The Empty Chair Technique

Hypnotherapists use a wide variety of specialized techniques to help clients resolve emotional and physical issues and behaviours. Regression therapy is the crown jewel of hypnotherapy but it is not always appropriate for a variety of reasons. One of the most popular alternatives to hypnotic regression is the Empty Chair Technique.

This technique allows the client, whilst in a hypnotic trance state to speak with a specific person or thing who they imagine is sitting in an empty chair in front of them. The person or thing is of course, not actually present; but the subconscious mind (SCM) accepts that he/she/it is there. In this way a client can ask questions of and express their feelings to the imagined person or thing. It is necessary to remember that the SCM cannot distinguish between something imagined and something real.

During the session, the hypnotherapist may ask the client to mentally and emotionally switch places with the person or thing in the empty chair in order to receive feedback from the other’s point of view. This keeps the client involved in the experience and may elicit anxiety or anger which has been repressed and can therefore finally be released. The overall outcome of an empty chair session is one of relief, release and completion. It may also reveal previously unknown insights and revelations concerning the issue.


This technique is excellent for helping a client to grieve the loss of a loved because of death, divorce, or relocation etc. It allows the client to have a meaningful conversation with their loved one and express sorrow, anger, resentment or forgiveness to the departed. Grieving the end of a relationship is a real struggle for some. The Empty Chair Technique helps them to work through any feelings of anger, betrayal, sorrow, or the inability to contact the other party.

There is a saying; “Feeling Buried Alive, Never Die” and so it is with trauma. The effects of a past trauma will continue to negatively affect someone until it is finally exorcized and healed. This can only take place at the subconscious level of mind and the Empty Chair Technique is particularly well suited to do this. Many times the person or persons who perpetuated the trauma may be dead or completely out of their victim’s life, but the feelings of anger, fear, hurt and sadness are still affecting her/him. Using the Empty Chair technique allows the victim to express and purge her/his feelings to the abusive parent, the bully, or the criminal etc. It is a completely safe way of clearing and releasing trauma at no further risk to the victim.

The Empty chair technique is an excellent way to rehearse a future event such as an interview, legal discovery, confrontation with a particular individual etc. The technique allows you to practice what you will say and may also give you an insight to the other’s arguments and frame of mind. This way you can feel more relaxed and in control during the actual exchange.


Another unique way to use this technique is for the client to speak to a symbolic representation of the issue. Someone with an obesity issue may use a mass of fat as their symbol, a heart issue could use a damaged heart, a person with an addiction may symbolize that addiction as a chocolate bar, a cigarette, a bottle of alcohol. Questioning the symbol as to its reason for being or its positive intention can uncover underlying unknown past events contributing to the present problem.

The Empty Chair Technique is a client friendly method of addressing any issue that is presented by the client. A good alternative when Regression Techniques are inappropriate.

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I’m Roger Gumbrill, a NGH Certified Hypnotherapist, bringing over three decades of hypnotherapy expertise to Delta, B.C. (Tsawwassen), serving the vibrant communities around Metro Vancouver, including Surrey, Richmond, and New Westminster.

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