Pacing and leading is a fundamental hypnotic language pattern used in hypnotherapy and is also prevalent in other fields that involve persuasive communication. It is a cornerstone technique that helps establish rapport and guide an individual's focus towards a desired state or outcome. I often describe it as the oil in the hypnosis machine. Master this one linguistic skill, and everything will run smoothly.
Pacing, the first half of this technique, is about matching and mirroring the current experience of the individual. It could relate to their internal state (such as feelings or thoughts), or external circumstances (environmental details, for example). By accurately describing these aspects that are verifiably true, the therapist builds trust and rapport, thus "pacing" the client's current reality.
For instance, in a hypnotherapy session, a therapist might say, "As you sit there, listening to my voice, you might begin to notice the weight of your body on the chair." Each element of this sentence is verifiably true and real for the individual, helping to establish credibility.
Leading, on the other hand, is about guiding the individual from their current state to a new state or desired outcome. Once rapport has been established through pacing, the hypnotherapist can then introduce suggestions that move the person towards the goal of the session.
Let's continue with our previous example, "As you sit there, listening to my voice, you might begin to notice the weight of your body on the chair, and as you do, you may find your body starting to relax, growing more comfortable with each passing moment." In the second part of the sentence, the therapist is "leading" the individual towards a state of relaxation.
What makes pacing and leading so effective is its basis in trust and empathy. By aligning with the individual's current state, you show understanding and acceptance, which can help lower defenses and open the way for new possibilities. Leading then capitalizes on this rapport, using the power of suggestion to gently guide the individual towards the desired outcome.
It's also worth noting that the transition from pacing to leading should be seamless. Often, 'linking phrases' are used to bridge the two, such as "and as you...," "while you...," or "you might find that..."
Pacing and leading is a powerful tool in the arsenal of any hypnotherapist, and its mastery is crucial for effective therapeutic communication. It's not merely a technique, but an art that demands practice, intuition, and a deep understanding of the human psyche. Its beauty lies in its simplicity, in how it turns ordinary conversation into a catalyst for profound change.
In this blog we explore pacing and leading statements that are are a good fit for various stages of the therapeutic process. Ten examples are given for each. Play with them. Make them your own. And, let us know how you get on. Read on, and you will also find some practice tips for mastering this linguistic skill.
The initial phase of therapy is dedicated to establishing trust and rapport between the therapist and client. Pacing and leading during this phase can help the client feel more comfortable, understood, and accepted. This is the foundational stage, setting the tone for the therapeutic relationship and journey. Below are examples of how pacing and leading can be applied:
1. "As you settle into this space, you might start to feel a sense of comfort and security."
2. "While we're discussing your experiences, you may find a growing trust in this therapeutic process."
3. "As you share your thoughts and feelings, you might notice a sense of relief from expressing yourself openly."
4. "While we're getting to know each other, you may begin to sense a connection and understanding developing between us."
5. "As you familiarize yourself with this therapeutic space, you might feel increasingly at ease and accepted."
6. "While you're opening up about your life, you could start to experience a sense of being heard and validated."
7. "As we navigate your story together, you may feel more and more comfortable in sharing your experiences."
8. "While you're engaging in this process, you might find yourself beginning to trust in the journey ahead."
9. "As you explore your thoughts and feelings in this safe space, you may start to feel more connected and understood."
10. "While you're discovering more about yourself, you might begin to feel a sense of empowerment and hope."
During the intake phase, a hypnotherapist gathers necessary information from the client. Using pacing and leading, a therapist can encourage the client to open up about their experiences, fostering an environment where they feel heard and understood. This lays the groundwork for the therapeutic process to unfold.
1. "As you're sitting here in this room, looking around, taking in the details, you may start feeling comfortable sharing about your experiences."
2. "As you notice the sound of my voice, speaking these words, you might find it easier to open up and discuss your thoughts and feelings."
3. "While you feel the texture of the fabric on the chair beneath your hands, you may also sense a growing comfort to explore deeper subjects."
4. "As you observe the stillness of the room around us, it's possible you'll feel an increasing calmness that allows you to convey your emotions."
5. "Noticing the warmth or coolness of the room, you might find a parallel comfort or ease in expressing your feelings."
6. "As you sit here, aware of your breathing - the in-breath and out-breath - you may feel an emerging readiness to delve into your concerns."
7. "Recognizing your feet firmly grounded on the floor, you could begin to sense a growing stability that encourages you to share your experiences."
