Q: How much time interval should there be between the first and second hypnotherapy session when the first session not very productive? Normally, during the first session, the client will achieve some new understanding and clarity. Allowing a week interval between sessions then helps the client to process the inner changes going on.
But what if the client was unable to get some tangible results from the session? For example, suppose the client has cultural differences, doesn’t really grasp the concepts, and the whole first session is spent teaching him how to feel his feelings. So we haven’t actually done any hypnotherapy. We’ve just talked.
The client wants to do the work but the session time is over. Sending him away for a week doesn’t seem fair to me and I am concerned that leaving things this long may result in the client devaluing the process. – All-We-Do-Is-Talk.
What’s the purpose of the time between sessions?
This is the question you need to ask yourself – what’s the purpose of the time between sessions?
The purpose of the first session is to lay the groundwork for the client’s (and your) success. That’s why we take the time to educate our clients about the process before beginning hypnosis. What happens following that session will tell you how best to proceed with the client.
The healing process begins before the client arrives in your office. The therapy actually begins with your first contact with a client. Usually this occurs over the phone. But it could be anywhere you have the initial conversation with a prospective client.
Taking the time to do a little preliminary educating and testing over the phone, before scheduling a client in for their first session, will ensure that you know what to expect during that first session. This will allow you to plan for the client’s first session, accordingly.
The goal of my first session is to create the ideal client. This takes the pressure off myself and the client to do anything more than lay the foundation for the work we will do together. The client knows this in advance because I tell them what’s going to happen during that first session.
Some clients have anxiety about the hypnosis.
Informing them about what’s going to happen in their first session allows them to relax about coming to see you. For example, what’s going to happen?
- We’re going to spend some time getting to know one another.
- I’m going to take a history of the problem.
- I’m going to teach them what they need to know to be successful working with me – how the mind works, how hypnosis works, and how I work.
- I’m going to guide them through a short hypnosis session.
My objective here is to ensure the client understands that healing is a process. It’s not an event. They need to understand that, working together, we will accomplish a great deal during that first session to set them up for successful healing. That’s the purpose of them coming to see you, right?
What you accomplish in that first session really depends on the client. It might be a little. It might be a lot. Some people come in with a readiness to just roll up their shirt sleeves and dive into work. Others are more timid; unsure of what might happen.
Wherever a person is at is okay because a client-centered approach means adjusting the therapy to the needs of the client. Not the other way around. If the client doesn’t grasp the basics, that’s where the work must begin. They’re not holding up the process by needing more time. They are the process.
The Subconscious Must Protect
Always keep this in the front of your mind – the subconscious mind’s Prime Directive is safety. Your job is to work with the subconscious mind. You must respect and satisfy its wishes because, until the client feels safe with you, and trusts the process, their subconscious will not give you permission to proceed.
If allowing the client to talk for the entire first session is what is needed to provide that level of security, then that’s the needed therapy. In this case, you simply employ waking hypnosis.
The fact is, most of the time, hypnotherapy is not the first solution people turn to. Usually, it’s not until they have exhausted all other options that they decide to pick up the phone and call you. By then, they’re at wits end and are feeling pretty defeated. Often they’re frustrated because nobody has taken the time to hear them.
Doctor’s appointments are often scheduled 5 minutes apart. Psychiatric sessions are usually limited to 15 minutes. Counseling sessions are usually 55 minutes. Imagine pulling out all the stops and just letting the client have all the time they need to get it all off their chest.
It can be profoundly healing for a person to be given permission to talk about their issue without feeling judged or pressured to fit into the therapeutic model.
I have had plenty of clients talk and cry their way through the first session. When that happened, I got them tapping. Then, at the end of the session, I'd have them close their eyes, and rest for a few minutes. I would then pour in suggestions to empower them by reinforcing positive expectation toward the work we were going to do together in future. Simple, right?
Does this heal the problem? Of course not. What it does is prepare the client. You're setting your client up to be successful working with you because your ideal client is someone who:
- will follow your instructions
- feels safe enough to tell you the ugly truths they’ve never told another soul
- will let themselves feel their feelings to feel better
- will go where they need to go to find their healing.
Obviously, this isn’t a single-session approach. It’s a client-centered approach. That’s the difference.
The time between sessions can be just as valuable as the session itself.
From a business perspective, it’s more convenient to schedule client sessions a week apart. This seems to be the ideal timeframe in which to allow integration to happen.
There are no hard-and-fast rules about how much time is needed. How could there be? The problem is in the mind of the client. So is the solution. Besides, you can’t make a person heal any more than you can make them relax. All you can do is facilitate a process. Then, test the results.
What happens following an emotional releasing session is that the subconscious mind goes into a reorganizing process. It’s kind of like defragging the hard-disk on your computer. The hypnotherapy session deletes some old, outdated, unwanted thought and emotional debris. This creates space which you can then fill with suggestions. Then, the subconscious mind goes to work optimizing the “disk space.”
