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Hypnosis for Inner Conflict Resolution: Introducing Parts Therapy

By Roy Hunter, M.S., F.A.P.H.P.

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Crown House Publishing Limited, Copyright 2005

Reviewed by Judith E. Pearson, Ph.D.

Inner conflict is a common human affliction. Consider the smoker who knows cigarettes are a health hazard, but who, nevertheless, cannot kick the habit. Consider the person who wants to lose weight, yet can't resist fattening foods. It's not only the bad habits and addictions that plague us. There are illogical fears and compulsions, and the ethical and moral dilemmas that harangue the conscience and keep us awake at night. These are the troubles that clients often bring to psychotherapy.

Roy Hunter provides an approach to inner conflict in his new book, Hypnosis for Inner Conflict Resolution. The book describes the background, principles and methods for conducting client-centered parts therapy in the context of clinical hypnosis. Parts therapy consists of a set of therapeutic maneuvers for reconciling the conflicting parts of a client's personality. Parts therapy is based on the concept that the personality is composed of various parts; aspects of the subconscious mind, each with its own respective function. When two parts clash, the angst is palpable.

Parts therapy is not new. It is known by several variations in the literature of hypnotherapy, NLP and personality psychology: ego-state therapy, sub-personalities, voice dialog, and inner child work. In writing this book, Hunter continues the work of his mentor, the late Charles Tebbetts, a hypnotherapy instructor who taught thousands of students in his lifetime, and promoted parts therapy for inner conflict resolution in his curriculum. The book is targeted toward hypnotherapists who are unfamiliar with parts work and want to add it to their repertoires, and those who already use parts therapy and want to learn more about it. While one could, conceivably, conduct parts therapy in a conversational format, Hunter recommends it as a hypnotic process because hypnosis affords an opportunity to surface subconscious material and increases the probability of longer-lasting results.


Our "parts" accomplish many individual functions that make up the sense of self. Some parts are responsible for skills and capabilities, while others support values, and others serve as defense mechanisms. Inner conflicts occur when two parts pull in opposite directions. Parts therapy is "the process of calling out and communicating directly with any and all parts of the subconscious involved in helping a client achieve a desired result." Parts therapy for inner conflict resolution involves mediating between two primary parts that are in conflict; Hunter calls them the "conflicting part" and the "motivating part".

Hunter considers his work client-centered in that "the answers and solutions to the client's concerns emerge from the client's own mind rather than the mind of the therapist." He adds, "The facilitator of client-centered parts therapy has the task of identifying and calling out the right parts, asking the right questions, listening objectively," and guiding the parts (and the client) through a therapeutic process.

The prerequisite hypnotherapy skills for parts therapy are induction, handling abreaction, and evoking ideomotor responses. Hunter recommends regression therapy training prior to learning parts therapy, because regression often occurs spontaneously in parts therapy. He stresses that therapists avoid leading the client or implanting false memories while conducting parts therapy.

Hunter builds his approach on a foundation of four primary hypnotherapy objectives:

  • · Suggestion and imagery to enhance motivation.
  • · Discovering the cause of the problem by asking questions of the subconscious mind.
  • · Release through changed understandings and beliefs, and self-forgiveness.
  • · Subconscious relearning in which the client believes that the problem is solved and that the results will last.

Hunter writes that when the subconscious mind refuses to cooperate or release a symptom, the resistance is usually due to one (or more) of the "seven psychodynamics of a symptom." These are: an imprint from an authority figure, a current unresolved issue, secondary gain, identifying with someone, inner conflict, self-punishment, and past painful experience. Hunter provides questions to identify which dynamic is operating and determine the appropriate intervention.

Hunter explains how to carry out the preliminary steps to part therapy: explaining parts therapy to the client, inducing and deepening the trance to at least a medium level, guiding the client to a "safe place", establishing finger responses, and verifying depth of trance. Trance depth, verified via finger movements, should be deep enough to access subconscious material, but light enough to permit verbal responses.

