What is hypnotherapy? Perhaps one of the most misunderstood methods of psychological treatment. The myths and misconceptions that surround hypnotherapy stem from people’s ideas about stage hypnotism. The truth is that stage hypnotism is essentially a theatrical performance and has about as much in common with bona fide clinical hypnotherapy as many Hollywood movies have with real life. It’s also thanks to the gross misrepresentations of hypnotherapy in tv shows, movies and cartoons is another reason why hypnosis is misunderstood 99% of what you see about hypnosis in these mediums is completely wrong.
Below I will explain in great detail what is hypnotherapy? what hypnotherapy isn’t how and why it works, I will explain the difference Between Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy we will also explore how our mind works so by the end of reading this article you will know what hypnosis actually is instead of the myth.
What Is Hypnosis?
Definition of Hypnosis
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of hypnosis as (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hypnosis)
A trancelike state that resembles sleep but is induced by a person whose suggestions are readily accepted by the subject
The Lexico Dictionary a collaboration between Dictionary.com and Oxford University Press defines hypnosis as (https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/hypnosis)
The induction of a state of consciousness in which a person apparently loses the power of voluntary action and is highly responsive to suggestion or direction. Its use in therapy, typically to recover suppressed memories or to allow modification of behaviour by suggestion, has been revived but is still controversial.
More Accurate Definition of What Is Hypnosis?
So, what is hypnosis? While these definitions are partly correct and largely incorrect as well they don’t really define hypnosis in a satisfactory way and they mislead people on what it actually is, for instance, it is not a “trancelike state that resembles sleep” it’s completely wrong it's closer to say it’s like daydreaming.
Also, where they say “a person apparently loses the power of voluntary action” this is also not correct you don’t lose power of your actions so these are just two instances where the above definitions are inadequate. Another instance it says “typically to recover suppressed memories” hypnosis should never be used to recover suppressed memories because they are most likely false memories created during hypnosis so they cannot be relied upon as being true.
So What Is Hypnosis? or What Is a Better Definition of Hypnosis?
Hypnosis is a waking state of awareness or consciousness, where a person’s attention is redirected from their environment and is focus inward on experiences such as feelings, thoughts and imagery.
Hypnosis is a mental state of highly focused concentration, diminished peripheral awareness, and heightened suggestibility.
Hypnosis is the act of guiding someone into an altered state of mind or trance state, (hypnosis). All hypnosis is self hypnosis a hypnotherapist may guide you and they know where to go and what to get you to do, but you have to do it, if you’re asked to picture a pink elephant well you have to picture the elephant the hypnotherapist cannot do it for you. So while the hypnotherapist is guiding you because they know what you need to do you are actually doing it inside your own head they cannot make you do it so you’re doing it to yourself (self hypnosis).
Hypnosis is characterised by:
If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s. Most of us go in and out of this type of trance state all the time on a daily basis. You just don’t know you’re doing it.
The mind has different levels of consciousness, or awareness, ranging from fully alert to drowsy to fully asleep, with variations in between. Hypnotic states or trances occur naturally and spontaneously. Most of us go in and out of the hypnotic trance states regularly.
Everyday examples include:
If you’ve ever had any of these experiences you’ve been in the trance state similar to hypnosis.
Hypnosis induces this kind of a relaxed state of awareness. Once the mind is in a relaxed state, any therapeutic suggestions can have great effect on emotions, perceptions and behaviours. Hypnosis accesses the subconscious mind, which controls all our thoughts and behaviours so this is how it can make the changes required while the rational conscious mind cannot do this if it was you wouldn’t have any problems.
The only difference between hypnosis and these everyday trance states is that, in hypnosis, someone induces the trance state to achieve something like healing, stress relief and behaviour modification.
Common Misunderstandings of Hypnosis
There are many misunderstandings about what hypnosis is because of how it has been represented on tv in cartoons or movies and of course stage hypnosis, most of which are completely wrong.
You Lose Control Under Hypnosis
You’re in full conscious control of your body, thoughts and actions during hypnosis. Despite what you see with stage hypnosis, you’ll stay aware of what you’re doing and what’s being asked of you. If you don’t want to do something you’re asked to do under hypnosis, you won’t do it.
