The Masters Series: Gil Boyne, Tony Robins, and Stuttering Clients

May 24, 2017

In this installment of the Masters Series we are going to take a slightly different approach, by comparing two Masters of Hypnosis, with very different styles, working with a similar issue: stuttering.

The first and main video we will look at is by Tony Robbins. This contains a number of patterns for you to watch and enjoy, as well as the trademark Tony Robbins fun and flair. We’ll follow this up by comparing it with an older, demonstration of classical hypnosis from the great Gil Boyne. As you will see if you look at the clips, both are extracts from larger sessions, but there is sufficient material to get a good feel for the approach of each of these Masters.

What makes Tony Robbins and Gil Boyne so different?

Before we dive into the videos themselves, it’s important to place Gil Boyne and Tony Robbins within their respective hypnotic spheres; what exactly makes them different?

When we say hypnotic sphere, we are referring to the basic four approaches to hypnosis that many hypnosis schools discuss (even if most hypnosis schools focus on one of them). The four approaches can be said to be based on hypnotic profiling of the client, meaning the type of client you have should determine the hypnotic approach you use. Of course, many hypnotists view the matter from the opposite perspective, and always use the approach that suits them as a hypnotist! Unfortunately, in our opinion this can lead to an inflexible approach to hypnosis.

There are several systems for profiling your clients to determine the best approach to use, although most of the systems end up with the basically the same four basic approaches:

Direct, or ‘classical’, hypnosis.
Indirect, or ‘Ericksonion’, hypnosis.
‘Recipe’ change work, for example the ‘step-by-step’ NLP, of Steve Andreas or basic approaches to EFT, etc.
Conversational change work, exemplified by HNLP’s John Overdurf (our teacher), or less process based NLP’ers such as Tony Robbins and Richard Bandler

Gil Boyne falls squarely within the direct or classical approach to hypnosis. Within this approach, Gil uses a lot of direct instructions to the client about the problem as well as change in general.  

In contrast, Tony Robbins uses more conversational change work.  This doesn’t mean that Tony Robbins is not very direct; as you will see, he is. The difference is that in Tony Robbins’ approach, he allows the client to fill in much more of the content of the change work and solution (not merely the content of the problem itself, as in Gil Boyne’s approach).

We’ll start off with a fairly deep dive into the Tony Robbins video. Later we’ll compare and contrast this with Gil Boyne’s demo.

Tony Robbins Stuttering Video

We are going to break down our analysis of Tony Robbins’ work into the following steps:

1.  Setting the Propulsion Frame – motivating the client to change

2.  The Belief Frame – leading the client to believe change is possible

3.  Regression to Cause and Reimprinting – Reframing the problem

4.  Installing an Identity level resource – replacing the client’s self-identity as a stutterer with something more resourceful

5.  Generalizing the resource – changing all aspects of the client’s experience

6.  Conditioning and Testing the change

Setting the Propulsion Frame

The session is preceded by an interview with the client (Rechaud), in which he describes the negative effects the stuttering has had on his life, from school onwards to the present. Change requires motivation to change, that’s why in HNLP we ask a client, “How is this a problem for you?” in reference to the thing they want to change. When Rechaud considers the negative effects stuttering has on his life, it provides him with ‘away-from’ motivation to change the problem.

After describing the negative effects the stuttering has had on Rechauds's life, the interview moves on to how his life would be different without his stutter [1:15]. Considering the benefits of changing provides Rechaud with ‘toward’ motivation.

This combination of ‘away-from’ and ‘toward’ motivations sets up a what is referred to in NLP as a ‘propulsion pattern’. The propulsion pattern provides a very powerful energy moving away from the pain caused by the problem, and toward the benefits of the alternative behavior or feeling that client desires.

Just in case this is not enough, to finish off this motivational segment, Rechaud's wife describes what a wonderful man Rechaud is but also how wonderful it would be if Tony could help relieve him of the stutter [1:25]. Some clients are more motivated by the effect the change will have on other people they care about, such as their family, than the effect it will have on them.

All the levers for change are now in place.

Setting the Belief Frame (the Change Frame)

Following the introduction, we see Rechaud and Tony meeting. Tony uses a series of re-frames and frames to elegantly set a Belief Frame for change. This leads the client to believe that change is possible, and that the coaching process will lead to change.

After Tony asks him about his life and his stuttering, Rechaud shows a pattern you will hear many clients go through, a rejection of the problem:

“I rejected it, I was ashamed of it, I drew back and was extremely introverted… but accepted it.” [2:15].

This rejection of the problem can make spontaneous change much more difficult, because it begins to ‘wall off’ the neural circuits responsible for the problem. This prevents new neural networks from linking up with, and suggesting solutions to, the problem. This linking up of new neural networks is necessary for change to happen.

