Chapter One - Getting into your client's world
The first step to creating effective session content is building the right relationship with your client. Rapport is the word often used to describe this relationship, which is made up of elements like compatibility, trust and emotional affinity.
We sometimes say we are 'in rapport with' friends, family and others that we feel close to or confide in, but this usually comes about over time through two-way communication: shared confidences, experiences, feelings and values. In therapy, rapport has to come from a different place because you don’t have this kind of interaction with clients.
Your clients' experiences and feelings, even values, may be completely different from yours and yet they need to feel that they can safely share personal information with you, and talk about difficult experiences or emotions without you being shocked or judgemental. They may not have revealed some of these things to anyone else before or even admitted them to themselves. This requires you to build a deep level of trust - rapport - quickly and effectively.
Chapter Two - Exploring your client's world
In a therapeutic setting, clean language doesn’t mean not swearing (although you should keep your language clean in that sense too). Using clean language means avoiding leading questions - those that suggest a specific answer.
For example, asking your client 'Do you feel anxious when that happens?' would probably lead them to say 'yes' as long as anxiety was somewhere in the right area. But asking specifically about anxiety reflects what we think the client feels, instead of letting them tell us about it.
When we're trying to get right into the client's world and see things from their point of view, we need their own descriptors.
Chapter Three - Changing your client's world
Clients come to you because there is something in their world they want to change. Some already know what the answer is. A weight control client, for example, may be aware that eating less and exercising more will get them to their ideal healthy body weight, but they need your help to achieve that. Other clients have little or no idea what will work for them, and then you'll need to help them identify the right solutions as well as to put them in place.
Either way, your job as a therapist is not to have a series of 'off the shelf' answers at your fingertips. Just as your client's worlds are different, their solutions may be too. Your role is one of facilitation and empowerment, rather than manipulation and control, so the goal of really effective therapy is finding the changes that are helpful - and practical - for each individual client.
Chapter Four - Working with words
Many therapists begin by using therapeutic scripts from books and websites. It’s a good way to tap into hypnotic language and to get ideas from more experienced therapists. Unfortunately, as we’ve said, one of the big problems is that they do not reflect your client’s world except in very general terms. Cast your mind back to our fictitious client Annie who wanted to quit smoking because she was planning a family. Few, if any, 'quit smoking' scripts include that as a motivator, because (being generic) they are forced to concentrate on what smoking clients have in common, rather than on what makes them unique.
It’s all very well to say 'adapt them', but many look complete, or have an internal flow and logic so that it’s not always easy to see how this can be done. What we’re going to look at in this chapter is a way to approach that adaptation process.
Chapter Five - Words and stories
We have been talking about suggestions: how to construct them and how to use them in your hypnotherapy sessions. In this part of the book, we are going to consider a slightly different approach.
We all love stories; as children, listening to, reading or watching stories is one of our favourite things to do. We like fairy stories, stories about our families and our parents when they were young; all kinds of things that help us relate to our social and physical environment. When you work with metaphors, you are essentially telling your clients a story. Just like stories, metaphors can draw us into them, provoking strong emotional responses, and they appeal to that part of our unconscious mind which is still childlike and enjoys learning in this way.
Chapter Six - When worlds collide
Although the chapter title is a little exaggerated, it is true that, having spent a lot of time considering your client's world, you need finally to consider the impact of your own. You do not provide therapy in a vacuum, any more than your client seeks it that way, and events in your own life will make you feel tired, happy, sad, energised, worried, excited, and so on.
Ideally, of course, these things are left outside your therapy room door when you go into 'work mode'. If you have a lot going on and think you can’t do this it’s best not to practise for a while, or at least not to see clients with issues that mirror your own. If you have recently suffered a bereavement, for example, it would almost certainly be a good idea to refer on potential clients in the same situation.
But you need to recognise that even smaller events can have an impact on your ability to get fully into your client's world and provide effective therapy. It's why looking after yourself as well as your clients is so important, and in this final chapter, we are going to have a look at a few ideas which will help you do just that.