If you’re thinking about becoming a hypnotherapist (or even engaging in hypnotherapy yourself), before you decide which hypnotherapy training company/hypnotherapist you are going to choose, it’s worth knowing that hypnotherapy isn’t just hypnotherapy… It’s not ‘standardised’ and there are many different types of hypnotherapy that a therapist might use. This blog will give you a brief introduction to some of the most popular types of hypnotherapy out there, which should help you to make your decision moving forwards…
The majority of hypnotherapists are trained to be ‘solution-focused’. Whether a hypnotherapist labels him/herself as a solution-focused hypnotherapist is up to them, because you don’t need to use the label in order to use the approach (as is the case with many of these branches of hypnotherapy). Solution-focused simply means that the hypnotherapist works with the client in order to create and work towards a solution, rather than focusing simply on ‘getting rid of the problem’… It’s generally much more effective to work ‘towards something’ (a goal), as opposed to ‘away from something’ (a problem).
Behavioural hypnotherapy is often a hypnotherapist’s initial ‘go-to’ when working with clients. The idea is that the hypnotherapist helps the client to modify their current (or future) behaviours and habits. The hypnotherapist will work collaboratively with the client during the intake/case history process (before the hypnotherapy begins) to agree on appropriate changes. They then use hypnotherapy techniques and hypnotic suggestions to support and embed these behavioural changes. Using hypnotherapy to support behavioural changes enables clients to better ‘stick to it’ and carry on the changes after the session is over. This is often one of the ‘least intrusive’ types of hypnotherapy, hence why it’s usually the first approach used by professional hypnotherapists.
Cognitive hypnotherapy techniques focus less on behaviours/habits and more on the thoughts and beliefs relating to those behaviours. Sometimes the mind can ‘get stuck’ in unhelpful ways of thinking (that may once have served a positive purpose). Cognitive hypnotherapy can help clients to ‘update’ their beliefs on a ‘subconscious level’, meaning that they begin to think about things differently. Cognitive techniques can draw from a range of different therapies and theories, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), rational emotive behaviour therapy (REBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) and even mindfulness approaches. The therapist, as with all other branches of hypnotherapy, will choose the right approach to meet the client’s personal requirements, goals and values.
Analytical hypnotherapy (or hypno-analysis)
Using ideas and approaches from the analytical school of psychotherapy, analytical hypnotherapy is used to identify ‘why’ a client has a problem, or why they’re doing what they’re doing. Many analytical hypnotherapists work to find ‘root causes’, with a view to helping the client respond to said causes differently. Analytical therapists also help clients to find ‘insight’ within themselves, because sometimes we have ‘the answers’ within us, yet we may not be aware of them.
Named after Milton H. Erickson, an American psychiatrist and hypnotist (and a key figure of modern hypnotherapy), Ericksonian hypnotherapy uses ‘indirect suggestions’, storytelling/metaphors and more ‘off the wall’ approaches in order to create changes in clients, whether on a behavioural, cognitive or even analytical level. Ericksonian hypnotherapy (when performed properly) can be highly effective, however there are some hypnotherapists that label their approaches as ‘Ericksonian’ when in fact they are not. True Ericksonian hypnotherapy is highly adapted to each individual client and tends to rely on the therapist’s innate ability to judge what type of intervention a client needs. Whether a story relating to their problem, a challenging homework task to break a habit, an abrupt and confrontational conversation or even simple, indirect suggestions relating to their goal… Fundamentally, Ericksonian hypnotherapy can be thought of as a combination of many different therapeutic approaches, but in it’s simplest form (the form that is most often taught by modern hypnotherapy schools), it refers more to metaphors and indirect suggestions (which can be a very useful tool in creating change with clients).
Regression hypnotherapy (or regression to cause)
Regression (or ‘regression to cause’) refers to taking a client back in their mind to past events that may have some bearing on their problem. It’s worth noting that regression doesn’t have to be used to access negative events/memories, regression can also be used to access past resource states and positive memories too. In terms of therapy, regression is often one of the last approaches a professional hypnotherapist will use (or should be), because most of the time a behavioural, cognitive or analytical approach will be much easier on the client (psychologically). When a hypnotherapist works through the above-mentioned approaches first, they’ll usually find a more appropriate/effective solution for the client, without needing to ‘go back’ and search for a potential cause (which could potentially re-traumatise the client).
Occasionally a well-trained hypnotherapist might use regression as a first approach, but usually this will only be for phobias/fears. The reason hypnotherapists might use regressions for phobias as a first approach is because it’s highly likely that the phobia relates to a past event (often from childhood). Working with said event will often be the key to removing the phobia (though some hypnotherapists use non-regression approaches to work with phobias too). Please avoid any training/therapists that recommend regression as a first/only approach, regardless of the issue, as generally this is a very limited way of working. Many therapists who’re only trained in regression and nothing else are not as skilled at dealing with the potential issues that may arise in the therapy process.
