Before you think I have gone off the rails and become too absorbed in Harry Potter with his invisible cloak or been reading too many HG Wells novels or fantastic four comic strips, no I am not discussing actual invisibility here today… I am referring to the attempts by us hypnotherapists to be as removed from the therapy as possible and wondered if it is a worthwhile or pointless thing to attempt to do?
I have had teachers and trainers and met with a variety of hypnosis professionals over the years who believe they can do hypnosis and/or hypnotherapy without influencing the dynamics of the process.
Is this possible I wonder?
For those that employ regression techniques in hypnotherapy sessions with clients (you regular readers know my stance on this, but is not my point for discussion today) know that it is important not to lead the client toward certain memories (something which many believe can cause false memory syndrome) i.e. They do not say “go back to when you were five and had that traumatic experience with your parents” instead they suggest that the client “go to the time when the problem began” or something that enables the client to select the memory to be worked on in the regression session.
Proponents of this belief include Calof in 1993 in the Family Therapy Networker (paper entitled Facing the truth about false memory) and Fredrickson in 1992 in Repressed memories: A journey of recovery from sexual abuse whereby it is stated that they can help the hypnotherapy client to retrieve memories and information from the clients past, without influencing the memory recall at all.
Those that work therapeutically with couples or families or within relationship counselling, for example, may well do all they can to remain neutral and not take sides or favour any particular viewpoint as advocated by the likes of Rogers (in Client Centred Therapy, 1986) or Sanford (in An inquiry into the evolution of client-centered approach to psychotherapy, 1987).
I myself often teach my students that we do not offer advice as hypnotherapists, and that our job is not to tell people how to live their lives, rather we attempt to allow them to find the right way forward and enable such with the therapeutic interventions we provide.
Yet surely any therapeutic relationship should be collaborative, no? As well-trained hypnotherapists, we know about establishing rapport, and creating a working alliance within the therapy; as being central and key to successful therapeutic outcomes… So surely, if we have any kind of therapeutic relationship at all, let alone one where we have rapport and a good working alliance, how on earth can the hypnotherapist not play a direct role in what happens in that relationship or in the therapy?
As hypnotherapists, we usually have an outcome in mind that we are striving to achieve to know that the therapy has been successful. Perhaps it is a way of measuring our progress, but we aim to achieve and attain certain outcomes and meet objectives. This makes hypnotherapy fairly directive in its approach, doesn’t it? In my own clinical hypnotherapy practice, the two most common questions I ask right at the beginning of my assessment procedure are “what do you want to achieve?” and “how will you know when you’ve got that?” Questions that are outcome focused.
In general terms, we do usually tend to have a desired therapeutic outcome in mind.
Many would even say that part of a hypnotherapists job is to help overtly influence the client in ways that help them achieve their desired outcome within the therapy… And some hypnotherapists do not enjoy the notion of believing they are influencing, unduly or not. Some even believe it is wrong.
For those of us that advocate a more evidence based approach to hypnotherapy, we like to see treatments being empirically validated, and in some cases see interventions being put together that can be applied by anyone in order to replicate similar results.
Though this way of looking at hypnotherapy does lead to us favouring the efficacy of the technique employed rather than the relationship between client and hypnotherapist which enables the technique to be used most effectively.
Can we really apply techniques and strategies in hypnotherapy without any social influence affecting what is going on? It is a debate and a half. There are other fields of study that look into this in much more depth, including the field of social psychology and sociology, for example.
In his multi edition work The Social Animal, social psychologist Aronson demonstrated that an individual who is all alone will behave in certain ways that they would never do if they were in the company of one single other person.
The idea that prevails in many notions of social psychology is that our behaviours changes when we are with other people. Which is relevant to the therapeutic context.
Yet how much we influence and effect is something which is debated greatly and something I cannot do justice to, or put concisely enough in one single blog entry – it is an entire field of study!
