Hypnotherapy is a wonderful collaboration between the client and the hypnotherapist. The client tells the therapist what they want to work on - and the therapist then takes (or induces) the client into a state of hypnosis. Typically this is done through a guided relaxation of the mind and body as the client continues to focus more and more intently on the voice of the hypnotherapist. When the hypnotherapist is satisfied that the client is in hypnosis he then introduces powerful suggestions and visualisations into the focused mind of the client - carefully crafted so that the client can achieve their stated goals.
Hypnotherapy is the therapeutic use of hypnosis. The technique of hypnotising someone is actually quite simple to learn. The important part of a hypnotherapist's training is actually understanding what is going on for you the client, and knowing what treatments to use to help you to make those changes or reach those goals.
Hypnotherapy generally involves a short number of sessions, typically between 1 and 12 depending on the issue and you, the client. You meet with your therapist for 1-hour sessions on a regular basis. The first meeting sets our understanding of what has been bothering you and what you would like to achieve. I suggest a plan to you which, if you are agreeable to the plan, is then worked through in our subsequent sessions. I aim to create a good working relationship with you so that you feel comfortable for us to work together on your issues, in a good environment.
You will come across many websites that explain hypnosis in simple terms as something like 'a state of relaxation which you allow yourself to enter'. This definition gives you some indication of hypnosis but is far from adequate. The truth is, that even after hypnosis in its various forms has been around for 1000's of years, and even after 100 years of experimental research across the world, experts still do not fully agree on a definition of hypnosis.
Hypnosis has been defined by some as an 'altered state of consciousness' and it certainly can be experienced in a way that feels very different. Many clients report a lovely deeply relaxed feeling, but heightened awareness and insight, where things we imagine are brighter and clearer and things seem more possible.
On the other hand, the socio-cognitive theorists from the 1950's onwards propose that hypnosis is nothing other than a combination of ordinary psychological processes and therefore not a special state of consciousness. They demonstrated through many experiments that everything you can achieve in hypnosis you can achieve out of it. However, those same researchers have found that hypnosis generally enhances the effect of any psychotherapy, including CBT, and that hypnosis does increase our level of suggestibility.
Academic studies of the 'domain of hypnosis', have observed the following experiences that are typical of hypnosis:
An ability to absorb ourselves into an idea, and reduce the focus towards other distractions. Just like watching a good movie and becoming engrossed in the story.
An ability to enhance our imagination, where images, sounds, sensations and feelings seem more acute and more real.
A feeling that we have responded to suggestions or have changed without effort or control - in other words, we feel as if we are 'just doing things'.
A sensation of deep physical and mental relaxation - although note that hypnosis is not the same as either relaxation or meditation, and studies using active-alert hypnosis have shown that you do not have to be relaxed to be hypnotised.
For me, I summarise the above by noting that there are over 11,000 academic research papers going back 100 years and many valuable discoveries involving hypnosis have been made. What is interesting to me is not so much the mismatch between views of hypnosis, but how this research has often not filtered down to the hypnotherapy community. It is still sadly common that many hypnotherapists have neither trained nor work within an evidence based approach.
Of course, this is what you want to know.
There is good evidence to show that hypnosis for anxiety-related conditions, habits and pain control is effective. Most hypnotherapists have experience of hypnosis being effective for sports performance, public speaking or performance anxiety, low self-esteem or low confidence and for many other conditions. When I refer to evidence, I am referring to academically produced randomised controlled trials that show statistical or clinical significance, and that have been published in reputable scientific peer-reviewed journals. The evidence is there that it works.
But the interesting part of this question for me is what is the 'it'?
You mean hypnosis, but I propose that the 'it' is you, your mind. As a person, you have a great capacity to change and to learn and you can quickly take on board new ideas and behaviours if it suits you to. Your personality is not as fixed as you might think. So, your openness to change, your motivation to change is really what is driving all your amazing and complex psychological processes to make shifts so that you can think, feel and behave more as you would like to.
For me, hypnosis creates the environment within which you can make this change. Within hypnosis, you relax and activate and regulate your normal way of doing things to become more receptive to how you want things to be. Absorption allows you to really focus on your change, imagination allows you to really experience the new positive feelings and behaviours, and changes in cognitive processes allow you to accept these new positive ideas and become the change. In a sense, this is very similar to an ideal learning frame of mind, where we can absorb new information in an experiential way.
There are other key factors that make a difference to change. One is response-expectancy, which is related to our beliefs about hypnosis and ourselves. There are different levels of hypnotisability that are inherent but can also improve through training and practice. Most people are moderately suggestible, a few are very suggestible and a few are barely suggestible. This has been extensively measured by researchers. Suggestibility is the ability to accept and act on a suggestion, the main tool of hypnotherapy.
