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Mastering Hypnotic Inductions

As hypnosis practitioners, we rely on hypnotic inductions. They are the foundation of most hypnosis sessions, the part where the trance starts, right?

Hypnotic Inductions

Nope. Not necessarily. Don’t worry, this article IS about hypnotic inductions.

I just wanted to make an important point first, which is that the trance starts the moment your subject walks through the door. Even beforehand, if possible!

The best results come from proper preparation, after all.

Some of you might be chafing at the idea that the trance for which you are going to perform a great hypnotic induction might, and even should, start before you even, well, START. However, it’s true in the sense that everything you do prior to the induction should be aimed at facilitating hypnosis. Which is the whole point of inductions, of course.

For example, the language and gestures you use when your client first arrives for your session can be the beginning of establishing their habit of accepting your suggestions.

  • “Hi, feel free to sit where you’re the most likely to go into trance,” with a gesture to the seat you want them to sit in. This usually results in a laugh (a way to break the ice, so to speak), and then they sit down in the seat you indicated. This can also give you important feedback: Did they take your suggestion?

If that was too direct and awkward (which it doesn’t have to be, I’ve done it so many times I’ve lost count), then try something more simple and casual, such as:

  • “Hi, make yourself comfortable”, with that same gesture toward the seat you want them to sit in.

The rest of this post is going to address important elements of the hypnotic induction, which include what happens before the induction.

Just remember, when it comes to your hypnosis business, think about everything you do as a step toward inducing trance.

What Exactly Are Hypnotic Inductions?

What are hypnotic inductions?

Hypnotic inductions are a cornerstone of successful hypnosis sessions. The way into that mysterious but ever present realm that we call the subconscious mind.

Whether for entertainment or in a hypnotherapy session, the hypnotic induction sets the stage for what’s to come.

In fact, some hypnotists might argue that the induction is the most important element of a hypnosis session. After all, if a subject doesn’t go into a trance, will the session be successful? 

That might be a discussion for another article - there are many ways to make a hypnotic suggestion take hold in a subject’s mind, even without a formal hypnotic induction.

However, for the purposes of this post, the induction is the thing! 

So it is important to not only understand the purpose of a hypnotic induction, but be able to create and be flexible with inductions. As a professional hypnotist you may have an induction that you use most of the time, but if you don’t understand the purpose of each part of the induction and have a degree of mastery at being flexible with your inductions, then you run the risk of having hypnosis sessions that are mediocre at best.

What Is The Purpose of a Hypnotic Induction?

Purpose of hypnotic inductions.

Ultimately, the aim of hypnotic inductions in hypnotherapy is to facilitate access to the subconscious mind, allowing for targeted therapeutic interventions, personal insights, and transformative change.

The induction is meant to help the subject focus and reach a level of suggestibility that will allow suggestions to take hold and affect the subject. 

If someone comes to a hypnotherapist to quit smoking, it is likely that they probably haven’t responded to the messages they’ve been receiving on a conscious level. After all, there is plenty of “motivation” to quit smoking out there. 

No, someone who needs hypnosis to quit smoking is looking to access the part of themselves that is driving the smoking behavior. In order to access that subconscious drive, we need the subject’s conscious mind to get out of the way.

Hypnotic induction is the process that helps the conscious mind step aside and allow us access to the subconscious mind.

Why Are Hypnotic Inductions So Important?

The hypnotic induction holds significant importance during a hypnotherapy session for several reasons:

1. Establishing Rapport and Trust

The induction process serves as an opportunity for the hypnotherapist to establish a rapport with the client. It helps build trust and a sense of collaboration, creating a safe environment for the therapeutic work ahead.

2. Facilitating A Bypass of the Critical Factor

Although many inductions utilize relaxation as a precursor to trance, the most important element of the hypnotic induction is bypassing the critical factor. Any good hypnotic induction is designed to induce a state of suggestibility.

This does not always require relaxation - although relaxation is often the most pleasant and accepted method. Many instant inductions use the element of surprise to quickly bypass the critical factor and access the subconscious mind, which is not necessarily relaxing!

3. Accessing the Subconscious Mind

The induction is the key to unlocking the doorway to the subconscious mind. By guiding the client into a hypnotic state, the therapist can access the deeper layers of the mind where ingrained beliefs, memories, and emotions reside.

4. Increasing Suggestibility

The induction enhances the client's suggestibility, making them more receptive to positive suggestions and therapeutic interventions. This heightened suggestibility allows for the effective implementation of desired changes.

