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The POSIE Approach: Problem-solving with hypnotherapy

hypnotc using hypnotherapy to deal with stress

Many clients who seek hypnotherapy will benefit from gaining skills in how to address problems in their life. Rather than just have the hypnotherapist tell them what to do, it is more empowering for clients to develop their own problem-solving abilities.

Most people have ‘a’ way of addressing problems. However, in some, or all situations, their problem-solving strategies may either be helpful, such as finding solutions, or unhelpful, such as avoidance.

This blog provides a clear and effective model, POSIE, for problem-solving that can be easily taught to clients within a hypnotherapy session. It gives information on how to use each component conversationally, and, where relevant, in hypnosis. In addition, an illustrative example has been given.

Overall, the aim of the POSIE approach is to help a client learn to be calm and focused and develop effective problem-solving skills, that they can both apply now and as a lifelong tool for future challenges.

Before you read further, if you want to become a professional hypnotherapist or upskill, we recommend you check our award-winning HypnoTC Hypnotherapy Diploma course.


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Hypnotherapy and Response Development

Where a client has unhelpful responses, or lacks resources to address challenges, hypnotherapy can be helpful.

Firstly, unhelpful strategies can be identified, whether as part of the consultation process, or by using hypnotherapy techniques.

You may employ cognitive hypnotherapy methods to identify beliefs. Or, you may choose analytical hypnotherapy approaches to gain insight.

Then, as the client learns new responses, habits can be developed, using behavioural hypnotherapy techniques.


Breathwork, Mindfulness and Being Calm

Before you even start change work with a client, developing the ability to be calm is helpful. This is particularly so where a client will be learning or developing new skills which have some cognitive or alert state activity. It is easier to focus when you are calm.

When someone is stressed, whether acutely or chronically, there can be an impact on how they address situations and make decisions. Indeed, when stressed, research indicates people can make more habitual responses to challenges, rather than deliberate goal-directed choices.



If you haven’t already taught your client a breathing technique or a mindful focus technique, this may be something you might wish to do first. If you want your client to make focused choices, it helps to provide tools for them to achieve the desired state.

When stressed, it is harder for someone to make focused decisions, and they will tend to procrastinate more when asked to make deliberate, informed decisions. Breathwork can reduce the stress response, enabling them to engage with a calmer mind and body.

Mindfulness techniques help someone maintain a focus on the present, rather than stressing out about what has happened in the past, or could happen in the future. By calming the mind first, this can reduce the impact of unhealthy beliefs or cognitive distortions on the POSIE decision-making process.


The POSIE Approach

The POSIE approach to problem-solving is easy to use in a therapy session and to teach to a client.

It can be helpful to create a handout for the client to use as an aide-memoire after the session. This enables the client to repeat the process as desired, rather than potentially be distracted during the therapy session; more focused on having to remember for later, rather than engaging in that moment.



Action: The first step is to define the problem in one sentence.

By clearly defining the problem, without lots of side issues, or padding, this generates a clear starting point for the process.

For some clients, this may be a challenging first step. They may know, in general terms, what they don’t want, but are less able to define what the issue actually is.

Being able to clearly articulate what the problem is may be a learning moment for the client. For instance, they may struggle to identify what the problem is from their perspective, instead talking about what others think, eg “Aunt Joan says I am an anxious person so I won’t be able to cope with a new job”.

In response to the client giving a third-person view, rather than just diving in and asking the client for what they think for themselves, it can be helpful to ask for other third-person perspectives. Perhaps asking what other family members think and what their friends’ views are. This helps the client explore the problem from different perspectives and, without even having to consciously think, they start to evolve their own perspective. You can then more easily ask what their view is as well.

If you are helping the client to identify the problem whilst they are hypnotised, you could invite them to observe the problem situation from a third-person perspective, as though watching a movie or play. They can then step into the scene and experience it from a first-person perspective to get insight.



Action: The next step is to explore the possible ways of addressing the problem.

By looking for a range of options (possible solutions), there can be a creative approach to the issue. This allows for even bizarre or extreme options to be recognised, and also for any obviously weak options to be ruled out.

Factors a client may explore include considering their feelings, emotions and instinctive perceptions, and whether they have enough information to truly consider an option (eg benefits, costs, risks).

Options can be explored in the hypnotic state. The situation can be viewed and a range of ‘what if’ approaches could be considered by using future pacing. The client can then gain a realistic appraisal of whether each potential option is a realistic choice for consideration.




Action: The client then selects the most appropriate solution from their range of options.

The client is able to evaluate each of the options they have generated and explore which would be the best fit. They can consider the potential positive and negative consequences of each choice.

