top nlp and hypnosis mistakes

Do You Make These Same Mistakes With NLP & Hypnosis?: Part I

Do You Make These Same Mistakes With NLP & Hypnosis?


Or… “The Top 14 Hypnotherapy & NLP Mistakes”

In keeping with my recent theme (See The # 1 Mistake Hypnosis Practitioners Make–and How To Avoid It), I thought I’d go over the top mistakes I’ve seen people in the hypnosis field make (me included).

Of course, these are just my opinions. Here we go…

# 14: Using scripts

I don’t think scripts are evil, I just think they are what people do when they can’t think of anything better. An hypnosis session to me, is more like a conversation than a monologue. C’mon people. You don’t script conversations because you don’t know how the other person is going to respond! Scripts are (at best) guesses at what drives a particular issue. It is an order of magnitude more effective to find out what drives that particular individual and speak to their specific needs.

Just as an example, I’ve seen studies that indicate hypnosis CDs (in general–not a specific set of hypnosis CDs) are about 22% effective for smoking cessation. Before you scoff at that, that’s substantially better than the success rates I’ve seen for any of the nicotine replacement therapies. However, an individualized smoking cessation protocol can be 80% or more effective! If you’re reading from a canned script, how much better is it than a CD?

Although sometimes you can get an idea of how to approach a specific issue with a script, I have never used a script in a session. So why do so many hypnotherapists use scripts in their practice? It’s…

# 13: Lack of confidence

I see it over and over again. People that are scared to do hypnotherapy–even though they’ve been doing it for years! They use scripts because they’re not confident in their ability to formulate suggestions themselves. They are not confident with their inductions so they use progressive relaxation and hope the client is in hypnosis. They don’t test their work because they’re afraid it didn’t work.

What should you do if that’s you? Go to a hypnotist, of course. Pay for it! If you can’t afford it, I’ll bet you have friends in the biz that can trade with you.

#12: Being issue focused rather than process focused

Have you ever worked with someone without knowing what it is they want to change? It’s eye opening. It can go something like this…

Therapist: “So there’s a situation in which you’d like to respond differently? One where you don’t like the way you feel or act?”
Client: “Yes.”
Therapist: “So, in this situation, how would you like to feel?” (Therapist sees client shift and go into a more resourceful emotional state)
Therapist: “Good, as you take a deep breath, just allow that positive feeling to grow stronger.” (Client looks even more resourceful, therapist anchors the feeling).
Therapist: “What would happen, if you went through that situation with these (fires off anchor) positive feelings in your body, as a way of being?”
Client: “Wow, that’s different!”
Therapist: “Thanks for coming in.”

That’s working in process rather than content. It’s when you focus on the process the client is going through (specific situation triggers bad feeling) rather than the content (boss says the TPS reports are due and client feels anxious). Most stuff we work with can be greatly simplified if we look at it in a process way. If you look at it in a content way, you’ll be thinking “I don’t have a script for TPS anxiety. What do I do?”

Besides, when we focus on content rather than process, it can result in us…

# 11: Getting caught up in the story

Recently, in The # 1 Mistake Hypnosis Practitioners Make–and How To Avoid It, I wrote a blog post about how many hypnotists don’t take control of their sessions. I used as an example, someone who wrote me about having a problem with an induction. A lot of people seemed to think the point of the post was about inductions. That’s getting caught up in the story.

Getting caught up in the story has several drawbacks…

* It takes longer because it takes time to listen to the story
* The story the client has may be a rationalization as opposed to what’s really going on
* Your life will suck because you’re listening to horrible stories a lot
* When listening to the client’s story, it’s easy for us to find ourselves….

# 10: Going into ‘advice’ mode

Michael Bennett tells a story about an NLP training he was assisting in many years ago. The students went off to do an exercise in groups and when they returned were asked about their experiences. One group said they’d had a really good session. They were working with someone who had a problem being organized. They put their heads together and decided the ‘client’ needed to buy an organizer.

That’s advice–not NLP or hypnosis. The thing is, most people that come to us for help have tried many other things first. One way of looking at it is, they’ve tried to work at it consciously; but that’s not where patterns and habits are controlled. Probably 98% of all advice (including self-help books) is aimed at the conscious mind. By the time clients come to us, they’ve most likely already had a ton of advice thrown at them and it hasn’t worked. What makes you think your advice is any better?

So, we take a different approach. We work with the unconscious mind to work with habits and behaviors. That’s how we’re different.

Let’s look at another example. Do you know what to do to lose weight? Sure. You eat less, eat better food and increase your activity. Everybody knows that. So why doesn’t everybody do that? Because their eating habits and choices are largely unconscious.