5. Focused Attention

During the induction, the hypnotist is guiding the client's attention so that it becomes highly focused, narrowing down external distractions. This focused attention is crucial for engaging the subconscious mind and facilitating therapeutic exploration.

6. Initiating Therapeutic Goals

The induction phase sets the stage for the therapeutic goals of the session. It serves as the bridge between the client's conscious awareness and the subconscious, enabling the therapist to address specific issues or goals identified by the client.

7. Enhancing Imagery and Visualization

Many hypnotic inductions involve guided imagery and visualization. These techniques can be powerful tools for establishing an inward focus, and creating positive mental associations with the process, contributing to therapeutic goals.

8. Tailoring the Session to Individual Needs

Different individuals respond differently to hypnotic inductions. By using various induction techniques, the hypnotherapist can tailor the session to suit the individual's preferences and responsiveness, maximizing the effectiveness of the therapeutic process.

9. Creating a Positive Experience

A positive and successful hypnotic induction contributes to a positive overall experience for the client. This positive experience can enhance motivation, engagement, and the client's willingness to participate in future sessions.

10. Building Confidence

Successfully guiding a client into a hypnotic state through the induction instills confidence in both the client and the therapist. It reinforces the belief in the therapeutic process and the potential for positive change.

Parts of hypnotic inductions

Parts of hypnotic inductions

A hypnotic induction typically consists of several key components designed to guide an individual into a state of focus and heightened suggestibility.

The specific components may vary depending on the induction technique and the preferences of the hypnotherapist.

A hypnotic induction typically consists of several key components designed to guide an individual into a state of focus and heightened suggestibility. The specific components may vary depending on the induction technique and the preferences of the hypnotherapist.

Following are some common elements found in many hypnotic inductions.

Introduction and Explanation, Also Known As the “Pre-talk”:

The hypnotic pre-talk is an important part of hypnotic inductions.

The hypnotherapist should have a conversation with the subject in order to understand the client's goals, concerns, and preferences. This helps tailor the induction to the individual.

You may not have considered the hypnotic pre-talk as part of the hypnotic induction, but it can make all the difference between failure and success.

The hypnotherapist should have a conversation with the subject in order to understand the client's goals, concerns, and preferences. This helps tailor the induction to the individual. This phase of the hypnosis session can make a huge difference in the ultimate outcome.

This is a large enough topic that it requires a separate post. However, in summary:

The hypnotherapist introduces the induction, explaining the process and reassuring the client about the natural and safe nature of hypnosis. The pre-talk  is when you (the hypnotist) teach the subject HOW to go into a trance. This is where you elicit the subject's cooperation, giving them their power to engage with the induction and voluntarily “co-create” their trance. 

You can jumpstart the trance experience here as well, helping the client “practice” going into trance before you actually DO it. This is particularly useful with subjects who think they cannot be hypnotized, have had negative hypnosis experiences in the past, or who are resistant for any reason.

Note: Some subjects do NOT want to feel they have power over the process, they want to believe that the hypnotherapist has all the power, and all they have to do is sit back, relax, and let it happen. You can use that, too.

Establishing Relaxation:

A lot of inductions begin with techniques aimed at inducing physical and mental relaxation. This can involve deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or other calming methods. Although not all inductions require relaxation, this is one of the most accepted and expected methods of induction, especially for hypnotherapy. Therefore, using an induction that establishes relaxation will often be something the client can recognize, making for a more positive experience for the client.

Focusing Attention:

The client is guided to focus their attention on a specific point, object, or mental image. This helps narrow their awareness and initiate the process of entering a hypnotic state. Sometimes focusing attention can be a process. For instance, with some inductions, the client’s focus may be narrowed down progressively, and move from external to internal focus.

Suggestion and Imagery:

Hypnotic suggestions are introduced, often accompanied by vivid imagery. These suggestions aim to facilitate a shift in perception, encouraging the client to enter a more receptive mental state. Exactly what suggestions and imagery might be most useful to a particular client can be gleaned from the pre-talk.


The induction may include a phase of progressive deepening, where the hypnotherapist guides the client into an even deeper state of relaxation. This can involve counting down or using metaphors to enhance the experience.

Testing Responsiveness:

The hypnotherapist may include moments to test the client's responsiveness to suggestions, ensuring that the hypnotic state is well-established and the individual is open to therapeutic interventions.

It's important to note that the structure and specific elements of a hypnotic induction can vary, and skilled hypnotherapists should adapt their approach based on the individual needs and responsiveness of the client

Types and Examples of Hypnotic Inductions

Types of Hypnotic Inductions.