8. "As you listen to the ticking of the clock, marking each moment, you might find time expanding, giving you the space to express what brought you here."
9. "While you become more aware of your body in the chair, feeling the weight of your own presence, you may find an increasing courage to voice your challenges."
10. "As you experience the light in the room, noticing its brightness or dimness, you could feel your own inner light growing stronger, empowering you to discuss your personal journey."
These phrases aim to create a safe and reassuring environment for clients, utilizing pacing and leading to facilitate trust, open communication, and readiness for change. They ease the transition from the client's current state of awareness and comfort, towards greater openness and readiness to share personal experiences. It's about aligning with their current reality and then gently guiding them to a new state where they feel safe and supported to disclose personal information, helping the therapy process move forward.
Encouraging acceptance is a crucial step in therapy, helping clients to accept their thoughts and feelings without judgement. Pacing and leading can be utilized to foster a therapeutic environment where acceptance is not only encouraged but celebrated as a step towards self-growth.
1. "As you sit here, noticing the thoughts flowing through your mind, you might start to see them as passing clouds, observing them without judgment or resistance."
2. "While you feel these emotions, acknowledging their presence, you may begin to allow them to be, understanding they're a part of your human experience."
3. "As you become aware of your thoughts, just as they are, you might start to realize they are not facts, but temporary and changing mental events."
4. "While you're paying attention to your feelings, you may find yourself accepting them as they come and go, knowing they do not define you."
5. "As you notice your thoughts, whether they're pleasant or unpleasant, you could begin to experience them with acceptance and curiosity, rather than fear or rejection."
6. "While you experience these emotions, you might begin to accept them, recognizing they're temporary and do not control your actions."
7. "As you bring awareness to your thoughts, you may start to embrace them, knowing that they're not good or bad, they just are."
8. "While you're feeling these sensations in your body, you may begin to allow them, understanding they are simply signals and not directives."
9. "As you observe your feelings, you might find a growing acceptance towards them, realizing they're a natural response to your experiences."
10. "While you're aware of your thoughts coming and going, you might feel a growing willingness to let them be, understanding they're a part of your human experience."
Each example paces the client's current experience (noticing thoughts or feelings) and leads them towards a new way of relating to these experiences, one characterized by acceptance and willingness. This technique is closely aligned with mindfulness and acceptance-based therapies, which emphasize accepting thoughts and feelings as they are, rather than trying to change or avoid them.
The induction phase is where the hypnotherapist guides the client into the experience of hypnosis. Pacing and leading during this phase helps facilitate a smooth transition from the pre-hypnosis discussion, into this more inner-focussed perspective, allowing for deeper therapeutic work to take place.
1. "As you sit there, feeling the weight of your body against the chair, you may start to notice a sense of relaxation spreading from your toes up to your head."
2. "While you're focusing on the rhythm of your breathing, you might find your eyelids growing heavy, wanting to close."
3. "As you listen to the sound of my voice, you may begin to feel waves of calmness washing over you, making you feel more and more relaxed."
4. "Noticing the quiet of the room, you might find your thoughts starting to slow down, allowing your mind to become peaceful and calm."
5. "While you're feeling the texture of your clothes against your skin, you might sense a gentle wave of relaxation moving through your body."
6. "As you become aware of the room's temperature, you may notice your body beginning to feel pleasantly warm and relaxed."
7. "As you hear the ambient sounds in the background, you could begin to find a soothing rhythm in them, lulling you deeper into relaxation."
8. "While you feel the chair supporting your weight, you might feel an equivalent support from your inner strength, allowing you to relax deeply."
9. "Noticing your heartbeat, you may begin to feel each beat guiding you into a state of deeper and deeper calm."
10. "As you are here in the moment, aware of my words, you might feel a warm wave of comfort and relaxation spreading across your entire being."
These examples utilize the immediate sensory experiences of the client to establish pacing, and then make subtle suggestions that guide them (leading) toward a state of deep relaxation, which is the goal of the induction phase. Each example helps the client transition smoothly from their current state into a more relaxed, receptive state, facilitating the therapeutic process.
During the therapeutic suggestion phase, the therapist presents new perspectives or solutions to the client's issues. Pacing and leading techniques are employed to make these suggestions more acceptable and appealing, fostering a mindset that is open to change and growth.
1. "As you're sitting here in this deeply relaxed state, you might begin to notice a powerful belief in your ability to overcome challenges growing within you."
