08 April 2020
When someone has a question, or wants to learn to do something, or wants to buy something, where’s the first place they will usually go? Online, that’s right. You can look stuff up, learn stuff, buy almost anything you want, all without even leaving your home, or even the comfort of your bed! But it’s not just information and products that you can get online, you can also engage in therapy and hypnotherapy online too. With all that’s going on right now with the COVID-19 pandemic, and with the majority of people stuck at home in self-isolation, many therapists who’ve never done any online therapy are now finding their only option is to take their practice online, or otherwise, to simply stop seeing clients and to close the doors of their businesses. So, taking your hypnotherapy practice online is probably the better option.
Online hypnotherapy isn’t anything new. In fact, hypnotherapists have been seeing clients online for years and years, and before the internet was so widely used, hypnotherapists would work remotely with clients by recording sessions on CDs and even cassette tapes. So, just because you can’t meet a client face-to-face, doesn’t mean you can’t help them. In fact, with the help of the internet it can be easier to work with clients than ever before, without even leaving the comfort of your own home! Sure, it may take a little getting used to, but just like you got used to delivering face-to-face hypnotherapy sessions, so you will find that you can get used to delivering your hypnotherapy sessions online. After all, the best hypnotherapists are very adaptable!
Can online hypnotherapy really work though?
This is a common question, both from clients, and surprisingly, from hypnotherapists too! The way a hypnotherapy session works to help people, is that the hypnotherapist gives a client suggestions (by talking), and the client engages with those suggestions (by listening). So long as you, the hypnotherapist, can talk and your client can hear you, does it matter whether you’re in the same room or not? Not really.
Fundamentally, an effective hypnotherapy session relies on communication and engagement, whether online or otherwise. If your client is engaged then they will likely benefit from the session. If they are not paying attention, or not following your instructions, then they will benefit less. Just as you might have regular (offline) clients that become distracted, and who disengage by ‘going off in their imaginations’, similarly you might have an online hypnotherapy client become distracted in a similar way, or potentially by something distracting happening in their home.
As a hypnotherapist, and as with any session, before your online hypnotherapy session begins, you will set up to ensure that your client is able to engage as much as possible, setting up to minimise distractions and to maximise focus and engagement (more on that in a bit).
So, an online session is actually very similar to a face-to-face session. There is one key difference though, which is that you’re not physically there with the client. So, it goes without saying that you might be limited in some of the approaches that you take. As the online hypnotherapy client is not there in the room with you, you will be unable to touch them, so you might not use rapid shock inductions that rely on physically engaging with the client (such as pulling an arm), or therapy approaches such as anchoring, where you’d create an anchored response by touching a client (such as pressing on a shoulder). However, you can adapt your approaches to work remotely, or use similar approaches that are entirely verbal and instructional in nature. You may use a rapid ‘eye fixation’ induction, instead of a physical rapid induction. You might have the client install their own anchor by touching their own shoulder. There are many different workarounds that will help you achieve the same (or similar) results, without needing to physically be in the room with a client.
As already mentioned, hypnotherapy sessions can be pre-recorded and delivered in many different formats (nowadays it’s most commonly MP3s, and to a lesser extent CDs), whereby a hypnotherapist creates a recording on a given topic, such as weight loss. The hypnotherapist isn’t physically present when the client listens to the MP3, yet they still work and millions are listened to every year. This means that online therapy can work even more effectively, because with online hypnotherapy, though you’re not there in person with the client, you are able to see and hear them, and they can see and hear you. This means you can monitor their responses, and tailor your therapy session and suggestions to the client in that very moment, in real time.
So, to answer the question ‘can online hypnotherapy really work?’ – yes, it sure can! In fact, it can be much more effective than hypnotherapy MP3s alone, and just as effective as a live, face-to-face hypnotherapy session!
Getting online hypnotherapy clients
Before I talk about how to ‘set up your client’ for the online hypnotherapy process, first, a quick word about actually getting the clients signed up, as well as setting your own beliefs about the process and about what it is that you’re selling. Though some hypnotherapists have, in recent years, been reluctant to promote online therapy, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work! There are thousands of hypnotherapists out there who only see clients online, and who’ve shifted their thriving ‘live’ hypnotherapy practices to online only, because it does work! So, because it can work just as well as a live, face-to-face hypnotherapy session, you must ensure that you’re not selling it as a lesser option.
If, for whatever reason, you have a belief that online sessions are inferior, and you tell a client that online sessions aren’t as good as in-person sessions, do you think they’ll want to sign up? Probably not. They’ll either wait until they are able to attend a live session, or more likely, go and find another hypnotherapist who is willing to ‘sell’ their online services better than you did.