There are different types of hypnotic inductions, and it’s good to get to know them. Establishing knowledge and a confident comfort level with various types of inductions will help you become more flexible.

Being able to tailor your hypnosis session and the induction will make your hypnosis session much more likely to succeed.

There are different types of hypnotic inductions, and it’s good to get to know them. Establishing knowledge and a confident comfort level with various types of inductions will help you become more flexible. Being able to tailor your hypnosis session and the induction will make your hypnosis session much more likely to succeed.

I’ll let you in on a little secret: The most successful inductions are based primarily on two things: confidence, and the hypnotist's ability to use elements from different types of inductions to induce and deepen trance and suggestibility. One of the most popular inductions, The Dave Elman Induction, uses elements from most of the induction types and examples listed below.

Note: Usually, the environment for your hypnosis session should be conducive to relaxation and free from distractions. Although if you’ve ever watched a street hypnotist work their “magic”, comfort and relaxation are obviously not always necessary!

The Eye Fixation Induction

The Eye Fixation Induction, with its simplicity and directness, can be a valuable tool in the toolkit of a hypnotherapist, particularly for those clients who respond well to visual focus and relaxation cues.

The Eye Fixation Induction is a classic and straightforward technique used in hypnosis to induce a state of focused attention and relaxation. It often serves as the initial step in guiding an individual into a trance state.

Here is a more in-depth description of the Eye Fixation Induction:

1. Preparation:

The hypnotherapist begins by ensuring that the client is comfortable.  2. Introduction:

The hypnotherapist introduces the concept of eye fixation, explaining that focusing the eyes on a specific point can aid in the induction of a hypnotic state.

3. Gaze Direction:

The client is instructed to pick a point to focus their gaze on. This point could be a spot on the ceiling, a fixed object, or even a specific part of the hypnotherapist's face or hand.

4. Relaxation Cues:

As the client maintains their gaze, the hypnotherapist may incorporate relaxation cues. These can include suggestions to allow the eyes to become heavy, warm, or pleasantly tired.

5. Breathing Awareness:

Once eye fixation has been established, the client is encouraged to become aware of their breathing. Deep and rhythmic breathing is often suggested to enhance the overall sense of relaxation.

6. Suggestion for Deepening:

While maintaining the eye fixation, the hypnotherapist should introduce suggestions for deepening the trance state. This could involve counting down, or even more simply the suggestion: "With each breath, allow yourself to go deeper into a state of relaxation."

7. Utilizing the Altered State:

Once the hypnotic state is established, the hypnotherapist can start introducing therapeutic suggestions or guiding the client through imagery and visualization relevant to their goals or concerns.

Key Considerations:

Individual Variability: The effectiveness of the Eye Fixation Induction can vary among individuals. Some people respond more readily to visual focus, while others may be more successful with a different induction method.

Safety and Comfort: It is crucial to ensure that the client is physically comfortable and that the chosen point of fixation does not cause strain or discomfort.

Adaptability: Skilled hypnotherapists often adapt the Eye Fixation Induction based on the client's responsiveness, modifying the pace and depth of the induction to suit individual needs.

Progressive Relaxation Induction

Progressive Relaxation Induction is valued for its simplicity, accessibility, and effectiveness in inducing a deep state of relaxation, making it a foundational component in many hypnotherapy sessions.

This induction is a widely used technique in hypnotherapy that systematically guides individuals through the process of relaxing different muscle groups in their body. The goal is to induce a state of deep physical and mental relaxation, making the mind more receptive to hypnotic suggestions. 

Here's an in-depth description of the Progressive Relaxation Induction:

1. Introduction and Preparation:

The hypnotherapist begins by explaining the process to the client, emphasizing the importance of relaxation. The individual is typically seated or lying down in a comfortable position.

2. Focused Awareness:

 The client is encouraged to focus their attention on their breathing, fostering an initial sense of mindfulness and present-moment awareness.

3. Systematic Muscle Relaxation:

Starting from a specific point (often the toes or the head), the hypnotherapist guides the client through a systematic progression of muscle groups. This can involve verbal cues like "Allow the muscles in your toes to relax completely."

4. Breathing Coordination:

Breathing techniques are often integrated, with the client instructed to take slow, deep breaths as they release tension from each muscle group. The synchronization of breath and relaxation enhances the overall calming effect.

5. Cueing Physical Sensations:

As each muscle group is addressed, the hypnotherapist may use descriptive language to cue sensations associated with relaxation, such as warmth, heaviness, or a pleasant tingling.

