Written by Dr Kate Beaven-Marks
How would you feel if you went to see a comedy hypnosis show and the stage hypnotist was reading from a script to hypnotise the volunteers? Even if he could do that for the beginning part (guiding them into hypnosis), would a script work for all the different ways people could respond to the entertaining suggestions? Probably not, because you would likely need a complex flow chart and there is no time to do that!
Also, just imagine for a moment that you are walking through a park and see someone with ‘FREE HYPNOSIS EXPERIENCE’ in big letters on their shirt. You have found someone engaging in ‘street hypnosis’ (it doesn’t need to just be ‘on the street’!). How confident would you be in that person’s ability to hypnotise, if they were reading directly from a ‘how to do street hypnosis’ book? It’s likely that they wouldn’t get many (if any) volunteers.
Now, imagine visiting a hypnotherapist. They follow a checklist to get information from you and then begin to rifle through a huge filing cabinet (or massive database) to find the closest hypnotherapy script that matches what your issue is, as well as what you would like to achieve (your therapy goal). Even if they do find a useful script, how will it feel to be on the receiving end of the session when the person hypnotising you is looking at a piece of paper, and paying more attention to what they are reading than to you, the client? Or, perhaps you may have been a bit reluctant to say what your problem was on the phone, so you said you wanted to work on confidence. The therapist then prepared a script on confidence, yet, when you arrive, you say the real issue is ‘premature ejaculation’ (or something else, completely unrelated to confidence). A general purpose confidence script is then unlikely to make much of an impact.
This blog explores how anyone, from a complete beginner to an experienced therapist who is used to using scripts can work confidently without a sheaf of papers containing scripts for each element of the hypnosis process.
Are hypnosis scripts of any use at all? Yes, they have their place! As a professional hypnotherapist, should you ditch your tried and tested scripts and immediately go ‘script free’? Well, if you’re planning to move away from using hypnosis scripts, then gradually phasing them out can be a better approach. How about if you are a complete beginner and don’t have a clue what to say? This tends to be more about learning the contents of a script and ‘why’ it works – and no, you don’t need a photographic memory to ‘remember scripts’ in order to be a fantastic hypnotist or hypnotherapist. In fact, working without scripts can help you to focus more flexibly on what you’re doing, as well as what approaches will give you (or your subject, volunteer or client) the desired result!
A script can be a valuable resource. It shows you one way of addressing an issue. Let’s use smoking cessation as an example. A good script will contain a range of elements that will broadly cover many of the triggers, issues, challenges and goals your client may relate to. However, they are written for ‘client X’ – a generic client. Therefore, the suggestions in your script will never be exactly right for your client. You might be able to adapt it as you go, yet unless you are very skilled, the client will likely notice a change in your ‘flow’.
Just for a second, think about how many different situations someone might be anxious about. Exams, relationships, travel, health… so many, the list could be immense. When you consider broader conditions, such as anxiety, it can be even less likely that a script will directly relate to the client’s specific issues. You might have an awesome script for performance anxiety for speaking up at a team meeting. Yet it won’t necessarily address the key issues that a shy person required to give a ‘best man speech’ at a large wedding could be facing.
Relying on specific hypnosis scripts is even more challenging (if not almost impossible) for a stage or street hypnotist. As with hypnotherapy, the client is likely to have their eyes closed and you won’t have an audience. Whereas for entertainment hypnosis, you have the perception of the audience to consider as well. However, a good routine script is a fabulous tool to show you an example of how you can create that comedy moment, in order to then go on and make it your own.
For people new to hypnosis, it can seem that a script is a wonderful safety blanket. Someone more experienced, who knows what they are doing (hopefully) has written the script, so it’s likely to be fairly effective. Yet the more you use a script, the more reliant on scripts you can become, and the less likely you are to develop the ability to adapt your hypnotic suggestions, techniques and processes ‘on the fly’, which can lead to inflexibility.
Transitioning from scripts
So where do you start? Well, getting some good training is useful. Whilst you can get an idea of how to hypnotise from a blog, a YouTube video or a book, you will get a much better idea of the fundamental concepts from a more in-depth and interactive way of learning, whether an introductory level online course (such as our Rapid hypnosis 101, Hypnotherapy 101 or stage hypnosis 101 courses), a more detailed and interactive online course (e.g. our ‘Live-Online Hypnotherapy Certificate’ course), or even an in-person training (such as our 10-month Hypnotherapy Diploma Course that we run twice a year in London). As well as getting a good understanding of how hypnosis (and/or hypnotherapy) works, a good strategy for learning the protocols, approaches and processes, and why they work, is also essential.
