The Difference between Stage Hypnosis, NLP and Hypnotherapy.

The fundamental understanding of NLP is that we are a blank computer and are programmed by the actions and words of other people.

The fundamental understanding of clinical psychology is that we are ‘taught’ our beliefs and the responding behaviours.


The underlying premise is that we influence and are influenced by the people around us and by the experience that gives us at an – ‘other than conscious’ level of our mental process – so that without conscious and logical reasoning our behaviour and beliefs [and that’s everything even if you want to break it down into sub wotsits] are ’caused’ by input from others.

Both agree that the acceptance of such input is not entirely one of choice.

In fact the opposite seems to be the agreed understanding. It also is true according to these two main schools of understanding human behaviour that although hard wired to a degree, for instance by gender and genes, that the learning that happens that most influences us does so at an unaware level.

For instance no one has ever burst into spontaneous Christianity or Islam unless they have been introduced to them by someone else.

Now as I see it the fundamental premise of the lay psychotherapist and especially the HYPNOtherapist is that when you are in a trance or relaxed state you are still able to be influenced by the actions and ‘teachings’ of another.  But that somehow a miracle has occurred and now you have also got choice and although your conscious reasoning is bypassed, entranced, turned off or otherwise indisposed then it is still working enough for you to choose which bits of the process are productive or harmful.

In other words they have guided you into the state where you are most susceptible to accepting changed reality but will only accept the good reality. Even though this is the same state you were in when you quite happily accepted the unproductive reality you now want to change – but can’t because we actually don’t work that way.

The problem I see with this is that the people who are able to change what’s in your head are taught, and they really believe this, that they can do no ‘damage’ because you have choice.

The logic of this baffles me. It was what I was taught, fortunately it didn’t stick because I am not a somnambulist – most hypnotherapists are – so the suggestion wasn’t put there to stick.

The truth is

that if you cannot give someone a phobia then you cannot remove a phobia because you need exactly the same state of mind to do either. Someone in that sate has no choice, they just react and learn. Bosh! In it goes, good or bloody bad.

As for the hypnotee being in control if they are then what is it they are paying for? If they retain conscious control and are fully aware then you may as well just talk to them anyway and not bother with the rest. In which case don’t call it hypnosis because it isn’t.

I am often told that providing the ‘client’ gets a result then it doesn’t matter what method is used. As far as HYPNOtherapy is concerned it does. When someone sees the prefix HYPNO, unless they are particularly dim, one would suspect that they would expect to be “hypnotised” .

Now there is a lot of discussion on what hypnosis is among those who practice and claim to understand the art. The thing is it really doesn’t matter what ‘we’ think but what the person looking for hypnosis thinks is vital.

Now if you walk out into the street right now and ask the first person you meet to name a hypnotist they will say, [and I’m working on an English speaking or understanding, westernized person who at least watches the tele and who isn’t part of the ‘hypnotic community’ and is alive], and in no particular order – Paul McKenna, Derren Brown, Peter Powers, Ken Webster, Glenn Harrold, Justin Tranz, Tom Silver, the Amazing Kreskin and in the South West of England perhaps even Jonathan Chase.

Now all of these people have one thing in common.

They hypnotise dramatically and produce consistent phenomena which the Zeitgeist of the general public sees as wham bam thank you ma’am out of the bloody game hypnosis.

This, therefore, is what hypnosis is and why it works. It works because they get what they expect.

Now the sad thing as I see it is that not only are many therapists not taught how to get, maintain and manage this state they are actually told it is bad and wrong. For this reason a lot never know when they accidentally get it. And when they do, if they think they can do no harm, then you have what I call the Kalashnikov syndrome. You have someone who is using a fully automatic rifle who isn’t aware of where the safety switch is or how to use and point the thing when they pull the trigger.

Now to use a metaphor, if I order a uniformed chauffeur driven stretch limo to get me to my next gig and a bloke in a mac and flat cap tuns up with a horse and cart I am going to be disillusioned somewhat – and pissed off as well. Even though the horse and cart will get me there it won’t be as fast, as comfortable nor as satisfying for my sense of value for money. So I think that if you put ‘hypno’ before what you do then you should give the customer what they want and do that with safety.

Want to learn how to create a Stage Hypnosis Entertainment show or want to be able to demonstrate to an audience ‘entertainingly’? Then click here to find out how you can join an online MasterClass with me.


  • Great post, I think NLP gives us an understanding of how we experience life and what meanings we then apply to those experiences. When we unravel the information about what we think, and how we are thinking it, we can then use NLP strategies and techniques to create changes and achieve better behaviour and results.

  • I’m not a hypnotist or a hypnotherapist, but I agree that those who say we still get to choose what we will or will not accept when hypnotised are not being entirely honest.

    Maybe there are biological safeguards that protect us from clear and present physical danger, but I don’t believe there are any neurological safeguards.

    Our neurology consists of data that organises itself according to ‘rules of neurology’ – not rules of our social environment.

    Consciousness is our awareness of data our brain is running. Which gives us an opportunity to determine what we do or don’t like. But if our conscious awareness of the data we’re running is removed by a hypnotist or hypnotherapist, the process continues anyway, only now an outside agency is directing it in whatever way *they* choose. Consequently (either temporarily or quasi-permanently) reconfiguring our neurology ‘against our will’.

    As you say, if they couldn’t do that we might as well just talk.

    What do you mean by most hypnotherapists are somnambulists?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *