The Importance of Personalised Induction in Hypnotherapy

Last Updated: 26 Apr 2023
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A personalised induction is a type of hypnotic induction that is designed to suit a certain individual. As humans, we appear to share the same traits, but in reality, we are different in various ways. This is because we have different likes, dislikes, perspectives, values, and we have diverse cultural backgrounds. Because of these unique differences, everyone has his or her way of handling various situations, and every individual has a different level of openness and resistance (Chapman 2006, p.113). Consequently, during hypnosis, it is worthwhile for the hypnotist to adopt a personalised approach because each participant has unique traits, and people normally respond to the hypnotic process in different ways. The personalised approach takes into account the client’s desires, perceptions, likes, dislikes, as well as their cultural background (James 2006, p.30). Thus, by personalising the induction, hypnotherapists can help their clients to realize better quality results that are in line with each of the client’s goals. . In this essay, I argue that a personalised induction approach will always be more effective.
As humans, we communicate with each other in various ways including gestures, facial expressions, body language, as well as tone of voice and intonation. However, during hypnosis, the hypnotist has limited techniques of communication available since the clients have their eyes closed. For instance, he or she cannot adopt non-verbal communication techniques, and this makes the message or the instructions he or she is sending to weaken. Thus, it is necessary for the hypnotist to adopt other appropriate techniques of strengthening the message being conveyed to the clients. In order to do this effectively, the hypnotist can personalise the way he or she speaks to the clients by adopting different words, tone variation, volume, and pace, but ensuring the message remains unchanged (Erickson, Rossi & Ryan 1998, p.37-59).

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Milton H. Erickson commonly referred to as the father of contemporary hypnotherapy recognised that people have different beliefs, values, perceptions, and cultural backgrounds, and consequently, throughout his career as a psychiatrist, he adopted the personalised induction as the best tool for hypnosis. Erickson differed with Hull’s opinion that the subject should always be a passive participant. According to Hull (1933/1968), adoption of a standardized induction would have the same effect on all the subjects (Hawkins 2006, p.36). Difference of opinion between these two great psychiatrists fuelled Erickson’s quest for a valid understanding of the best approach to the hypnotic induction. Later on, Erickson concluded that it is what the subjects do and understands that matters most, not what the operator wishes. In other words, he believed that in order to realize quality results of the therapy, the subjects must be active participants, and the suggestions given by the therapist ought to concur with the client’s desires, perceptions, values, and goals of the therapy (Zeig & Munion, 1999, p.48-51).

Permissive and the authoritarian technique

Erickson developed the idea that hypnosis is a natural process that needed a more viable approach such as the permissive technique, because it enhances the client’s responsiveness and cooperation. The permissive technique acknowledges that every individual has unique traits, values, perceptions, and desires. It is normally based on the assumption that every person has a unique way of entering into a trance state and receiving suggestions. In this approach, most of the clients know how to relax and enter a trance state, since the hypnotist briefs every client on how the process takes place at the start. As a result, the hypnotist simply acts as a guide as the subjects enters into a hypnotic state (Simpkins 2001, p.53). Before Erickson pioneered the permissive technique, the authoritative technique was the only available technique that was deemed effective. . The authoritative approach is commanding and direct, and its main objective is usually to establish control over the client and modify his or her behaviour through adoption of repetitive commands. Pioneers of this approach believed that by establishing control over their clients, they would be able to increase the chances of getting remarkable results. However, this approach does not produce effective results as asserted by its pioneers since the subjects, who respond in a positive way to it, are only those who respect their authoritarian figures in their daily lives. As a result, authoritative technique can fail to produce quality results if the participant believes in being at the same level with all the authoritarian figures in his or her live (Sheehan 2005, p.67-70).
Unlike the authoritative approach, the permissive technique mainly involves adoption of a soft tone to lull the client into relaxation. Throughout this approach, the client and the hypnotist are usually equal partners. Furthermore, more imagery is employed to increase the magnitude of the suggestions. The subject is also given greater responsibility. Since personalised imagery is incorporated in this technique, the induction becomes more real and viable than in the authoritative approach, since the suggestions used by the hypnotist conform to the clients likes and expectations (Sheehan 2005, p.70-72).

