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Future Pacing
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Future Pacing

It gives the patient the opportunity to check out the ecology, appropriateness and possible consequence of the resolution to a problem. Future pacing can be done before, during or at the end of a therapy session depending on the purpose of applying the technique. In nlp future pacing is usually done at the end of a session.

Pre-therapy future pacing

If done before a session the therapist asks the patient to imagine going into the future and experiencing some kind of representation of what life would be like if the problem no longer existed, or if the patient's requested goals had been achieved. The benefit of doing this before the session is that it identifies whether the patient's goals are realistic, attainable and maintainable within future contexts. To achieve this the therapist could ask a "what if" question: "what if you woke up tomorrow and your problem had disappeared. What would your life be like and what would the consequences be for everyone?"

Ongoing future pacing.

If done during the session, or during a series of ongoing sessions, it can be a way of identifying whether the therapy is still on track.

Post-therapy future pacing.

If done at the end of the session it is a way of confirming that the therapy is appropriate or whether the therapy needs adjusting in any way - for example to anticipate any future sabotage, relapses etc. It can also help to ratify the therapy.

When patients leave the therapy session they may have no idea whether therapy has worked. The patient and therapist can be hopeful but are never really sure until the patient has had time to check out the treatment in real life.

So at the end of the session you can ask the patient to come out of trance and then test the success of the therapy by future pacing. You can do this by asking him to imagine entering a context which, in the past, would have triggered the old problem behavior. If therapy has been successful there should not be any signs of stress or symptoms related to the old problem context.

Sometimes a patient might finish the therapy and then discover that after future pacing, the outcome is not what he wanted after all, maybe because before commencing therapy he did not take into consideration all of the consequences of the change. If this happens then the therapist can go back through the therapy session and re-write some of the changes to make certain that the therapeutic outcome is congruent with the patients future contexts and expectations.

Warning

If future pacing is done in trance it may act as a class of post hypnotic suggestion. When the patient sees and experiences himself behaving better in a previously difficult context the experience of witnessing this event compounds the success of the treatment. It becomes a mental rehearsal of the therapeutic outcome. If however the outcome that is imagined is not the outcome expected by the patient there is a risk that the outcome may have now become fixed due to the post-hypnotic suggestion implied within the future pacing.

This is why future pacing, when used as a diagnostic tool, is best used as an imagination exercise rather than as a therapeutic technique during trance. After the patient has confirmed that the outcome is what was expected and desired and that there are no unexpected negative consequences, the hypnotherapist can then, if he wishes, repeat the future pacing exercise in trance so that it becomes a post-hypnotic suggestion.


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