It is at this point they may realise that they need additional resources or strategies in order to implement their preferred option. The hypnotherapist and client can then treat that requirement as an additional problem to be solved. They may even pause this particularly activity to POSIE that problem, then come back to the original issue with new insight, data or awareness.

For example, a client may wish to have a discussion with their manager about their workload. They identify they would benefit from some assertiveness training, in order to have that discussion effectively. A new POSIE assessed and organised some assertiveness strategies. The client then came back to their original problem and was able to make their preferred selection from an informed perspective.

Selecting a solution in hypnosis can make full use of future pacing. The client can explore, in detail, from third and first-person perspectives how their solution could be integrated into their life. It may also be helpful to check whether, or how well, the solution is in alignment with a client’s core values, as this can add an extra layer of connection.




Action: The solution gets implemented.

This stage of the process is usually conducted outside of the hypnotherapy session. The client will put into effect their selected solution and integrate it into their own life.

Here, any habit change work, mental rehearsal or future pacing, whether in the alert state, or in hypnosis, will have prepared the client. This means that, for the client, it can feel familiar, rather than something completely new and strange.

As a result, the client is more likely to fully engage with the process and with more confidence. They know what they are going to do.



Action: Once the solution is in place, a review can be conducted and it can be assessed whether the problem is resolved by the implemented solution.

For many people, finding a solution is the end point of any problem-solving activity. However, sometimes, what seems to be a good solution, once road-tested, doesn’t fully address the problem.

By making time to evaluate the solution’s effectiveness, additional implementation activities which may be beneficial can be identified and put into effect. Alternatively, it might be that the client would benefit from returning to the start of the process, re-defining the problem and exploring options.

It can be helpful to have a flexible mindset, rather than fixed expectations. If a particular solution isn’t giving the desired results, then rather than taking it personally, it can be better to simply look for a different solution.


Giving Examples

Rather than teaching your client just a theoretical model, it can be more helpful to give clients examples of how the POSIE problem-solving model can be applied.

For example, Jessica presented for hypnotherapy with a goal of reducing her workplace stress. She found it very difficult to say ‘no’ to each of her three managers, all of whom seemed to treat her as she worked solely for them (in terms of work allocated). Michael, Jessica’s hypnotherapist, taught her how to use POSIE and they worked through an example during the therapy session and beyond.


Jessica’s Problem:

Manager A has asked me to complete a costings project by Friday, but I already have work from Manager B that is urgent, and Manager C is likely to give me some additional work too. I don’t have enough time.



Jessica’s Options:

  1. Tell Manager A ‘no’
  2. Tell Manager B his project won’t be done in time
  3. Tell Manager C ‘no’ if he gives me more work
  4. Tell both Managers B and C I can’t do their work
  5. Ask all three Managers to agree my priorities between them and give me clear information about what should be done and when.


Jessica’s Solution:

Jessica evaluated the pros and cons, considering how she felt about each situation. She also thought about the impact of the solution on both herself and her managers. She chose option 5 as the best fit for her at present.


Jessica’s Implementation:

In the hypnotherapy, both in and out of hypnosis, she practiced telling her managers what she wanted and the reasons for that. Her therapist gave her some homework. Once home, she used mental rehearsal techniques to practice more until she felt confident in her approach. When she went back to her workplace, she asked her managers just as she had planned.


Jessica’s Evaluation:

When she reflected on her managers’ responses, she found she had not only had a successful choice of solution, but had gained some insight. Her managers had apologised for giving her conflicting instructions and had agreed to share her time more effectively. She felt that the outcome was a good solution. She monitored it to ensure it worked in practice. She also realised how important it was for her to engage in clear communication.



Other Resources



The POSIE approach is a quick and efficient method of problem-solving. However, if a client is inexperienced in decision-making, they may benefit from a higher level of information and support to help them develop confidence in their problem-solving strategies. You may find our blog, ‘Helping therapy clients develop problem-solving strategies‘, gives you some beneficial approaches to share with your clients.


Client homework

We have a helpful YouTube video on ‘Why you should be giving your clients homework’. This can help you better understand the many benefits of having therapy clients engaging in self-care and other activities beyond the hypnotherapy session.


Resistance to change

If you find that your client is a little resistant to change, we also have an informative YouTube video you may find helpful on ‘What happens when a hypnotherapy client is resistant?


Communication skills

Should you like to develop your conversational communication skills further, you may like to read Dr Kate’s book, entitled ‘How To Communicate More Effectively’.


Hypnotherapy training

Finally, if you would like to find out more about using hypnotherapy with clients, do visit our Diploma page and have a browse through the information about our world-class, award-winning training.


Contact Dr Kate for a chat about becoming a professional Hypnotherapist



– written by Dr Kate Beaven-Marks
(HypnoTC Director)

Dr Kate Beaven-Marks HypnoTC the Hypnotherapy Training Company

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