A trance is a state of being somewhat disconnected from one's physical surroundings and being receptive to input of new ideas.
People generally go in and out of trance states all the time. If you are reading a magazine and you see an ad for menthol cigarettes showing people having a great time skiing in the snow, and you feel refreshed and upbeat -- well that is a trance. You forget about your current environment for a moment and become receptive to other experiences.
In processing, what we desire is that people change for the better. That they see things in a new way, get new resources, feel different, and change their lives.
Your client isn't really going to change based on logic. And she certainly isn't going to change based on what she is already doing. You need to get her into a different space than what she usually is in, and you need to get her to see things in a different way than she usually does. You need to get her into a state where she is ready and willing to find out something new and to change what she is doing.
You don't need to hypnotize people to do that. Formal hypnosis usually has the connotation for people that the practitioner will do the work for the person, and the client is just being at the receiving end. That isn't what we would like our clients to believe. The client is cause, and it is the client doing the work. The facilitator is only there as a guide and consultant.
Nevertheless, a slight trance can be useful. Just the fact that the client comes to you in a different environment than she is used to, and you spend an hour isolated from daily life, doing something somewhat unusual, will put her in a different state. A state that for most people will mean that she is more receptive to change. She will change much more easily in a processing session than if you had a discussion with her at her work place.
Sometimes, to accomplish a profound change in a short period of time requires a bit more of a trance. Meaning, we might like to tone down the conscious analysis of the client, and emphasize the subconscious part of the person.
Let me stress here: You never, ever, try to overwhelm a client. You never, ever, intentionally violate the integrity of your client. And least of all when she is more vulnerable.
A person consists of both conscious and sub-conscious parts. We are addressing the WHOLE person, not just the conscious part. The conscious mind is only a small portion of the person. It is by its nature the part she is most aware of. Many people even have the limiting belief that they ARE their conscious minds. Luckily that isn't true.
The conscious mind is often one of our main obstacles in helping a person to change. The real change takes place sub-consciously, and usually the conscious mind will resist it. Our task is to trick the conscious mind into allowing the process to take place, and to help with it.
We will take the data that the person consciously will give us, but we can never use the conclusions she already has. If she really knew what is going on she would already have changed by herself. What she says that she wants, and what she says the situation is, might not really be what is true for her.
Your client might come in and say "I don't want to be unemployed, I hate it!". That is her conscious intention and desire. And if she currently is unemployed, it appears like she is very unfortunate and life is treating her badly. That is never the case when we look a little deeper. Probably she sub-consciously desires the experience of being unemployed so that she can learn from it. It allows her to do certain things that she needs, but that she isn't consciously recognizing. If we just listened to her conscious side of the story we would do her a dis-service. We would miss out on all the goodies she carries inside that she isn't aware of yet.
Part of our job is to bring about more harmony and alignment between the conscious and sub-conscious parts of the person. We do that in part by bringing sub-conscious material to the attention of the conscious. We also do it by working more directly with the sub-conscious.
The lighter the trance state, the more you are working with the conscious. The deeper the trance state the more you are working with the sub-conscious.
The client will tend to go into a trance when you ask her to do things she isn't usually conscious of doing. For example, a person is usually most familiar with one or two of the perceptual systems. She might be quite consciously aware of what she is doing with pictures and sounds in her mind, but she doesn't know about feelings. Then, if you ask her to feel things, she would tend to trance out. Or, if she mainly is aware of feelings and sounds, then a visualization will put her in a trance.
If the person usually thinks in small details, then big generalities would tend to put her in a trance. If she thinks mostly in necessities, then possibilities will put her in a trance. See, a person is always doing all of it already. However, some activities are conscious and some are sub-conscious. If you ask for something that she isn't doing consciously, then chances are that she is doing it sub-consciously and that you get into communication more with her sub-conscious processes by asking for it.
A person in a deeper trance is more receptive. That means that you must be much more responsible for what you say and do. Every single thing you say or do must be in a positive direction for the client. And not just what you think is a good idea, it must match the integrity of this particular client.
One way of avoiding giving the wrong suggestions is to talk in un-specific generalities and to be very positive. "Notice the wonderful new opportunities opening up for you in the future." That is a safe suggestion to make. We leave it up to the person to fill in the blank of what those opportunities will be. If you had said "I want you to sign up for the police academy tomorrow morning", without knowing that, that is what she wants, then you would get into trouble much more easily. It is too specific and it is not aligned with the integrity of that person.
If you notice your client visibly being more in a trance during the session it is an opportunity to load on some more positive suggestions. You no longer need to trick the client's conscious mind so much, you can just tell her to move in a positive direction.
If a client just came in, sat down, and told you about her problem, she wouldn't be responsive to a statement like: "You can now notice your life changing in profound and wonderful ways!" She would just say: "Come on! What are you talking about? We haven't resolved my problem yet." Her conscious mind would resist such a blatant attempt of changing her. And sure, it is probably a good idea to work more with her problem to find out what it is about. But later on it would be kind of nice if she would accept such a statement. It wouldn't be a bad thing to end off with for example. If she walks out of the session seeing her life change in wonderful ways, that would be great. It doesn't matter much if we present it as a question or as an instruction, it has the same effect. "I wonder if you can now notice your life changing in profound and wonderful ways", or "Can you see how you life will change in profound and wonderful ways?", they all mean about the same to the sub-conscious mind.
You can notice a deeper trance in the person's body language. She would look more relaxed, sit more still, her muscles will flatten out. She will have much less attention on the room and more attention on an alternate reality. She will usually breathe more slowly, and will probably feel less like talking.
It is often useful to end off with a visualization, after having worked through an issue and found out what made it tick and so forth. And if, during that visualization, the client becomes very relaxed and receptive, well then you can put in as positive generalities as you can get away with. You can tell her to see her life change in exciting and fantastic ways, and she'll say "Yes, I see that!" Later, after she returns her attention to her daily life, that new direction will stay with her to some extent, even though she might not be able to explain consciously why.
If your client goes into a trance, be sure that you get her attention back on the physical surroundings before she leaves. She needs to be in the present and well grounded at the end of the session.
Be sure that you are always in rapport with your clients, both their conscious and their sub-conscious parts. Respect the integrity of the client. Work with the whole person, not just with small parts. Work towards making the person more whole. Be conscious of what you are saying and doing, and how it affects the client. Be a responsible communicator at all times.