Hypnotic suggestions form the basis of all that we do as hypnotherapists. Aside from when we use various ‘techniques’ (think NLP, psychotherapy, CBT, etc.) in our sessions, the rest of our ‘therapy work’ is generally ‘suggestion-based’. But what makes a good hypnotic suggestion? Do you need to ensure that it is a certain length? Should it be directly or indirectly phrased? Do you need to use sneaky ’embedded’ language? What about turning your suggestions into metaphors? These are all valid questions, and ones that I hear quite frequently. The thing, however, with delivering effective suggestions is that many people try to run before they can walk… Trying to include complex language patterns, ’embedding’ your suggestions conversationally and creating in-depth therapeutic metaphors (just as a few examples) are all great ways of delivering suggestion… if you already know how to deliver basic ‘direct suggestions’.
If you can’t create simple direct suggestions, you’re probably not going to get very far with the more complex stuff… (and when you get to a point that you do understand how to effectively create direct suggestions, you will be much more able to effortlessly expand your suggestion-creating skills into more indirect and complex areas, maybe without even realising how good you have become in such a short space of time).
So what is a direct suggestion? Well, it is exactly what it says it is; suggesting that someone do something, using direct language. For example; “take a nice deep breath, then exhale and relax…” – you are directly suggesting the resulting behaviour (or thought) that you wish the client to engage in. Simple, right?
…So how do you get good at doing that?
The best thing you can do. especially if developing suggestions isn’t one of your strong points yet, is to get to grips with how to directly suggest your desired result. Figure out how to most simply state the thing you want to happen (or want them to think), and then work on figuring out numerous, slightly different ways to say the same thing (or variations on a theme, because although repetition is good, it can be more effective to give many similar suggestions rather than the same one over and over). So, for example, if you want to tell a smoking cessation client how bad cigarettes are going to taste after the session, you could suggest:
“Any time you smell cigarette smoke, you will notice how awful it smells”
“When you pass by a smoker, it will smell horrendous”
“The longer you don’t smoke, the more the smell of cigarettes repulses you”
“Even just thinking of smoking will cause you to imagine a foul, stinking taste in your mouth”
“Cigarettes make you smell horrible, each puff staining your body, teeth, hair and clothes with its gross stench”
The above examples are all pretty much telling the client to understand and accept that ‘cigarettes smell gross’. You could create a whole direct suggestion script based on how cigarettes smell gross, and (for the right clients, depending on motivations / drivers) it would probably be a very useful thing to add in to your smoking cessation therapy session.
So, start simple (you can do this now if you want)… Think of some things that you might want to tell different client with different issues / goals and write these things down in a list. A couple of examples to get you started; what would you say to someone who wants to stop eating chocolate? Someone who has a phobia of birds? Someone who has trouble getting to sleep at night?
Once you have a few things listed, then think of one key phrase / suggestion that would fit with that issue / goal. To follow with the examples above: “Any time you think of chocolate, you will go and have a glass of water” / “You will easily relax whenever you see a bird… The more birds, the more you can relax…” / “When you lay down in bed, you will find that you mind clears, and you can easily go to sleep.“
…and then start to think of various different and direct ways to tell them the same thing (or similar), creating a number of different, direct hypnotic suggestions. Keep your suggestions framed positively (towards positive things, rather than away from negative) and as descriptive as possible in as few words as needed…
As well as this, during any hypnotherapy / hypnosis sessions that you do, think in terms of ‘what can I say to get them to do what I want them to do, in as few words as possible, without diluting the message and without being indirect / permissive’… Maybe even try going through an entire session of hypnosis / hypnotherapy using only direct suggestions. This will definitely get you on the road to becoming a suggestion master!
Then, once you have gotten used to creating and using (important) these direct suggestions, you can begin to move onto more ‘indirect’ methods. A great tool that can help you out with this (whether you’re just starting out or looking to improve from where you’re currently at) is our pack of ‘Hypnotic Language Cards’, which you can buy on Amazon [click here]
…based on the language patterns of Milton H. Erickson, and adapted by Dr Kate and myself, these language cards will definitely help you on the road to becoming a master of hypnotic suggestions. Something that all hypnotherapists should certainly be working towards…
SO, we hope this blog has been super helpful, but if you do have any more questions on how to create hypnotic suggestions (or anything else for that matter) do please get in touch, because we’re always happy to help!
– written by Rory Z Fulcher