Successful Hypnosis Work


Overcoming 11 Issues That Can Stop Hypnosis Session Success
by : Calvin Banyan, DNGH, CI

I picked this topic after I recently received a question from a hypnotist who had hoped I would answer it on my weekly hypnosis training video podcast. I have to admit, at first I was reluctant to use the question about why sometimes things don’t work. I prefer to focus on what does work, rather than why things sometimes don’t. But, after some thought, I decided that even though I’d prefer to focus on the positive, it is important to discuss why sometimes our most powerful and effective techniques just don’t seem to be helpful to some individuals who seek our services.

In this article, I am going to focus on the client, not the hypnotist. Certainly, there are a number of things hypnotists do that can cause their work not to be effective. For the purposes of this article, I assume that the hypnotist is providing consistent quality services to all of her clients. With that understanding established, we can discuss issues your clients can bring into the office that can make success less likely or impossible.

The hypnotist who sent me the question wrote that she was successful about 90% of the time but, about 10% of the time, clients just did not seem to benefit from her services. Furthermore, she stated that this unsuccessful 10% did not seem to be able to utilize insight oriented processes, such as age regression and parts work, that helped the other 90%. She wanted to know why this was happening and if I could provide her with some input on the matter.

Basically, the question was, “it that makes some clients able to utilize advanced hypnosis techniques, such as age regression work and parts work, while others just don’t seem to? ”

I’m sure there are more reasons than I am about to list and discuss. However, I think that these 11 items are among the most important.

1. Low Intelligence

Our best results are obtained with clients who are of at least average intelligence. What is the minimum level of intelligence needed? I am uncertain of what that would be. However, average intelligence in my experience has been sufficient, and having a higher intelligence quotient (IQ) does not seem to either improve or decrease the likelihood of a positive outcome.

The good news is that the majority of individuals who seek your services will not have difficulty because of lack of intelligence. But, there are some who are sufficiently below average that their lower IQ can decrease their ability to benefit from hypnotherapy, especially when it comes to the use of more sophisticated, insight dependent techniques, such as age regression, age progression, and parts work.

When you suspect the IQ is an issue, you must consider what other ways the individual may benefit—perhaps by keeping things very simple and limiting your work to only direct suggestion type work, or even abandoning hypnotic approaches completely. Then, coaching or counseling is in order.

When low IQ limits your ability to help your client, in the end you will need to tactfully indicate that “hypnosis is not for everyone” and it appears that they should try something else to address the problem. Having to tactfully inform a client that hypnosis may not be right for her is not an easy thing to do, and may have to be done in other circumstances as well, such as when there is brain injury. I will cover these circumstances later on in this article.

It goes without saying that the needs of the client must come first and if you cannot help them with the tools and techniques you have, see if you can help them locate someone who can. This could include a mental health or medical professional, coach, or counselor.

2. Brain Injury or Illness

Brain injury can halt success. Three ways that a client can have experienced brain injury are disease, drug abuse, and physical trauma.

I recommend that your intake paperwork includes taking a very brief, but sufficient, medical history. This will let you know if the individual has suffered from brain injuries or disease. Do not let the fact that your client has had a brain injury or disease stop you from initially providing services to your client. However, if your client is unable to go into hypnosis or benefit from insight techniques, then you would have to consider the possibility that the injury or illness could be part or all of the problem.

Before you refer this person out to a different kind of helping professional, consider this; it may be appropriate to work with this individual by using hypnosis related, non-hypnotic techniques. Such work could include teaching your clients about affirmations and controlling what they are thinking. This could include simply being aware of what they are thinking on an ongoing habitual basis and practicing more productive thinking (i.e., positive thinking).

However, in some cases, because of the severity of their brain injury or illness, there may be little you can do to help. Instead, this individual would be best served by referring her to some other kind of helping professional.

 Mental Illness

Like brain injury and disease, mental illness can also limit your ability to work with clients. In fact, brain injury and disease may not be totally different categories. Everything that I said above about brain injury and illness is applicable here as well. Once again, do not refuse services simply because your client has been diagnosed with a mental illness (unless you are required to do so by law).