Another interesting thing to note is that Rechaud shows a physical manifestation of the problem: as he attempts to speak we see his left-hand clench. Stuttering is caused or exacerbated by the tension caused by the fear of stuttering itself. The resulting attempt to ‘force’ speech then increases and aggravates the stuttering.

In other words, the conscious mind, by rejecting and attempting to force a solution of the problem, actually makes the problem worse.

The Reframe

Tony now uses Rechaud's own pattern as part of a simple and elegant reframe. He paces and validates Rechaud's experience:

“You’ve gone through several stages that are perfect, you’ve gone through ashamed, you’ve gone through rejection, and you’ve gone through acceptance”.

Then the reframe:

“Now you’ve accepted it, you can eliminate it…”.

Finding an unconscious reference experience of the change

In response, Rechaud without a trace of a stutter says:

“Sign me up for that right now!” [2:59].

Tony immediately brings this to Rechaud's conscious attention, even getting him to repeat it. The effect is to break Rechaud's belief that he stutters all the time. Now it is clear that the stuttering is a “sometimes” problem only. All that Rechaud has to do is to tap into these occasions when he doesn’t stutter.

 Belief that Tony Robbins can help Rechaud change

Belief in change has several aspects. You can explore this further using Robert Dilts’ ‘Belief Audit’ from NLP. Having demonstrated to Rechaud that he not only can change, but actually is already different in other contexts, Tony Robbins now convinces Rechaud that he (Tony) is the one who can assist with this change, by talking about his own experience as a coach, saying that, “Once you know the pattern it's so easy to change” [3:25].

Regression to Cause

Tony Robbins now seeks a Regression to Cause. This section of the video is very instructional because it demonstrates Tony’s flexibility in leading the client. Tony begins by seeking the earliest memory of stuttering. This earliest memory of the problem is sometimes referred to as the ‘Initial Sensitizing Event’ or ISE.

Tony Robbins begins by asking, “When did you start stuttering...”. Rechaud's unconscious response shows that he is not able to access this memory. So Tony Robbins immediately restates the question as, “What's your earliest memory...”, then, “What's your earliest memory in life...” [3:46].


Rechaud identifies his earliest memory as watching a Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon as a child [4:00]. You should note that Rechaud does not say that this was his first memory of stuttering, or indeed that stuttering is attached with this memory in any way. This is important because it demonstrates the principle of Utilization. Tony Robbins utilizes this memory, in effect treating it as the ISE. This is as effective with Rehcaud as any other event would be.

Decision Destroyer

Tony Robbins now uses at least three classical NLP techniques to assist Rechaud in changing the memory. The first is a technique called the Decision Destroyer [you can see this pattern at 5:05]. The second is a Reimprinting pattern. The video is edited so we cannot be sure exactly how Tony Robbins runs these patterns.


This Reimprinting involves offering new resources to the younger Rechaud in the memory, "He needed clarity and assurance" [5:39]. Note that Gil Boyne also runs a Reimprinting, but it is not clear that Gil Boyne re-esources the younger client in the ISE.

Hidden Ability/Positive Intention

Identifying the Hidden Ability (from HNLP) or Positive Intention (from NLP) powerfully reframes the client’s experience from being a problem to being a previously unrecognized resource.

In this case, Tony Robbins reframes the intention of the younger Rechaud as being to "protect your mother" [6:14].

Installing an Identity Level Resource

Having reframed the problem using the techniques in the Regression, Tony Robbins now brings Rechaud back to age 30 [6:30].

When someone has a problem with something like stuttering, they are likely to identify with their problem. They will think of themselves as ‘being’ a stutterer, as if it is part of their being. Realizing this, Tony looks for an identity level resource to replace the identity of ‘being’ a stutterer. Think about it this way, if Robbins had simply installed a resourceful feeling, say confidence, then Rechaud may have viewed himself as being a ‘confident stutterer’, hardly a way to resolve the problem!

Again the video is incomplete, so we cannot be sure how the identity level resource is chosen, but Rechaud begins to identify himself as a “Warrior” [6:38]. Tony Robbins now uses this new identity to spread resources throughout Rechaud's experience.

The first specific Warrior resource we see Robbins install is the ‘Sound of the Warrior’ [7:00], where Tony encourages Rechaud to let out a piercing yell. There are several small but interesting elements to this. First, it’s important to realize that the original use of the human voice was to make sounds, not to speak words. Also, it is the right-brain that is responsible for using the voice to make sounds while the left-brain is responsible for speaking words. It is therefore the left-brain that is responsible for stuttering; no one stutters when they yell or make other non-verbal sounds. Therefore by shifting Rechaud into the realm of Warrior Sounds, Robbins takes him out of the left-brain stuttering state. You will also notice that Rechaud is asked to keep his hand placed against his body; by focusing Rechaud’s attention on his body, Tony Robbins pre-empts the stuttering which is generally located in the throat area. You will also note that Tony uses a straightforward kinesthetic anchor on Rechaud’s shoulder to anchor the ‘Warrior State’.