Though it’s not yet your ‘normal’ or ‘default’ format for running a hypnotherapy session, treat it as if it is (because let’s face facts, it actually could be for a few months)!
If you have a potential client who’s on the fence about online vs live hypnotherapy, tell them that, “online hypnotherapy is equally as effective as a face-to-face session, because all you really need to be able to do is listen to the suggestions that I give you. We don’t need to be in the same room for that, so it’s totally possible, and actually very easy, to hypnotise people online, and for me to help you reach your personal goals”. You might even suggest that the client closes their eyes for a moment whilst you say this, then ask them if they would have responded differently to what you just said had you been there with them in person (the answer is no).
When promoting your online hypnotherapy services, as with any product, sell the benefits of what you’re offering. Such as how it’s flexible for the client’s schedule, and that there’s no waiting around in waiting rooms. You can let people know that there’s added privacy, because by remaining in their own homes, they won’t get seen going for therapy by people that they know. This privacy can help clients to be relaxed about the process. Online sessions also provide added comfort, because during the online hypnotherapy session, the client is in a place where they’re physically comfortable and in control. Not to mention saving the potential stress of finding and getting to your hypnotherapy office, dealing with traffic and parking, etc.
So, make sure to sell your online therapy sessions correctly, and you’ll likely find that you will be able to convert just as many enquiries into paying clients as you would if you were running sessions from your office.
Online hypnotherapy insurance and international licensing
Just a quick note on this. Before you engage in any online therapy, please check with your insurance providers to ensure that you are covered for providing therapy online. Also, are you licensed to practice hypnotherapy in your client’s country/state, and do you need to be? It’s definitely worth finding out where you stand before your set up your online hypnotherapy business.
The online hypnotherapy process
Though it might surprise you, the process of going from a client enquiry through to conducting the online hypnotherapy session itself is very similar to the process for a standard hypnotherapy session. You have a number of steps for the client to complete before they join you for the online hypnotherapy session.
Once the (prospective) client has found you, you can book them in for an initial chat or ‘preliminary consultation’ about what they are looking to work on and find out whether hypnotherapy is right for them (most therapists do this for free, but it’s up to you). Rather than just randomly calling them as soon as the enquiry comes in, it’s often better from a logistics perspective, to have them book a time slot for the chat (there are many tools you can use to do this online, which I’ll cover in the next section). It’s important to explain each stage of this pre-session process to the client, so they feel informed, and know what to expect. You might simply say, “book your timeslot, and once that’s done, I will send you a confirmation email which will contain a link to our online meeting”.
As well as sending an email confirming that preliminary consultation appointment, you might also schedule an email to go to the client on the day of the consultation itself (you can do email scheduling using most email providers, such as Gmail, Outlook, etc.), and again remind them of the time of the appointment, and provide them with the link to the your chosen video conferencing platform (again, more details below). Some therapists also choose to send this information by text (SMS) message, just in case the email accidentally goes to the junk/spam folder.
After the consultation, if you and the client agree to proceed with the hypnotherapy session, send the client a link to your booking page, where they can book and pay for the session. Once that’s done, have them schedule in their session, selecting the day/time that works best for them and confirm it by email (and again, schedule an email to go out on the morning of the session with the link for them to join).
Once all that’s completed, have the client fill out your client intake form and any additional paperwork (such as therapy contracts) before the session. Then, all you need to do is turn up (online) to the session. At that point, you run your therapy session as you normally would in person.
By having a longer ‘intake’ process, you set the client up to respond to you, which also helps to check their engagement, and checks whether they’ll follow your instructions. They will have already given you an indication of the nature of their issue, which allows you to plan ahead, and you will have been able to check that hypnotherapy is appropriate for them, saving disappointment and allowing you to us the most appropriate therapy approaches). By having that initial chat online, the client can also become familiar with your chosen online video conferencing platform, which takes the pressure off when it comes to the therapy session itself. As well as that, having such a solid ‘intake process’ will come across as very professional, and will help build the client’s trust in you as a professional online hypnotherapist.
Your online hypnotherapy platform & supporting services
Whilst reading the previous section about how the online hypnotherapy process works, you may have realised that you have a little work to do beforehand, in order to set up your website and processes to accommodate online hypnotherapy clients. This can be done relatively quickly, is pretty easy, and once it’s done, you won’t need to do it again!
Firstly, you might want to change your website (and any other online advertising platforms you use) to reflect that you are either offering both face-to-face and online sessions, or that at the current time, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all of your hypnotherapy sessions will be conducted online until further notice. You may include information about online hypnotherapy (and why people should sign up) to inspire prospective clients to take the next step and book a consultation, and perhaps even a video of yourself (so potential clients can see what a session with you will look like). Ensure that the information on your website is clear, easy to understand, and gets the point across.
