Don E. Gibbons, Ph.D., NJ Licensed Psychologist #03513
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The New Center for Counseling and Psychotherapy, LLC, is located at 675 Route 72 E, Manahawkin, NJ 08050,
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Sunday, February 16, 2020

Kicking it Up a Notch: The BEST ME Technique of Multimodal Suggestion

An earlier version of this posting was presented at the Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, Charleston, SC, October, 2005.  
The following YouTube video demonstrates advanced virtual reality techniques to reproduce the experience of an arial battle, using sight and sound.

Now, imagine what the practical applications might be if people were able to experience such phenomena inside and out, using  all five senses, in addition to thought and beliefl!

 In contrast to a traditional hypnotic induction, which is based on expressed or implied suggestions of relaxation, a hyperempiric induction is based on suggestions of mind expansion, increased awareness, and enhanced responsiveness and sensitivity – i.e., “It’s a wonderful feeling of release and liberation which you are experiencing now, as all of your vast, untapped potentials are becoming freed for their fullest possible functioning” (Gibbons, 2000, p. 32). The term itself is derived from the ancient Greek empiria, or “experience,” with the prefix “hyper” added to denote a greater or an enhanced quality (Gibbons, 1975). Hyperempiria was found to be as effective as traditional hypnosis in facilitating post-induction responsiveness to suggestion (Gibbons, 1975, 1976), as measured by the Harvard Group Scale of Hypnotic Susceptibility (Shor & Orne, 1962); and shortly thereafter, Bányai and Hilgard (1976) provided further documentation of the validity of alert inductions by demonstrating their effectiveness with subjects who were pedaling a stationary bicycle.

Multimodal hyperempiria is modeled after the multimodal therapy of Arnold Lazarus, who has amassed a considerable amount of empirical evidence in support of his hypothesis that therapeutic change can be brought about more rapidly and more effectively by working simultaneously with several different modes of experience. His multimodal approach to therapy employs behavior, affective responses, sensations, cognitions, interpersonal relationships; and drugs, biological functions, nutrition, and exercise. He refers to these categories using the acronym, BASIC ID (Lazarus, 1989, 1997). Hypnosis may be employed any of the aforementioned modes of experience as a method of increasing client expectations of success, and as a means enhancing patient compliance and treatment adherence. (Lazarus, 1999).

Suggestion itself, however, is inherently multimodal in nature. Therefore, multimodal suggestion may be employed to define the experiential dimensions of hypnotic experience itself, for maximum involvement and effectiveness in therapy. The present adaptation of Lazarus’ experiential categories for use in hypnotic settings may be summarized as follows, and may be collectively referred to using the acronym, BEST ME (Gibbons, 2001, 2004; Gibbons & Schreiber, 2005).

Belief systems which orient an individual to person, place, time, and events may be suggested as being different, allowing the participant to mentally transcend present realities.

Emotions may be enriched, intensified, weakened, or combined with others to add to the uniqueness of the experience.

Sensations and physical perceptions may be suggested and experienced with an intensity approaching, and occasionally exceeding, those of real events.

Thoughts and images may be created and guided in response to explicit or indirect suggestions.

Motives may either be suggested directly or implied as a consequence of other events.

Expectations may be structured in such a manner as to determine both how an event will be experienced in the future, and later recalled and interpreted in memory.

Suggestions using the Best Me Technique may be employed in the induction procedure, in the conduct of the trance session, and in the conclusion of the hypnotic experience. Best Me suggestions may be administered in any order, each of the aforementioned categories may be employed as often as necessary, and each step in the procedure may incorporate elements of the others.

While most of us routinely attempt to include as much detail as possible in our suggestions, the Best Me technique provides a systematic, comprehensive method of including the major dimensions of experience, for maximum involvement and effectiveness in therapy.

In actual use, the choice of imagery and the content of the suggestions used will depend upon the responsiveness of the client, the client’s personal style and preferences, and the purpose for which the induction is being administered. The essential question is, what kind of experiences should be provided in this experiential theater in order to be most useful?

Most of us can think of several themes from history, mythology (Brink, 2001-2002), literature, the mass media, or even from the sports world, which we have found to be personally meaningful and inspirational in the conduct of our own lives – or else we make up our own (McAdams, 1993). Hyperempiric vivification of such themes, therapeutically augmented by means of multimodal suggestion, can potentially serve as a means of overcoming many personal challenges, as illustrated by the following two cases.

Case One

A 60 year old retired biology teacher had recently completed a one-year training course in medical technology because she desired to remain productively employed. She accepted employment at a local hospital laboratory in order to be able to work near her home. She had previously been able to improve her confidence and reduce test anxiety in her hematology course by means of multimodal hypnosis. However, as she began her new career as a laboratory technician, she began to experience subjective feelings of stress at having to compete on the job with younger workers.

