The one intake question every hypnotist should ask resistant clients

I find that clients who present as resistant usually struggle with the suggestion to “relax” during the initial induction.

In all the session scripts I’ve read or written, “Just relax/And you relax/Allow yourself to relax” is by far the most common inductive suggestion used. But we have to understand how that’s being heard by the imagination we’re attempting to connect with.

To many, “Relax” is heard as a command to stay still, or to be empty.

Now, both those qualities, stillness and emptiness, can be great for our purposes, but those are tall orders to the unconditioned mind. This simple prompt can set such minds up for frustration and anxiety; they can even be experienced as accusations (‘You’re not relaxed enough!’), reinforcing guilt clients may already feel for carrying stress.

There is one way to set such a person up for a successful induction. It starts with asking a simple question during intake.

What relaxes you?

In the pre-talk interview, simply ask them to describe what relaxes them. I prefer the wording “What relaxes you?” over “What do you do to relax?” because typically, such clients don’t have a practice of relaxation and they feel embarrassed not to have an answer.

We really have to signal here that we’re looking for any type of answer.

If it’s eating pizza, fine, if it’s smoking pot, fine, if it’s watching Netflix, fine. We want them to be honest, not impressive. We’re not looking to assess or optimize their relaxing behaviors just now; we’re only looking to understand how the client experiences relaxation. It’s always their current ritual that can connect us to deeper, healthier options.

Collect from the client as detailed a description of their current relaxation ritual as they’re willing to share. They have a glass of wine after dinner? Know what wine, how it tastes to her, what kind of glass, where does she sit, what does she fix her eyes on? What is not happening? Ask as well what this relaxation feels like to her physically.

Adapt this into a visualized induction. Guide her through every step, however mundane, so that she taps into the vividness of that familiar moment. You may invite her to notice how good her body feels, how the tension drips or floats away automatically, and then from there elaborate with the cues you deem best to induce deep relaxation, providing her plenty of time to imagine each suggestion before offering another.

And you do all this without ever instructing her to “relax.”

Remember the idea here is to start with the way things currently are, that’s the body’s truth, and use whatever associations the client has with relaxation as an entry point to the deeper, healing frequency they are actually looking for.

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