I think it important to be aware of our own influence in the hypnotherapy relationship but at the same time, remove opinion, judgment and have a great intention, and then the empirically researched techniques that are used can be employed as neutrally and allowed to be as effective on their own merits as possible.
Whether intentionally or not, “You cannot not influence”, even if simply by your presence, tone of voice or choice of words. Even a lifeless, script-reading machine (imagining robotic voice here) would have some sort of influence on the client (not necessarily a good one).
Thanks Mel, I agree. Great to hear from you 🙂
I was intrigued by your blog exploring the question “can the hypnotherapist be invisible?”
y thinking is this, the client will always be influenced to a greater or lesser degree, numerous factors coming into play including, the mindset of the client, that of the practitioner. the reasons for the client seeking hypnosis as the preferred therapy and so forth.. also my answer as to whether a hypnotherapist actually gives advice or not is this, that , as a hypnotist your goal is to guide the client towards identifying the issue that needs resolving and giving them the tools to help themselves and guidance on their best usage, so no a therapist is never( at least in my view) totally invisible since an element of the practitioners personality( and that of the client) also comes into play and has an effect on the degree of rapport between client and therapist.(rapport being an important prerequisite for s successful outcome). As far as PLR is concerned I am inclined to treat that area of therapy with extreme caution because I believe the mind alters certain types of memory perception as a protective mechanism.
As always your blog entries are thought provoking and a good read.
Thanks Sean, good to hear from you.
When i talk about giving advice, I am referring to people giving ideas and thoughts to clients on how to run their life based on their own values and not allowing the client to make those decisions themselves… “Oh, you should leave your husband, he sounds like a right dick” would be advice based on my values and not necessarily something the client has decided for themself; even thinking such a thing could influence what we do in therapy and the intervention used.
And by the way, my reference to regression was this life regression, which i think is potentially problematic enough… Past life regression? Don’t get me started! 😉
Thanks for your contribution Sean, it is appreciated.
Utterly disagree. If the therapist can’t give the client advice (i.e. how to feel, think and essentially BEHAVE in more effective ways) then he should operate a car wash!
Of course this is only done to the give client the experiences necessary for him or her to become clear, decisive and assertive themselves. However if the therapist cannot role model and advise clear, decisive assertiveness then the client is wasting their time.
If a client is frozen in indecision – then the therapist has to get them moving (especially if they are going to get run over.) – e.g. getting children to move out their parents house or telling someone with anger issues what to do about them (or you can wait until they hit their wife again and get some insight?).
I mean “Behavioural Activation” anyone? Of course we might dress it up by saying “why don’t you try this is an experiment” – but what we really are saying is “do this – because what you are doing (lying in bed depressed) isn’t working”.
As the brilliant Andrew Salter (founder of the ACBT – Association of Cognitive Behavioural Therapies) said ” The psychologist should go into great detail about the appropriate manner for the individual to conduct his personal and business life. If the psychologist is unable to do so, and is not broadly aware and sensitive, he can be more useful to society as an elevator operator.”
Therapists should bring their whole personality to what they are doing with appropriate forcefulness for the benefit of the client.
Mark, I am not sure what you are disagreeing with… Therapeutic assertive advice, of course, I am talking about people giving the client agony aunt-style advice, perhaps I am not making that clear.
I am referring here to individuals who as therapists, assume they know how everyone should live their lives, with a certain set of values and beliefs… We are not attempting to therap the world into becoming part of the Borg, are we?
For example, it makes me very happy to spend time in my garden, to read Ayn Rand novels and trashy sci-fi novels, watch Family Guy and to train for and run marathons… Does that mean that when my clients come to me for therapy, I should now give them life advice and tell them they need to get in their garden, read certain books, watch certain comedy shows and buy a pair of running shoes.
Of course we advise in the therapeutic context, of course we model the assertive role, and of course we press for progressive behavioural action, these are things that are in my initial client information when we agree to work together and they sign to say they have understood… But I do not think we should go around dispensing ‘advice’ on how to live successfully according to our own personal values and beliefs.