2. "While you're enjoying this deep sense of calm, you may find it increasingly easy to imagine yourself succeeding in situations that used to cause you anxiety."
3. "As you listen to my voice, you may start to feel a greater sense of control over your thoughts and emotions, helping you to manage stress more effectively."
4. "Feeling this relaxed and calm, you might notice that thoughts about your past failures are fading away, being replaced by a confident expectation of success."
5. "As you're aware of your relaxed breathing, you may start to sense a growing conviction in your ability to remain calm and composed in any situation."
6. "While you're feeling your heart beat steadily and calmly, you might find that you're beginning to believe more and more in your capacity for change and growth."
7. "As you experience the deep comfort of this state, you could begin to see yourself achieving your goals with a sense of certainty and ease."
8. "While you're sensing the deep tranquility in your body, you may find it easy to imagine a future where your worries and fears no longer control you."
9. "As you hear the sound of my voice, you might find that negative self-talk is losing its power over you, and positive affirmations are becoming more influential."
10. "While you're in this deeply relaxed state, you may begin to believe strongly in your resilience and your ability to overcome obstacles in your life."
In each of these examples, the therapist is pacing the client's current experience and leading them towards new ways of thinking, feeling, or behaving that support their therapeutic goals. The "leading" statements offer therapeutic suggestions for the changes the client wants to make.
Reframing Past Events
Reframing past events is a powerful therapeutic technique where negative or traumatic experiences from the past are given new, healthier interpretations. Through pacing and leading, clients can be gently guided to view these events from a different perspective, promoting healing and acceptance.
1. "As you recall that event, acknowledging the emotions you felt, you might begin to see it as a stepping stone rather than a stumbling block."
2. "While you remember that past situation, experiencing those memories, you may start to realize it's helped you grow stronger and more resilient."
3. "As you bring to mind those past experiences, feeling the old emotions, you could start to see how they have shaped the wiser, stronger person you are today."
4. "While reflecting on that moment, you may find yourself starting to forgive, letting go of the pain, and allowing healing to take its place."
5. "As you revisit that period in your life, aware of the emotions it evokes, you may begin to feel a growing sense of compassion for your past self."
6. "While you remember that situation, feeling the weight of the past, you might find yourself beginning to release it, feeling lighter and freer."
7. "As you recall that old memory, you may start to view it from a new perspective, seeing the lessons rather than the pain."
8. "While you bring to mind that past event, you might begin to feel a sense of closure, recognizing that it's a chapter of your life that's already been written."
9. "As you reflect on those past experiences, you could start to recognize the strength it gave you and the wisdom it brought you."
10. "While thinking back to that moment, you may begin to understand how it has prepared you for better things in your life."
In these examples, the therapist is pacing the client's current experience (thinking about past events and experiencing related emotions) and leading them toward new interpretations and feelings about those events. The aim is to guide the client toward reframing past experiences in ways that are less harmful and potentially even beneficial or empowering.
Tapping into Resources and Strengths
Throughout therapy, it's important to help clients recognize and utilize their internal resources and strengths. Pacing and leading can guide clients to recognize these resources, fostering self-efficacy and resilience in facing life's challenges.
1. "As you're sitting here, recalling past successes, you may start to feel that same sense of capability and confidence awakening within you."
2. "While you're remembering a time when you overcame a challenge, you might find the strength and resilience from that experience rekindling inside of you."
3. "As you consider your accomplishments, you may begin to feel a growing recognition of your abilities and potential."
4. "While you're feeling the energy in your body, you might start to tap into your innate power to heal and grow."
5. "As you think about the support you've received from others, you could start to feel a renewed sense of connection and strength."
6. "While you're remembering times of joy and satisfaction, you may begin to draw from those experiences to fuel a more positive outlook on your future."
7. "As you focus on your past victories, you might find a surge of confidence inspiring you to face and overcome current challenges."
8. "While you're thinking about your skills and talents, you might feel a sense of pride and belief in your capacity to achieve your goals."
9. "As you bring to mind times of resilience, you could start to see yourself as the powerful, resourceful individual that you truly are."
10. "While you're considering the love and kindness you've given and received, you may feel a wave of warmth and goodwill, reminding you of your capacity for compassion and connection."
