Terence Watts on Clean Language in Hypno-Psychotherapy

Terence Watts
Terence Watts

Terence Watts is the owner at The Essex Institute of Complementary Health and Sole Proprietor at Hypnosense. Terence has been a  practising Therapist since 1989. He has lectured extensively at home and abroad, published several books, written manuals and developed training courses for Hypnotherapists that are used all over the world. Following is an article written by Terence as guidance for therapists in their use of language before and during session. It also serves to help educate clients on what to expect of a trained professional. We are very grateful to Terence for giving us permission to post his article in our website blog

Clean Language by Terence Watts

Most therapists are trained, these days, to be sure to use only ‘clean language’ during their sessions – that is, never say anything or ask any question that might put an idea into their client’s mind. For instance, if a client is remembering ‘being in the park’, asking: ‘Who else was there?’ is not as ‘clean’ as: ‘Was there anybody else there?’

What escapes many, though, is that this determinedly non-leading approach should be used from the moment the client walks through the door, not just during the session itself. Everything you say from the moment a client arrives in your office will set up a train of thoughts in their mind so you might as well make sure the thoughts are directed towards a successful therapy! Even something like: “How’s work been this week?” might distract them from where you need them to be, while: “Tell me about your week,” is perfectly acceptable. Even if ‘work’ has been an issue, they might well have been going to tell you about something else. The golden rule is never say anything that points in a particular direction or towards a particular concept.

I sometimes say something like: “Tell me about the best and worst parts of your week – the worst part first.” Because they tell us about the ‘best bit’ last, it encourages them to look for where improvement has occurred in their life, rather than to see if nothing is changing. Another way is to ask: “What good things have happened for you this week?”. The foregoing statements are definitely better than: “What sort of week have you had?”. When you ask that sort of question, the natural human tendency to focus on problems will encourage them to tell you about miserable stuff – and that can lead them to thinking the therapy isn’t working…

Yes, it can be hard work, staying that middle ground of interest without influence (the influence, of course, comes during the session with any suggestion work you are using) but it can pay great dividends!

You can find out more about Terence by visiting his websites:

Hypnosense and  The Essex Institute of Complementary Health


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