Coaching with Hypnotherapy

Last Saturday I attended another life coaching foundation course in central London; this one was again different to the others I’ve attended, as it also included an element of hypnotherapy (which isn’t something I’ve had much exposure to). This course was an introductory day, run by John Mill and his colleague Joan of Evolve Hypnotherapy, aimed specifically at those looking to become life coaches. The course was held at Birkbeck University and followed a similar format to the other introductory courses I’ve attended, involving a number of different elements including: introductions and anecdotes from the trainers, theory, practical demonstrations with volunteers (including myself) and pair activities.

Some of the information presented e.g. analysing eye movement, which comes from the NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) branch of life coaching, was something I’d been introduced to previously. From what I’ve observed course content for life coaching courses seems fairly consistent from the various training providers (although some will have a particular focus, in this case Evolve offers an element of hypnotherapy). Other considerations when choosing a course include the general approach to coaching; is the provider more goal focused or does it have a more in-depth, holistic approach (perhaps focusing more on why the client hasn’t achieved their goals previously/has established negative belief patterns for example). The other main distinction seems to be about the provider’s course structure. By this I’m referring to the way the course is run (the course duration, whether it’s undertaken online or in a classroom setting and the elements that make up the course -for instance practical hours, assessments etc.)

Evolve appears to be a much smaller provider/less established than some of the others I’m come across, for instance Animas and The Coaching Academy. This may mean there is less overall structure and as a trainee coach, you’re likely to work with a smaller number of other trainees (as the course intake is likely to be smaller), so will have fewer people to practice the strategies and techniques with, however I can also see the benefits of training with a smaller provider. Training with a provider like Evolve is likely to offer you a more intimate, personal experience, where you have a closer relationship with the trainers, as well as your peers on the course. I expect this would create more of a ‘family’ style environment. Like with a work setting, I think finding a provider that suits your personality and your way of working is important; and I’ve found attending introductory days has been useful for me in gauging this. For example I have ruled out any online providers because virtual learning is not for me. I know that I learn better in a classroom setting and I also prefer the interaction and opportunity to build relationships, which a live environment offers.

Years ago I attended the ‘Friendly Spider Programme’ at London Zoo, (a day course aimed at helping those with arachnophobia overcome their fear of spiders through hypnotherapy). This is the only time I’ve been exposed to hypnotherapy, so I was quite relieved to find no one was able to take control of my mind or put me to sleep. Personally I found hypnotherapy was just like being in a more relaxed state of mind, similar to the state you experience during meditation. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it though, perhaps I was disappointed as I thought there would be more to it or that my fear would vanish within 24 hours, which wasn’t the case, although I did find the course helpful to some extent. Since then I’ve been keen to learn more about how hypnotherapy works, to see if my experience was typical.

During the Evolve training day we were invited to be hypnotised as a group, which involved us listening to John direct us to focus on our breathing, to think about our bodies relaxing and to picture ourselves in a pleasant place, thinking positive thoughts. This is done gradually, with suggestions of where you might be, what you might be seeing, hearing and feeling and allows you to slowly and gently move into a deeper state of consciousness. Following this, we then paired up and took turns to hypnotise our partners, using the scripts provided. This exercise linked in with the earlier eye movement task, as we were encouraged to identify whether we are a visual, auditory or kinaesthetic in terms of the primary sense we respond to (most people lean more towards one of these senses). We were then asked to use the specific script applicable to our partner, which focused on the particular sense they respond best to. The reason for this is that when you’re attempting to connect with a person, being aware of the sense they identify most with can help you communicate with them effectively, and promote a strong response from them. For instance,  if you ask someone how their holiday was and they describe how clean the beach looked, how shiny the marble in the hotel lobby was and the exquisite colour of the sea, they are likely to be a more ‘visual’ person. If they describe the sound of the waves, the chirping of the birds outside their bedroom window and the music they heard in a bar they went to, they are likely to be an ‘audio’ person. Finally, if the person describes how relaxing it felt to have a break, how walking on the soft sand felt and how warm and friendly the staff at their hotel were, they are likely to be more of a ‘kinaesthetic’ person. The scripts were therefore tailored accordingly.

I now understand that hypnotherapy is about invoking an altered state of consciousness, allowing the hypnotherapist to tap into the client’s subconscious mind, to make suggestions in order to re-programme patterns of behaviour; a tool used to help encourage positive change in a person’s thoughts and in turn, their actions. The client must of course be open to this in order for it to work effectively. Having now revisited hypnotherapy, I’m starting to see how this could be beneficial.

There was also teaching about Human Needs Psychology, a theory suggesting six basic human needs (based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs I believe). This theory differs from Maslow’s Hierarchy however, firstly because the needs are somewhat different (although the premise is the same in that the theory seeks to explain our motivations), and secondly because unlike Maslow’s structure, where everyone has the same basic need (physiological) and works up towards the highest need (self-actualisation), with the six needs there is no set order or hierarchy. Instead, the importance placed on each need is determined by the individual. These six needs are: certainty, uncertainty, significance, love/connection, growth and contribution. When these were described, this really resonated with me. I can see how I strive for all of these things, which are my priorities and some of the functional and dysfunctional ways I work to achieve them.

John also discussed the importance of living in the moment (not focusing on the past which can’t be changed, or wishing away time to get to the future assuming this will be better), how moving in a positive direction is better than not moving at all, and he explained how the stories we continue to tell ourselves can block us from taking action in our lives. An expression he used to portray our inactivity in implementing new knowledge and learning was “Shelf development not self-development”, which is similar to Brooke Castillo referring to our ‘passive learning‘ when we read/listen/discuss but don’t take the next step of putting our learning into practice. We learn something on an intellectual level but until we implement this learning, it’s not providing us with its full value.


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