Philip Holder, PhD.

(Copyright by Dr. Philip Holder 1999)


For your hypnotherapy client/patient to receive maximum benefit from your suggestions, it is essential that suggestions be given in the best possible order. During the intake, a therapist should be gathering information that will allow him or her to construct a therapeutic plan and to formulate suggestions that will be meaningful to the client/patient. As well, and of equal importance, he or she must decide in what order the suggestions should be made. This order will have a direct bearing on the effectiveness of the session. The order of suggestions should be based on the client/patient’s hierarchy of importance to the motivators that the therapist has recorded during the intake. This is a very important aspect in structuring a session. The reason is simple… In great part the effectiveness of your suggestions will be a product of compounding and prioritization.


In brief, compounding is a process used to strengthen suggestion. The first suggestion that you make is, at first, weak. The second suggestion strengthens the first and therefore the second becomes the weakest and this progression continues. Also, and particularly so with direct suggestion, it is important to repeat each suggestion numerous times. I recommend to my students that direct suggestions be repeated seven or eight times. After seven or eight repetitions you will reach a point of diminishing return. Making a suggestion only once or twice will probably not provide the effect that you are seeking.


     During the intake, I suggest that you jot down notes concerning items that are significant motivators to your client/patient. As the client/patient is giving you the information, you can formulate your suggestions based on the information the client/patient provides. The client/patient usually does not provide this information in sequence of priority or in progression of relative value. As you receive the information, it is up to you to determine which motivators are most significant to the client/patient. This decision will be based on the overall content derived out of the intake process. I use a very simple process. I simply refer to the information that I have jotted down during the intake and then I number the motivators (and corresponding suggestions) by priority. If you do this you will find that when you proceed with the session, it is easy to structure the session in meaningful order. You simply go by the numbers that you have assigned each motivator and corresponding suggestion. Simply make the most significant item of the list “number one” and work your way down.

This is a quick, easy, and effective way to structure a powerful session. The notations need only be brief, so there is little to write as you are moving through the intake. As well, you have created a written record of your session. This is great for your record keeping. It also helps you in organizing subsequent sessions with the client/patient. You have a record of where you have been and what you have done with that person. This might not be of concern to someone just starting out in practice who is working with only a minimal number of clients/patients. People at that stage often think that they can trust it all to memory. That is a mistake. Keeping accurate records will become terribly important when you are working with dozens of people each week so if you are one of the above mentioned… get in the habit of keeping good records/charts. It is impossible to keep everyone’s therapy straight by memory alone. It is important from both a therapeutic standpoint and from professional liability standpoint to keep accurate records. A professional always keeps accurate records.

At the beginning of a follow-up session I conduct what you might call a mini-intake. I find out what suggestions from the previous session had the strongest effect in helping the client/patient achieve his or her goals. It is a simple matter to adjust the follow-up session to fit current needs. You simply re-number, add, or delete, any suggestion in order to proceed in the most positive and productive way.

By prioritizing suggestions you will increase your success rate. At the same time you make your job easier and more enjoyable. It will save you time as well and that’s important if you have or hope to have a busy practice.

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