Past-life regression hypnotherapy
Some clients believe in past lives and that those lives have a bearing on their current issue. Upon experiencing ‘past life memories’ some clients gain insight into their own problems and why they’re happening. Sometimes the goal of past life therapy is to ‘cut the ties’, removing connection to unhelpful past lives. As a therapist, believing in past lives is not a prerequisite for performing past life regressions, however having respect for the client’s own beliefs is important (as is the case, no matter what type of hypnotherapy you are doing). Some therapists and clients believe in past lives, others believe that the past life is a metaphor for change. Either way, it works for some people. The techniques used in past-life regression are very similar to those used in normal (current life) regression.
Unfortunately, most of the time so-called ‘clinical hypnotherapists’ are pretty much just regularly trained hypnotherapists. There are many courses out there offering ‘clinical hypnotherapy training’ but it actually isn’t. Why isn’t it? Well, because by definition clinical hypnotherapy means hypnotherapy that is performed in a clinical environment or in the treatment of medical conditions. Conditions such as pain, skin problems, obstetrics (childbirth), psycho-sexual disorders and particularly those problems where other healthcare providers are involved in the overall care and management of the client’s health. So, though ‘clinical hypnotherapy’ sounds impressive, take it with a pinch of salt. If you’re looking for a clinical hypnotherapist or real clinical hypnotherapy training, there are not many options out there. However, one of our hypnotherapy trainers, Dr Kate Beaven-Marks truly is a clinical hypnotherapist (she uses hypnosis on the wards of hospitals in London) and she could definitely give you further advice on clinical hypnotherapy (feel free to contact her for more details).
Hypno-psychotherapy is, you’ve probably guessed it, the integration of both hypnotherapy and psychotherapy (such as gestalt, humanistic, psychodynamic, etc.). Hypnotherapists offering this type of approach will have training in both hypnotherapy and psychotherapy. Be aware that some hypnotherapy trainers offer courses that cover both and some psychologists only get basic hypnosis training, in both scenarios this can sometimes mean that their overall training is not quite as good as if a therapist were to get a full hypnotherapy qualification as well as a standalone psychology qualification too. This is because courses that cover more than one discipline can often be overly focused on one of them, rather than teaching all aspects of both to a high level.
Similar to hypno-psychotherapy, hypno-counselling is the use of counselling techniques alongside hypnotherapy. Same again, it’s often a much better idea to get two separate qualifications rather than trying to ‘cut down on time and costs’ by taking a ‘merged’ hypnotherapy/counselling course.
There are many other therapies and techniques out there that are utilised by hypnotherapists. Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) is a common one employed by hypnotherapists. Formulated by studying/modelling excellent communicators and therapists, NLP lends a great many tools to the hypnotherapists toolbox, such as the fast phobia cure, timeline therapy, 6 step reframe, etc. Many NLP techniques can be made more effective when used in hypnosis, this is why many NLP courses include a bit of hypnosis training. However, again, as it’s an addition (often included almost as an after thought), generally ‘NLPers’ don’t learn enough about hypnosis to do it as effectively as if they’d engaged in a full hypnotherapy course alongside their NLP training.
As well as all of the above types of hypnotherapy, there are also many ‘standalone’ hypnotherapy techniques that hypnotherapists sometimes use alongside their standard approach, such as ‘The Swan’, ‘The Arrow’, ‘Kinetic Shift’, ‘Old Pain 2 Go’, etc. These techniques are not ‘types of hypnotherapy’ in and of themselves, however they are often used alongside other hypnotherapy approaches/types. That said, some hypnotherapists only ever learn one or two standalone techniques, without actually taking a full hypnotherapy course! Without having the underpinning knowledge that full training gives, this often means that these therapists might not be working as safely or effectively with clients as they could be if they’d engaged in full training (if you want to learn more about training vs. techniques, we have another blog about exactly that).
So which type of hypnotherapy is best?
All the types of hypnotherapy mentioned above can be applied successfully, but the selection of method depends on the needs of each individual client. If you’re looking to become a hypnotherapist, ideally you want a course that at the very least covers behavioural, cognitive, analytical and regressive approaches. Ericksonian approaches can also be helpful to know. Your training needs to be ‘solution focused’, it doesn’t need to be ‘clinical’. You can combine your hypnotherapy with other therapies, such as psychology and counselling, but if you do, don’t settle for a course that only gives you the ‘broad strokes’ of each, get the best training you can for each type of therapy. Feel free to learn and use additional techniques alongside what you learn on your full hypnotherapy training, but ensure that you get your full training first so that you’re working as safely and effectively as you can.
If you’d like information on a course that meets all of the above criteria (and more), take a look at our Hypnotherapy Diploma page for the full syllabus and upcoming course dates. For more information on how to compare/choose a good hypnotherapy course (which is highly recommended), take a look at the following blogs:
We hope that this blog on ‘types of hypnotherapy’ has been helpful to you. If you have any more questions about this topic or anything else for that matter, do please get in touch, because we’re always happy to help!
– written by Rory Z Fulcher