How to write a hypnosis script for nail biting. This page is a tutorial describing how to create a Nail Biting hypnotherapy script. Nail biting is a conditioned behavior triggered by stress.
The first thing to consider when thinking about changing a behavior with hypnosis is whether the behavior is triggered by a specific situation, or whether it is a chronic problem that seems to be in operation all the time. The two different types of problem require different approaches. Nail biting has a bit of both. The client is usually doing the biting or chewing with no conscious awareness of how or when the behavior started. The basic purpose of the Nail Biting script therefore is to make the client more aware of what their hands are doing, so that they can interrupt the cycle, and to increase the client's awareness of what their hands should look like as a constant reminder to them (see the Cycle of Behavior page for an overview of behavior triggers). Parts of the script also address issues of self esteem, expectations of success, and embarrassment about appearance.
The following sections describe how I designed an original Nail Biting hypnosis script for a client I had never met. All I knew about him was that on the telephone he told me he wanted to deal with a Nail Biting problem.
Writing a hypnosis script consists of four steps:
The first step is to consider what behaviors are to be targeted, and what beliefs need to be changed to ensure that the new behavior sticks. With nail biting the source of the stress is far in the past, and may in fact have disappeared long ago. There is no point in seeking the original source of the stress. What needs to be done is to deal with the consequences.
The second step is to consider what might be maintaining the behavior. Any behavior that is causing distress but which is still going on must be getting rewarded in some way. In Nail Biting the reward is a distraction behavior that gives the impression of control, control of the stress. It is likely that the subconscious thought along the lines of "I can't control the events around me, but I can get some comfort from putting my fingers in my mouth". It is only short step from there to nail biting, then to an association that biting the nails is how to respond to stressful situations. This belief must be eliminated or the behavior will start again the next time a stressful situation is encountered.
The third step is to consider what resources the client has that can be utilized to help in eliminating the problem. The client typically has tried to stop biting their nails and couldn't, so there is a history of failure. This belief needs to be replaced by a belief in their ability to change, and to be successful. Each client is different and brings different strengths with them. Before meeting the client you can only use strengths that all clients can be expected to have - memories of past successes, and evidence of personal control in some aspects of their behavior. These would then be magnified and expanded to reconnect with lost resources.
Each client will experience their problem in a unique way, but people are similar enough to be able to predict how common problems present themselves mentally. In this case the client probably has an image of bleeding, ugly, useless nails that are a constant embarrassment. This needs to be changed to something positive. Guided visualization will ensure that the old images are replaced by attractive images.
The client probably feels bad about their nails, their fingers and their hands in general. The script needs to make the client feel good about them again.
Before the client arrived I blocked out a script outline for the nail biting script, this consisted of a series of sections to be covered, each aimed at one particular aspect of the problem. The Outline is shown on a separate page.
The Block Outline is a general purpose solution to a generic problem. Once I actually met the client I explored how he experienced his problem and I made a note of any resources he had and any beliefs he expressed about his problem. The Resources Checklist is shown on a separate page.
The block outline and the personalized resources checklist form the basis for the therapy. The wording of the therapy is similar for each class of problem, but unique for each client. The session consisted of hypnotizing the client, then creating specific suggestions without referring to any written material other than the outline. The outline gives structure to the session and when reaching the relevant block, specific wordings were created to match the client's personal outlook and resources.
When the client comes for hypnotherapy each part of the hypnosis Nail Biting script, each section, will be worded as phrases aimed at particular core beliefs, or particular parts of the behavior cycle, or aspects of the client's representation of the world. Each phrase will mainly address one element and use one hypnotic technique, although these can be woven into statements of any degree of complexity and may be embedded within visualizations or metaphors. But it should always be possible to identify which part of the client's core beliefs any particular phrase is aimed at.
All hypnotherapy is aimed at altering the client's core beliefs. In order to do so, the therapist has to first decide which belief areas to target, and which new beliefs to install. Each suggestion should be targeted at one of the four belief areas or one of the stages of the automatic behavior cycle.
The suggestion should be worded to take advantage of one of four cognitive filters, (ways that the mind distorts information), and should use one of the main hypnotic vectors such as dissociation, reframing, post hypnotic suggestion, etc.
The session was recorded and transcribed for teaching purposes. The whole script is listed in step 5, with comments explaining what each section and each sentence is doing.