These examples help the client to tap into past experiences and inherent abilities that can serve as valuable resources in the present. The therapist paces by acknowledging the client's current process (recalling past experiences, considering skills or victories) and leads by guiding the client to access strengths and resources derived from these experiences. The ultimate goal is to empower the client and bolster their confidence in their ability to navigate and overcome their
Future pacing is a technique used to help clients envision and work towards their desired future. With pacing and leading, the therapist can help the client visualize this future more vividly, enhancing motivation and the likelihood of successful change.
1. "As you sit here, imagining your future, you might start to see yourself living a life free from the old patterns that used to hold you back."
2. "While you're visualizing your days ahead, you may begin to feel a growing excitement about the positive changes you're making."
3. "As you picture yourself in the coming months, you may see yourself utilizing your strengths and resources to achieve your goals."
4. "While you imagine facing future challenges, you might feel a growing confidence in your ability to navigate them with grace and resilience."
5. "As you think about your future self, you may start to feel a strong connection with this healthier, happier version of you."
6. "While you visualize future encounters with stressors, you could see yourself responding calmly and effectively, using the strategies you've learned."
7. "As you contemplate your future, you might start to see opportunities where you once saw obstacles, feeling optimistic about the journey ahead."
8. "While you're imagining your life a year from now, you might find yourself enjoying the progress you've made, feeling proud of your growth and achievements."
9. "As you consider upcoming events, you may start to notice a sense of calm assurance, knowing you're equipped to handle whatever comes your way."
10. "While you envision the future, you may see yourself making choices that align with your values, living a life that feels authentic and fulfilling."
In each of these examples, the therapist paces the client's current process (visualizing or contemplating the future) and leads them to experience positive emotions and expectations about their future, drawing on the changes they're making in therapy. Future pacing is a powerful technique that can help to solidify new behaviors and emotional responses, enhancing the overall effectiveness of therapy.
Working Through Resistance or Blocks
Encountering resistance or blocks is common in therapy. Pacing and leading can be instrumental in helping clients confront and overcome these hurdles, turning obstacles into opportunities for growth and understanding. Here are some examples of how to navigate this challenging, yet transformative stage:
1. "As you recognize this feeling of being stuck, you might start to see it as a sign that something important is trying to surface."
2. "While you acknowledge this resistance, you may find it beginning to lessen, replaced by a growing curiosity to explore further."
3. "As you sit with this obstacle, you may start to sense an emerging determination to work through it."
4. "While you're confronting this block, you might find yourself drawing on your inner strengths to navigate past it."
5. "As you're facing this resistance, you may begin to feel a breakthrough just on the horizon."
6. "While you're acknowledging this hurdle, you might start to see it not as a roadblock, but as an opportunity for growth."
7. "As you're dealing with this obstacle, you could begin to recognize your capability to overcome it."
8. "While you're feeling stuck, you may start to see a new path opening up, leading you towards progress."
9. "As you're standing before this resistance, you might start to feel a surge of courage and determination."
10. "While you're contemplating this block, you may begin to see it as a challenge you are ready to overcome."
Stabilizing After Intense Work
Following intense therapeutic work, it's crucial to bring the client back to a state of equilibrium. Pacing and leading can help them transition from an intense emotional state back to their normal level of consciousness, fostering a sense of tranquility and balance. Here are examples for this phase:
1. "As you reflect on the work we've just done, you might start to feel a return to calm and equilibrium."
2. "While you're breathing deeply, you may begin to sense a comforting tranquility washing over you."
3. "As you focus on the here and now, you could start to feel grounded and present."
4. "While you're reconnecting with your surroundings, you might feel a gentle reawakening of your senses."
5. "As you're sensing the support of the chair beneath you, you may find a renewed sense of stability and balance."
6. "While you're focusing on your breath, you may begin to feel more centered and composed."
7. "As you're settling back into the room, you might feel a wave of tranquility, bringing you back to your normal state."
8. "While you're returning your attention to the present moment, you might notice a refreshing sense of alertness and clarity."
9. "As you reflect on our session, you could feel a comforting sense of achievement and progress."
10. "While you're regrounding yourself in the present, you might start to sense a deepening sense of peace and relaxation."
Closing a Session
Closing a session with pacing and leading helps clients transition from the therapeutic space back to their daily lives. It leaves the client with a sense of closure, and readiness to continue with their day, carrying the insights from the session into their everyday life. Here are examples for this phase:
1. "As we're drawing our session to a close, you might start to feel a renewed sense of energy and alertness."
2. "While you're reflecting on our time together, you may begin to feel grounded, ready to carry these insights into your everyday life."
