Hypnotherapy Explained


Dr Elmari Mulder Craig from Dianne Zimmerhof: The Wellness Institute (USA)

The most effective hypnotherapy practices have evolved from a set of psychotherapy techniques that have been demonstrated successfully in a clinical setting. The following group of advanced methodologies represents the most effective techniques used during modern hypnotherapy sessions.


Ego state therapy, sometimes referred to as parts therapy, is based on the idea that our personality is composed of a number of various parts. Our personality parts each have their respective jobs or functions in the inner mind and the outer world. Each of these parts is a specialist: one is a parent, one a lover, and another specializes at our job or career. Some parts are less mature, however, and these may specialize in anger, or in compulsive worry. Hypnotherapy provides direct access to these various parts of one’s personality.

Ego State therapy is a vital component of hypnotherapy. We know that beginning at conception there are certain tasks the baby must acquire in order to have all the tools they need to sail through their lives. Unfortunately, there are many reasons why we, as humans, are not always able to gain mastery over the healthy lessons we need in each developmental stage. This is where hypnotherapy is most effective in treatment of many dysfunctional patterns in our lives.

We learn from Dr Eric Berne that we all need a loving, nurturing parent within us rather than a critical one. We learn that we need to have a strong, vital adult within who is “driving the bus” so to speak. We do not want a child at the wheel. And yet that is what gets most people into trouble. The child ego state is running the show. We also know that it is preferable for our child ego states to be spontaneous, creative and fun loving. Because we have not received the proper emotional and physical care as children, we often have worried, fearful and inhibited child parts within us.

Through effective hypnotherapy, we can access these ego states, resolve the unresolved issues and receive all the gifts we needed internally and perhaps did not get. We can become the loving nurturing parent within, have a healthy adult to make clear choices for us and then to protect and love the child parts within. This is the beauty and the gift of clinical hypnotherapy facilitated by trained professionals.


Most neurotic symptoms can be seen as age-inappropriate behaviour, exhibiting a developmental deficit or unresolved developmental stage. That is, the client is relying on behaviours that were the best choice available among limited options at an earlier developmental stage, but used in his/ her current life constitute a repetition compulsion. For example, an adult who avoids intimacy in relationships despite an acknowledged need for it may be continuing the pattern initiated as a child to avoid an abusive caregiver.

Conceptualizing personal growth and healing as completion of unresolved psychosocial developmental stages was the hallmark of Erik Erikson’s work. He stressed that “In childhood we see the actual trauma; in maturity we see the behavioural consequences of such disturbances.” Hypnotherapy provides an ideal vehicle to explore the original traumatic developmental stages, and to correct any deficits.


A hypnotized subject is given suggestions that he or she is of a younger age so that the subject can relive and repair certain traumatic experiences from their past and/or re-experience events from a more resourceful state. We ask the client to go to the source of the conflict that they are working on in a session, and their own unconscious mind determines what experience they regress to. Then we are able to assist that age-regressed ego state (the six-year-old or newborn) to create a corrective experience that helps heal the damage done by the trauma.

It is imperative that age regression be guided by a well-trained professional. During age regression, the client becomes vulnerable as they regress to what is in need of repair within them. We always begin with whatever triggers may have come up for them. A trigger is any stimulus, another person or a specific situation, that prompts a physical or emotional reaction. A trigger can be as simple as a friend telling you she has to cancel the dinner date you agreed upon, your spouse or child not returning at the previously specified time, someone cutting you off on the freeway or even something you see on TV or in the news.

The way you know it is a trigger is by noticing your physical and/or emotional reaction. Perhaps you feel annoyed, angry, hurt, scared or humiliated. It is most important to notice your physiological responses. These may be heart beating fast, thoughts racing, sweating, heart pounding, heavy breathing, tightness in stomach or chest, etc. These triggers bring us vital information about what is unfinished or incomplete within us. It notifies us about what is stored in our subconscious mind and our body that causes us to react, that leads us to conflict, and that prevents us from moving forward in our lives.

A hypnotherapist will use these or any triggers as a jumping off point to notify your subconscious mind that we are about to do the “Google Search.” That we are requesting information which will most directly lead us to what this reaction is telling us. The Google Search must be done in a precise manner, using the exact words of the client in order to lead to the exact time and place in our psyche that can bring the most healing. A well-trained clinical hypnotherapist is essential here so that the deepest healing can take place.


