Hypnotic Depth Scales

Hypnotic depth scales or scales of Hypnotisability are used to measure how deep a client is in trance.

There have been many studies into this over the years and I will highlight some of the different scales.

The Stanford Scale is numbered from 0 to 12, the higher the number, the deeper the level of Hypnosis.

0 Eye Closure (not scored)
1 Hand Lowering (right hand)
2 Moving Hands Apart
3 Mosquito Hallucination
4 Taste Hallucination
5 Arm Rigidity (right arm)
6 Dream
7 Age Regression (school)
8 Arm Immobilization
9 Anosmia to Ammonia
10 Hallucinated Voice
11 Negative Visual and Auditory Hallucination
12 Post-Hypnotic Amnesia

Subjects were given a hypnotic induction, followed by different hypnotic suggestions. For example, one suggestion asks you to imagine your hand is so heavy that you cannot hold it up. If you can hold up your hand, you fail that item. Most people are able to perform the first few items but not many people make it to the end of the test. According to the scales, the farther you get, the more susceptible you are to hypnosis.

Joseph Friedlander and Theodore Sarbin developed the below scale to measure susceptibility to hypnosis with items increasing in difficulty in order to yield a score. The higher the score, the more responsive one is to hypnosis.






Postural Sway



Eye Closure



Hand Lowering (left)



Immobilization (right arm)



Finger Lock



Arm Rigidity (left arm)



Hands Moving Together



Verbal Inhibition (name)



Hallucination (fly)



Eye catalepsy



Post-hypnotic (changes chairs)




Arons Depth Scale creator Harry Arons, some refer to this as the “6 stages of hypnosis” or “6 levels of hypnosis”

Stage 1: Hypnoidal - Hypnosis in this stage is very light. Many clients don’t feel or believe they are even hypnotized and feel completely awake and aware. There are two types of hypnoidal states, hypnopompic and hypnogogic. Hypnopompic is similar to the state you are just before waking up in the morning, that sort of half-aware, “twilight” state. Hypnogogic is like the state just before you fall asleep. A slow transition between wakefulness and sleep.

Stage 2 - In this state, the mind and body come more under the control of the subconscious. Larger muscle groups can be controlled and manipulated with phenomenon such as Arm Catalepsy becoming possible. In this state, your ability to discern reality from fiction becomes impaired.

Stage 3 - is characterized by “Aphasia”, a loss of ability to understand or express speech. Subjects will be able to remember a word, letter or number, but can be instructed to not be able to say it

Stage 4 - In this stage, subjects start to exhibit greater phenomena including the beginning of true amnesic stages. A subject at this stage will “forget” very personal and deeply embedded information such as their name, phone number, and address.

Stage 5- This is where true somnambulism begins. Somnambulism literally means “sleep walking”, but in this context it refers to an easily identifiable disconnect of the mind from both the body and the outside world.

Stage 6- Profound Somnambulism, Subjects can experience Negative Hallucinations where they don’t see or hear things that actually do exist.

So, why are these scales important in the Solution Focused Hypnotherapists practice? There is research that suggests that people’s response to hypnotic suggestions is almost as strong without an induction as it is with one. In other words, subjects respond to suggestions even without hypnotic inductions. Therefore, induction may not have a significant effect. This brings up an important question, if induction is not important, what are all the suggestibility scales actually measuring? We know that we all go into trance in our day to day lives naturally and we have the ability to process thoughts and suggestions in a day dreaming state, so why do we need our clients to reach the higher numbers on the scales? The answer is simple, in the main we don’t!

Another challenge with suggestibility testing is that it may interfere with hypnosis, if it leads people to believe they are not hypnotisable. If a patient is given a suggestibility test and they score low, this may lead them to believe that they will not benefit from hypnotic treatment. This idea may or may not exist, but the mere thought in the client’s mind that it may exist can cause it to exist as we know the mind doesn’t know the difference between what is real and what is not. This is the essence of hypnotherapy, expectation becoming reality as a result of the existence of the expectation.  Expectations matter, and if expectations of the effectiveness of hypnosis are questioned, that may lead to a lack of confidence in the hypnotic process.

Deeper levels of trance would be required if a patient was to have surgery under hypnosis. The University Hospital Centre at Liège in Belgium has reported more than 12,000 cases where hypnosis was used to treat pain since 1992. Enabling patients to have quicker recovery times without the after effects of general anaesthetic.

Hypnotic suggestibility testing is almost always used in hypnosis research. For our use, however, it is often ignored. As many therapists feel, it is not necessary for a client to be suggestible for hypnosis to be effective as a treatment method, as we only need a light trance for our clients to allow their conscious and subconscious minds to come together to find solutions.

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