After this, Tony Robbins moves into value-based resources by asking, “Tell me what the Warrior says...”, to which Rechaud replies, “I am free!” [7:10].

No doubt Tony continues to generalize and test the change, although we do not see this part of the session. Instead, the video jumps to a Tony Robbins’ seminar, where Rechaud is a special guest. Rechaud is invited on to stage and gives a short but impassioned and stutter-free speech to the audience.

Gil Boyne

We will now discuss the work of Gil Boyne with another stutterer: 

 We will analyze Gil Boyne’s work into the following steps:

1.     Normalization

2.     Affect bridge and Regression to Cause

3.     Reimprinting

4.     Direct Suggestion

5.     Generalization and Testing


Normalization refers to suggestions to the client that their problem is pretty common and not that special. By suggesting this, and that many other people have overcome the issue fairly easily, the hypnotist installs a Belief Frame (or Change Frame) that change is possible for the client.

Gil Boyne normalizes the client’s issue by suggesting that everyone stutters, and that Gil Boyne himself stutters, but that he doesn’t pay attention to it so it is not noticeable [0:54].

Gil Boyne approach to Normalization is obviously very different to that of Tony Robbins discussed above. While Boyne suggests everyone stutters, Robbins catches the client in a non-stuttering moment, “sign me up for that!” You may draw your own conclusions as to the effectiveness of Gil Boyne’s Normalization reframe by watching the video. It seems unlikely that a stutterer would be comforted to know that a non-stutterer actually stutters in a non-noticeable way!

Affect Bridge

Arguably the most instructional section of the Gil Boyne video is his skillful use of the affect bridge.

The affect bridge refers to a technique where a particular feeling the client feels when experiencing the problem (the ‘affect’), is used to lead the client back to the earliest (or at least an early) memory of experiencing the problem, the ISE.

From the video you will notice Gil focus on the outward signs of the client’s inner state. This can be a powerful approach to coaching, referred to in HNLP as ‘Coaching in the Now’. The particular sign that Boyne focuses on is the client’s eyes, “Your eyes have become moist…” [1:36] …“Stay with that feeling...” [1:47].

Regression to Cause

The client staying with the feelings associated with the ‘moist eyes’ leads to a Regression [1:49]. It is no coincidence that both Tony Robbins and Gil Boyne use regression to cause to help their client. Regression is a fairly standard hypnotic technique to help stutterers.

It is not clear from the short fragment of Gil Boyne’s session available on YouTube exactly what techniques Gil Boyne uses, other than the Forgiveness Pattern described below. Some hypnotists believe that simply allowing the client to ‘relive’ the ISE with more adult resources is sufficient to create the change. Others (including ourselves) believe that using ‘Perceptual Position’ techniques from NLP to ‘re-resource’ each of the participants in the ISE is more effective.

In any case, Gil Boyne leads the client to re-experience the ISE, when the client’s mother had pressured the client in respect of a school presentation. She was, “very strict on expression" [2:15] and the client recalls that he was "afraid of being embarrassed and humiliated" [2:30].

Forgiveness Pattern

The one active technique (other than simply re-experiencing the ISE) that we see Gil use is the ‘Forgiveness Pattern’. Forgiveness allows the one forgiving to let go of the internal representation of the one being forgiven. As the client says, “It's ok, I really do understand” [3:00].

If you think about it, the client’s mother, who tormented him during his school days, was very probably dead at the time that Gil Boyne works with him. The only remnant of his mother is the representation or memory of her that the client carries inside him. Blaming this representation for his problem achieves nothing, and releasing it allows the client to find new resources and attach them to the problem.

Direct Suggestion

Having reframed the problem using the Regression and Forgiveness Pattern, Gil Boyne then moves on to direct suggestion, suggesting to the client that he can "speak fluently..." [3:12].

Whether you work in the classical style or like us, have a foundation in conversational and Ericksonian work it is important to recognize the efficacy of direct suggestion.  The more associated (deep) into a trance someone is the more literal they become and there is no need for indirect language.  Also keep in mind that many hypnosis clients expect direct suggestion and meeting that expectation is one of the keys to success.  

Generalization and Testing

Finally, bringing the client out of trance, Gil Boyne encourages the client to continue his new fluency by discussing his experience of the audience.

Shawn Carson is an (H)NLP trainer, hypnosis trainer, consulting hypnotist, and award winning author.  He has authored and co-authored over a dozen books and is the co-founder of The Intelligent Hypnotist 

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