These three simple, standard suggestibility tests are designed to allow a client who has never been in trance before to experience their own suggestibility. They act as convincers. I recommend doing at least one of these tests before you hypnotize the client the first time.
I usually do all three, saying, "You may be better at one than the others. We are using different muscle groups and different parts of the body." In the Dictionary and Balloon Test, we use the full arm and shoulder muscle group. In the Finger Vice, we use the hands. In the Postural Sway, we use the legs. Different muscle groups may be suggestible at different levels for a person, so I do all three tests to give the client an opportunity to see which one they do best. This gives me information about which muscle group is most suggestible.
Suggestibility tests are not particularly Ericksonian; they come from standard hypnotherapy. We find that almost everyone will respond to at least one of the tests. Before doing the tests, you need to tell the client, "The reason it's good to be suggestible is that you'll be able to have your Mind make suggestions to your Body at will, and you'll be able to heal anything." If you have this discussion first, you will have a very high success rate in suggestibility tests and the hypnosis that follows.
Some people walk into a Hypnotherapy session determined to say "I never felt hypnotized" when they leave. In other cases, because the hypnotic state is so natural, less skeptical people may say afterwards, "I don't think I was hypnotized. I just felt relaxed and comfortable." With clients of both types, suggestibility tests act as powerful pre-trance convincers.
If for some reason the suggestibility tests do not work, this does not mean that the client will not go into trance. They may tell you that they are not hypnotized, that they feel nothing different from normal. Neither the client, nor you, may have any idea that they are in trance, and the next moment their arm may be suspended in mid-air.
Students often ask if there is any relationship between the suggestibility tests and the depth of hypnosis a person is able to reach. I avoid predicting depth of trance from the suggestibility tests because my pre-judgment might keep the client from going as deep as they might. I use the suggestibility tests solely as a means of convincing the client that they are hypnotizable.
Was this article helpful?
Hypnosis is a capital instrument for relaxation and alleviating stress. It helps calm down both the brain and body, giving a useful rest. All the same it can be rather costly to hire a clinical hypnotherapist, and we might not always want one around when we would like to destress.