Conversational hypnosis is a therapeutic strategy that has been found to be useful as a form of communication therapy. Known otherwise as ‘narrative therapy, it was devised by Michael White and David Epston in 1982 and relies on ‘reframing’ which stated otherwise means re-storiying. The approach conversational hypnosis follows is to develop an alternative narrative of the life of the clients. The advantage of conversational therapy is that when such a re-storying is narrated by trained hypnotists, the clients find new and unique redescriptions of themselves which helps them in the repairing and rebuilding of their relationships In the process, the previously dominant story that hitherto has been lying deep-rooted in their lives become obsolete. The clients get a new breather of life where they see the problems and relationships in a newer positive perspective, because the negatives that have been disturbing their minds prior to the sessions get relegated to the background.
The uniqueness of conversation hypnosis is that it does not stop with just conversation of the hypnotherapist with his/her clients. They follow it up by writing letters to their clients after the conclusion of each session which redescribe from a new angle what was talked about in the preceding session. It is the recurrent theme contained in the letter that forms the crucial strategy in conversational hypnosis as it helps the clients in not giving up. The conversation combined with recurrent theme has been found to aid the clients in resisting their temptations to give up hypnotherapy sessions in the light of difficulties they face in overcoming their problems. We can illustrate this with a case in example of a youth who has been abused during her childhood by taking a leaf from O’Hanlon, an expert in the field of conversational hypnotherapy. The theme of the letter in this case would be towards reassuring the client by acknowledging that she has been abused but the exemplary courage shown by her would make her to emerge stronger from the ordeal and not weaker as perceived by the society. The contents would be framed something along these lines: ‘You, (the name of the client) have been over time strengthened in spite of the adverse circumstances to which you have been pushed into and while you were trying to overcome such sufferings, everyone around you have been attempting to weaken you by trying to make you a slave of such adverse circumstances, but paradoxically such attempts had only strengthened your resolve to be your own person wherein your distinct identity has come into the fore’. ‘I, (that is the hypnotherapist) believe an evil has been perpetuated on you on account of which you were degraded, but, at no point of time, you were broken. To my (that is hypnotherapist’s) way of thinking, you (that is the client) are a heroine without your knowledge of being a heroism’.
Conversational hypnotherapy claims a special place in the field of hypnotherapy because it is found to be equally useful in helping children especially those who have been labeled with the painful term Attention-deficit Hyperactivity (ADHD). Hypnotherapists see it in a different light, vis-a-vis their counterparts viz, the psychiatrists, as for hypnotists it is a social construct that depends to a great extent on the ways they talk about. Narrative therapeutic experts like David Nylund, Victor Corsiglia etc have developed new ways and methods to talk with such children by encouraging them to describe their own views of their conditions to the extent they are able to do so. In their experiments they found varying expressions as in the case of a 15 year old child who stated that his ADHD was reflected in ‘being able to watch two TV-channels at the same time’ and the more significant point of that statement came from his next statement which was to the effect that he was able to pick up something from each channel’. The underlying line of treatment in conversational hypnotherapy whether it is in the cases similar to the one quoted above or others is that the clients are helped by enabling them to reconsider their hitherto held belief that they are incompetent. The suggestive technique followed by conversational hypnotherapy specialists conveys a sense of belief in their clients that they are much more intelligent than they believe and besides not necessarily in what society thinks as skills but in their being vested with special skills of creative talents as, say, capacity to learn and excel in music, sports, dance or anything similar to them which fall outside the narrow definition of skills which the society values in a mundane manner.
Nonetheless, for those who sit on the other side of the fence and has made it a habit to criticize and naildown hypnosis and hypnotherapists, conversational hypnosis is yet another form of manipulation which inherently is embodied in lying, cheating, and manipulations. To them the alternative points of view used by hypnotists is nothing but lying and consequently those who have taken to the field of hypnotherapy become vulnerable to such ethical criticisms. To them, there is no way by which in conversational hypnosis the right can be distinguished from the wrong, a lie can be distinguished from a truth. They refuse to see the point that the use of alternative or redescriptions does not have to rely on lying or cheating.
Again those who would have watched the election campaign of Barrack Obama would be familiar with the criticisms of his using conversational hypnosis in the negative sense of the term. They called the techniques used by him by a variety of terms as ‘pacing’, ‘vagueness’, ‘rolling out meaningless statistics in a reckless manner’ etc which were all meant to decouple the listeners from rational thinking. Once the rational thoughts were suspended, conversational therapy, according to them, had achieved its objective by gaining entry into the emotional state of mind of the listeners/ voters through the creation of an ‘inside’-loved group centered on symbols with an ‘outside’-hated group which is used as a scapegoat for all the ills pervading ills of the society. In order to lend credence to their criticisms, these critics quote examples of other political leaders, famous or disgraced as Adolph Hitler who resorted to occultists to achieve the results which according to them was ultimately responsible in causing misery to humanity. While these critics have not gone to the extent of comparing Obama’s speeches to such crude exercises as mentioned above as according to them he was able to refine them with other techniques as Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) yet there was no watering down of the substance of criticisms.
While we do not subscribe to the above views, the purpose of pointing out this is to keep the readers informed that those who believe and practice ethically the science and art of hypnotherapy would always tell you that it is illegal to subject you to such a therapy without your consent. As informed citizens, you may know well that any therapy relies on trust between the clients and their therapists and the option always lies with you as clients to ignore the communication contained in the conversational hypnotherapy if you think it is insincere. Conversational hypnosis is always contextual in nature in that it contains statements of what is relevant and not relevant and what is important and not important. There is always a value judgment involved because conversational hypnosis sessions are conducted after evaluation of the situation with which a client is faced with and no ethically believing hypnotherapist would impose such value judgments on his/her clients at any point of time. The import of value judgment is all the communications have an influencing element attached to them and hypnotherapy in general and conversational hypnosis in particular is a double-edged sword which can cut either way. A sword or a knife can be used for a good or a bad cause. Unjustified criticisms is similar to one excusing oneself from taking the responsibility for his/her action which at best can be thought of as an escapist attitude but to lay the blame on somebody else, as on a hypnotherapist in this case, is a blatant violation of natural justice.