In terms of booking consultations and sessions, rather than manually providing dates and times for clients, and back-and-forthing until you come to an agreement, it can be much easier to use an online appointment scheduling service. One of the easiest to use is Calendly. It’s between $8-12 (USD) per month,which is a tiny investment and will totally revolutionise the way that you book your appointments. You plug in your available days/times, and send a link to your clients so that they can choose a time slot from your pre-selected options. It also converts times based on where you are in the world and where your client is (if they’re in a different time-zone), so it is a truly international-friendly option, and syncs with all the main online calendars (meaning your appointments magically appear on your devices)!
There are other appointment scheduling options out there, such as AcuityScheduling.com, SimplyBook.me and many more, but having tested these, Calendly is the easiest to use and is very competitively priced. Remember, time is money, so by paying a tiny amount to automate your appointment scheduling, you’re actually saving a bunch of money by freeing up more ‘work time’!
Using online forms
As well as automating your appointments, another way to make your online hypnotherapy process smoother is to have easy-to-use, easy-to-share forms for gathering client information. If you just want a quick way to get client information, you can’t go wrong with Google Forms. Google Forms is free to use (with a Google/Gmail account) and you can create forms of any length and complexity, as well as being able to style them how you like, and receive form submissions automatically into your inbox. Otherwise, have a nicely styled template email or word document that you can quickly send to your clients. If you want a little more flexibility, and you’d like people to be able to fill and sign therapy contracts more easily etc., then you might instead go for something a little more robust, such as Adobe Sign, Docusign, Wufoo, or any number of online document services.
Online video conferencing software
When it comes to where you hold your online hypnotherapy sessions and consultations, there are a couple of main contenders (but one clear winner). You have Skype, Zoom and Facetime. However, based on personal testing, as well as extensive recommendations from many other hypnotherapists and ‘online service’ providers, Zoom is the way forward. Go with Zoom, it just works best.
Zoom has free and paid options. At the current time, you can probably get away with using the free version, unless you’re looking at holding online meetings with more than 2 people (e.g. yourself and a client), as meetings with 3+ attendees are capped at 40 minutes. However, on the free Zoom account, meetings with just 2 people can last for anywhere up to 24 hours! The pro version does give you a bit more functionality and control over how you set up your sessions and how you can interact with participants. Again, like with the appointment scheduler, if you need to spend a little money to get the setup you need, then do it, because you can easily make that money back (and much more) with your online hypnotherapy sessions! Zoom pro is $15 per month, so if you decide to go for it, it’s not going to break the bank.
When scheduling your Zoom meetings, it’s relatively simple to do, and most of the options are self-explanatory. Firstly, select the date, time and duration of the session. Remember to allow a little more time than you would in a face-to-face session, in case the client is late, or just simply as a buffer. Just because you schedule in a 75-minute meeting, doesn’t mean you have to do 75 minutes of therapy. You might have a 60-minute session with a 15-minute buffer (it’s nice to have the time available in case)!
Next, don’t bother setting a ‘personal meeting ID’, just allow Zoom to generate the meeting ID automatically. Though the ID then doesn’t look ‘customised’, it’s a lot safer and will prevent other people from joining your meeting. Also, on the topic of avoiding unwanted visitors, ensure that you add a meeting password, and provide it to your client when sending their confirmation emails.
After security’s been dealt with, ensure both the host and participant videos are turned on. Tick the ‘enable join before host’ option, so that your client can sign in before you do (in case you’re running late, or they’re an early bird).
Finally, if you want to record the session, you have two options. You can record the entire session from start to finish by pre-selecting the ‘record the meeting automatically’ option, or you can simply start the recording manually during the session itself. If you’re keeping the file for your own records, it makes sense to record the whole session. If you’re planning on giving the client an audio recording of the session (more on that below) then it’s probably better to manually record it, hitting the record button as you start the formal hypnotherapy process during the session (that way you don’t have to edit it afterwards).
Once you’ve set all your meeting preferences and hit the ‘save’ button, your meeting will be scheduled. Then all you need to do is copy the ‘Join URL’ and share it with your client!
A couple of points about recording hypnotherapy sessions
Firstly, make sure to familiarise yourself with the legalities and permissions required for recording, sharing and storing your hypnotherapy sessions, to ensure that you are GDPR compliant (or compliant with federal laws in your state/area, as well as the client’s area).
