What do Stage hypnosis and hypnotherapy have in common? In what ways do they differ?

What’s the difference between stage hypnosis and hypnotherapy?

“What’s the difference between stage hypnosis and hypnotherapy?” This is the question I am most frequently asked when I tell people I’m a hypnotherapist, and perhaps the most truthful answer would be “yes and no”.  In this blog I will unwrap both the differences and the similarities between the two approaches.

What do stage hypnosis and hypnotherapy have in common?

They both create a state of enhanced relaxation and focus within the individual which enables suggestions to be more easily received.

This happens because hypnosis creates a quietening down of the subject’s conscious mind which allows the subconscious mind to become more open to receive suggestions and ideas. The subconscious mind is infinitely more creative and solution-oriented which makes it a valuable partner within the hypnotherapy process where positive, sustained, change is the end goal.

Participants willingly engage in the process.

The audience member agrees to come on stage to be part of the show whilst the therapy client  makes an initial enquiry and then attends the therapy appointment.

This voluntary participation or willing engagement is significant. In both contexts, if the individual does not want to be hypnotised then neither the hypnotherapist nor the stage hypnotist will be able to enable them to enter the trance state.

As a hypnotherapist, this fact is sometimes demonstrated when I receive a referral from a partner of a potential client. However worthy, where a partner’s intentions are to seek help for their loved one, if that loved one themselves does not actively want to engage in hypnotherapy then there is no value in proceeding with the referral.

Within stage hypnosis shows, you may sometimes notice audience members being redirected to their seats at an early stage in the evening. This can be an indication that whilst they were physically present on stage, they were not, in fact, cognitively or emotionally in agreement with the process.

The hypnotherapist or stage hypnotist as guide

The hypnotherapist or hypnotist gently guides the individual when they are accessing the state of trance. This guidance may be in the form of instructions or suggestions.

Stage hypnotists use direct instructions and suggestions e.g.“The next time you hear this music you will be dancing at Covent Garden” or “When you open your eyes you’ll have forgotten your name”.

Hypnotherapists use a broader range of techniques to guide clients, including a combination of direct and indirect suggestions and the use of metaphor and story.

The strength of the mind-body connection

Both approaches utilise the strength of the mind-body connection in different ways.

On stage, volunteers may sit shivering in their seats in response to a suggestion being made that they are feeling extremely cold.

Within hypnotherapy, a client may experience complete relief from pain following their receiving a suggestion that their entire arm has become anaesthetised.

What are the differences between the stage hypnosis and hypnotherapy?

The Preparation

Stage hypnosis volunteers may experience a brief suggestibility test as part of the audience before being invited onstage.

I provide my hypnotherapy clients with a complementary one hour initial consultation. This not only enables me to fully consider the background to their situation but also affords us both time to explore, through discussion and shared reflection, if we both feel that hypnotherapy is the optimal modality to use. Equally importantly, it provides us with an opportunity to ascertain the strength of our therapeutic relationship. I only work with clients where we share a significant level of rapport.

The Setting

Stage hypnosis is a public affair, conducted for the amusement of an entire audience.

Hypnotherapy is a private treatment experience that is conducted on a one to one basis within a therapy room, the client’s home, or online, which focuses on individual needs, goals and wellbeing.

The Techniques

Stage hypnotists tend to favour rapid inductions where the subject enters the state of trance quickly. This process is further enhanced, on occasions, by the addition of dramatic techniques e.g. as the subject enters trance they will fall backwards only to be caught within the hypnotist’s waiting arms.

Within hypnotherapy, the entry into the trance process is much more gradual and may be achieved through a range of techniques including guided imagery, story, and progressive muscle relaxation.

The Outcome

Stage hypnosis operates with a singular outcome; to provide entertainment to audience members through the responses and performances of the volunteers on stage. In stage hypnosis the outcome is non-specific for the volunteer. They know they will be participating in the show and therefore contributing to the evening’s entertainment, but the fine detail remains unknown to them.

Hypnotherapy works with a clearly defined therapeutic goal; to enable positive, sustained change in the client’s life by utilising the power of their subconscious mind. I review and discuss the treatment plan with my clients each week,  enabling all my clients to understand the focus of each session before it begins in earnest.

The Impact

The impact of stage hypnosis is short-term, remaining in place until the end of the show or until the time the hypnotist advises that “all suggestions are now cancelled”.

In contrast, the impact of hypnotherapy is long term behavioural and cognitive or emotional change. A literal changing of mindset takes place when hypnotherapy happens. At the end of the session the client will leave with new understandings and ways of being that will remain with them, deeply embedded within their subconscious.

The Takeaway

Both stage hypnosis and hypnotherapy demonstrate the unlimited power of your subconscious mind.

Stage hypnosis changes a volunteer’s behaviour for a few hours, for everyone else’s entertainment. After the show, she remains unchanged if somewhat surprised as her friends recall her antics.

Hypnotherapy enables a client to make lasting, sustained changes to their way of being, thinking, and responding that can quite literally change a life and last a lifetime.

If you would like to find out how hypnotherapy can help you create positive change why not contact me today?