A school of psychology that studies humanity’s highest potential, transcendent states of consciousness, the spiritual aspects of the human experience, and those that transcend the egocentric perspective. Transpersonal experiences may be defined as experiences in which the sense of identity or self extends beyond the individual or personal to encompass wider aspects of humankind, life, psyche or cosmos.

Components of transpersonal experience: personal meaning and mission in life, sacredness, material values, altruism, and high ideals, awareness of the tragic, and fruits of spirituality. In hypnotherapy, we have access to the unconscious mind and therefore to these aspects of a client’s psyche.


One behavioural technique that is extremely effective in the trance state is extinguishing an unwanted symptom, a form of systematic desensitization. Another important behaviour treatment is modelling, or social reinforcement. One of the most important behaviour modification techniques used in our hypnotherapy is that of anchoring, based on the process of paired associates. All behaviour modification techniques are more powerful change agents when they are applied directly to the unconscious mind rather than to the cognitive mind alone.

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to a better understanding of ourselves.” – Carl Jung


Guided imagery and visualization are techniques used to help you imagine yourself being in a particular state. When utilized within a hypnotic trance, the effect is much more powerful than it is in the everyday state of consciousness. Visualization and guided imagery techniques are examples of the difference between hypnosis and hypnotherapy. Visualization techniques can be successfully used for relaxation and as a resource state for the client to discover a relaxing place as a starting point. Many people use these techniques and call it hypnotherapy.

If no age regression is used, however, and no inner conflict is identified and resolved, then visualization techniques are actually only defined as hypnosis. They are, however, very effective for relaxation and creating a familiar, safe place to which the client can return before and after hypnotherapy is completed. Another important aspect to be aware of is that only 60% of people mentally process by visualizing. Others are often more in alignment with auditory or kinaesthetic experiences. In other words, they may not be able to see their favourite place at the beach, but they may be able to relax by hearing the sounds of the ocean waves (auditory), feeling the gentle breeze on their skin (kinesthetic), and/or smelling the fresh ocean air (olfactory).


Based on our thirty years of experience in psychotherapy, we recommend a specific model of hypnotherapy: Heart-Centered Hypnotherapy. It is the most comprehensive methodology we are aware of, combining hypnotherapy best practices and proprietary techniques that deliver maximum value to clients. This particular modality seamlessly combines all of the following components:

Ego State Therapy provides one of the structural pillars of Heart-Centered Hypnotherapy. We discover a given ego state through its signature set of emotions, body sensations, and specific expression through language. By having the client go to a recent stressful experience, he/she is able to describe the emotions, sensations, and language unique to that exact moment in time. For example, one might recall being in a heated argument with one’s spouse the previous day, and become acutely aware of the fear, anger, and hurt that surged up in body sensations of heat in the chest and butterflies in the stomach: “I feel dominated and discounted, and I could just strangle her.”

Developmental Psychology informs us that this current ego state is a habituated child state, and can be seen as age-inappropriate child behaviour, exhibiting a developmental deficit. That is, the client is relying on behaviour’s that were the best choice available among limited options at an earlier developmental stage, but used in his/her current life constitute a repetition compulsion. So the emotions of fear, anger, and hurt, and the body sensations of heat in the chest and butterflies in the stomach, and the feeling of being dominated and discounted, were developed as a coping strategy at a critical period in childhood. We use hypnotherapy as an ideal vehicle to explore the original traumatic developmental stages, and then to correct any deficits.

Age Regression techniques are employed to follow these identified bridges of awareness (affective, somatic, linguistic) back to the source trauma that formed the genesis of the dysfunctional behaviour pattern. The client’s own unconscious mind determines what experience they regress to, using the words and sensations as keywords in a Google search. Then we are able to assist that age-regressed ego state (the twelve-year-old or six-year-old or newborn) to create a corrective experience that helps heal the damage done by the trauma. Through corrective experiences such as saying “No”, or pushing an abuser away, or asking for and getting help from a trustworthy adult in the child’s life, clients can repair these traumatic experiences from their past. And new empowered healthy experiences are implanted to replace the old ones.