Hypnotised people are completely aware of their surroundings and experience a heightened level of focus. So there’s no loss of control. You can open your eyes at any time.
What about the part where the stage hypnotist hypnotises you into clucking like a chicken or doing silly things? The idea that hypnotists can take over the minds of their subjects and control their actions is false. This false belief has been created by modern media for entertainment. In the trance state, you control all of your actions, you can hear everything around you, and you cannot be forced to do something against your will.
So all participants who go onto the stage to perform silly acts secretly want to do it and take part in the show by their own will that is why they can be hypnotised into doing all the silly acts on stage these people are just using the hypnosis as an excuse.
Suggestions may be taken to heart, but only if those suggestions are acceptable to the hypnotised person. Contrary to popular belief, you can’t be hypnotised into doing things against your will.
You can’t be forced into a hypnotic state either. Instead, you allow yourself to be hypnotised. It is a voluntary altering of your own consciousness, and you are always in control. In other words, you are hypnotising yourself.
Hypnosis Is the Same as Sleep
You may look like you’re sleeping, but you’re awake during hypnosis. You’re just in a deeply relaxed state. Your muscles will become limp, your breathing rate will slow, and you may become drowsy. Not every one will become drowsy, lots of people feel as alert as before starting the hypnosis so they don’t feel any different than if they just closed their eyes.
The deep focus and relaxation reached during hypnosis is mistaken for sleep or unconsciousness.
People Can’t Lie When They’re Hypnotised
Hypnotism isn’t a truth serum. Although you’re more open to suggestion during hypnosis, you still have free will and moral judgment. No one can make you say anything, that you don’t want to say. So you can lie under hypnosis if you so choose, and no one can force you not to lie.
You Can Get Stuck in Hypnosis
You’ve seen it in movies, someone tries hypnosis for the first time and they never wake up. They stay hypnotised forever. But this is pure fiction. You are in control and can open your eyes and come back into your surroundings at any time so you cannot get stuck in a hypnotic trance.
Hypnosis Is a Magic Bullet
Hypnosis isn’t a cure. You have to want to change and want help to get this change. But if you want to improve research has shown that hypnotherapy can help, but you need to want it. But it’s not magic they hypnotherapist cannot eliminate all your problems instantly exactly the way you want. If they could do that, it would indeed be magic. So hypnosis is not magic.
Hypnosis and Suggestibility Works Only on Weak Minds
For, a person to be able to be hypnotised and given suggestions under hypnosis doesn’t mean you have a weak character or you have a weak mind or low self esteem as popularly believed. In fact, a person of low intelligence may not be a good candidate for hypnosis, especially if they don’t understand what we ask them to do under hypnosis.
A strong-minded, intelligent person is a good candidate for hypnosis because they have a fertile imagination and they fully understand what is being asked of them and they will strive to get results from treatment.
What Is Hypnotism?
The Cambridge Dictionary defines hypnotism as (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/hypnotism)
the act of putting someone into a mental state like sleep, in which their thoughts can be easily influenced by someone else
Again, the above definition is largely wrong, hypnotism is the process used to induce the hypnotic state. So hypnotism is the process a hypnotherapist hypnotist will use to guide a person through to place them into a hypnotic trance. There are many methods that can be used like rapid or slow inductions, deepening induction that is used to guide a person into a hypnotic state.
Once in this hypnotic state the hypnotherapist, or hypnotist will give suggestions to people to achieve some goal, like entertainment for stage hypnosis or therapy depending on context and goals.
What Is Hypnotherapy?
The Cambridge Dictionary defines hypnotherapy meaning as (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/hypnotherapy)
the use of hypnosis to treat emotional problems
Complete Hypnotherapy Definition
The above definition for a change is correct for a more complete hypnotherapy definition I would only add emotional problems, thoughts and behaviours. Hypnotherapists practice hypnotherapy that uses hypnosis to help people with many different problems, emotional, mental and behavioural problems like quit smoking, weight-loss, anxiety, depression, addictions and many other problems.
What Is the Difference Between Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy?
To understand the difference between hypnosis and hypnotherapy, think of hypnosis as a tool and hypnotherapy as the use of that tool.
