Depth of Trance

Can You Use NLP And Hypnosis Together? Discover The Power Of Combining Techniques.

What is the difference between Hypnosis and NLP?

Is NLP Hypnosis?

I get questions like these a lot. When someone asks, "Is NLP Hypnosis?" it’s something like asking, "Is East left?"

First of all, neither NLP nor hypnosis can be defined easily in a way everyone agrees on.

Secondly, there are a lot of different ways of looking at either hypnosis or NLP, and the answer to the question lies, in part, in those definitions. 

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How do you define NLP and Hypnosis?

I’ve seen a lot of definitions of both and frankly, and no definition I’ve seen seems to fully capture what either of them means. Defining either of these is a lot like defining love.

I mean, there are all kinds of love, with all kinds of behaviors attached. You may love a painting or a song differently than you love a person. You love a child differently than that nice outfit you love. 

Hypnosis means different things to different people in different situations. Folks use NLP for different things and in different ways.

What is nlp hypnosis love?

NLP And Hypnosis Have A Common Purpose

So let’s start with the purposes of Hypnosis and NLP. Maybe that will help. In my biz, NLP and hypnosis are both used to help folks get what they want.

Since most people have already consciously tried to get what they want before they come to see us, we can surmise they need help with processes that either are out of their consciousness or that they are aware of but can’t change (like habits).

As the programming that runs habits runs unconsciously too, it seems it’s all about getting to the unconscious and doing the reprogramming there. OK, cool.

So How Does NLP Work?

Here’s one way of looking at it. NLP techniques sometimes use a fair amount of conscious participation to work with the unconscious.

Let’s look at an NLP visual swish pattern as an example. With a visual swish, we might first find an image that is triggering a “bad” feeling in a client.

The client is unlikely to be consciously aware of that image before we get them to recognize it. We then take them consciously through the steps of the swish, having them create a resource image, shrink it down, swish etc.

We do this until whenever the client thinks about the situation that’s been bothering them, they automatically get the new image and a new feeling to go along with it!

So, we’ve used conscious participation to get at and change an unconscious pattern.

We can do this with a swish pattern because we understand the mechanics of the way pictures affect feelings.

And What About Hypnosis?

With simple, direct suggestion hypnosis we would work differently. We might guide the client into trance and suggest that from now on, when in the situation that used to give them a bad feeling, they feel confident and resourceful.

Or we might do a regression technique to get them back to where it all started and reprocess that event so they’ll feel better about it.

Or, we could use a metaphor such as a library. The client could enter the library, locate a book that contains everything about that particular problem, learn what is valuable from having had that problem, and throw the book away–thus removing everything related to that old problem.

A new book appears, with a different title–full of resources! You can use whatever metaphor works for the client.

Unicorn from ZubZub

Hell, your metaphor could be that healing unicorns from the planet ZubZub come down and exude healing balm from their magical sphincters. 

Whatever works.

Whether Using NLP Or Hypnosis, Internal Representations Must Change

The end result (pardon the pun) is interesting to look at from a process point of view.

When successful, the client’s feelings/behaviors change. If you examine the internal processes the client goes through now to produce the new feelings, you’ll find out their internal imagery has shifted.

Just like using the swish pattern shifted the internal imagery. You’ve got to get those internal thoughts to shift, either way. In fact, you can’t change the feelings without changing the internal representations.

With the NLP swish pattern, you can do it directly, almost mechanically. You’re working directly in the coding system of the brain.

With hypnosis, you’re often telling the unconscious what to do and leaving the how to do it out. When it works, it means the unconscious figured it out.

So IS NLP Hypnosis???

What do you think?

Good. Now that we’ve got that straightened out, let’s confuse it.

  • You can do NLP techniques inside hypnosis. A swish pattern can be done in a trance. So can other NLP techniques.
  • There’s an argument to be made that the swish and other NLP techniques are hypnosis. I won’t get in to the details of it here but during a swish pattern a client is exhibiting hypnotic phenomena, are they not? Think about it.
  • NLP can be done conversationally, without conscious awareness of the client.