Suggestibility will be enhanced in therapy by your level of motivation to change. If you have been struggling with or avoiding an issue for some time, and you have researched hypnotherapy and booked an initial session, it is highly likely that you have good motivation to change. This factor alone will enhance the strength of hypnosis considerably. This means that even if you think you cannot be hypnotised, only a very small minority of people cannot, and your motivation to change will usually override this anyway.
Hypnosis is a natural state where the critical (chattering and evaluating) mind is calm and the imagination is absorbed in the focus of the hypnosis. In this state the conscious mind and subconscious mind are aligned and focused and we are open to suggestions - responding directly and positively to suggestions given. Modern psychology defines hypnosis as a state of increased suggestibility.
It is a simple but extraordinarily powerful state - and when directed thought is used in this state one can change behaviour, bodily functions, beliefs and emotional responses. Some people compare it to opening up a "control panel" to the mind and body. The hypnotherapist works with the client to achieve this state and then suggests powerfully crafted thoughts, ideas and visualisations that introduce change at the very deepest levels.
Changing the way we think - not so easy!
Fundamentally thought (conscious and less conscious) directs our lives, providing the framework for emotional responses, initiating our actions and conversations.
Most of us know that if we could change the way we think we could change our lives. However most of us can't hold a single thought in our minds for longer than a few seconds!
Hypnotherapy works by allowing us to be absorbed and focused for periods of time on the thoughts we would like to have running through our minds. In the state of hypnosis we can change the way we think - and so change our lives.
The state of deep physical and mental relaxation feels extremely pleasant. Your mind will remain clear throughout - however deep you go. Although you might be given the suggestion to "go to sleep" you will not actually fall asleep. The therapist is simply guiding the mind to relax deeply and cease critical thinking.
This is a common fallacy and nothing could be further from the truth! You can hear and respond to everything during the therapeutic process and you are an active participant in the therapy. Everyone under hypnosis has the experience "oh I could stop this and come out of this anytime I want."
One of the best analogies for a hypnotherapy session is that of ballroom dancing! In dancing one partner leads and the other follows. In hypnotherapy the therapist leads and the client follows. Just as dancing partner cannot be forced where they don't want to go - similarly the client is in complete control and chooses to follow the therapist's suggestions.
The subconscious mind is where the majority of your behaviour is controlled. Once a new behaviour has been consciously learned it is delegated to subconscious control (e.g. riding a bicycle, driving a car). The same is true of the way we "process" information about the world around us - having acquired a set of beliefs and concepts we delegate them to subconscious control and - we automatically engage in thoughts, feelings and behaviours subconsciously - i.e. not under our conscious control. In a way we are controlled by these unconscious habits of thinking, feeling and behaving.
To change we have to change our automatic thoughts and responses.
Ever wondered why when you change a habit or behaviour it only lasts for a short while?
This is because there is a lack of alignment between the conscious mind, will power, and the subconscious mind, our emotional brain. Most times the subconscious, emotional brain, will "win" because the vast majority of our behaviours, thoughts, beliefs and concepts have been delegated to automatic subconscious control.
(Which is why it gets harder to change the older you are. You've delegated more and more to subconscious control as you've learned more and more).
Hypnosis is the best way available to bring into alignment the conscious mind, our will power and the subconscious mind - allowing us to make the powerful, deep changes to improve the quality of your life.
Hypnotherapy is an effective, relaxing, comfortable, drug-free choice for change. You cannot and will not ever be compelled to do or say anything under hypnosis that is in conflict with your personal, ethical and moral standards.
Hypnotherapy is proven to be a powerful,safe, effective alternative that can help with a wide range of problems in just a few hours of treatment. It is recognised by the British Medical Association, the American Medical Association and the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE).
- The Which? Guide to Complementary Therapies, 2002
Modern cognitive behavioural hypnotherapy is an enjoyable and relaxing experience allowing you to access your full potential with relatively little effort and in a short time. You are in control all the time and... it feels great!
Hypnosis is one of the most researched therapies, referenced in over 11,000 research studies to date.
It is recognised by the British Medical Association and the British Psychological Society as well as the American Medical Association and the US National Institute of health. Recently the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) issued guidance to the NHS that there was good evidence that hypnotherapy was an effective treatment for IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome).
Scientific research studies have shown it be effective in treating anxiety attacks, phobias, pain management, post-operative healing, smoking cessation, stress reduction, IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), weight control - as well as supporting behaviour/habit changes, confidence building and sports performance.
Cognitive Hypnotherapy (CBT + Hypnosis) is on the US Empirically Validated List of Treatments for treating obesity and also for IBS.
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