6. Progression Up the Body:

The relaxation process systematically moves upward or downward through the body, addressing major muscle groups like the legs, abdomen, chest, arms, neck, and face.

7. Repetition and Reinforcement:

The progressive relaxation is often repeated for emphasis, with each repetition allowing for deeper levels of relaxation. Reinforcing the process helps embed a sense of calmness.

 8. Suggestion for Deepening:

Once a significant state of relaxation is achieved, the hypnotherapist may introduce suggestions to deepen the hypnotic trance. This can include suggestions like "With each breath, allow yourself to sink even deeper into a state of profound relaxation."

Key Considerations:

Adaptability: The Progressive Relaxation Induction can be adapted to suit individual preferences and needs. The pace and specific muscle groups addressed can be adjusted accordingly. This induction is particularly good for teaching a client to “practice” going into trance on their own. **Of course, they should be cautioned to be in a safe environment before doing so.

Patient Comfort: Ensuring that the client is physically comfortable and at ease is crucial for the success of the induction. While different inductions may be successful in different environments, for this induction, comfort, ease, feeling safe, and minimal distractions are important.

Progressive Deepening: The induction allows for progressive deepening of the hypnotic state, making it suitable for individuals at different levels of responsiveness.

Arm Levitation Induction

Oh, this one is fun! The Arm Levitation Induction is a hypnotic technique designed to induce a trance state by suggesting a sensation of lightness and lifting in the arm or wrist. This method is often used in hypnotherapy to deepen relaxation and enhance suggestibility.

This induction is appreciated for its simplicity and its ability to induce a trance state while providing a tangible and unique experience for the client. It can be particularly effective for those who respond well to suggestions involving physical sensations.

Here's an in-depth description of the Arm Levitation Induction:

1. Introduction and Preparation:

The hypnotherapist begins by explaining the purpose of the Arm Levitation Induction, emphasizing that it's a natural and comfortable experience. The client is typically seated or lying down in a relaxed position. 

Help the client bring to mind subconscious movement, like when we gesture while we’re talking, or how we walk. The body moves without conscious thought all the time, right?

Ask the client to choose an arm with a suggestion like: “Now, which arm is most likely to feel light and floaty?”, or “Which arm would you like to use to lighten up?”, or “Please choose the arm you’re most comfortable working with”, etc.

2. Focused Relaxation:

The client is guided into a state of relaxation through verbal cues, focusing on breathing, and possibly progressive relaxation of other muscle groups. This initial relaxation phase helps set the stage for this specific induction.

3. Suggestion of Lightness:

The hypnotherapist introduces the idea that the client's arm or wrist will begin to feel light, buoyant, and weightless. Suggestions may include phrases like "Imagine a sensation of lightness spreading through your arms”, or “Imagine a balloon is tied to your wrist, like we do with little kids so they don’t lose them. Feel that string, attached to that big balloon, lifting your wrist.”

4. Gradual Lift:

The hypnotherapist then suggests that the arm is gradually lifting, floating, or becoming buoyant. This suggestion is often delivered in a calm and rhythmic manner, fostering a sense of ease and comfort.

5. Enhanced Relaxation:

As the arm lifts, the hypnotherapist continues to reinforce the relaxation aspect, using phrases such as "Feel how relaxed and comfortable you are as your wrist gently and effortlessly rises."

6. Coordination with Breathing:

Breathing patterns may be coordinated with the lifting sensation to deepen the relaxation experience. For example, the client might be instructed to take a deep breath in as the arm rises. This aspect uses the body's natural sensations, as we often feel lighter when we take a deep breath in. Suggesting something that is naturally happening anyway is a highly useful induction technique.

7. Suggestive Imagery:

The hypnotherapist may incorporate suggestive imagery, asking the client to visualize their arm floating on a cloud or rising like a helium balloon. This helps enhance the hypnotic experience.

8. Positive Reinforcement:

Throughout the process, the hypnotherapist provides positive reinforcement, acknowledging the client's ability to experience the sensation of arm levitation. Positive affirmations may be used to deepen the trance state as well.

Key Considerations:

Individual Sensitivity: The Arm Levitation Induction may vary in effectiveness among individuals. Some may respond more readily to the sensation of arm levitation, while others may prefer different induction methods.

Adaptability: Skilled hypnotherapists can adapt the induction to suit individual preferences and adjust the pace and depth of the experience accordingly.

