Brookside Center for Counseling and Hypnotherapy

Beyond the Technique of Hypnosis

by Maurice Kouguell, Ph.D., BCETS. 


While we profess to recognize and acknowledge that each person is a unique human being and must be handled in a highly individualized way, we tend to pay lip service to reconciling our service with this idea.

There are reasons for not applying what we know needs to be done. It is possible that there are philosophical disagreements among the various instructors of hypnosis. However, a divergence of opinion can easily become a platform for continuous growth and development for both master teachers and their students.

Keeping the welfare of the patient as a priority, there cannot be any disagreement with the premise that before an intervention (such as hypnosis) is initiated, a minimal assessment is indicated. While assessment remains, in some circles, a controversial issue, every hypnotist does it. Part of the assessment is noticing appearance and behavior, taking into account the age of the person, the marital status, and so on and so forth. At times, some choose to elicit a detailed sexual history as well as other information which could be highly private. All that data can be most useful when used as part of the hypnotherapy. An assessment can also include whether the client is blind, deaf or speaks another language foreign to the hypnotist.

Therapy cannot exist without rapport or at least an empathetic relationship between client and therapist. Rapport is not therapy. An empathetic relationship is not therapy. They need to be seen in the interactive content of the professional relationship of two individuals with clearly defined goals.

I would like to suggest that the therapist must have goals early enough in the therapeutic process, share his goals after obtaining the goals of the client and then hopefully reach a mutual ground of understanding.

Frequently therapists profess to have found truth in a certain theoretical orientation or technique. Experience has taught me the importance of a theoretical and academic background. It has also taught me how unwise it is to fit the client into a theory or a predetermined method or technique simply because it is favored by the therapist.

Let me clarify at this point that as a teacher of hypnosis, counseling and psychology, an important part of my insight has come to me in my mentorship and supervisory activities.

I am geographically located in an area which has a relatively high number of hypnotists. I get frequent calls as well as referrals of clients who have seen other hypnotherapists and who seek a consultation in order to clear up or clarify questionable procedures as well as ethical conduct. It might be of interest to consult any book on counseling and become acquainted with the specific guidelines of conduct on the part of the therapist.

I hope to see the day when mental health practitioners and what are referred to as "lay hypnotists" will put away their differences and start learning from one another without being so territorial or insecure. I am a hypnotherapist. I believe that hypnotherapy will become a profession in its own right. It is my opinion that it will gain respect and a well deserved place when hypnosis is taught as a skill to students who have had recognized training in being aware of one's impact on others, as well as recognizing the importance of going beyond what the client is describing as being factual. The conscious level is what we are aware of in ourselves and in our clients. And, since we deal with both conscious and  unconscious material, we must know how to go beyond the obvious.

The exceptional talent of Erickson was not in his technique, but in his unsurpassed ability in figuring out what made his patients tick. With that unique ability, he developed therapeutic techniques suitable to each individual. With each person he saw, he created a new approach. The existence, the lifestyle of each patient became his script, his method.

The goal of any therapy is to take into account the client's reality and to alter it so that it becomes comfortable. We know that thoughts can be confused easily with reality, for they frequently have similar effects on emotions and/or sensations in the body. Suffice it to say that there cannot be any justifiable approach to a therapeutic intervention without acknowledging and understanding:

1. What makes a client “tick”
2. What makes US “tick”

In the quest for what “makes the client tick,” one needs to access the unconscious. I have found that the use of drawings is an excellent tool as discussed in my two books Human Figure Drawing: A Screening and Evaluative Tool in Hypnosis and DAPTH: Accessing the Unconscious in the Practice of Hypnosis and Counseling. These techniques are becoming recognized as essential tools, have been adopted by the National Guild and are being offered at the conventions. The two books are required of all graduate and doctoral candidates in the department of Counseling Psychology, as well as in the department of Family Life Communication at Westbrook University, where the student body includes hypnotherapists as well as mental health practitioners.

Every client has the need to be accepted, understood and his hurt respected. Before trance is experienced and while rapport is established (rapport needs to be an ongoing process), the hypnotherapist needs to know what makes the client tick. In addition to the information and insight gathered by assessment, therapists need to acknowledge that people are born with different temperaments and types.

When therapists do not possess the gift of intuition or insight, there are other ways available to obtain necessary information. It seems that we are once again reinventing (or rediscovering) Jung, Sheldon, Adler, Adickes, Hippocrates et al for their work related to body types and temperaments. And once again, we recognize the merits of their contributions by applying their techniques and gaining insight into others.

If we see ourselves as operators, then we need to know how to operate that precious commodity, the person. If we see ourselves as students of human nature, then we need to know about human nature. Knowing both can only enrich our competency. Dissension between, and a debate about, the merit of one philosophy over another will only lead to a narrowing of our scope and limit the freedom necessary for learning. Learning standard inductions must be required. Knowing the difference between guided imagery and other states needs to be mastered. Quick, rapid, spontaneous techniques need to be known. But above all, any practitioner working with people must know human nature.

It is my belief that in time candidates seeking certification will be required to have knowledge and competence in abnormal psychology and pathology. Today, all the literature points to the fact that counseling and psychotherapy are synonymous.

In my approach to hypnosis I do not see myself as a student of hypnosis but rather as a student of human nature. My teachers have not been limited to hypnotherapists, psychotherapists or professors. They also include writers, poets, philosophers and humanitarians.

In recognizing the uniqueness of the individual, no one can say it better than Hermann Hesse, who stated in Narcissus and Goidmund, “It is not our purpose to become each other-- it is to recognize each other, to learn to see the other and honor him for what he is.”


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