3. "As we're wrapping up, you could start to feel a sense of completion and satisfaction with the work you've done."
4. "While you're preparing to reenter your day, you might start to feel a refreshing sense of clarity and calm."
5. "As you think about the rest of your day, you may start to feel a positive sense of anticipation, carrying forward the progress made here."
6. "While we're ending our session, you might feel a deep sense of relaxation and peace, ready to face whatever comes next."
7. "As you're gathering your belongings, you could begin to sense a newfound energy and readiness to continue your day."
8. "While you're standing up from the chair, you might notice a feeling of lightness and balance, stepping forward into the rest of your day."
9. "As you're saying goodbye, you may start to feel a sense of accomplishment and hope for your next session."
10. "While you're walking towards the door, you might feel a renewed sense of purpose and determination."
Follow-up sessions offer a chance to reinforce progress and instill motivation for future therapeutic work. Pacing and leading in this phase helps clients acknowledge their progress, fosters a sense of accomplishment, and encourages them to continue on their therapeutic journey. Below are examples of how pacing and leading can be applied in follow-up sessions:
1. "As you think back on our previous sessions, you might start to notice the progress you've made and feel motivated to continue this journey."
2. "While you're reflecting on the insights gained, you may start to feel a renewed sense of purpose and direction."
3. "As you're contemplating the changes in your life, you could begin to feel a growing sense of accomplishment and empowerment."
4. "While you're looking back at the work we've done, you might start to sense a deeper understanding and acceptance of yourself."
5. "As you remember the challenges you've overcome, you may feel a surge of pride and confidence in your abilities."
6. "While you're thinking about our past sessions, you might start to feel a sense of hope and anticipation for future breakthroughs."
7. "As you're recalling your progress, you may begin to experience a deep sense of gratitude and resilience."
8. "While you're reflecting on your growth, you might find yourself feeling more equipped and prepared for future challenges."
9. "As you're considering the steps you've taken, you could begin to feel a renewed sense of strength and determination."
10. "While you're pondering the changes you've made, you may start to feel a deep sense of satisfaction and optimism for what lies ahead."
These examples showcase the versatile nature of pacing and leading in different stages of therapy. By mirroring the client's current state and gently guiding them towards beneficial states or perspectives, therapists can help facilitate transformative changes.
Practicing Pacing and Leading
Just like any other skill, mastering pacing and leading requires consistent practice and keen attention. These techniques are the core of effective communication in hypnotherapy, serving to bridge the client's current experiences and the desired therapeutic outcomes.
Observation and Attunement
Becoming proficient at pacing and leading starts with developing your observational skills. Pay close attention to the client's verbal and non-verbal cues, including tone of voice, body language, and emotional states. This information can give you insights into their current experience, which is crucial for successful pacing.
Developing Empathy and Rapport
Building rapport and demonstrating empathy are crucial for the pacing and leading process. Make sure to acknowledge and validate the client's experiences and emotions genuinely. This will help in building a trusting relationship, making it easier to pace the client and eventually lead them towards change.
Practice Active Listening
Active listening is a fundamental skill in hypnotherapy. By being fully present and responsive to what the client is sharing, you can pace them more effectively and provide the necessary responses that facilitate leading.
Each client is unique, and the effectiveness of pacing and leading can vary greatly. Be adaptable and flexible, adjusting your strategies based on the client's responses. This flexibility can help you better attune to the client's needs and enhance the effectiveness of your pacing and leading techniques.
Reflection and Self-evaluation
Reflect on your sessions and evaluate how effectively you used pacing and leading. Consider areas where you might improve and seek feedback from supervisors or peers if possible. Continuous learning and improvement are key to mastering these techniques.
Learning from Others
Observe experienced hypnotherapists to learn from their expertise in pacing and leading. Watching others apply these techniques can provide you with valuable insights and broaden your understanding of how to utilize them effectively.
Practice, Practice, Practice
The old saying holds: practice makes perfect. Regularly using pacing and leading in your sessions will naturally improve your proficiency over time. You may also practice in daily conversations outside therapy, as these techniques can be useful in various communication scenarios.
Mastering pacing and leading is a journey that requires patience, dedication, and consistent practice. By honing your observational skills, building rapport, practicing active listening, adapting flexibly, reflecting on your practice, learning from others, and continuously practicing, you can significantly enhance your proficiency in these invaluable techniques, thereby elevating your hypnotherapy practice to new heights.