Clark Hull and Sigmund Freud’s research on hypnosis

Despite Erickson’s insistence on the value of the permissive technique, some people object the personalised induction approach. They claim that the personalised induction approach takes more time than the authoritative approach. Moreover, they support their stance by citing some of the works of the great traditional researchers such as Clark Hull and Sigmund Freud. Arguments involving state and the role theory are also used to analyze Erickson’s position. Hull differed with Erickson’s perspective and on the contrary, he proposed the authoritarian technique, which makes the subject a passive participant (Pintar & Lynn, 2009, p.112). He believed that adoption of a standardized approach would yield the same results on all the subjects. In 1940, Jung (1902/1957) backed him in his research, but Jung was not comfortable in using the authoritarian technique, because it involved commanding clients to do according to their therapist’s expectations. According to Jung’s perspective, participants ought to be involved throughout the process instead of directing then to comply with suggestions that do not conform to their likes. Consequently, Jung broke away from Hull’s research (Hamill 2012, p.24). Based on this, it is clear that the authoritarian approach is not viable, and as a result, it is not logical to oppose the personalised approach based on Hull’s perspective since he does not take into account preferences and expectations of the participants.
In addition, Freud’s research asserts that the process of hypnosis would give better results when the subject was on deep trance. Like Hull, Freud adopted the authoritarian technique in a more assertive manner hoping that he would get better results (Sofroniou 2010, p.12). He was particularly interested in the technique because he believed that it was the perfect way of accessing forgotten events and emotions, a cathartic process, which gave relief to his clients. However, Freud became uncomfortable with hypnosis because his patients did not respond uniformly to the process. He was also afraid that the direct suggestion technique might do away with symptoms that were important for the clients to retain. In addition, Freud had worries over the sexual perceptions that surrounded the hypnotic process, which labelled a client as ‘giving herself’ emotionally to the psychiatrist. Because of these reasons, as well as lack of sufficient experience with hypnosis both through research and clinically, Freud decided to quit hypnosis (Zeig & Munion 1999, p.48-49). If Freud had adopted the permissive approach, he would have succeeded because the personalised approach relies on suggestions that are in line with the client’s expectations, desires and likes, and as a result, the clients could not lose any important symptom. The permissive technique would also help him to eliminate the ill-sexual perception, since it gives the client greater responsibility unlike the authoritarian technique.

State and the role theory

Advocates of the state theory, which asserts that hypnotic induction arouses a unique modified state of consciousness in the patient, base their argument on the notable changes that occur to the brain during hypnosis, and to the dramatic effects, which hypnosis can cause such as the disappearance of warts and insensitivity to pain. They also claim that sometimes, both hypnotised and non-hypnotised participants take instructions differently. For instance, in a certain study, both the hypnotised and non-hypnotised were told to run their hands through their hair once they heard the word ‘experiment.’ The pretenders carried out the suggestion only when the psychiatrist said the word, but the hypnotised participants complied regardless of who gave the suggestion (Coon, Mitterer, Talbot & Vanchella, 2010, p.194). Based on this, opponents of the personalised induction claim that the authoritative approach is as effective as the permissive approach. They support their claim by asserting that participants who do not respond to the permissive technique can respond to the authoritarian technique effectively, particularly those who respect authoritarian figures in their life.
Moreover, advocates of the role theory assert that hypnosis is not a special state of consciousness. They argue that some of the changes linked with hypnosis can also take place without it. They claim that hypnotised people just comply with the demands of the situation, and act in conformity with a special role. From this point of view, hypnosis provides a socially logical reason to comply with someone’s suggestions, in the same way as a physical exam, which provides a logical reason of removing clothes on request. Supporters of the role theory justify their claims by arguing that non-hypnotised participants sometimes exhibit behaviours that are usually linked with hypnosis (Bernstein & Nash, 2008, p.153). Based on this, I disagree with the opponents of the personalised induction who adopt the role theory to support their stance, because the theory rejects the idea of hypnosis without providing concrete reasons.

The dissociation theory

The dissociation theory provides substantial reasons why the personalised inductions should be adopted during the hypnotic process. The theory suggests that hypnosis is not a single specific state, but the general condition, which temporarily reorganises our normal control over actions and thoughts. Dissociation allows body movements to occur under voluntary control and the involuntary processes to be controlled voluntarily. As Hilgard proposed this theory, he asserted that the relaxation of control occurs because of the social agreement between the hypnotist and the hypnotised person to share control (Bernstein & Nash, 2008, p.153-154). In other words, the theory supports the idea that for the process to be effective, the participant should be an active participant, something advocated in the personalised induction approach.

Modern hypnosis

Based on contemporary hypnosis, a personalised induction seems to be the most effective approach in hypnosis. The approach takes into account the client’s values, desires, and it views the subjects as active participants. It also supports the idea that it is imperative to have the patient as relaxed as possible, get them involved in the in the process, and discuss the expectations and goals of attending the therapy with the client. Furthermore, the modern hypnotherapist starts the therapy session by establishing a rapport with their patients, which is a key aspect of the personalised induction approach (Gaschler 2009, p.21). In the course of the personalised induction, strong relationships between the clients and the therapist are necessary in order to ensure the client is fully involved in the process.

Learning Modalities

Overtime, personalised induction has stood out as the best because it takes into consideration learning modalities, which are key channels through which people receive, store, and give information. Modality is comprised of perception, sensation, and memory and the key senses include smell, taste, visual, auditory, and kinaesthetic. Knowledge of modalities enables therapists to personalise screeds for each client. When a patient’s modalities are ascertained, it becomes easy to discuss with them in a way that makes them feel comfortable and relaxed (Hogan & LaBay 2007, p.226-239). As a result, it becomes easy to achieve the objective of the therapy.


The above discussion has suggested that personalised induction is more effective than the authoritarian approach. This is because we have different likes, dislikes, desires, perceptions, and we come from different cultural backgrounds. Consequently, to achieve remarkable results in the process of hypnosis, the hypnotist should take into consideration all this aspects. Although a standardized approach (authoritative approach) can be effective in some instances, it only works on subjects who respect the authoritative figures. Moreover, the authoritative technique assumes that all people react in the same manner to suggestions. However, this should not be the case since we possess different traits. Thus, the personalised induction or the permissive approach is the only method through which noteworthy results can be achieved during the hypnotic process, since it acknowledges that we have different likes, dislikes, perceptions and that we come from diverse cultural backgrounds.


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The Importance of Personalised Induction in Hypnotherapy. (2018, Nov 06). Retrieved from

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