A lot is going on between sessions. But it's all happening beneath the surface. If you want the client to notice this, tell them to! Wrap up each session with suggestions to be more aware. Encourage the client to notice what comes up between sessions. What happens between sessions will give you the information you need to guide the next session. Much easier.
Change doesn’t happen during the session.
Change happens between sessions, in the client’s daily life. That’s when post-hypnotic suggestions take effect. Healing with the mind is about changing erroneous perceptions. When change occurs at the subconscious level, the conscious mind needs time to integrate and accept the new level of well-being.
This takes some getting used to. I learned this the hard way . . . While attending a week-long training course, I signed up for a series of back-to-back regression sessions. When I returned home, I noticed that I was feeling “off”.
This feeling out-of-sorts persisted for about six weeks. Then I figured it out. What was “off” was that I didn’t feel anxious anymore. I was so accustomed to feeling on-edge - a pattern established when I was one-year old - that resolving it felt like something was missing.
Something was missing! The fear! But nobody had explained this to me. As a result, I didn’t know what to expect. Let your clients know that stuff is going to be shifting internally as the subconscious mind works on integrating change. Invite them to notice it happening. Help them to recognize this as evidence that change is happening!
Stephen Parkhill, author of Answer Cancer, worked routinely with clients who had been sent home by their doctor to die. These cases were typically a race against the clock in the hopes of eradicating the disease.
Obviously, life-threatening conditions won’t wait. In this case, sessions would need to be scheduled as frequently as possible. But you also need to gauge the client’s available energy reserves. Regression hypnotherapy is not a passive process. It takes energy to release the thought and emotional energies generating dis-ease.
I have found that clients who are overwhelmed by their emotions benefit from more frequent and/or longer sessions. They need relief and they need it now. But once you get some of the pressure off, and they’re holding their own between sessions, you'll find they do fine with weekly appointments.
The Only True Test
The time between sessions is how you test the results. It’s the only real test. You send the client back into their life and find out whether the results stick. Sometimes there’s more “gunk” to clean out. If so, it needs time to come to the surface.
Situations in daily life can act as triggers for unresolved emotional conflicts. The people closest to the client are usually the ones to bring that stuff to conscious awareness.
The client needs “soaking in” time. When the client is making good progress, seeing results, and unearthing rich resources and insight, this helps to reinforce the client's belief in their ability to achieve real and lasting change. Ultimately, that’s what will ensure that they hold onto the changes.
This is when you can start spacing their sessions further apart. This allows them to benefit of having more “soaking in” time between sessions. It also allows time for the client to be confronted with more situations which, in the past, would have been a problem.
Suggestions can wear off.
When your suggestions don't stick, you'll know you're dealing with an emotional issue. Emotional issues simply don't respond to suggestion alone. You need to use a deeper technique like regression to cause.
If you've ever had a smoker who didn't respond to your one or two session smoking-cessation protocol, this is why. When you're dealing with an emotional issue, the effects of a direct suggestion session won't last. They will tend to wear off following a session - typically within three days. This is because the underlying emotional drive to smoke has not been addressed. In this case, what will typically happen, following a session, is that the client will initially feel great. They’ll go back to their everyday life. Then, either something will happen to trigger them, or the old, familiar feelings will start to resurface as the suggestions lose their effect. Usually this will happen within a few days.
It's not that you did anything wrong. It's not that the client is resistant or suffering from secondary gain. The problem is that you're not dealing with a behavioural issue. You're dealing with an emotional issue. And you can't suggest away an emotion. You have to find out what's generating the behaviour and resolve THAT. Then, your behaviour-changing techniques will work!
Your first session will always be successful if your objective is to create the ideal client, first.
Tangible results may not be immediately possible. But if you create a client who understands that healing is a process, who has realistic expectations regarding what’s required, and is ready, willing and able to do the work necessary to be successful working with you, the results will come.
When I was a 5-PATH practitioner, I only did direct suggestion work in the first session. From time to time, I would get a client from out of town. To “accelerate” their healing program, I did back-to-back sessions - one in the morning, one in the afternoon.
The morning session was dedicated to establishing a foundation for regression-to-cause by setting the client up to be successful working with me. At the end of the session, the client would emerge feeling terrific, with all fears and apprehensions about the process laid to rest. I would then send them off for an extended lunch break to facilitate a “soaking in” period. When the client returned for the afternoon session, we dove into the regression work.
Because I knew we were dealing with an emotional issue, and the first session was merely direct suggestion work, there was no need to test the results. The suggestions I offered during that session were focused on creating an expectation for successful resolution through the deeper work we would do together during the afternoon session.
This worked like a dream! When the client returned for the next session - whether it was a couple of hours later, in three days or a week later - the client came in primed and ready for regression. I hope you can appreciate how much easier this made things - for both me and the client!
Over time, and through a lot of trial-and-error, I developed a first session protocol that effectively took all the guess-work out of facilitating regression hypnotherapy. Not only did this help me to feel more confident in my sessions, I got more consistent results!
You can learn my approach in the Ready for Regression First Session course. This isn't merely a session protocol. It's a deep-dive into how to THINK in your regression sessions that will change how you do therapy. Check it out!