Simply be aware that the illness may cause difficulties while you are doing the hypnotic work with the individual.

Mental illness, like brain injury and disease, causes a great and varied range of difficulties for your client, ranging from almost no difficulty at all because she is responding to medical or psychological treatment, to being very disabled. Typically it is the former, the least symptomatic, who will seek your services. For example, if a client comes into your office who has been diagnosed with “bipolar disorder” and is on proper medications, the client will respond exactly as a mentally healthy individual.

4. Lack of Insight

Some individuals are more insightful than others. The more insightful your clients are the more they will tend to benefit from insight reliant techniques such as age regression, age progression, and parts work.

It does not seem to matter where a client’s lack of insight comes from. It could be because of mental illness, brain injury, or because of being raised in an environment lacking in the kind of experiences which tend to cause individuals to gain the ability to have insight into their problems.

Insight is the ability to understand one’s own mental processes and/or the meaning or significance of an event or action. All mentally healthy people have this capacity for insight. However, it can vary in levels of ability.

As you work with and get to know your clients, you need to judge what techniques are most appropriate for them. Most “normal” clients have sufficient insight capability to utilize insight-reliant techniques. As a result, I use age regression, age progression, and parts work with virtually all of my clients.

I have found that often we can compensate for clients who are not very insightful by making the insights gained in the therapy process more obvious. When insights are made, I can say to them while they are experiencing the insight, “Put an ending on this sentence: I’ve changed because now I know ...” I can - go on to expand on this by saying, “And now put an ending on this sentence: I’ve changed because now I feel ...” This causes them to become more aware of the insight gained—for example, during an informed child technique process, where the child benefits from knowledge gained from the adult aspect of the client.

Furthermore, I find that my clients benefit from tying the insights gained with direct suggestion for what they came into my office to work on. For example, after my client states how she has changed in her thinking and feeling, I can “segue” into something like, “Now that you have changed because now you know and now you feel , you are going to be able to accept these suggestions more powerfully than ever before ...”

With those who have low insight capability, additional coaching can certainly help. I have never run across mentally healthy clients (not brain injured or otherwise mentally ill) who could not benefit from insight work when sufficient coaching is done during the hypnosis session.

5. Fear of Being Hypnotized

In the list above, there is little the hypnotist can do about items one to three on the list (low IQ, brain injury or illness, and mental illness), and somewhat limited in the case of number four (lack of insight). For this issue, the fear of being hypnotized, and the rest of the list, there is a great deal the hypnotist can do.

In the case of the fear of being hypnotized, the hypnosis professional needs to be prepared to help these individuals by providing them with a sufficient hypnosis pre-talk. In this pre-talk, you need to make a very good case that hypnosis is safe and natural. Give examples of how ordinary people go into hypnosis at different times, normally and naturally, such as when watching television, listening to a powerful speaker, or even when reading a book.

It is essential that you provide whatever information each of your clients needs to feel perfectly safe with the idea of doing hypnosis with you. If you notice any signs of fear about going into hypnosis, it is vitally important that you address it.

Make sure all of the questions and con­cerns your client may have about going into hypnosis are fully addressed before attempting a hypnotic induction. Having fears about going into hypnosis or having unrealistic expectations about what the hypnosis is going to be like are the main reasons why otherwise effective hypnotic inductions and other hypnotic procedures don’t work.

6. Unrealistic Expectations About the Hypnotic Experience

If a client firmly believes that her hypnotic experience should be a certain way and you provide a hypnosis session that differs significantly from the expected experience, it can have a negative effect on the session. These negative effects include (but are not limited to) your clients emerging from hypnosis, not going deep enough into hypnosis, becoming non-compliant, and thinking that you did not hypnotize them.

There are basically two ways to deal with this. One is to include information in your hypnosis pre-talk that convincingly informs the client of what the hypnosis session will be like. The other is to provide a session that conforms to your client’s expectations.

Since we cannot always know exactly what expectations each client has about the upco&iing hypnosis experience, nor can we guarantee that we could provide it, it is best that we do not typically select this option.

