How does Hypnotherapy work?

How does a session work?

The landscape of Hypnotherapy has vastly evolved and has become a dependable and practical way to address various challenges. The mounting research and textbooks exploring the principles, methods, and techniques of hypnotherapy have made it increasingly popular. Today, the diversity in hypnotherapy services is staggering, which on the flip side, complicates the decision-making process for potential clients. Today, I’ll delve into Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy (CBH), a modality I practice myself and favor for its evidence-based, practical, and robust ties to cognitive behavioural psychology. This conversation revolves around the benefits of hypnotherapy, what to anticipate from it, and how it operates. This piece is the first in a series that will examine the fundamental structure of a session.

A common query I encounter is: “how does a hypnotherapy session function?” In simple terms, it isn’t far off from other therapies, and to demystify it, I will break down the essential components:

Typically, the initial and concluding sessions stand apart from the rest. The first session is quite intense since it’s when the client and therapist come face to face for the first time. It’s the stage where clients present their concerns and both parties gauge their potential collaboration. It’s crucial that clients comprehend the therapist’s method and their own required participation for a successful therapeutic journey.

Subsequently, the therapist asks a series of questions and fills out several forms with the client. This is done to determine the client’s suitability for hypnotherapy. While most individuals are appropriate candidates, certain conditions (like psychosis) may disqualify them. In some cases, even though hypnotherapy might be suitable, it may not necessarily be the most effective approach for their problem. Sometimes, a client may not be in the right frame of mind to participate in therapy (for instance, if they were coerced by a partner). The therapist evaluates all these factors and, if required, may suggest another professional or discuss the implications of the therapy. This step usually takes about 20 minutes.

Further exploration of the client’s objectives and their context takes place next. It’s during this stage that the therapist invites the client to delve deeper into their issues, shedding light on emotional, behavioural, and cognitive aspects. Once that’s covered, the therapist reaffirms the client’s goals and any other details to ensure nothing is overlooked. The initial hypothesis and treatment plan are then devised, which will likely be revised throughout the course of therapy, but it gives a starting point. The final session is unique in its own way; it offers a chance to review the therapy’s progress and consider how it will influence the client’s everyday life. At this point, the therapy may conclude, or a new chapter concerning a different issue may commence.

As for the “regular” sessions, they generally start with a review of the period between the sessions. The therapist is interested in any new developments and the client’s progress toward the therapeutic goal. This is usually followed by some dialogue and possibly some techniques. The conclusion of the session is reserved for assigning tasks (or homework) for the upcoming session. Typically, a therapy session occurs once a week and lasts between 50-60 minutes. This brief overview is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the anatomy of a therapy session, and I will delve further into these aspects in later articles. It’s worth noting that this is an ideal or standard description; real sessions often appear less structured and more organic. I occasionally deviate from this structure myself, but it remains a guiding principle when I prepare for my sessions.



Written by Marc Altorffer