Instant Inductions:

Instant or rapid inductions are techniques in hypnosis that aim to induce a trance state quickly, often in a matter of seconds. These inductions are characterized by their efficiency and ability to rapidly alter the client's state of consciousness.

Here are a few examples of instant or rapid inductions:

1. Hand Drop Induction:

The hypnotherapist instructs the client to focus on a point on their hand. As they do, the therapist lifts the client's hand and then quickly drops it, suggesting that as the hand drops, relaxation will deepen, and the client will enter a hypnotic state.

2. Elman Induction:

Named after Dave Elman, this induction involves a rapid eye closure followed by a quick arm drop. The therapist suggests that with each breath, the client goes into a deeper state of hypnosis.

3. Snap Induction:

The therapist creates a pattern interrupt by suddenly snapping their fingers or clapping hands while giving a suggestion for the client to close their eyes and enter a deep state of relaxation.

4. Handshake Induction:

While shaking hands with the client, the therapist interrupts the handshake with a suggestion for the client to close their eyes and relax deeply. The unexpected interruption creates a moment of distraction that facilitates trance.

5. Magnetic Hands Induction:

The therapist instructs the client to imagine that their hands are magnetic and drawn toward each other. As the hands move closer, the therapist suggests a deepening state of relaxation and trance.

6. Finger-Closing Induction:

The therapist asks the client to extend their fingers and then suggests that their fingers are coming together like magnets. As the fingers come together, the therapist suggests that the client is entering a deep state of hypnosis.

7. Arm Pull Induction:

The therapist instructs the client to extend their arm, then gives a suggestion that the arm is becoming light and floating upward. The therapist then pulls the arm gently, signaling the client to enter a deeper state of relaxation.

8. Shock Induction:

This induction involves creating a moment of surprise or shock, such as pretending to drop something loudly. During the distraction, the therapist introduces suggestions for relaxation and trance.

Note: Rapid inductions require skill, precision, and consideration of the individual client's responsiveness. They are best performed by experienced and trained hypnotherapists. Additionally, obtaining informed consent is an important element when using these techniques, particularly in a therapeutic context.

Special Mentions:

Each of the following is worth studying in depth. We have given a very brief description and a source for further exploration.

Utilization Induction (Ericksonian):

Description: Utilizes the client's current experiences, thoughts, or behaviors to induce trance.

Source: "My Voice Will Go with You: The Teaching Tales of Milton H. Erickson" by Sidney Rosen

Conversational Hypnosis Induction:

Description: Embeds hypnotic suggestions seamlessly into normal conversation.

Source: "The Power of Conversational Hypnosis" by Igor Ledochowski

Elman Induction:

Description: A structured induction involving eye fixation, arm levitation, and deepening techniques.

 Source: "Hypnotherapy" by Dave Elman

Hypnotic Inductions and Stage Hypnosis

Most of our members are hypnotherapists or NLP Practitioners that work with clients in a therapeutic environment. Over the years, I have noticed that a lot of hypnotherapists ignore what can be learned from stage hypnosis.

In some ways, stage hypnotists have an advantage over a hypnotherapist, in that their show will involve identifying likely hypnotic subjects by asking for volunteers. In addition, stage hypnosis has the added impression of authority of the hypnotist (after all, would the hypnotist go on stage in front of all those people if they couldn’t hypnotize people?). And if you’ve ever been on stage, you know that it can be quite hypnotic just being up there!

Hypnotherapists can learn a lot from stage hypnosis. Check out Ormond McGill's "Encyclopedia of Stage Hypnosis".

Time to Wrap Things Up, For Now...

Almost ever aspect of this post could use a post of its own. Each induction mentioned, even each aspect of inductions, could use more discussion.

However, the purpose of this post was to highlight how important hypnotic inductions are, and discuss the types and parts of inductions. If you got anything out of this post, then you understand a bit more about that.

Investing your time and energy into mastering hypnotic inductions is not just smart, it is essential to your success as a hypnotist or hypnotherapist. Don't just memorize an induction script and hope for the best. Understand the what and why of the thing!

About the author

Maggie Heath

Maggie is a Certified Hypnotherapist, Certified NLP Master Practitioner, Certified NLP Coach, and a NLP and hypnosis trainer.

She has been working in the fields of hypnosis and NLP for over 25 years, after getting her Bachelors Degree from the University of Colorado in Marketing and Communication.

A life long study of human behavior continues, as she believes there is always more to learn (especially about human creatures). Maggie also works with the IHA directing operations and member management, as well as helping out with their website.

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Posted in Techniques on December 19, 2023 by  Maggie Heath 0