Hypnosis can be an intimidating prospect to those unfamiliar with it. Dealing with painful challenges, sharing deeply personal information with a stranger, and accessing their thoughts in new ways can leave many prospective clients anxious and unsure.
The consultation process is your opportunity to make clients feel at ease. You can help them understand how hypnosis works and guide them through the hypnotherapy process. Here are some tips for maximizing consultations and intake discussions:
Show You Are Listening
Of course you will be listening during a consultation, but it is critical that your client sees and understands that you are paying attention.
To show that you are focused on your client, minimize your use of notepads, which can take away from connection and create concerns or discomfort about privacy.
Maintain appropriate eye contact with the client and keep your body language and posture open. While you don’t want to interrupt, you may find that nodding in agreement, offering sympathetic facial expressions, or making an occasional encouraging sound or gesture during the consultation will make the client feel heard and understood.
Spilling your secrets and discussing your deepest traumas or challenges with a stranger can be incredibly difficult. The faster you can establish a rapport with the client, the faster you will cease to be a stranger.
Being authentic and empathetic is a great place to start nurturing rapport. You can also spend a moment at the beginning of the consultation discussing the weather, telling a joke, or asking about the client’s weekend–anything that is neutral and comfortable.
If the client seems particularly nervous or anxious, you can acknowledge this is a common feeling. Explain that you will do everything you can to make the experience as comfortable as possible. Knowing you won’t push them to do more than they are comfortable with can help break down the barrier between client and hypnotist.
Challenge Distorted Thinking
Sometimes it is necessary to point out a distorted thought process. “It’s impossible for me to lose weight” is one example of the kind of statement on which you may want to push back. If the client truly believes their goal is impossible, progress on the issue is unlikely until that thought pattern is changed.
You want to be thoughtful about challenging your client, so use this technique sparingly. To make your challenge feel less aggressive, you can soften it by acknowledging the reality underlying distorted thoughts. “Losing weight is certainly a challenge, which is why so many people struggle with weight. Thankfully, it isn’t truly impossible, and your goal is achievable. Hypnosis is one tool you can use to help make weight loss a reality.”
Notice that this doesn’t directly call them out as being wrong, but it does challenge that “impossible” view while still acknowledging that their struggle is real and understandable. Not only does this address their distorted view of their problem, but it also builds rapport through empathy.
Once you get to know the client better, you may realize you can challenge them more directly. “Do you really think weight loss is impossible? Or is it just a challenge you haven’t conquered yet, and you could use a little help?” That might be appropriate with a client you know appreciates and responds to a more straightforward approach. During an intake and before you have a good sense of the client’s personality, it makes sense to be slightly more careful with challenging statements.
Prompt More Sharing
“Tell me more about that.”
This phrase is handy during the consultation process. It encourages additional sharing without leading the client in any particular direction. It can help you learn what is most important to clients, and it allows them to continue controlling the conversation’s direction while encouraging them to go a bit deeper.
Other times, you may not want to disrupt the flow of the conversation but may feel a need to encourage them to continue. In that case, “Umhm,” “Oh?,” or similar encouraging sounds can be powerful tools. They promote sharing and acknowledge important points without shifting control of the conversation back to you. Even a head nod can serve as a prompt to continue.
Use Stillness or Silence
We discussed active ways to encourage a client to continue. Sometimes, you need the opposite strategy–staying quiet. Remaining silent allows clients to process or focus on their feelings. If your client seems deep in thought or their speech shows you they are on a roll, you might want to use this strategy to avoid interrupting their thoughts or speech. As a hypnosis practitioner, sometimes you can use a lack of response more powerfully than an active response.
Give Advice Gently
As you convey information to a client or potential client, be wary of anything that might seem like a command. Avoid words like ‘must,’ ‘should,’ ‘have to,’ and ‘don’t’ when framing your advice.
If you can phrase these things as suggestions or state them in ways that empower the client, they will likely be better received than if they are commands. “Have you considered…,” “It might be helpful to…,” and “You might consider…” are ways of softening your advice. That makes it more palatable and can help a client gain awareness or a deeper understanding as they process your suggestions. It might be helpful to add these phrases to your hypnotist tool kit alongside your hypnotherapy scripts. Have you considered using this approach in your consultation process? (See what we did there?)
Don’t treat consultations and intake appointments as business meetings where you hash out the details of a future hypnosis session. Remember that these are opportunities to connect with clients and put them at ease. You are establishing the tone for future interactions, so be thoughtful in how you speak with them and respond to their input. That care can turn a potential client into a long-term client and transform nerves into trust and comfort.