In the course of our discussion, she mentioned that she was a lover of horses, that she had found the story of Sea Biscuit to be personally inspiring, and that she had seen the recent motion picture of that title several times. I asked her if she would like to experience what it must have felt like to ride Sea Biscuit to victory, in order to use this experience as a further source of inspiration in her own life, and she readily agreed.

She preferred to experience the second race depicted in the motion picture. After an initial defeat, a new jockey whispers in the horse’s ear, “Okay, boy, are you ready to go?” and the ensuing bond between horse and rider is depicted as leading to a string of victories culminating in lasting renown. After a multimodal hyperempiric induction, she was guided through the experience of riding Sea Biscuit to victory in this particular race, as I repeated the elements of the Best Me Technique with appropriate variations as the race progressed. I then suggested that whenever she watched her videotape of the movie, Sea Biscuit, although she would not go back into hyperempiria, it would re-charge her motivation anew.

She was taught to use multimodal autosuggestions in the following manner. “Whenever you have a carefully-chosen goal which you deeply believe in, you will be able to act, think, and feel as if it is a reality, just as you did today First, find a quiet place where you are not likely to be disturbed, close your eyes, and picture clearly in your mind something about the goal which you most deeply desire. Believe it will happen, expect it to happen, will it to happen, feel it happening, and savor in your mind the fruits of your success.

The multimodal hyperempiric session was concluded, and she was given a card to take with her with the foregoing suggestions, which contain all the elements of the Best Me Technique. She was told to repeat this exercise as often as necessary, using whatever images appealed to her most strongly at the moment. If she ever had trouble “getting into it,” she was instructed to go back and re-examine the goal itself, to see if there was something about her formulation of the goal that was troubling her, or which kept her from believing in it wholeheartedly, and to make whatever corrections were necessary before proceeding further.

Six months later, she told me that she had typed up the suggestions contained in the foregoing paragraph, and that she carries it with her wherever she goes. She stated that it had not only helped her with adjusting to her classmates, but with other aspects of her life as well.

Case Two

A married woman in her mid-forties sought my help in order to lose weight. She had obtained clearance from her physician to proceed with a weight loss program, along with a recommend diet; and she was not currently taking any medication. She described her relationship with her husband and children as warm and affectionate, and told me that her life was fundamentally happy, with no major stressors which might serve to distract her from her weight loss goal.

Her anniversary was some eight months away, and she had already thought of how she would like to celebrate it. She was going to surprise her husband by arranging a getaway weekend at a hotel in New York. Her plans included dinner at a stylish restaurant where she would like to be be able to once more wear a treasured dress which she had saved from her honeymoon.

I taught her how to to place herself in hyperempiria by means of multimodal suggestion, and how to use the Best Me Technique to pre-experience the attainment of her weight loss goal, using the anniversary restaurant dinner as a setting in which she could enjoy the many dimensions of its fulfillment. Since her plans also included renting a hotel room for the evening, once she had mastered the technique, she was able to devise multi-modal scenarios for the remainder of the evening on her own. Follow-up sessions were scheduled at progressively greater intervals as her self-imposed deadline drew near, to make sure that her progress continued and that her goal was satisfactorily reached, which it was.


The experiential dimensions of the Best Me Technique are very similar to the integrative model of hypnosis set forth by Lynn and Ruhe (1991). They state, “. . .hypnotic action and experience are the end results of what subjects think and believe about hypnosis, what they imagine or fail to imagine, what they attend to or do not attend to, what they wish to do or not to do, and how they perceive hypnotic communications and evaluate their experience” ( p. 308). Indeed, there are probably as many altered experiences of consciousness as it is possible to conceive or to imagine; for each of these imagined definitions may be given a name, written up in the form of an induction procedure, and presented to a person who is sufficiently responsive to suggestion for the induction to be effective. The experience which results from such an induction is likely to be some inner representation of the instructions and suggestions which have been given, as this person understands them and is willing to comply – and my evidence for that assertion is hyperempiria (Gibbons, 1975, 1976). It did not come about because of an accidental misunderstanding of the nature of magnetism, as Mesmerism did, and neither did it result from the behavior of people who were imitating the retardate who went to sleep because he was too stupid to know that he was "supposed" to go into convulsions, as was the case with traditional hypnosis. I simply made it up!

If the results obtained by procedures involving expressed or implied suggestions of alertness, mind expansion, and enhanced responsiveness are similar to those obtained by more traditional methods, then shouldn’t we continue to refer to these procedures as “alert inductions,” instead of using another name such as hyperempiria?