The definition of hypnotherapy is hinted at from the word itself. Hypnotherapy is the joining of two words hypnosis and therapy and when you combine them you get hypnotherapy, so hypnotherapy is the practice of hypnosis for therapeutic purposes to achieve a goal like weight-loss.
A mental health practitioner trained in hypnotherapy will use hypnosis to help a client overcome an emotional, mental or behavioural problem. In a hypnotherapy session, clients are conscious; they are awake, taking part, and remembering as we have mentioned above many times. The hypnotic trance state is a remarkably flexible tool for solving emotional, mental or behavioural problems.
As many hypnotherapists have discovered, the trance state is the key to unlocking our minds, to facilitate change.
What Is Clinical Hypnotherapy?
When looking for hypnotherapy services, you will notice that many people who are advertising themselves as Clinical Hypnotherapists who practise Clinical Hypnotherapy. This may sound impressive and even kind of official, but all hypnotherapy is clinical. Hypnotherapy is the clinical application of hypnosis.
The Lexico Dictionary a collaboration between Dictionary.com and Oxford University Press defines Clinical as (https://www.lexico.com/definition/clinical)
Relating to the observation and treatment of actual patients rather than theoretical or laboratory studies
Many hypnotherapists try to sound more professional by adding the title clinical. By adding the word clinical is purely a marketing exercise to give potential clients more confidence in the hypnotherapist. When they use this title, they are trying to imply that they are somehow more qualified than other hypnotherapists.
So they use of Clinical Hypnotherapists who practise Clinical Hypnotherapy doesn’t really mean anything extra it is purely a marketing exercise to help persuade people to buy our services.
How Does Hypnosis Work?
The most powerful feature of the trance state is how it connects our conscious minds to our subconscious minds to learn how does hypnosis work?
To answer, how does hypnosis work? We first must explore how does our mind work, well we have two minds, the conscious mind and the subconscious mind. Our conscious mind is our rational mind, and we are aware of it through our thoughts. The subconscious mind we are not really present too and it does most of the work in our body, it controls all body functions and movements automatically and it all happens outside our conscious awareness.
The Subconscious Mind
he subconscious mind stores all of your previous life experiences, your beliefs, your memories, your skills, all situations you've been through and all images you've ever seen.
The subconscious mind controls all involuntary bodily functions like breathing, pumping heart, salivating, circulation and digestion. But you already knew that. You don’t consciously choose to digest your food. It just happens because subconscious processes are working.
The subconscious mind plays a complex, primary role in how you perceive the world. Fears, desires and urges stem from subconscious processes that determine how you see the world and your place in it, from moment to moment.
The subconscious mind is the filing cabinet of all your memories. Through those memories, your subconscious mind determines how you respond to life and make decisions.
The conscious mind may only become aware of decisions after they are made.
Research at Cornell University suggests people make 35,000 decisions every day, with over 200 decisions related to food alone. Accounting for eight hours of sleep, that boils down to a decision every 1.5 seconds. How many of those choices are made with conscious awareness of the process?
Your subconscious mind pursues goals with or without your awareness. Achieving goals unconsciously sounds great. Yet, what if those goals are influenced by bad memories and subconscious habits that aren’t good for you?
Ignorance of what the subconscious mind does is the reason we have such a hard time with troublesome thoughts, feelings and behaviours.
To put into perspective 99.9% of what we do is automatic and subconscious we learn how to do something, we practice it and automate it and it then becomes subconscious. So it’s no longer under our conscious control. We are essentially robots and we are on autopilot.
How Does Hypnosis Work?
So how does hypnosis work? When we are under hypnosis in a hypnotic trance, we can communicate with the subconscious mind through suggestions and metaphors to reprogram our subconscious mind with new instructions on what we would like it to do. It is only when we are in this state we are able to communicate with our subconscious mind and make changes in our automatic thoughts, emotions and behaviours.
What Happens to the Brain During Hypnosis?
Two areas of the brain that are responsible for processing and controlling what’s going on in your body show increased activity during hypnosis.
Also, the area of your brain that’s responsible for your actions and awareness of those actions are disconnected during hypnosis.
Distinct sections of the brain are visibly altered during hypnosis. The areas that are most affected are those that play a role in action control and awareness.