More next time in Part II…


About The Author:

Keith Livingston is the main instructor for Hypnosis 101. Keith has been studying hypnosis since he was a boy and doing hypnosis & NLP training since 1997.

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  1. You come across as a self-righteous therapist with a downer on many working therapists who prefer script based therapy. Successful therapy is not about script versus non script.

    Everybody knows that it’s horses for courses and even one-trick ponies have a role to play.

    Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not opposed to your ‘make it all up as I go along’ routine…it’s just that I believe that our clients deserve much more than an ad hoc approach to their therapy.

    1. Hi John,
      Thanks for your comments.

      I agree successful therapy is not about script versus non-script. As I mentioned in my post, even hypnosis recordings can have a powerful, positive impact on people. They can have real results and they are obviously scripted. I absolutely also believe that a script or a recording is not going to be as effective as a client centered approach that focuses on the needs and motivations of that individual rather than guessing at them.

      I wonder what would happen if a patient went to a doctor with knee pain.

      Patient: “Hey Doc, my knee hurts.”
      Doctor: “OK, lie down, we’re going to operate.”
      Patient: “Wait a sec, don’t you want to ask me any questions? Do an exam or anything?”
      Doctor: “No, this is what we do for knee pain.”

      That’s not the way it works. If I had that conversation with a doctor I would find a new doctor pronto. I’d have the same reaction if a hypnotherapist pulled out a script.

      So what you call “make it up as you go along,” I might call “respond to the client that’s in front of me.” And when you say “our clients deserve much more than an ad hoc approach to their therapy,” I say “I think our clients deserve much more than a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all approach.”

      So why are there so many scriptnotists out there (I didn’t coin that term)? I believe it’s because it’s easier to teach people to read a script than to teach people to gather information and formulate suggestions.

      PS: I’d like to add that I’m not against hypnotherapists using scripts. It’s just that I think we can do better.

      PPS: I’ve seen a lot of hypnotherapists abandon scripts as they gained more skill but I’ve never seen one go the other way–toward scripts–as they gain experience and skill.

  2. Hi Keith – you have very valid points here. It seems as if many instructors with a certain guild are only teaching relax-o-therapy and perhaps 1 other induction. They are not taught rapport. They ARE taught to READ scripts. First meet client and find out problem. Write or use a ‘ready made’ script to be read AT client at the second meeting. YIKES!! Great methodology for total failure. Exactly how can the hypnotherapist be in ‘up time’ with their nose pointed to a piece of paper instead of the client. It’s impossible. We find it much easier to create metaphors for our clients and to also embed those little puppies.

    As you know, I had quality training and I’m very proud of it. You held my hand for maybe six months if I had any real questions and I also went to more and more trainings. Script books are not evil. One can perhaps find a few paragraphs to use at some future date that could be of use. It’s just soooo much easier to “Use Your Brain For A Change. Have switched over to mostly Ericksonian hypnosis with my other ‘tools’ well in hand.

    Also, thanks for your product “Conversational Hypnosis’. It confirmed my beliefs 1000% as to what this ‘conversational/street hypnosis really is. Was a lovely review tho and I enjoyed it as it featured my favorite hypno-friend.
    Stay well~

  3. HI Keith,

    You have some thoughtful words. I know I have used scripts in the past to “assist” me. Now, I find I’ll sometimes look at scripts to get ideas…about a particular case -before the client comes in–and it nudges my own creative thinking…but I no longer find I’m comfortable using scripts in general, as I just have been having this great rapport with someone, then to switch to someone else’s words seems out of sync for me….so…yes, we can take a few ideas, maybe even words to use, but I do agree, it needs to come from us. I will look at my own “scripts” that I’ve used for recordings to help me remember some suggestions, but again…always staying in rapport with client allows for even those to largely be simple reminders. Thanks as always for your perspectives!

  4. “Hypnosis recordings/scripts can be…” I wear a size 8 AAA shoe and there are lots of 8AAA’s shoes in my closet. If YOU happen to wear a size 8AAA shoe, then yes, they will fit you perfectly; however they certainly fail to fit all the remainder of people in this world with different sizes.

    Stay well~

  5. How to use scripts is often misunderstood. They are training wheels for newbies, however often times they are poorly written. A great exercise is rewriting a script and learning how to tailor it to meet the specific needs of a client.

    Scripts are used on occasion as templates with the insightful awareness that powerful embellishments can be added spontaneously. One need not necessarily rely upon a pre-made script, and never should solely rely upon one for hypnotherapy, however pre-planned scripts can be a useful when handling a more complicated case.