Secondly, unless your session is fairly generic and future/success-focused, it’s not a great idea to give a client a recording of their session. The reason being, if you’re working on resolving problems and working through issues during a session, a client will have likely already started their change process, whether a little bit or a lot. By giving them a recording of a session that they have already completed, you’re basically ‘handing them back the problem’ and assuming they haven’t changed yet. You’re re-setting them to 0. So, our advice is, if you’re going to give a client an MP3 or recording for them to listen to after the session, it’s best if it’s designed to reinforce and to promote future success. If you’re working more to resolve problems and change negative habits, behaviours and thoughts, then you’re best keeping that stuff in the session, so they can engage with your suggestions, and begin to make their own changes as they move forwards.
Finally, if you do choose to record your sessions, I would generally recommend recording direct to your computer, rather than to the cloud, as you then have immediate access to it, and also, if you’re auto-uploading to the cloud, it can slow down your internet, which isn’t helpful if you have another client scheduled in straight after. Once you have the recordings, you can edit them (if required), using a free programme like Audacity, then send them to the client manually using a file sharing service such as DropBox or Google Drive (both of which have free options).
With Zoom, you have more control when you’re using a computer, rather than a tablet/phone. It’s possible to run your online hypnotherapy sessions using a smaller device, but generally you’re better off with a proper computer/laptop. If your laptop has a poor-quality microphone or camera, then it can be worth getting yourself a better one (as you want the client to be able to see and hear you clearly).
For cameras, there are loads on Amazon. Ideally you want a 1080p camera, but 720p will do if cost is a factor. As with most tech items, you’re generally better off going with a brand name (such as Logitech, with their 1080p C920S HD Pro Webcam, or their slightly cheaper 720p C270 HD Webcam), but if in doubt, go via the reviews on Amazon! For audio, ‘Blue Microphones’ really are second-to-none in terms of price and ease of use. The Blue Snowball Microphone is their ‘entry level mic’ (and the one that I have personally used for years, and would highly recommend). If you’re looking for a more serious bit of kit that gives a better sound, then the Blue Yeti Microphone is the way to go. It’s double the price, but double the mic, and is a great investment if you’re planning on recording any hypnotherapy MP3s or podcasts in the future! Both mics just plug into your USB port and are ready to go. Also, whichever microphone you get, it’s worth getting yourself a ‘pop filter’ to cut down on any unwanted ‘plosive’ sounds when talking into the mic!
In terms of the client, their choice of device doesn’t matter so much, so long as they can see and hear your clearly (all the better if they can wear headphones). That said, if at all possible, you want to be able to see your client’s upper body, from their head, down to where their hands are. That way, you’re not going to miss out on important body language and gestures.
Dealing with problems
There aren’t many issues with online therapy that are different to those in a standard therapy session. If a client has an abreaction, you would treat it the same as if you were there in person. If a client comes out of hypnosis and opens their eyes, you would treat it the same. If there is a distraction, you would treat it the same. The only significantly different issue that you might face is internet connection problems.
If you get disconnected from your client during the hypnosis portion of your hypnotherapy session, it could potentially cause issues. That is why you will let them know what to do if they were to get disconnected, before you start the hypnosis process. With this, it’s best to keep it brief, simple, and easy to understand. Tell them, “if at any point our connection is lost, and you become aware that I am no longer speaking with you, after a minute you will immediately open your eyes and re-establish the connection”. Once they’ve done that, you would re-induce hypnosis (“close your eyes and go back into hypnosis”) and start again from where you left off. It’s as simple as that, and on the rare occasion that it happens, it works just fine.
Some online hypnotherapists put their phone number on the appointment confirmation, and let clients know that if they cannot reconnect to the video, that they should instead call (or contact via WhatsApp) to re-establish contact that way. However, don’t worry too much about connection problems, because even if they do happen, assuming you have informed the client of how to respond beforehand, they will usually come back online relatively quickly, and you can resume your session where you left off.
So, if you’re a hypnotherapist and you’ve been stranded at home by the COVID-19 situation, wondering when your next client will be, or if you’re reading this after life has returned to normality (or as close to it as possible) wondering about whether you can take your hypnotherapy services online, then wonder no more!
You have the fantastic ability to help people with hypnotherapy, and now you have the knowledge to take your amazing hypnotherapy skills online. Sure, it might take a little trial and error for you to find your footing, just like it did when you were doing your first ever hypnotherapy sessions, but the sooner you get started, the quicker you’ll get to where you want to be!
Keep focused and do all you can to make the best of this situation. Don’t let it stop you from continuing to help people, because people that help others are just what the world needs right now! So, get set up, put yourself out there and keep making a difference. Your future online clients will be glad that you did!
We hope that you found this blog on how to do hypnotherapy online helpful, and if you have any questions about this topic or anything else for that matter, do please get in touch, because we’re always happy to help! Stay safe folks and wash your hands!
– written by Rory Z Fulcher