One of the questions I am asked the most is “What is the difference between stage hypnosis and clinical (therapeutic) hypnosis?” I am well-qualified to discuss this because I’ve done it all. My original training was as a “street hypnotist,” which is someone who does impromptu hypnosis in bars, coffee shops and the like. I’ve also done a number of stage hypnosis shows in various venues, as well as an original performance for the 2010 Houston Fringe Festival called “Forbidden Hypnosis: Demonstrations From the Edge of the Mind.”
These days, of course, I am at work in my office, helping people with clinical hypnosis. I’ve had friends and clients suggest that stage hypnosis is truly staged, with paid performers pretending to go into hypnosis and engaging in humorous antics. Well, the reality of that is that it’s cheaper to actually hypnotize people and give them suggestions to act silly. So yeah, what you are seeing on stage is real hypnosis. And it’s silly and fun. And the hypnosis is not designed to last much longer than the performance itself. It’s designed to entertain.
On the flip side, clinical hypnosis is designed to help. Some of the methods are the same (for re-inducing clients I use a variation on my old stage hypnosis rapid induction), but therapeutic hypnosis is aimed at discovering and/or creating lasting solutions to the difficulties our clients are struggling with. You needn’t ever worry that a clinical hypnotist will make you do something silly (unless that is your goal!). I do use a hand-stick bit from my street hypnosis days to help convince my clients that they were indeed in hypnosis but that is more of an interesting demonstration of the power of hypnosis to create a rapid change.
Some clinical hypnotists dislike our brethren who perform on the street and stage, but not me. Even though the difference between stage and clinical hypnosis is significant, stage and street performers create a curiosity about hypnosis that can lead potential clients to my office. And I am just fine with that.