Philip Holder, PhD.

Copyright by Philip Holder 2000


Everyone knows (unless they grew up under an eggplant) that men and women process information differently. Irrespective of the “pop-psychology” of the last few decades where some therapists and researchers would have you believe that most male/female differences are primarily acquired through socialization, the fact is that there are social, biological, and evolutionary reasons why men and women process information differently. To attribute these vast differences to socialization alone (or for that matter even in great part) is pure nonsense. The idea that male/female, behavior is primarily a result of socialization is usually a prospective advocated by people who have a particular political and social agenda they wish to promote.

Nature has given men and women their unique physical differences to assure the continuation of the human race. This is equally true of our psychological development as a species. Through centuries of evolution, men acquired the ability to focus intensely on one objective while women developed the complementary ability of multitasking. Men were the hunters and warriors. This necessitated having the ability to remain very focused and directed. Women on the other hand gathered food and other materials for the home, watched the children, and cooked and cared for the immediate needs of the family. Through necessity women acquired a greater ability to multitask. It would be foolish to assume that modern pop-culture could suddenly erase what evolved naturally over hundreds of thousands of years.

Anyone who is married knows what I’m talking about… Men and women do process information differently! For most men, give us one thing at a time to do and we’ll do it well. We tend to stay focused and on track (most of the time). We generally do not do as well working with multiple tasks simultaneously. Women on the other hand can cook dinner, balance the checkbook, watch the kids, and talk on the phone at the same time. They, however, usually find it more difficult to focus on one thing without interjecting peripheral or unrelated subjects. Neither one is better. Men and women are simply wired differently.

Through this evolutionary process the brain function of men and women has evolved differently as well. Generally speaking, the difference is this… women use both hemispheres of the brain at the same time. Men on the other hand use only one hemisphere of the brain at a time. This is what gives women the greater ability to multitask. It is also what sometimes keeps them from staying on subject. Men on the other hand usually have greater focus but often have difficulty multitasking.


Women also tend to be more communicative and take greater interest in peripheral information. If you put two women who have never met together on a train from Philadelphia to New York, by the time the two get to New York they will likely know each others entire life story. By the same token you can have two men working in the same office for ten years who may not even know the names of each other’s spouse or kids. Men and women are just wired differently.


Long ago I noticed the difference in how men and women process hypnotic suggestion. Although one should not assume the differences to be concrete in all cases (there are exceptions to every rule) generally, I have found certain things to be true. [NOTE: Surprisingly, this topic, to the best of my knowledge, receives little to no attention in hypnotherapy training programs. Perhaps such topics are just not “politically correct”. This is why I have included this information in my new book, and teach it within my courses.] An understanding of the differences between men and women and the way in which they each process information can make a world of differences when structuring productive sessions.


Many times over the years I have had students and fellow practitioners alike ask me if I could figure out why they were having success with some clients/patients and not with others, even while using basically the same therapeutic model. I frequently suggest that they check to see if there is a correlation between their successes, and the gender of the clients/patients that they have had success with. Although these differences in results can sometimes be from individual personality differences within a client/patient, I find more often that the therapist is having good results with one gender and not as good with the other.  This occurs because the therapist has not taken into consideration the differences in how the male and female clients/patients process the information provided by the therapist.  They treat men and women the same. That is a mistake. In case anyone out there hasn’t noticed, men and women are different. That’s what makes it nice for dancing (among other things).


As a general rule of thumb you will get better results with male clients/patients by keeping things simple and more specific. It is usually better to select a limited number of suggestions that have been carefully prioritized, and then compound, compound, compound. With men, less is often more. It is not the length of the session or the number of suggestions that will bring success but rather the quality and relevance of the suggestions made.

Remember, the subconscious mind is like the little kid in us. If you were to sit with a little boy, and make dozens of complex statements to him, it would not take long before he would squirming in his seat. He would quickly reach a saturation point and be looking for a door out. By the same token, dozens of complex and/or flowery suggestions will often cause a male client/patient to quickly reach a saturation point. He will be looking for a way out. The way out will usually be to bring himself out of hypnosis, or to simply begin rejecting the over-saturation of suggestions. As well, you can reach a point of diminishing return simply keeping someone in hypnosis too long (especially males). More is not always better. With men, keep it simple, direct, and focused on the suggestions that have a high level of immediate relevance. One other “suggestion”… In my opinion it is most often a mistake to give male clients/patients lots of triggers or cues, to work with [e.g.: squeezing fingers together, switching chairs etc. to change the setting in which a behavior is occurring, snapping a rubber band that is placed around his wrist, swinging a chicken over their head while reciting affirmations (just kidding about the chicken), and so forth.] Very quickly the little boy within will interpret these “tasks” as being an effort and a pain in the posterior region. The suggestion(s) therefore will have no durability, and the triggers will be either rejected, and/or not utilized.


Women seem to respond favorably, to more intricate suggestions than do men. Again remember, in hypnosis you are talking to the little kid within the person. In most cases, a young girl would be more willing to sit quietly and enjoy more intricate tasks or stories than would a young boy of similar age. Women may also respond to metaphor in a more positive and significant way than men. As well, women seem to have a longer duration period before reaching a saturation point with the hypnotic process. Because of their ability to multitask suggestions that mix practical and emotional components are more appropriate for women than with men. Triggers and cues like the ones mentioned above often work well with women. Women more easily accept such ritual.


In hypnosis/hypnotherapy one size does not fit all. That is why I’m not particularly fond of stock patter scripts. There are many things that must be considered in designing a therapy for your client/patient. Personality, age, perception (based on the individuals life experience) are but a few. Gender is always an important issue because it has significance in ways that surpass that of life experience and socialization. There are biological, and evolutionary factors at work. Gender determines to a significant extent how that client/patient will process the information that you provide.

IF you are working with a woman you must also work with the little girl within her. Ask yourself what things a little girl might relate and respond best to. If you are working with a man, you are also working with the little boy within him. Ask yourself what things a little boy might best relate and respond to. By following this format you can use the power of human nature to increase the impact of your sessions and to empower your client/patient.

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