Our brains have a measurable and recognizable pattern of electrical impulses. Five brain waves have been measured and identified in human beings: delta, theta, alpha, beta, and gamma.
Under Hypnosis the hypnotherapist gently guides the client into a calm state of mind using music and spoken words that induces an alpha/theta brain wave, state, or trance.
The subconscious mind is accessible in a theta, alpha brain wave state. Being in either brainwave state allows the client and hypnotherapist to communicate directly with the subconscious mind to address the problem the client wishes to resolve.
Does Hypnotherapy Work?
So this is a question asked all the time does hypnotherapy work? The short answer is yes it does work but don’t take my word for it there’s a huge number of scientific research done on hypnotherapy for help in treating people with different problems.
Below you can find links too many of these scientific research studies.
Page full of links to research studies on hypnotherapy
School-Age Children Hypnotized For Insomnia
Severe Asthma Sufferers Use Self-Hypnosis To Manage Anxiety
Pre-Operative Surgery Nerves Are Relieved In Patients Using Hypnotherapy
Hypnotherapy Successfully Alleviates Breast Cancer Surgery Side Effects
Hypnosis for Pain Management
Hypnotherapy Alleviates Acute Pain in Adolescent Cancer Patients
Hypnotherapy To Treat Depression
Hypnotherapy Alleviates Stress And Anxiety Triggers That Cause Alopecia
This is only a small number of studies done on hypnotherapy that support that it works you can do searches to find many, many more.
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Can I Be Hypnotised?
The short answer: Everyone can be hypnotised.
An overwhelming majority of people can reach a light state of trance, according to the latest research. It’s a fact that everyone is susceptible to hypnosis. Some people seem to be more hypnotisable than others, and it varies greatly among individuals. To be successfully hypnotised, a person must want to undergo the process voluntarily.
If you experience any of the following then you can be hypnotised.
What Do You Experience During Hypnosis?
What does the hypnotic state feel like? What exactly do I experience? If you were too close your eyes for a few minutes, then you would feel something like you feel under hypnosis, that is it. If you meditate, daydream, feel a little sleepy, these are all similar to how you will feel in a hypnotic state. This varies greatly from person to person some may feel no different other than their eyes are closed.
Physical sensations such as a heaviness and relaxation around muscles like eyelids. You might feel your body relaxing into the chair becoming heavy and you might not.
A may experience a tuning out of your surroundings and a reduced state of alertness about what is going on around you. You may become only aware of what is going on in your mind.
Lots of people describe hypnosis as the feeling you get when drifting on the edge of sleep. The big difference, though, is that you are aware and awake, and you’re guided through an experience like listening to a story.
Types of Hypnosis
Hypnotherapists use three methods for accessing and talking to the unconscious mind. And most professionals tend to specialise in a particular method. Results can vary when using different types of hypnosis.
Traditional Suggestion Hypnosis
Once you reach a deeply relaxed trance state, you’re provided with direct suggestions. Direct suggestions are straightforward commands about what you want to change, i.e. you will feel better by not smoking, you will be OK if you don’t overeat, etc.
The positive suggestions that people are given while hypnotised are called “post-hypnotic suggestions” because they are intended to take effect after the person emerges from the hypnotic trance.
While many people won’t accept or respond to an up-front, direct suggestion, when in a conscious normal state, under hypnosis, suggestions seem to bypass the conscious mind to be acted on by the subconscious mind where they take root as important behavioural or psychological changes.
Hypnosis is hardly the only time our minds are susceptible to suggestion. Advertising, music, movies, and books routinely plant suggestions into our subconscious. Language and communication are saturated with suggestion, but under hypnosis it’s more effective.
This replaces direct suggestions with metaphors and brief stories. This helps the mind make connections between the metaphor and the intended behaviour, and can help to disguise the message from the conscious, critical mind. Metaphors may be disguised as subtle suggestions within a larger story, or they may be the underlying theme of a larger story.
This type of hypnosis uses both metaphors and suggestions and other techniques to guide a person on a journey to remove emotions from memories and problems they may have to help eliminate that problem. Once you disconnect emotions from either thoughts, memories or behaviours you can eliminate the problem by doing this it’s a different approach to the above which are more suited to the behavioural problem whereas this approach can work with both emotional and behavioural problems. You can read more about this approach on my home page under heading “How Am I Different?”.
