Dr. Philip Holder
Copyright by Philip Holder 1999

As seen in Dr. Holder’s column “Frontiers in Hypnotherapy” in the Journal of Hypnotism” Published by the National Guild of Hypnotists.


We as hypnotherapists are “navigators of the mind. It is our job to guide a client or patient toward accomplishment a pre-determined goal. The process is simple.

  1. A client solicits the help of a hypnotherapist for the purpose of accomplishing a specific goal.
  2. The hypnotherapists, after conducting an intake, will structure a therapy that is appropriate and practical with the aim of accomplishing that goal.

During the intake, the hypnotherapist must formulate a plan. How will he or she move that client toward the client’s goal in the simplest and most efficient manner? Developing this plan is crucial to successful therapy. If we the hypnotherapists are the navigators, then it stands to reason that we must map out a way to get from point “A” to point “B” before starting the journey. If we do not have a plan, then the client may as well stay home and meditate, contemplate, or purchase a generic self help tape or book. The results would be similar and they would save the hypnotherapist’s fee.


I am frequently asked, “what is the difference between hypnosis and meditation?” The difference is simple. Meditation is free form and hypnotherapy is therapist driven. This difference is what makes we hypnotherapists, “navigators of the mind”. Let me explain the similarities and differences between meditation and hypnotherapy in practical terms.

In both meditation and hypnotherapy, we are attempting to achieve the somnambulistic state (Note: The somnambulistic state provides an environment for acceptance of suggestion that will be durable). It is here that the similarity ends and the two part ways.

In meditation, it is impossible for the person meditating to create and implement suggestion. This is so because… In order to formulate suggestion, it would be necessary for the person to bring the conscious mind into play. Bringing the conscious mind into play will deteriorate the depth of trance effectively bring the person out of somnambulism.

True meditation is “free form”. Once the meditative state is achieved (this will usually be somnambulism for those who have mastered meditation), the subconscious mind finds a level of comfort and then explores that level. As a residual effect, the person will tap into the very creative and beneficial properties of the subconscious. It is, however, a non-directed journey. (Note: Some would say that “guided meditation” is the exception to this rule. I suggest to you that what people refer to as guided meditation is not meditation at all. It is, in fact, hypnosis. Observe the methodology and content of guided meditation and I am sure that you will agree.)

With hypnosis and hypnotherapy, the somnambulistic state will be achieved but that is where the similarity ends. The remainder of the process is totally different. As all of you in practice are aware, hypnosis is simply a tool used to cause the conscious mind to step aside so that we can speak directly to the subconscious mind. The heightened state of suggestibility that results is our venue for facilitating positive change. This difference between meditation and hypnotherapy begins early on within the pre-talk and consultation. This is where you (the hypnotherapist) gather the necessary information that will enable you to navigate your client, as per his or her wishes, to the accomplishment of his or her goal(s). In contrast to meditation, the client tells you what he or she would like to accomplish. After inducing hypnosis and achieving the appropriate depth of trance (for most therapy, somnambulism) the hypnotherapist, based on the information gathered during the intake, will guide the client to the accomplishment of the client’s previously stated to goal. The client has no need to self-direct the session (which would in fact lessen trance). That is precisely why he or she has come to you. They place their trust in you to guide or navigate them to the accomplishment of their goal. They depend on you to facilitate positive change within them.


A hypnotherapist must be able to direct and navigate the client as per the client’s intent for the session. The pre-talk sets this plan in motion during. This is where you, the hypnotherapist, must establish rapport, gain compliance and set the perimeters for the work you will be doing. If you do not set appropriate perimeters early on, you may lose the ability to navigate the client to the requested destination. Furthermore, if the perimeters are not set, therapeutically, you may lose the effectiveness of the session altogether.

Your clients (or patients) come to you because they have faith in your ability to navigate them past the reefs and shoals that have in the past have held them back, to the accomplishment of their goal. It is your job therefore to take the reigns and gracefully guide them to that end.


In the pre-talk, I always emphasize to my clients/patients that I want them to relax and leave all the work to me. I tell them that they have the great and wonderful opportunity to take a trip without leaving the farm. Facilitating this attitude within your client is important. It gives them permission to relax, get comfortable, and enjoy the session. It takes the pressure off. This will help immensely is getting the conscious mind to step aside. One way that I get this message across is outlined in the short script that follows. This or something like it is always a part of my pre-talk.

Dr. H.:

John (or whoever) you know what’s really neat about hypnosis?


(Will usually stare at you blankly for a moment.)

Dr. H.:

In most things that we do in life, the harder we try, the better we do… Right!