Shakespeare said, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” However, modern-day English many objects have been re-named in order to alter the manner in which they are perceived and experienced. A house trailer is a mobile home, an old person is a senior citizen, a used car is a pre-owned car, and a rest room (also the result of an earlier name change) is now occasionally referred to by signs in public places as a “comfort station.” Shakespeare notwithstanding, a rose by any other name is not a rose, especially when the subject matter with which we are working is suggestion itself.

Traditional induction procedures involving direct or implied suggestions of diminished awareness, are clearly associated with the term hypnosis by the general public. Attempts to refer to them by another name, such as visualization, or to simply avoid the use of the term “hypnosis” altogether, are likely to meet with rather limited acceptance by some people, and may even be perceived as vaguely deceptive, because they “know” how a hypnotized person is supposed to behave. But the emergence of alternative induction methods provides us with an opportunity to refer to these latter procedures, at least, by a new name which is not only etymologically more accurate, but which provides us with an opportunity to finally escape from the outmoded, Nineteenth-Century, Svengali-like stereotypes associated with the concept of hypnosis.

Given the complexity of existing differences among researchers concerning the nature of suggestion-related phenomena, any perception of such phenomena among the general public is inevitably going to involve the use of stereotypes. The use of a new term such as hyperempiria enables us to break with the past, and to re-direct our educational efforts in directions will result in the creation of more favorable and more accurate stereotypes, instead of endlessly combating the old pejorative ones.

Applications of the Best Me Technique may not be limited to its use in multimodal hyperempiria. Amigó (1998) has developed a procedure called emotional self-regulation therapy (ESRT) which involves the learned ability to reproduce various kinds of sensations, such as the taste of lemon juice, by associating them with a word or an image until these sensations, or a close approximation of them, can be called up at will. He then provides the suggestion that the client’s brain has become sufficiently sensitized to accept therapeutic suggestions, which permits clients to accept such suggestions while their eyes are open, and able to move about and interact with the therapist. Capafons (1998) has found that ESRT is effective for a wide variety of problems with many clients who are normally not responsive to hypnosis, including many who are either skeptical or fearful of hypnosis itself.

Perhaps the comprehensiveness of the Best Me Technique may prove to be useful in structuring the types and sequence of training suggestions which are employed in such an approach, and in facilitating responsiveness to subsequently-administered therapeutic suggestions by making them multimodal. There are certain types of suggested situations, however, such as riding the racehorse, Sea Biscuit, to victory in the race of his life, in which a change in the perception of one’s own awareness (i.e., an induction, whether expressed or implied) constitutes an essential part of the experience and the preparation for it.

Considering the wide variety of suggestions which may be accepted by sufficiently responsive individuals (Shor & Orne, 1962; Weitzenhoffer & Hilgard, 1967; Barber & Wilson, 1978), multimodal hyperempiria has some intriguing implications for our choice of paradigm if the procedure can be shown to be valid by additional research. Aldous Huxley, in his book, Brave new world revisited, predicted that motion picture technology would advance to the point where it included not only the senses of sight and hearing, but all of the other senses as well, in a totally new and engrossing artistic medium which he referred to as the "feelies." Following a similar line of reasoning, a multimodal approach to suggestion provides us with a highly versatile artistic medium which enables us to work much more effectively with the ultimate art form, human experience itself (Gibbons, 2001).

Thinking of ourselves as artists working with a new medium makes it easier, I believe, to draw upon such areas as classical mythology, history, literature, the mass media, or even sports events, as in the present example, for a wide variety of applications to help give meaning and direction to our clients’ lives (McAdams, 1993). But we need not give up our basic identity as therapists in order to do so; for ultimately, the goals of art and the goals of therapy are the same: the facilitation of personal growth, the ennoblement of the human spirit, and the enrichment of human existence. 


See also the following print Sources

Gibbons, D. E. (2001). Experience as an art form. .New York, NY: Authors Choice Press.

Gibbons, D. E. (2000). Applied hypnosis and hyperempiria. Lincoln, NE: Authors Choice Press (originally published 1979 by Plenum Press).

Gibbons, D. E., & Cavallaro, L (2013).. Exploring alternate universes: And learning what they can teach us. Amazon Kindle E-Books. (Note: It is not necessary to own a Kindle reader to download this e-book, as the Kindle app may be downloaded free of charge to a standard desktop or laptop computer and to most cell phones.)

Gibbons, D. E., & Lynn, S. J. (2010). Hypnotic inductions: A primer. in S. J. Lynn, J. W. Rhue, & I. Kirsch (Eds.) Handbook of clinical hypnosis, 2nd ed. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, pp. 267-291.

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