Saturday, November 6, 2010

The use of hypnotic suggestion in the therapeutic process.

There has been a lot written in the Transactional Analysis literature about permissions. Generally speaking they are statements given by the therapist from any ego state to the Child ego state of the client. examples could be

Parent - “Its safe to be close”
Adult - “It makes sense to be close”
Child - “I like you”

These are meant to counter the life script messages received from the parents in childhood. In the examples above the person would have received a “Don’t feel” injunction from the parents. The therapist then at some point gives the permissions cited above. Often stated in the literature, the key to therapeutic procedure of permission giving is getting the timing right but then not much ever is said about when that might be.

Jumping boy

I have never thought much of this therapeutic technique as it seems too predictable and obvious to me. A bit like affirmations can be. I think affirmations are a good idea but as a transaction between client and therapist they are useful but maybe a bit limited.

Over time however I began to realise, without even knowing it, that I have in one way been doing such a thing with some clients. Some would argue that I am giving permissions to the client even though I do not see it that way myself. I would say I am making hypnotic suggestions to the client and do this when a very specific set of conditions exists with the client. Most notably when the client is in a highly suggestible state of mind.

When working with some clients they can become highly regressed which would be diagrammed as such


When looking at the client they appear very child like, usually in deep emotion. This it can be said is when a person is highly suggestible. They are particularly open to hypnotic suggestions at this point. With the Parent and Adult ego state decommissioned to a significant degree the therapist can communicate directly with the very young Child ego state. Thus one could say, communicate directly with the unconscious at least to some degree.

If they are not openly displaying emotion but tend to be silent and sitting quietly the conditions may be right to begin making such hypnotic suggestions. The statements I make are probably a combination of Adult and Parent transactions.
“Good to see the feeling”
“Good statements”
“Well done”

The client may then make statements about defying some parental directive which is met with the suggestion like:
“Good statement”
”Say what you feel/think”

The reason why they are kept short is because I do not want to distract the client with my presence. I am not not wanting the client to respond back in any way to me. I am not wanting them to say thank you or really any response back to me about my comment as that will weaken the regression at the most crucial of times. I am wanting the client to remain highly regressed. Some clients can do this and some cannot. Those who can would be seen to be better hypnotic subjects than those who can’t.

The key is for the person to be conscious but distracted, so you can communicate to them with out them realizing you are.

When these types of transactions have happened between client and therapist often the client’s memory of them is quite poor.

If this theoretical statement is accurate then one has a powerful means of facilitating change in the client. To find a way of communicating directly with the client’s unconscious is a fertile discovery indeed.



  1. "To find a way of communicating directly with the clients unconscious is a fertile discovery indeed."


  2. Interesting post. You mentioned that hypnotic suggestions work better when the person is distracted and this raises a question. A lady I work with has lost almost 15 pounds over the past 6-7 months and gives credit it to a CD she listens to every night that is hypnosis for weight loss (i.e. meaning the suggestions have encouraged her to exercise more and eat differently). I bought the CD a month ago to see if it would work any wonders for me, but so far no results whatsoever that I can identify. The instructions on the CD jacket say it works best to listen to it before going to sleep or first thing in the morning. It seems to me that these are times when a person is less distracted. Maybe the CD doesn’t work for me because I fall asleep too soon (before he gets to the suggestions relating to weight loss).