If You're Still Wondering About The Difference Between NLP & Hypnosis...

If you had a question about the differences between Hypnosis and NLP, I hope I haven’t answered it.


Thinking about how they both work is profoundly useful.

I plan to continue to think about it. It helps me be better with both.



About The Author:

Keith Livingston is the main instructor for Hypnosis 101. Keith has been studying hypnosis since he was a boy and doing hypnosis & NLP training since 1997.

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  1. Keith, thanks for not answering a question that has no sensible answer. I think from now on when someone asks me that one, I’ll respond with the surrealist option: “A fish.”

  2. I know the answer, “the fish.” It’s the answer to the question, “How many surrealist painters does it take to change a light bulb?”

  3. Since Bandler and Grinder modeled therapist that use hypnosis to find out what made them great at what they do…it is safe to say that NLP (Neuro-linguistic programming) is another skillful use of hypnosis (if used by a skilled practictioner) I was around and looking at the material as it was coming out…I considered it hypnosis under a different, but branded name.

    1. Of course Bandler and Grinder studied and modeled folks other than Erickson. Some didn’t consider that they were using any form of hypnosis.

  4. Mmmmm, Mmmmm, Mmmmm, since Nick wrote what Bandler said in ’03, I’ll write what Richard said about NLP in 2010 “High Tech Hypnosis”. That fits my model of the world quite well.

    Stay well all~MargieAnne

  5. A skillful practitioner of NLP will always evoke a certain kind of trance, when helping people to associate with all the possible submodalities in their goal or resource. Give enough time and silence, calibrate well, give helpfull suggestions in the meantime and a trance will occur. Especially when working spatially, one of the good reasons for working standing in circles, walking from anchor to anchor. This creates a strong feeling of experiencing the goal or the resource in the present, thus triggering the subconscious to focus on the new goal and resource, as if it is already there… and there it is! In this trance!

  6. It’s a lot easier than all of that: Tell client: pretend this is a big movie theater, etc.

    What If

    Ask client to close eyes and go inside to find out how that feeling is occurring (you already knew from eye accessing cues but client didn’t know yet)

    All NLP is trance, it is just not officially induced. Go on to the fabulous world of Nested Loops and Voila.

    I really did not ‘get this’ at my first training for some time while there although it should have occurred to me. I usually practiced with a lady that spoke Spanish so she could do the class exercises and she said in Spanish: “Margie, they just sorta ‘fall’ into trance. Don’t you think?”
    Margie: Quick DS — Ohhhh, you are ever so correct. Thank you!

  7. I’m looking into the relationship between hypnosis and nlp, and your article has me intriqued about this swish pattern. Going to browse around your other articles and learn more, thank you!

  8. Dear Keith,

    May be you are cool & fine.
    I could not fully apprehend or differentiate between the Hypnosis and NLP and in your transcript the word “SWISH” for example I am a smoker after smoking a cigarette I feel lithargy and neuro weakness,, I want that I should be as energetic before smoking then how would I be able to use NLP in this sense.?

    1. Hi Wasim,
      I wouldn’t recommend smoking, as a rule. In general, we look for the emotional payoff someone gets from an action. While it’s possible, I doubt the payoff in smoking is for you to feel lethargy and weakness. Instead, I would look for what you get out of smoking that’s positive and give yourself loads of that in the situations where you’ve been smoking and find out if you still need to smoke.

  9. Given the disinformation campaigns being carried out in western democracies around the world, this bit that you wrote is terrifying:

    “NLP can be done conversationally, without conscious awareness of the client”

    1. It doesn’t work like most people think it does. Hypnotic language can implant ideas, but not force someone to carry them out. It’s not mind control. People are influenced unconsciously, all the time. I’d say, the majority of decisions people make, they make outside of consciousness, and then rationalize the decisions later.

    2. And with clients, I’ll often use hypnotic language to suggest a client tap into emotional resources they have on other contexts, that they haven’t thought about applying to whatever their problem is. It’s not like, if I somehow suggested they rob a bank, that that idea would take hold.

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