  6. Having been originally “trained” in script reading, I didn’t know any better when I began as a hypnotherapist. I emphatically agree with the importance of a process focused rather than an issue focused approach. When I shifted to a client centered approach I saw greater success, and more importantly, my clients negative behavior/feelings were eliminated.
    Thank you to Keith Livingston for educating me with this, and allowing my success as a hypnotherapist to grow.

  7. Having written severeal scripts myself as a learning experience, I find that it makes it easier to improvise, because I know now what is important and how to say that in suggestive language, With some practice you can tailor it more to the needs of your client, but you have to have a universal script concerning particular problems and goals and an understanding of that first…..

  8. Dear Keith

    Many, many thanks for your insight which challenges me every time I receive your updates. I read these and it is as if you are describing me! Your comments are always welcome and keep me researching in the endeavour to be all that I can be as a Hypnotherapist. Keep it up, mate. Cheers.

  9. Keith,
    I have purchased several of your products and have been very well pleased. I welcome your mails and outlook. Several other people I have had my named removed from their mailing list…why? They are only selling….you seem to be truly sharing an educated and experienced point of view. I feel your passion and absolute dedication to improving Hypnosis for the Hypnotist and the client. Keep up the work…

  10. Keith, As a newcomer to the field of hypnosis (5 months in practice), I have used scripts. I pride myself on using them less and less. Last session I did 75% without a script. I am aiming for no script at all! Yes, they provide a structure and some good ideas, but the words need to be my own. How can I watch my client if I am reading? Thanks for your genuine interest in helping others. Jeanie

  11. I think there may an even more interesting discussion that underlies this one. How we model “mind” has a lot to do with what choices we have when working with a client. If we see the client’s unconscious mind as the problem, as a brutish adversary or a dis-functional electro-mechanical device, it might seem reasonable to subdue and/or fix it. This was, until Erickson, the dominant model and still finds favor in the work of many of our (NGH and other) peers. In this model, the hypnotist is the leader, the client the subordinate. It makes some sense then that we know ahead of time what is going to be needed, because we have (somehow) the authority and training to decide these things without the benefit of the client’s perspective and experience. So pre-scripted delivery makes some sort of sense in this context.

    Erickson’s significant contribution to the work (more than 60 years ago!) was the revolutionary idea that the “sub-conscious” mind of the client was the key to success when approached as an ally, rather than a foe. The key concept has come to be called Utilization (discussed elewhere on Keith’s blog). When one buys into the idea that the answers are generally self-evident and that alliance with the engaged core-resources of the client is primary, pre-scriptive thinking, written or not, falls away as completely inappropriate. As Stephen Gilligan and others now point out, Erickson still had little use for the cognitive mind of the client, so now we are faced with the opportunity to add yet another dimension to the puzzle.

    Gilligan’s current work with Generative Trance gives us a wide new array of choices in terms of how we experience and respond to the presentation of symptoms and reports of symptoms and, by extension, how we assist our clients in their individual journeys. The symptom becomes much more interesting in a context where it makes literal sense on a basic, functional (non-conscious) level, and where the challenges include recruiting the very resources the client brings into the generation of symptoms to carry out the resolution of symptoms toward some greater goal. (The core idea here being that symptoms are very often powerful resources calling for help; a pebble in the client’s shoe, so to speak.) So while engaging with clients in a Generative relationship frees us of the Rolodex filled with handy little scripts, it does ask us to know quite a bit about how to sit comfortably with what is actually happening in the room, to respond fluidly and with skill. I have not encountered anything in my personal or professional life that is more challenging or more rewarding than meeting the client with the respect and the skill that they deserve (and are paying for): wholehearted intention and clean, practical assistance to help them to connect with their own intelligence, resources, commitment and will to heal and thrive on their own terms. To do less seems a bit like hiding behind Placebo Effect and calling it good.

    Here’s your soapbox back, Mr. Livingston

  12. Hello Keith,

    For starters I am very happy that I found this site. I commend you on your depth of knowledge and love for what you do. It shows!

    I have just recently come across NLP and Hypnotherapy. Straight and simply I have found myself light up from inside. I have been in finance (private wealth) for close to !8 years now. Many of the qualities, skills, and attitude needed to be a good practitioner I believe I have. I would like to take my skills to another level of helping people. Over the the span of my career I have been taught and learned to do many of the same techniques used in this field. Listen to the client, help them realize the issues they may or may not have have, formulate a strategy and then implement a course of action with of course a follow up. One of the most important things I have come to realize is you have to LISTEN to the client.

    I am writing to you because I would be indebted to you for any and all advise you would be kind enough to share. This is something I am sure I would be good at and the reward of helping others is my goal. I have done very well in my career but am at a point in my life that I want to take things to a new level. So with that in mind I thank you for your time in reading this and hope to hear back from you.



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