Awarded the 2021 Arthur Shapiro Award for “Best Book in Hypnosis” from the Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis

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At its core, Process-Oriented Hypnosis  makes a  sharp distinction between the terms “content” and “process” as they apply to therapeutic interventions utilizing hypnosis. The content of a client’s problem is the “what” regarding the person’s experience. The “what” might include such variables as the naming and description of specific troublesome symptoms or issues (e.g., “perfectionism” or “depression”), the details of the person’s family structure (e.g., parents, siblings, etc.), significant events or relationships in their personal history, the medications they’re taking, their hobbies, their previous therapy experiences, and many other such details. A content-oriented approach to hypnosis, most common in clinical practice, would typically try to suggest alterations in the client’s symptoms (e.g., “Your mood will improve each day as your depression lifts”). In sharp contrast, the process of a client’s problem focuses on the “how” of a client’s problem rather than the “what.” The content is less important than the process as the therapist strives to focus on and answer two key questions: How does the client generate their symptoms, and how can I use hypnosis to interrupt that symptomatic sequence and generate therapeutic results?

By focusing on how rather than why, the process-oriented clinician can identify how the client follows an identifiable pattern or sequence of steps that culminate in the symptom. The opportunity then arises to interrupt that troublesome pattern or sequence with new and helpful experiences generated in hypnosis. After all, it can be reasonably argued that the simplest definition of psychotherapy is pattern interruption and pattern building:

Introducing an interruption to get the client to stop doing whatever isn’t working and helping them start doing something else that actually helps them get where they want to go. Identifying the steps in the client’s sequence of problem generation to know how and when to introduce interruptions to it is a different approach than is typically employed in therapy. Trying to explain why the person is suffering by generating theories and interpretations of the “meaning” of the client’s symptoms may be explanations that are wholly or entirely incorrect. A process-oriented approach reduces dramatically the likelihood of making such interpretive errors while increasing the likelihood of better defining and hitting salient therapeutic targets.


Process Oriented Hypnosis is divided into two sections:

Conceptual Framework: 

 In the conceptual framework section, Yapko offers his  practical perspective to readers to help them grasp the important distinctions between content and process-oriented hypnosis sessions. After all, hypnosis isn’t a therapy in and of itself; rather, it’s a treatment tool, a vehicle of multi-level communication for introducing perspectives that hold the potential to establish new and more valuable inner associations in the client’s experience.

Clinical Applications:   

Once the underlying rationale for this approach is established in the first four chapters, the remaining ten chapters of Process-Oriented Hypnosis will be entirely practical by providing readers with transcripts of process-oriented hypnosis sessions. These chapters begin by first providing insights into the range of clinical problems affected by a particular type of symptom sequence. Then follows a description of what the salient characteristics are of the associated underlying process of symptom formation. Then a full transcript of a process-oriented clinical hypnosis session is provided that illustrates how hypnosis might be used to address the relevant patterns.

In this video, Michael describes the book Process-Oriented Hypnosis: Focusing on the Forest, Not the Trees.

He shares with clinicians that they need not get lost in the details of a client’s problem or attempt to project meaning about why the problem exists in order to help their clients achieve their goals.

Yapko’s model of focusing on process (the patterns of how clients generate their symptoms) instead of content (the details of their story) helps clients not just solve problems, but teaches them how to problem solve.

PRAISE for Process-Oriented Hypnosis

American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis (Evelyn Segal, Ph.D.)

Throughout his long career, Dr. Yapko has often been described as a trailblazer in many areas of psychology, psychotherapy, and strategic hypnosis… Like a well-designed and non-intrusive trail through a dense forest, Process-Oriented Hypnosis enables readers to get where they need to go as efficiently as possible.

International Society of Hypnosis Newsletter (Consuelo Casula, Ph.D.)

This book has helped me to understand when and how to respectfully invite the patient to move from analyzing the “why” of their problem to the bigger challenge of how to change the process – the how – of how the client’s problem is maintained… Yapko has developed a new vision for the modern psychotherapist’s practice of therapy as well as a broader application of Ericksonian hypnosis… It is highly recommended reading for all hypnotherapists and clinicians who wish to integrate into their work a process-oriented treatment approach.

Milton H. Erickson Foundation Newsletter (Roxanna Erickson-Klein, Ph.D.)

Process-Oriented Hypnosis goes beyond technique and instruction; the author presents an integrated approach of case conceptualization through a recognition of patterns – a very different view of what has been previously offered…In this work, Yapko has explored an element that has become identified as a core Ericksonian approach…And in so doing, he may have arrived at the most Ericksonian of all approaches — that of looking at the forest and working within the context of the bigger picture….  I personally find Process Oriented Hypnosis to be among the most significant contributions of the half century in which I have maintained a serious interest in hypnosis literature.


Stephen R. Lankton, LCSW, DAHB, FASCH Editor-in-Chief, American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis

Process-Oriented Hypnosis offers a fresh and approachable vocabulary for many of the process-oriented concepts and techniques that have often been overlooked and all but lost in the teaching and training of modern psychotherapy.  Process-Oriented Hypnosis reanimates then creatively expands upon these multi-dimensional approaches with the kind of clear emphasis on practicality that is typical of Yapko’s writings.  This book is long overdue and is a must-read for all therapists, whether they use hypnosis as a context for treatment or not.

Ernest L Rossi, Ph.D. and Kathryn L. Rossi, Ph.D. Co-Directors, PsychoSocial Genomics Research Institute and The Milton H. Erickson Institute of California Central Coast

Once again Michael Yapko is proving himself to be a leader in the field of Therapeutic Hypnosis in Process-Oriented Hypnosis:  Focusing on the Forest, Not the Trees.  This how-to book integrates practicing psychotherapy with salient and positive principles including ambiguity, expectancy, discrimination, impulses, compartmentalizing, acceptance, responsibility, action, integrity and foresight—the major principles of modern therapeutic hypnosis.  These are, indeed, the trees that make up the forest of effective treatments. Bravo Michael!

George W Burns Adjunct Professor of Psychology Author, 101 Stories for Enhancing Happiness and Well-being

In Process-Oriented Hypnosis, Michael Yapko distills and shares the very essence of his career-long knowledge and wisdom as a world-leading practitioner, teacher and writer. His unique contribution with this new volume is in ways to use hypnosis effectively by articulating the specifics of how to be non-specific. The process for learning this and becoming a more masterful clinician yourself is simple: first, read the book – and, second, apply its approaches.