Now parts therapy can begin. The steps of parts therapy are:

  • 1. Identify the part that causes the problem.
  • 2. Gain rapport with the part.
  • 3. Call out the part and ask "who, what, when, why, and how" questions to promote client self-understanding.
  • 4. Thank the part of emerging.
  • 5. Discover the part's purpose.
  • 6. Call out the "motivating part" and other parts that may have an interest or want to help out.
  • 7. Negotiate and mediate between parts, asking what each wants from the other and for the client.
  • 8. Ask parts to come to terms of agreement.
  • 9. Confirm and summarize the terms of the agreement. Thank everyone for cooperating.
  • 10. Give direct suggestions as appropriate.
  • 11. Integrate the parts via suggestions that the parts will work together "as a harmonious whole."

The session concludes with additional suggestions and guided imagery of the expected future results, as appropriate. Then the therapist reorients the client.

Hunter does a good job of detailing each step, also providing precautions to reduce risks, sample dialogs, and tips for handling "detours that block the way" (i.e., when a part is not fully cooperative). He gives case examples with transcripts from some of his sessions with clients; the topics cover smoking, overeating, obesity, ambivalence about career choice, professional confidence, self-criticism, and unresolved loss/survivor guilt.

He cautions readers on how to avoid the most common pitfalls of parts therapy: failing to explain the process adequately to the client, being too directive and giving orders, criticizing a part, getting side tracked, calling out too many parts, and creating new parts. He cautions that parts therapy is not intended for multiple personality disorder (MPD) and therapists who want to work with MPD should seek specialized training in that area. He also examines the controversial view that some parts may be "entities" and advises that the best way to work with parts who claim to be entities (or clients who think they are possessed) is to work with the client's religious beliefs and consult with the client's "higher power" as to how to proceed.

The book concludes with a thought-provoking chapter on the spiritual frontiers of parts therapy. Hunter describes the subconscious mind as "that part of the inner mind that is most closely connected to God or…Higher Power." He cites instances from his practice which suggest that within the human psyche there resides a part responsible for the individual's spiritual development, insight, empowerment, and transcendence.

The Author
Roy Hunter is a hypnotherapy trainer whose mission is to help people attain ideal self-empowerment. He has authored several books. Master the Power of Self-Hypnosis (Sterling Publishing, 1998) is considered by professionals to be one of the best on the topic. In addition to teaching, he assists clients and groups in self hypnosis for personal or professional motivation. Roy's presentations include numerous workshops both in the USA and abroad, for groups and business as well as for international hypnosis conventions. His hypnosis text, The Art of Hypnosis (3rd Edition, Kendall/Hunt Publishing, 2000), is required reading at many schools of hypnosis around the world. The professional hypnosis training course he wrote and developed is currently taught by many hypnotherapy instructors. Roy was inducted into the International Hypnosis Hall of Fame in 2000 for his contributions to the field of hypnotherapy and has received numerous honors from that organization as well as the National Guild of Hypnotists and the International Medical and Dental Hypnotherapy Association. In 2004 he was awarded an honorary doctorate in clinical hypnotherapy (for lifetime achievement) from St. John's University.

Concluding Remarks

Parts therapy affords a flexible, creative, and sophisticated process for accessing aspects of the inner self and for creating an enhanced sense of wholeness and congruence. Hunter writes with clarity and sincerity, documenting his methods so well that they can be replicated by any skilled and well-trained hypnotherapist. He teaches his readers how to conduct parts hypnotherapy with patience and careful attention to subtle nuances in the client's demeanor and conversation. For therapists who want to work with parts therapy I recommend Hypnosis for Inner Conflict Resolution as a companion volume to Gordon Emmerson's Ego State Therapy (Crown House Publishing Ltd, 2003), which I reviewed for Anchor Point in 2004. Both are excellent books on the topic.

To purchase Hypnosis for Inner Conflict Resolution contact:

Crown House Publishing Ltd.
Editorial/Marketing Offices
4 Berkeley St. Norwalk, CT 06850 USA
Phone: 203-852-9504
Fax: 203-852-9619

In the UK:
Crown House Publishing Ltd.
Crown Building
Bancyfelin, Carmarthen, Wales
SA33 5ND, UK
Phone: 44-0-1267-211-345