It is far better to provide accurate and realistic expectations about what your clients will experience during the hypnosis pre-talk. Keep in mind that sometimes, even though you have provided your client with accurate information about what to expect, some will still harbor expectations that are not in line with the reality of the hypnotic experience. When this happens, you will probably not know what is going on right away. If a client is having difficulty going into hypnosis or reaching a deep enough level to do insight work, simply ask your client what is going on. With a little discussion, you can usually leam about their unrealistic expectations and then you can get them back on track and continue with the hypnosis session.


7.  Lack of Confidence

Like I always say in class, “Hypnosis is a confidence game—if you don’t get their confidence, there will be no game.” There are three areas in which you must build confidence in your clients in order to be maximally successful in your hypnosis sessions.

Your clients must be confident that hypnosis can help them. You can build confidence that hypnosis works by providing your clients with information showing that hypnosis does work. I have a list of celebs who have successfully used hypnosis as well as binders full of testimonial letters from former clients. I also have many a story that I can tell. You need to start building up your evidence that hypnosis works. If you are new, start by learning about celebrities who have used hypnosis, and have that list on hand.

Your client must feel confident that you are a legitimate hypnosis professional who knows how to use hypnosis to help with the kind of problem your client is coming in with. Here again, stories of success and testimonial letters can be very helpful. I also recommend that you display all of your relevant credentials where your clients can view them. Be ready to answer questions about your training, certifications, and relevant degrees, if you have them.

Finally, your client must feel confident that she can successfully use hypnosis. A good pre-talk overcomes almost every fear your clients may have, except one. That is the fear that, even though they know hypnosis is real and effective for others, they can’t be hypnotized. You can easily overcome these fears by learning how to use hypnotic convincers. Once your clients are convinced that they are hypnotized, then they are ready to benefit from the hypnotherapeutic techniques you intend to employ during the session and upcoming sessions.

8.  Fear of Embarrassment

Here is an issue that is not exclusive to the profession of hypnotism. Many potential clients avoid all kinds of help­ing professionals, including consulting hypnotists, because of their fear of embarrassment. Some people are so afraid they will reveal some past embarrassing incident or behavior that they will put up with j ust about any kind of problem rather than sitting down with someone who can help.

This is, perhaps, more of an issue with hypnotists because of the popular false belief that hypnosis makes people tell the truth or reveal their hidden secrets. In my pre-talk, I mention that hypnosis is not a truth serum. They will never be made to sjiare a secret or caused to talk about anything they don’t want to talk about.

Then, in the time that follows the pre-talk, what I call the pre-hypnosis interview, also called the “intake,” I work to build the kind of bond needed so that if they do need to reveal an event they might ordinarily think of as being embarrassing, my clients will share it with me. This sharing could occur during the pre­hypnosis interview or during an age regression session.

Your clients need to understand that you can’t make them tell you anything they don’t want to tell you but, if they do want to tell you, you are ready to hear it in a non-judgmental way, and that the information may be essential to removing the problem they came to see you about.

9. Negative Transference

Volumes have been written about “transference,” both positive and negative. I won’t go into a lot of detail about it here. Simply put, “transference” is a subconscious, or unconscious, tendency to assign feelings, beliefs, or attitudes toward individuals in the present when, really, those feelings, beliefs, or attitudes are coming from relationships from the past. Sometimes similarities between the situation of the past and present, or some characteristic of the hypnotist, can cause this transference. In positive transference, the client will feel positive toward you. In some cases this can work in your favor, because the client may feel more trusting of you and be more compliant with your requests and instructions. But, if there is negative transference, the opposite is true. You can do all of the right things and have difficulty working with the client. The negative transference can cause your client to feel uncomfortable around you, feel fearful, or even become angry for what appears to be no reason at all.

Sometimes, it can be something as simple as the way you comb your hair or because of your gender. If you are not trained to work with clients with transference issues, you are better off referring such an individual to a trusted colleague.