The Hypnotherapy Process Includes Several Steps
The steps that are taken in the process of hypnotherapy will have several steps and the number of steps a hypnotherapist may use may vary from client to client also it can vary from hypnotherapist to hypnotherapist. But I will include all steps and at the bottom I will highlight the main ones most hypnotherapist will usually use.
In the interview the hypnotherapist will ask questions to get a good idea of what your problem is how it works for example where you have the problem and where you don’t and other relevant information, they may need to help you with your problem this may include a medical history.
For example, lets look at Fear of flying some of the questions are.
Question: What are you scared will happen?
Possible Answers: Plane will crash, or fear I’m trapped can’t get out.
Question: How long before flying to you get scared?
Possible Answers: 1 day, 1 month, 2 hours.
Question: Do you have a panic attack when flying?
Possible Answers: Yes or no just really anxious.
Question: Do you sweat, shake, hot or cold flush, heart race, dizzy etc when flying?
Possible Answers: No or yes and list of symptoms.
Question: Have you ever been on a flight?
Possible Answers: Yes or no.
Question: How long have you had this fear of flying?
Possible Answers: Whole life started x years ago.
Question: Was there a single event you remember where this fear started, or did it gradually happen over an extended time?
Possible Answers: A single event or gradually started over a 2-year period.
As you can see, we are getting a real specific idea of how and where they experience the fear of flying is a must before we can start helping them.
Explain or Demystify Hypnosis
People will have a distorted and false idea of hypnotherapy is and what it can do and it’s really important to address before starting to do any hypnotherapy. The number of times I have clients tell me that I was not asleep and I remember everything after a session even though I told them that this was not hypnosis and that they will be awake and remember everything. It sometimes just doesn’t get through their head or they just don’t listen because it doesn’t match their belief of what it’s.
They may also say well because I was awake and remember everything I must not have been in a hypnotic state, therefore it didn’t work even though it did. This may even sabotage what work we have done, so it doesn’t work because that is their expectation.
We have to head off this type of thinking and give them an accurate expectation of what is going to happen to help with the hypnosis and also what to expect after the session.
Here we explain what hypnosis is how it works, what will happen while under hypnosis, what hypnosis is not, for example, it’s not sleep, and what to expect once we come out of the hypnosis and how will they know it has worked.
Hypnotic suggestibility testing is an assessment done to find out your level of hypnotisability. Hypnotisability has been defined as an individual’s ability to experience suggested alterations in physiology, sensations, emotions, thoughts, or behaviour during hypnosis.
There are many ways to test how susceptibility a person may be to suggestion and hypnosis. These tests aren't needed and are seldom used in a clinical setting. Stage hypnotists do use it because they need to identify quickly the most suggestible members of the audience who are going to be the stars of the show.
Suggestibility tests may be used to convince the client or more impotently the hypnotherapist that the client can be hypnotised.
Hypnotic convincers are exercises that evoke an emotional response that convinces the person performing the exercise that they are in a hypnotic trance. Convinced that one is in a hypnotic trance tends to cause the person to strengthen that conviction and thus deepen the trance.
Convincers are designed to give people a taste of what a hypnotic trance feels like and can do for example You can’t open your eyes test puts the person in a state where it’s suggested they cannot open their eyes and when they complete the test successfully they are then convinced they are in a hypnotic trance and that hypnosis will work.
Now when you do your formal hypnosis, it will work more effectively because the client now believes it will work and they will not resist and usually go deeper into a hypnotic trance.
Convincers can also be used after the induction and deepened if you desire to use it there to convince people they are in a trance. It is also used to reassure the hypnotherapist that the client is in a hypnotic trance.
There are thousands of hypnotic induction techniques. The thing to bear in mind is that they are all attempting to achieve the same net result. All the techniques involve combinations of suggestions and words which are designed to achieve a trance, followed by techniques to deepen trance.
You first go through a process to reach hypnosis, called the hypnotic induction. In general, you’ll be seated in a chair with your eyes closed. Below are three examples techniques of inductions.
A guided visualisation technique is a very straightforward technique in which we take the subject away in their mind and allow them to be in a good place, followed by asking them to recall a pleasant situation or you may take them on a journey like telling a story.
