When I explain hypnosis and talk to clients or groups about the differences between stage hypnosis and therapeutic applications of hypnosis, I am often asked (and have been asked twice this week) about the hand clasp that is used at the beginning of stage shows by stage hypnotists looking for good subjects for their show.

The hand clasp hypnotic responsiveness test is used by hypnotherapists too and actually appeared in the Stanford Scale – the largest, most comprehensive and readily used formal test for measuring hypnotic responsiveness and is used within a vast amount of hypnosis research.

The hand clasp is typical of those kinds of tests for hypnotic responsiveness that involve the client being challenged to perform a task. In this case, the task is that they sit comfortably and are asked to lock their hands together with the fingers interlocked. The hypnotist/hypnotherapist then delivers suggestions that state the hands are stuck together in some way and the harder the client tries to unlock their hands, the more stuck they become.

It is common to suggest they are stuck with glue, but some suggest they are tied or stuck in other ways.

This is made more effective by the use of language when setting this process up and when delivering the suggestions. For example if you ask the client to “try and prise your hands apart” the use of the fact that they are “trying” to open infers they are not actually doing it.

This similar notion is employed with all manner of other tests for hypnotic responsiveness, such as with arm catalepsy “the harder you try to bend your arm, the more solid it becomes” or eyelids locking “the harder you try to open your eyes, the more locked closed your eyelids feel” and so on.

So once the suggestions for the hands clasped have been repeated and demonstrated, the next stage is to alter the language from trying to doing in order to complete the hypnotic responsiveness.

usually, this becomes something like “in a moment, when I count to 3, you let your hands loosen and fall into your lap with comfort and you’ll find they are flexible and loose and you are in control of them again.” You then count to three, or just give the order for it to happen.

When the client was asked to “try” there was a sense of challenge whereby failure was in built. With the latter part of the hands loosening, the client is instructed to just “do” the process of letting go with the hands and they follow accordingly.

many hypnotherapists and hypnotists I have seen do this, often use this to induce hypnosis, especially if the client is being really responsive. This is done with a simple instruction, worded however you prefer along the lines of “”in a moment, when I say the word sleep, you let your hands loosen and fall into your lap with comfort and you’ll find that all the time it takes for them to fall to your lap, is all the time it takes for you to be deeply hypnotised.” You then say sleep, and deepen accordingly.

Time is important here. If you leave anyone for too long testing a hypnotic challenge, they’ll find themselves being able to do what you ask eventually. So ideally, only give them a short while to test before you let them relax and move on to something else. Another way you can bring the challenge and the client “trying” to pull their hands apart to the stage whereby they really believe in their own hypnotic responsiveness, is to let those few moments pass, before you timely tell them “stop trying and let your hands and arms relax.” You have them “stop” what they were doing with a direct instruction and this solidifies the hypnotic responsiveness.

There you have it, a neat process for testing hypnotic responsiveness in hypnosis sessions with clients and a way to use the hand clasp as a hypnosis induction too.