What Makes a Good Subject for Hypnosis?

JerryValley2By: Jerry Valley – May, 2014

What is Hypnosis?

There are many misconceptions about hypnosis and here are a few:

1. The Hypnotist is controlling my mind … NOT true. The hypnotist is only a guide and you can never be hypnotized against your will. When I was featured on the TV show 20/20, John Stossel made a great statement “We surveyed over 400 hypnotists and they all agreed that the hypnotist simply gives you the suggestions but YOU must have the desire for the suggestion to work.” Great information.

2. What if I don’t wake up? Nobody has ever stayed in hypnosis. Hypnosis is NOT sleep … it is a state of controlled daydreaming and the control must be given by the subject to the hypnotist for it to work. If you do not hear the hypnotist’s voice for 5 consecutive minutes, you come out of it all by yourself.

3. Will I reveal secrets? No … unless you want to. Most ethical hypnotists do not ask you for personal or secretive information. For example, if you come in to Stop Smoking that is the only process that will be addressed.

Hypnosis is really beneficial for people because 3-5 minutes in hypnosis is equal to several hours of a normal sleep. People who get hypnotized LOVE IT! They love it because they sleep better, feel better and they can then use more of their subconscious power while the average person uses less that 20% of its capacity.

Below, you will see how I describe to other hypnotists how to recognize the best subjects.

Although there may be other contributing factors, I have found, what I consider to be, the 3 main factors in reading the subject’s receptivity.

Notice that I use the term “Receptivity” rather than suggestibility which is used by most hypnotists and there is nothing wrong with that. However, I have found that the term “Receptivity” might be a bit more acceptable by the client since “Suggestibility” could have a very slight connotation of gullibility.

Now, hold on and don’t jump all over me for that comparison. It is just my personal opinion and nothing else. If you like suggestibility, by all means stick with it. Please do not misunderstand my point. Many hypnotists use that term and that’s Ok. It is just a fine line where I feel “Receptivity” is a better fit.

Let’s move on to the more important aspects of this article. In my 40 years in the field of hypnosis, judging the receptivity of a client has been extremely important and great clues as to how the client might react to my suggestions.

I teach my students that, to me, these three factors are the most important clues to judge the client’s receptivity:

Impressionability, Imagination, Trust.

Let’s examine these words. People who are easily impressed make great subjects. Here is an example of impressionability:

Sometimes, poll takers stop people coming out of a movie and ask the first person this question: “You just saw the movie ‘Blindside.’ What did you think about it?”

The person responds: “I enjoyed it. It was pretty good.” Now the second person coming out responds to the same question like this: “Oh my GOD! This was the BEST movie I have ever seen! I am going to see it again tomorrow!”

Who is the better subject? The 2nd person because he/she was greatly IMPRESSED! That type of person would, most likely, be very impressed with hypnosis. Impressionability tends to open the door to the imagination and leads to a very receptive and willing subject. By the way, and ironically, WILLINGNESS is NOT a factor in judging the subject. Just because a person is willing, which is a given, there is no guarantee that he/she will be a good and responsive subject. I have had plenty of people on stage and in my private practice that were willing but did not become great subjects. Hence, in the stage shows, I did send some back to the audience. I repeat: Just because a person is WILLING, it does not guarantee a good subject.

1. Let’s go on to IMAGINATION. People with vivid imaginations also tend to be good subjects. Paraphrasing Constantin Stanislavsky, the great Russian teacher of acting once said in his book An Actor Prepares, “The imagination gives the subconscious mind a license to perform.” Stage hypnotists realize that his statement is really true as they motivate people to act out specific scenes that they are put into. It is truly amazing what people will actually do when allowed to perform in various scenarios.

Back to the one-on-one scene. Sometimes, a person will state that he/she has no imagination. I challenge that because everyone has an imagination but some try to repress it because, as they state, “I am know an adult and can’t act like a kid.” Then, I simply ask him/her to describe their car, their house or their last vacation, which they do promptly and with excellent imagery. So, imagination is a very good element in this search.

Now, TRUST is also a given. Nobody is going to allow hypnosis unless they trust the hypnotist. No trust … no hypnosis.

There also could be other factors such as a person being in AWE of the hypnotist, and other pre-conceived ideas about the “power” of the hypnotist and the effects of being hypnotized.

One of the “luxuries” that the stage hypnotist has is that he/she gets to select the very best subjects for the show. The consulting hypnotist works one-on-one with clients so he/she must lead that client via testing etc., into a receptive arena.

Once you determine the receptivity of the client, you must then select a proper induction that you feel will cause the client to respond in a positive manner and accept and follow all of your suggestions.

As Harry Arons always stated: “Fit the induction to the client and not the client to the induction.” In other word, don’t always use the same induction. However, there is a bit of opposition to that idea and it is: If an induction worked well for a client, why not use it again? Good question.

I will use a particular induction several times, but I will vary the inductions over time so that the client does not become bored with it.

In conclusion, look for signs that might indicate a receptive, and hopefully not a refractory, client. Always remember, you are there to help that client succeed in pursuing his/her goal. Do it right and your success will not surprise me.

Jerry Valley, M.A.C.P., NGH Certified Consulting Hypnotist. You can reach him at:




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