Suggestion Hypnosis is a method where we work together to create "suggestions" that encapsulate changes you would like to make. I then guide you into a hypnotic state where these changes can impact you on a deep level.
What is Suggestion Hypnosis?
Suggestion hypnosis has been classically used to help people change their behavior. It works by leading you into a state of relaxation and planting “suggestions” (or changes that you want to make) into your subconscious mind. It is theorized that when we are in a relaxed state, we are more "suggestible", and the things we hear take a deeper hold in our minds. This is thought to spark deeper behavior change than what we could otherwise read, hear, or say while in waking consciousness.
A lot of research backs up hypnosis as an evidence-based practice. In fact, Dr. Michael Yapko, a clinical psychologist, has said that that "hypnosis works and is unequivocal in that regard. It really does help people." Additionally, Dr. Andrew Huberman, a Stanford University Neuroscientist and host of the Huberman Lab podcast, explained in an interview the success and state of hypnosis in the following quotes:
"Hypnosis is a really unique state of mind and body. I'm very interested in hypnosis because of the work with Dr. David Spiegel, and the incredible success that he's had with pain management, smoking cessation, these kinds of things. Hypnosis is a state of deep relaxation, not unlike sleep, but also deep focus, so it's very unlike any other state of mind."
"...Hypnosis is a deliberate narrowing of context.. so the (hypnotherapist) is bringing you into a state of mind that's centered around particular types of events, but you're in deep rest, and the idea is that you're taking that plasticity process of focus and urgency and then rest, and you're combining them into a single session. And so hypnosis and deep hypnotic states are the place where neural plasticity can be accelerated."
I have found hypnosis to be most effective when used in conjunction with therapy. I also work with clients to create suggestion hypnosis meditations specifically for each person, instead of using generalized scripts. I typically use suggestion hypnosis for two reasons:
To reinforce work we are doing, as in the first example below, after we have done some other insight-oriented and therapeutic work
To support habit and lifestyle change without prior therapeutic work on the topic, like meditating regularly, having a consistent bedtime, or eating healthier, as in the second example below
Common Questions About Suggestion Hypnosis
When I was in high school, I saw some people getting hypnotized on a stage and it was weird and embarrassing. Is this like that? No, it’s not! Suggestion hypnosis is not stage hypnosis. It is similar to a meditation where you get into a relaxed state to help you integrate intentions that you have created for yourself. It is not a performance and it is geared specifically to your intentions.
Yeah, but are you in control of my mind? Won’t that be scary? I am not in control of your mind. While in a hypnotic state, you are more suggestible and relaxed. However, you can stop at any time easily. You will still be conscious and can tell me to stop if you become uncomfortable. To date, none of my clients have ever reported being scared of the suggestion hypnosis process or have needed to end the process early. Additionally, you create your own suggestions, so you’ll only be hearing the base hypnosis script with your suggestions included. If anything, suggestion hypnosis merely helps you be more in control of your own mind over time!
Will I forget everything that happened when it’s over? You’ll likely remember the details. You may forget what you heard if you begin drifting off to sleep. This is true of anything that you hear while you’re drifting off to sleep anyway.
What’s the difference between Depth Hypnosis and Suggestion Hypnosis? Depth Hypnosis is more oriented towards gaining personal insight, integrating all parts of you, and healing unresolved wounds. Suggestion Hypnosis is more geared towards behavior changes. They can be used complementarily.
Structure of a Suggestion Hypnosis Session
Suggestion Hypnosis typically takes place in a single session. Here is how you can expect the session to flow.
Together, we come up with clear changes you’d like to make, also called “suggestions”
You close your eyes and get into a relaxed state. I guide you into a brief, 10-15 minute hypnosis experience where I help you relax and concentrate. I incorporate your suggestions into a meditation
While doing this, you can record the experience on your phone. You can use it on your own to reinforce changes. This is like a mantra or affirmation, but deeper, since you are more suggestible in a relaxed state
This recording is something you can keep and use as many times as you want outside of sessions, at any time during the day or while you are drifting off to sleep
A Suggestion Hypnosis session is typically 30 minutes if we know what we are working on already, like in the first example below. It could potentially take an entire session if this is a brand new problem we have not talked about or done any other work on yet, like in the second example. It could also take an entire session if we are using the Suggestion Hypnosis session to review and summarize work you've been doing over a long stretch of time.