Eye Fixation Technique
In this technique, the hypnotist asks the subject to gaze at an object or a specific place. Usually this is done by the subject leaning back and looking up. This relies on the eyes gradually becoming tired and gradually closing them.
Rapid Induction Technique
This is one of those methods which relies on distracting the subject either by pulling them forward or sideways and simply telling them ‘Sleep!’ this technique is not usually used in a clinical setting it’s used by stage hypnotists to induce a hypnotic state after all people are there to be entertained not sit through a 10-20 minute induction.
A deepener’s job is to take someone from being in a trance to being in a deeper trance. There are a number of reasons why someone would want to do this. The deepener will follow an induction normally, so you induce a trance with the induction and then deepening it with a deepener.
It’s believed that the deeper the trance, the more effective the therapy. There is no evidence to support this, and I have found the depth of hypnotic trance is irrelevant to treating a client successfully, lighter states of trance allow you to work more flexibly and cover more ground than a deeper trance. People also may be more convinced they were in a hypnotic trance if it’s a deep trance. There are many different types of deepeners.
Once in a hypnotic trance, the client receives hypnotic suggestions. These suggestions are designed to replace and update your subconscious thoughts, emotions and behaviours. Suggestions can be formed in different ways. Traditional hypnosis for example uses direct commands, while Ericksonian hypnosis uses metaphors. Neuro-linguistic programming, on the other hand, uses suggestions that closely mimic our thought patterns. So the purpose here is to do the therapy and achieve the desired goal for the client.
The hypnotic exit is used once the therapy has been completed, and it is simply too gently return from the hypnotic state to a more normal state where the client comes back into the room and opens their eyes gently and comfortably.
Here the hypnotherapist will reiterate what was done in the session, they will run any tests if necessary then tell the person what they can expect from here moving forward. Followup sessions time to wait before doing these sessions and what to look for in their normal life in relation to the work just done.
What Most Hypnotherapists Use
Normally in a hypnotherapy session a hypnotherapist will only use some of the above, not all of them which include.
What Mental Health Issues Benefits of Hypnotherapy?
Hypnotherapy can help with virtually all types of problems you can think of because everything is controlled by the subconscious mind and we can access it and make changes through the subconscious mind. So most problems benefits of hypnotherapy.
Hypnotherapy can help treat the following problems
More Benefits of Hypnotherapy
There are more intangible benefits of hypnotherapy apart from fixing the main problem the client comes to seek help with which are listed above. Especially if the hypnotherapist is able to work with emotions directly and remove them, it can have a more encompassing effect on your health and everyday life.
Eliminate Your Problem
You will feel happier more relaxed in general and you will be able to cope with life easier, things just won’t bother you like they used too, you will feel light as if a great weight has been lifted from your shoulders.
Freedom from Past
If you have any traumas or bad memories, we eliminate their influence by removing all the emotions associated with these memories; they will effectively be blank.
Feel More Confident and Relaxed at Work
We will eliminate any bad emotions you have associated with work so that you will feel happier and more comfortable and confident.
Feel More Self-Assured and Worthy
If you have any self-esteem issues, we eliminate them so you will feel worthy, accepting your deserving of love and respect.
Have More Loving Healthy Relationships
We will eliminate any bad emotions you have associated with family, partner, and friends in your life so you feel happier, understanding, forgiving and loving with them.
Easily Deal with Daily Challenges in Your Life
You will be able to cope with daily life easier things that used to stress you just won’t any more leaving you feeling happier and content.
Risks of Hypnotherapy
Hypnosis conducted by a trained therapist or health care professional is considered a safe, complementary and alternative medical treatment. However, hypnosis may not be appropriate in people with severe mental illness.
Adverse reactions to hypnosis are rare, but may include:
Danger of Retrieval of Memories
Be cautious when hypnosis is proposed as a method to retrieve memories from earlier in your life. This practice can risk the creation of false memories, and resultant emotions caused by them.
Although it may be possible to retrieve memories during hypnosis, you are more likely to create false memories while in a trance-like state. Also, if you do retrieve any memories, you won’t know if they are real or created false memories. Because of this, it is advised to not use hypnosis for memory retrieval.
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