10. Secondary Gain Issues

First off, here is some good news. Even though secondary gain occurs with most issues, the gain is not normally strong enough to prevent your client from being successful. Usually, removing the cause of the problem at the subconscious level, doing insight-oriented hypnosis work like age regression, and doing direct suggestion work, etc. (all of which are intended to remove the cause of the problem), is sufficient.

Before I proceed, let me just say that “secondary gain” occurs when a symptom or behavior continues after the cause of the problem (the primary gain) has been removed. Most problems clients come to see us about have low levels of secondary gain and when we remove the cause of the problem, the symptom or behavior ceases to exist. But sometimes, especially when dealing with medical or mental health issues, secondary gain issues can be quite powerful and reinforce the old behavior, or even demand it. Common secondary gain issues I’ve encountered with hypnosis clients are loss of money (because of loss of physical pain), loss of social interaction (because of overcoming an addiction), loss of power in the family (that a teenager may have because of anger issues), and having to go back to work because of no longer having an illness.

To be effective in working with the maximum number of issues, I recommend that you use a system of hypnosis and hypnotherapy that fully addresses both the cause of the problem and secondary gain issues.

For example, when one uses 5-PATH® there are five phases. The first phase prepares the client for success and then phases two, three, and four address the cause of the problem, while the fifth phase can be used to determine if there is significant secondary gain and to neutralize it.

Specifically, the first phase of the work is there to properly prepare your clients for success by removing the fears and false expectations about hypnosis that can cause the problems I listed in items 5, 6 and 7 above. Then, the second phase includes age regression work, which provides insight into the cause of the problem, and age progression work to create additional subconscious expectations of success, among other things. Then, the third and fourth phases utilize parts work, providing much more insight, resulting in hyper-suggestibility and a segue into direct suggestion. Done right, 5-PATH® quickly and effec­tively removes the cause of the problem and creates hyper-suggestibility so that suggestions can be readily accepted for long-term, even permanent, change. The 5th phase, parts mediation work, addresses the secondary gain issues if they are strong enough to perpetuate the problem.

Note that any kind of hypnotherapeutic approach intended to neutralize the cause of the problem can be foiled if there is significant secondary gain. You must have an approach to deal with secondary gain if you want to be as successful as possible with all of your clients.

11. Not Enough Pain

Your client’s results are correlated to their motivation to succeed. Typically, the more undesirable or painful having the problem is, the more motivated they are to be good clients. If the “pain” of continuing to have the problem is minimal, then their motivation is minimal.

In addition to overall lack of motivation, clients have to deal with the fact that there is often “pain” in having to go through the hypnotherapy process. Even though hypnotherapy is not physically painful, it can be emotionally painful. This pain can become apparent as they first experience their fears about being hypnotized, or fear of disclosing embarrassing events from the past, or even embarrassing things that are going on in their lives now. There is also the pain of talking about emotional topics, and certainly there is a likelihood of your client experiencing emotional pain as she goes through age regression work, parts work, and so on. If your client is not motivated and not in some significant level of pain (physical or emotional) because of their present circumstance regarding the problem that they came in to see you about, they may become unwilling to experience the pain of working through the problem hypnotically.

For an example, I have sometimes found it more difficult to help clients to stop smoking when they are only occasional smokers or only smoke one or two cigarettes a day, as compared to the highly motivated smokers of two to three packs a day who are experiencing a lot of discomfort, worry, and emotional pain because of the habit.

In the case of the client who seems to be reluctant to be as compliant as necessary to get through the hypnotherapy process, it is necessary to find as much pain as we can that the problem is causing them. Have them write it out and you can go through it with them. You can explore what his life is going to be like if he continues in the old way. Then let them decide if it is worth it or not to proceed.


Yes, there are other reasons as well as to why clients may not benefit from powerful insight-reliant hypnotic techniques. These eleven are the ones that seem to be most prevalent in my practice over the years, and how I have addressed them.

The most important thing is to have a good idea of when you need to refer a client out to some other helping professional and when you need to dig down deeper, or do some research to find ideas such as these that will help your clients to overcome their difficulties.