How does Hypnotherapy work? – Part1

How does a session work?

Nowadays, Hypnotherapy has been proven efficient and reliable to help with numbers of issues. There are more and more researches and text books describing the rationales, methods, techniques behind hypnotherapy. And as today there are already a large number of hypnotherapy services to choose from. But the backside of course is the multiplication of offers makes it difficult to choose. Here I am going to describe one type of practice, the Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy (CBH), for a few reasons, first I practice it and second it is evidence-based which means its efficiency has been theorised, researched and proven and third because it is aligned with cognitive behavioural psychology which is a robust type of psychotherapy. So here I will discuss how hypnotherapy can help you, what to expect from it and how does it work practically? This article is the first of many and will discuss the basic organisation of a session.


I often have the question: “how does a session of hypnotherapy work?”, well in short, same as most of the therapies and to demystify it, I will explain the main lines here:

Often the first and last sessions are distinguished from the other sessions. The first session is very dense because the client and therapist meet for the first time. The client will start to explain their issue and both will determine if and how they can work together. It is important that clients understand how the therapist works and what is required from them for the therapy to be successful.

Then the therapist will ask few questions and fill couple of forms in with the client. This is to ensure that they are suitable for hypnotherapy. Majority of people are, but some illnesses (such as psychosis) make them unsuitable. Also, if hypnotherapy would be suitable, it might not just be the most efficient therapy for the issue. And finally, sometimes the client isn’t in the right mindset (i.e., being forced by the partner to attend the therapy). All of this needs to be assessed by the therapist and if necessary, refer the client to someone else or at least discuss the stakes of the therapy. All of this takes around 20 minutes.

Then the client’s goal and the background around it is discussed further, this is the part when the therapist ask you to explain in details what is going on. The therapist will guide the client to describe the issue under emotional, behavioural and cognitive aspect. Then once it’s done the therapist will repeat the client’s goal and other details to make sure nothing is missing. Finally, the first hypothesis and treatment plan are set. They will certainly be revisited during the other sessions but it is a starting point. The last session is also a little different, it is a review of what has been done and how it will settle in the day-to-day life of the client. From there the therapy stops or a new chapter is opened regarding a different issue, related or not to the first one.

Otherwise, a “regular” session works like so, it starts with a review of the period between the sessions, the therapist wants to know what is new and how the client is doing regarding the therapeutic goal. It is usually followed by some conversation and eventually techniques. The end of the session is saved to speak of the tasks (or homework) to do for the next session. In general, a therapy is one session a week and lasts around 50-60min. There is much more to say about structuring a therapy session and I will dig deeper in some of these aspects in other parts. Also, this description is very standard or ideal, in reality it is not so structured, everything is done at the same time in a more natural fashion. I myself often don’t respect this structure, but at the end of the day I always come back to it when I prepare my sessions.



Written by Marc Altorffer