the best they can with the resources they have available. Behavior is geared for adaptation, and present behavior is the best choice available. Every behavior is motivated by a positive intent. Ask the client: what is it they’re getting from their negative behavior?
6. Calibrate on behavior: the most important information about a person is that person’s behavior i.e. watch what they do!
7. The map is not the territory. The words we use are NOT the event or item they represent because they’ve been translated through our filters.
8. You are in charge of your mind and therefore your results. And I am in charge of my mind and therefore my results.
9. People have all the resources they need to succeed and to achieve their desired outcomes. There are no un-resourceful people, only un-resourceful states.
10. All procedures should increase ‘wholeness’. The client should have a greater inner rapport and feel aligned with that.
11. There is only feedback! There is no failure, only feedback.
12. The meaning of communication is the response you get.
13. The law of requisite variety: The system/person with the most flexibility of behavior will control the system.
14. All procedures should be designed to increase choice – except for procrastinators, they need less choice!

Observing other people – Sensory Acuity

When building rapport and being able to read the client correctly it is imperative that you not only listen to what they’re telling you verbally but be able to ‘see’ what they’re telling you with their physiology. Being able to spot incongruence between these to channels will enable the therapist to understand the situation more fully.

Communication is:

7% Words – what you’re saying
38% Tonality – the way you’re saying it
55% Physiology – what you body is saying
The following is a simple, non-inclusive guide, to developing your sensory acuity:

1. Skin Color:       Light ? ? Dark
2. Skin Tonus (the tone of the muscles):  Shiny ? ? Matt
3. Breathing – Fast or Slow & High or Low
4. Lower lip size and shape:    Lines ? ? No Lines
5. Eyes – Focused or Defocused & Pupils: Dilated or Un-dilated

NLP makes a lot of noise about eye accessing queues and although they’re not an absolute rule (they don’t work for everyone) they’re very useful to understand: Derren Brown does a wonderful piece where he is able to tell when someone is lying and he uses this extensively but it’s important to note that he’s picking out the behavior that’s different from the norm rather than sticking to strict rules.

When attempting to read body language, and that includes eye accessing queues, it’s important to look at clusters of movements and not individual movements themselves – if someone scratches their nose it’s probably because they have an itch and they’re not necessarily lying.

Modalities and Sub-Modalities

A modality is a combination of sub-modalities that make up a behavior of a specific experience. Each sub-modality is a thought, feeling or image and once put together make the experience as that person sees or feels it.

The Meta-Model

The meta-model of NLP is a heuristic (“any method found through discovery and observation”) questions designed to specify information, challenge and expand the limits to a person’s model of the world.

It responds to the clients’ deletions, generalizations and distortions by directly challenging them.

Interestingly this is perceived as the opposite of the Milton-model of therapy which uses artfully vague language patterns to illicit change.

NLP Fast Phobia Cure

I’m currently working with a client who has a fear of flying and confined spaces as well as a fear of driving in traffic. Although I’ve yet to find the incident that heralds the beginning of these experiences I have found and amended a copy of the NLP Fast Phobia Cure to use as a framework for dealing with each of these:

Step One: I want you to imagine that at the cinema and you’re sitting in a movie theatre. Take a moment to look around the theatre, notice the décor and what the seats are like and look back for a moment to where the projection booth is…

Now on the screen you will see a black and white still photograph of yourself – a snapshot – showing you before you had the experience the film is going to show.

In a moment the screen is going to show a film about you…

This film will be in black and white with no sound. The film will be of poor quality and shaky, like an amateur filmed it, with a hand-held camera. The image may flicker.

But before the film starts, I want you to float up out of your body and into the projection booth behind you, from where you can control the film. And as you’re up there in the projection booth, with those enormous reels of film on the projector and that long beam of white light streaming towards the screen, I want you to notice [clients name] sitting there in her seat waiting for the movie to start.

And now I want you to start the projector and to watch [clients name] as she sits in her seat down there in the theatre and watches the movie of you going through [the traumatic experience]…

After the client has watched the movie through in this detached state ask the following questions:

So how was it when you watched that film?
If the client answers “I felt a little afraid” or something similar then ask “Did you remember to stay back in your seat in the movie theatre, or did you actually become involved in the movie itself?”

Step two: Have the client step into the movie at the end when the experience is over and she’s safe (all the dangers have gone). Now, with the traumatic part over, she sees things through her own eyes just as if she were actually there. Things are in color and three-dimensional.

And then have her very, very fast rewind the whole experience to the very beginning, like the film is being played backwards, with all the people walking backwards and everything in reverse.

And then have her fast-forward the film and then rewind it again. And when she can rewind the whole experience in about one second, have her repeat that five or ten times.

Step three:
Now I want you to imagine that you’re going through [the traumatic experience] again. What does that feel like for you now as you look back on that experience?

related articles

Comments are closed.