[Note: I’m always going for the yes answer and compliant responses.]

Dr. H.:

The great thing about hypnosis is, that the less you try, and the more you simply forget about it relax, and enjoy it, the better you do. Isn’t that great!



[The client has now accepted permission to relax and just “let it happen”.]

It is important as well that the client follow the therapist’s instructions completely. I find that therapists who lack experience often let the session get away from them. They lose sight of the goal the client originally indicated he or she would like to accomplish. They inadvertently let the client lead them off track (effectively converting the session into a dysfunctional guided meditation). This may be a result of the therapist becoming intrigued by, or confused by, something that happens within the session. He or she then allows curiosity, or panic, to lead them off track. It may also simply be that the hypnotherapist had no map in place before the session began. This results in a situation of the blind leading the blind. It is impossible to lead if you have no idea where you are going. In any event, it is the therapist’s job to pace and lead. It is not appropriate or effective to pace and follow.


Allow me to share a recent experience of mine with you that will illustrate the importance of planning and navigating the client. Recently while working with a client he, in only moments, went into the Esdaile state. As many of you know, statistically, about 1 in 1000 hypnosis subjects will do this (I actually find it to be more like 1 in every 400 to 500). In any event, my client was enjoying the experience so much that when I asked him to emerge the first time he did not. I instructed him again to emerge from hypnosis (using a different and firmer approach) and he did so.

Personally, in therapy sessions, I like to know that my client and I are always on the same page. This facilitates a more productive session. On my next meeting with this client I immediately set out to firm up my clients willingness to comply under all appropriate circumstances. I began the session with a short pre-talk to assure that I would remain in the navigator’s seat during all subsequent sessions, regardless of depth of trance. The pre-talk went something like this.

Dr. H:

Bob (not his real name), on our last session you went very deeply into hypnosis. That was great wasn’t it.


It sure was. (He went on to explain that he felt he experienced something spiritual and very special. He further stated that he really didn’t want to come back when I asked him to.)

Dr. H.:

I know that is so. When I asked you the first time to emerge, you wanted to stay longer. I had to ask you twice to emerge. I’m glad that you enjoyed the experience. I know it is a wonderful feeling. It is important however that you follow my instructions completely at all times. Timing is of the essence in achieving your goal. When I ask you to come back, I need you to come back and to bring what you have acquired back with you at that exact moment. Only by doing this will you fully achieve your goal. It’s all in the timing. For that reason, I am going to do the following. Today, I am going to place what I call a “dormant seal” within your subconscious mind. This is how it will work. That seal will remain dormant and inactive unless while in hypnosis I say the words, “I seal you out”. If I must ever say those words to you while you are in hypnosis, you will emerge from hypnosis. As well, you will be sealed out of that depth of hypnosis completely and for all time unless I personally remove the seal. I know that you enjoy that wonderful feeling and want to go back to it again and again. I want to take you there again too. But if we go there, you must follow my instructions at all times, including when I ask you to return. Do you understand me?



I then proceeded with the session. After inducing hypnosis (but before deepening) I repeated the information regarding the dormant seal as a post-hypnotic suggestion.

From that moment on, even in the deepest levels of hypnosis I maintained the ability to navigate the client at all times. Only by maintaining the ability to navigate the client can an effective therapy session take place.

For your general information it has never been my intent to use the dormant seal even though I could do so. In fact, I have never had to activate the seal. The suggestion that they will not be able to return to that feeling has always been enough to inspire compliance.


Along with gathering the necessary information to conduct a session, it is important to recognize that when speaking to someone in a hypnotic state, we are speaking to the childlike qualities within that person. The subconscious mind will lock on to all suggestions that are positive and acceptable. It is important to structure the session in a way that will entice that child-like part of us to follow. The stereotypical monotone hypnotist is far from the ideal model. Much better results are achieved by making each session fun and interesting. Your client will be much more likely to follow your lead when you use phrases like… “Wouldn’t that be great” or “You’d like that wouldn’t you” or “This will be fun. You’ll really enjoy this”. Imagine what phrases would have inspired you to cooperate as a child, then use them with your clients. You will find this more effective that a clinical or mystical approach (monotone etc.). As well, you will gain greater satisfaction from the work you do.


Those who seek you out expect that you will help them. They put their goals and aspirations in your hands. This makes your job easy if you pick up the ball from there. You must direct and navigate the session relative to the clients pre-determined and stated goal. If you remain in the navigator’s seat, your success rate will increase and your practice will grow. All it takes is a little planning and an alert and perceptive mind.

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