The five-step process below is a useful model to apply to taking any script and committing it to your memory – not word-for-word, but in a way that you will begin to actually understand all aspects of the script, and know how to deliver the same elements, but in your own words (and all from your own memory):
Step 1: Read the script
It can be a good idea to read a script through twice. Firstly, read it silently, as you would normally read something. Then again, when you are a bit more familiar with it, read it out loud, as though you were delivering it to someone.
Step 2: Consider the elements within the script
Now you have an idea of what’s in the script, think about the purpose of the script and the elements within it. For example, with a weight management hypnotherapy script there may be a metaphor (therapeutic story) about someone choosing a healthy path in future, and another person choosing an unhealthy path and the consequences of both (element 1), together with some direct and indirect post-hypnotic suggestions about eating nutritious food (element 2), and perhaps an ‘aversion’ technique (element 3) and then some ego strengthening (element 4).
Step 3: Detailed bullet points
When you have your individual elements, you can then make some detailed bullet points summarising the key content within each element, plotting the route through the element, and maybe directly noting any important key words or phrases. If you are used to using scripts (especially if they are a comfort blanket), then you might like to become familiar with creating and practising with detailed bullet points and using those instead of the script itself.
For example, with element 4, here is a short example script, and afterwards, an example of some ‘detailed bullet points’ that summarise the script content:
“After this session, you will find that over the coming days and weeks, as you make healthy decisions and positive choices, you will find that you are able to think more clearly… Finding it easy, almost effortless, to make decisions that will benefit you and your continued weight loss process… You will begin to feel more relaxed about yourself, and the people that you interact with, noticing the positives during each day, becoming more and more secure in yourself, and feeling safe and secure in the knowledge that you are making a wonderful, positive change in your life. This change will help you to go on into your future, and to live a healthy, fulfilling life, allowing you to enjoy all that you wish to… and that feels good now!”
- After session, next days/weeks, will be able to think more clearly
- Healthy decisions, positive choices, easy/effortless
- Will feel more relaxed about self and others, notice positives
- Will have more safety and security
- Making positive change, live healthy, fulfilling life
When you are comfortable using the detailed bullet points instead of the script, you can then move on to step 4.
Step 4: Summary bullet points
As you now have a good idea of the themes and the flow of the script and are becoming comfortable using your own words, you can now summarise those detailed bullet points into much briefer summary points. Once again, use these summary bullet points until you are comfortable using your own words around the key concepts in your summary points.
Using the same example for theme 4:
- Think more clearly
- Healthy, positive choices
- Feel relaxed (self/others)
- Safety and security
- Healthy, fulfilling life
Step 5: Key words
The final step, before working completely script free, is to further summarise your bullet points down to a few key words. For example, with the ongoing example of theme 4: think, choices, feel, safety, fulfilled. With continued practice and use, you will become more and more comfortable using your own words until all you may need is a simple reminder of the overall elements of a script.
Become a flexible, confident hypnotist/hypnotherapist
By working script free and using your own language you have much more flexibility to directly relate your work to the needs and goals of the client. For example, a smoking cessation client may use the term ‘smokes’ or ‘ciggys’ instead of cigarettes. Rather than risk reading out ‘cigarette’ from a script and possibly breaking rapport for sounding ‘too formal’, you could simply adapt what you’re saying and their preferred word. With ‘rapport’ in mind, also consider, a client or hypnosis volunteer will have become familiar with your own phrasing and use of language prior to being hypnotised. By working script free you are able to keep congruent in your use of language, rather than using someone else’s words and phrasing. Meaning, you’ll sound more like yourself, and the people you’re hypnotising will pick up on that, and usually will react even more positively because of it!
As you gain an understanding of how scripts are created and how each element of the script works, you can start to create your own scripts. Possibly, initially making use of a combination of themes from a number of pre-written scripts, and then creating your own elements. Over time you can become comfortable and confident working anywhere, without worrying about whether you have the right script to hand, because everything that you need will be readily available, in your mind, thanks to your script-free hypnosis practice and experience!
We hope you’ve enjoyed this blog on hypnosis without scripts, and 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 Dr Kate Beaven-Marks