Read the example situations below to gain more clarity on how Suggestion Hypnosis unfolds and fits into the larger therapy context.
Example Situation 1: Suzy’s Relationship Problem
Suzy is struggling in her relationships. She tends to put herself on the back burner in order to care for everyone else’s needs around her. She feels guilty when she expresses herself, so she doesn’t. This has led to anger and resentment in her relationships, and she has recently started “blowing up” at her partner. She comes to therapy because she is extremely upset about this. Yelling at her partner contradicts her values of being kind and compassionate towards others, which is why she was prioritizing others over herself in the first place!
During therapy, we use a combination of IFS and Depth Hypnosis. Suzy realizes that she has little awareness of her own needs. She has one part of her that externally focuses on others at her own expense, and another that feels guilty. Because her needs are neglected, she has another part of her that “blows up” to try to get the message through to others (but most importantly to Suzy herself) that she has genuine needs, too!
Over the course of therapy, Suzy realizes the origin of this issue. She was rewarded in her family for taking care of everyone else, and since her parents were usually busy working, her own needs were not always taken care of. She never learned to care for her own needs.
Suzy meets her inner little girl and begins to care for her, which helps her recognize what her needs are and develop a loving relationship with herself. She also realizes that the parts of her that were at war are actually not mutually exclusive. She realizes that it is possible to know her needs, speak up for them, and be compassionate towards others without overextending herself. This is a big change for her and she thinks it will take time and practice to integrate. Therefore, she wants to do suggestion hypnosis to “drive home” the key insights she has had so far in therapy.
Suzy’s Suggestions for Balancing Boundaries and Compassion in Relationships
Differentiate between what is and is not my responsibility, and take on only what is mine to carry
Speak up for my needs clearly and confidently
Trust that it is healthy to speak up for myself
Take care of myself with the same care and compassion I give to others
Be present with others and listen with compassion
I use these suggestions and create a recording that Suzy can listen to on her own. After doing suggestion hypnosis, Suzy is committed to listening to her suggestion hypnosis recording regularly to habituate these new patterns. While she is doing this at home, we move on to the next topic Suzy wants to work on: eating healthier.
Example Situation 2: Suzy’s Eating Habits
Suzy has a habit of eating too much unhealthy food, especially when she is stressed or emotional. She has some options for addressing this issue. The deeper (and more thorough) option is to explore her motivations for her unhealthy eating, like she did in the first example. This helps her discover and heal what wounds it might be medicating or discover what needs it might be trying to fulfill. Suzy could use Depth Hypnosis and IFS to explore this pattern more deeply before doing suggestion hypnosis. Alternatively, Suzy could try doing suggestion hypnosis before this, or instead of it, as long as she can clearly articulate the changes she would like to make.
Suggestions for Healthier Eating
Eat slowly and mindfully, using all of my senses
Pay attention to what my body is telling me about how full I am
Take the time to cook for myself and plan scheduled meals
Make choices that will nourish my body at mealtime
Be kind and compassionate to myself and my body size regardless of my eating choices
When stressed, and I feel the impulse to eat something, I instead take 10 mindful deep breaths to soothe my nervous system
Why Therapy is Integral to Behavior Change
If most problems were as simple to address as one hypnosis session, we wouldn’t need therapy! However, most problems have deeper roots. You can see that in the first example, Suzy had limited awareness of her relationship patterns, needs, or underlying wounds when she first came to therapy. She needed to go through some deeper healing and reparenting, and dig deep to discover what her needs actually are. Additionally, her misconception that neglecting herself was compassionate needed to be addressed. Exploring this first was necessary to help the resulting suggestions make sense and feel personal to her.
Some people find that suggestion hypnosis alone is helpful enough for behavior change, like in the second example. However, if you find that you keep repeating the same pattern anyway, it will likely be helpful to explore the issue more deeply in therapy.
It is important to remember that suggestion hypnosis will work better the more you use it (by listening to the recording we create together regularly), and if you are also intentional about allowing the changes to inform your life.
If you’re interested in Suggestion Hypnosis, I would be happy to help you. If you are a new client, head over to the booking page to request a consult. If you are an existing client and want to bring this into your therapy sessions, please feel free to bring it up at any time.
Thanks for reading! See you in session,