We utilize Neuro Linguistic Programming techniques and Behaviour Modification techniques to extinguish cravings, shame, or fear, and to anchor the new resource states to make it easier for the client to recall them when they are stressed or threatened, and tempted to resort to the old dysfunctional pattern.

We also employ Transpersonal Psychology techniques as the individual’s sense of identity or self extends beyond the child’s original limitations. There are also parts of the child that split off, or dissociated, at the time of the trauma: he/she needs to reclaim those parts while in the original ego state that was traumatized. So the client can experience a return of innocence or courage or self-confidence; this follows a shamanistic technique often called “soul retrieval”.

Finally, Visualization techniques are used after the reparative therapeutic interventions have identified and resolved old dysfunctional beliefs and behaviour patterns to assist the client to imagine himself implementing new healthier beliefs and behaviours.

The emphasis in Heart-Centered Hypnotherapy is on integrating specific, proven hypnotherapy techniques into your psychotherapy practice:

  • the psychosocial stages of ego development (Erikson, Mahler, Vaillant)
  • the psychobiology of state-dependent “body memories” (Rossi, Cheek, Lowen)
  • the development of ego states (Hartmann, Assagioli, Berne, Kohut, Watkins)
  • the intrapsychic interaction of complexes, shadow and persona (Jung)
  • the influences of pre- and perinatal imprinted trauma (Grof, Janov, Emerson)
  • the imperative for “ego strengthening” and “ego surrender” (Fromm)
  • the transpersonal realms of experience (Jung, Maslow, Assagioli, Grof, Goleman)
  • the wisdom of the body (Levine, Rothschild, van der Kolk)



Hypnosis is a temporary altered state of consciousness which results in an increased receptiveness and response to suggestion, and a state of heightened relaxation. One may become so focused that he/she experiences events stored in long-term memory as if they were happening in present time.


A psychotherapist who utilizes hypnosis as a primary tool for assisting clients to achieve their goals, to increase motivation, or to alter behaviour patterns. A hypnotherapist often differs from others therapists by focusing on the role of subconscious behaviours and influences on the client’s life.


In the hypnotic state, with the facilitation of a clinically trained hypnotherapist, a client can resolve long-standing issues. He/she can regress to actually re-experience early traumas, inform the naïve inner child of the truth, install resource states for continued healing, and complete unresolved developmental tasks by establishing an internal loving nurturing parent.


The steam of words, including many repetitions, that the hypnotist maintains to create relaxation, age regression, and healing.


Form effective hypnotic suggestions by using present tense verbs, stating them as already accomplished facts, being positive (not “You are not a smoker anymore” or You don’t lose your temper now”), using dramatic and colourful language, including a strong positive emotional charge, making them uniquely personal and exciting to the creative unconscious mind.


A person skilled in the technique of inducing and managing the hypnotic state in others. Hypnotists are not necessarily trained mental health professionals, and may not be qualified to facilitate psychotherapy or hypnotherapy with the client who has been hypnotized.


A technique used to hypnotize a person, utilizing eye fixation and verbal instructions. The verbal pattern used can be either maternal (indirect) or paternal (directive).


A collaborative approach to medical care that utilizes mind-body approaches to preventing and treating chronic disease and promoting health and healing, integrating the highest quality academic medicine with complementary therapies.


NLP maximizes patterns of effective human communication. This includes the way people take in information from the world, how they describe it to themselves with their senses, filter it with their beliefs and values, and act on the result.


A suggestion given to a hypnotic subject in trance for a thought or behavior to be triggered after waking from the trance state.


Posttraumatic stress disorder is an anxiety disorder in which a particularly stressful event, such as military combat, rape, or a natural disaster, brings in its aftermath intrusive mental images of experiencing a traumatic event, emotional numbness and detachment, estrangement from others, a tendency to be easily startled (hypervigilance), nightmares, recurrent dreams, and otherwise disturbed sleep.


A hypnotic state that is self-created, as contrasted with hetero-hypnosis.


The 90% of our mind that is mostly below the level of our awareness. The part of our mind responsible for reflexive action, ideomotor responses, and contains the positive and negative associations we’ve made throughout our life.