Many people have heard about hypnosis and wonder what it is about. At times, people might recall a movie with a hypnosis scene, or perhaps stage hypnosis from a fair they visited. Neither the former nor the latter are true depictions of what hypnosis is about.
In 1843 the Scottish physician James Braid (1795–1860) gave the earliest definition of hypnosis, coined the term “hypnotism” and defined it as: “a peculiar condition of the nervous system, induced by a fixed and abstracted attention of the mental and visual eye, on one object, not of an exciting nature.”
The pioneer of the psychodynamic psychology the French psychiatrist Pierre Janet (1859–1947) described hypnosis as a state with lowered level of consciousness (self-awareness) – called in French: “abaissement du niveau mental”- involving selectively focused attention accompanied by a loosening of inhibitions.
The use of hypnotism for therapeutic purposes is referred to as “hypnotherapy.” Hypnotherapy has been accepted as a valid therapeutic technique by both: the British Medical Association (in 1955) and the American Medical Association (in 1958).
There is a distinction between the practitioners called hypnotists and clinical hypnotherapists. Mostly, this distinction has to do with the professional’s academic background. Typically the expectation is that a clinical hypnotherapist holds advanced degrees and is licensed to practice in the mental health field.
A good description of the differences between the hypnotist and hypnotherapist has been given by Hunter (2010) in “The Art of Hypnotherapy”: “… the hypnotist simply gives many suggestions and hopes of results, while the hypnotherapist knows how to solicit the unconscious to reveal the cause(s) in order to facilitate release and relearning … and resolve problems. “ This shows that today’s hypnotherapy has little in common with the Victorian age hypnosis.
The method of hypnotherapeutic treatment depends on the psychotherapeutic school the therapist adheres to and the patient’s symptoms. As we mentioned above, the hypnotherapist of today has a solid educational and training background usually involving a psychology diploma, or even a medical school diploma.
There are two main streams of hypnotherapy mirroring the division of the main therapeutic schools: behavioral and psychodynamic psychotherapy (the latter derived from Freud’s psychoanalysis). Psychodynamic methods (among them the Freudian method) are good for allowing the origin of problems to be brought from the unconscious to the surface, examined and explained, so that an undesirable effect can be made harmless.
Behaviorally influenced techniques are good for breaking ingrained habit patterns which contribute to problems using some reinforcing or exposure methods with or without affirmations and positive thinking. Each case will be judged on its own merits, and treatments tailored to the patient’s particular nature and needs.
Before visiting a hypnotist/hypnotherapist the patient should certainly look into his/her credentials, make sure that he or she is affiliated to certified organization: in America to the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis; in Britain to the London College of Clinical Hypnosis or the British Hypnotherapy Association.
What happens in a hypnotherapy session?
It is during the initial meeting that trust and rapport between the patient and the hypnotherapist have to be established. In a confidential conversation, the patient tells about his/her life and the things he/she wishes to change. The hypnotherapist listens carefully and asks questions to be able to see and understand the patient fully in his/her social, familial, professional and emotional world. The information will be used during the hypnosis in order to facilitate the changes and growth the patient desires.
As Roy Hunter (2010) stated, Charles Tebbetts, who became a legend in the hypnotherapy profession while still living, revealed this secret of hypnosis at the start of every session he did with these words: “All hypnosis is self-hypnosis.” . . . Tebbetts believed that the hypnotist or hypnotherapist was simply a guide facilitating the patient’s inborn ability to change as desired, because all the power is already inside the mind of the person experiencing hypnosis. In short, he believed and taught that all hypnosis is guided self-hypnosis.
The following description complies with the standardized technique of hypnotherapy and is used in our clinic:
To induce the hypnotic state a quiet surrounding and a comfortable position are required. The induction (the process of introducing hypnosis) begins when a progressive head to toe relaxation has been achieved followed by a deep relaxation with Guided Imageries and Metaphors (Ericksonian Method). The induction process ends with the traditional 10 -1 count down.
During the hypnotic state, a variety of therapeutic techniques, such as Guided Imagery, Suggestions, Object Projections, Regression Therapy, or Parts-Therapy could be used. An experienced hypnotherapist will work with what emerges and use the technique most suitable to the situation. Sometimes the patient will be asked to answer the questions with a yes, or no. Other times patient will be encouraged to verbalize what is going on in his mind which facilitate understanding, so a relearning of the situation can occur after feelings have been discharged, or in other words, an abreaction has occurred. It is the release of feelings and coming to an understanding of what happened that resolves issues on an unconscious level. As a result of this, symptoms that a patient might have had, such as anxiety, feelings of inadequacy or fear disappear.
The hypnosis ends with a count up from 1 to 5. And by the time the patient reaches the number 5, he will be back in a wide awake, fully alert state. Before parting, a few minutes reflection about the patient’s experience will take place.
The hypnotherapy can be used for the treatment of:
- Burnout Syndrome
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Insomnia (Sleep Disturbances)
- Habit Control: Smoking Cessation, Weight Loss, Drug and Alcohol Recovery
- Impulse (anger) control and for increasing Self-Esteem
In a time when people feel rushed and stressed, self-hypnosis serves as an effective, natural way to decompress. Everybody can learn the art of self-hypnosis to achieve deep relaxation. It also is possible to make a voice recording with calming ideas and images that transport people into a serene, peaceful state.
FAQs for Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy
1. What is Hypnotherapy and what are its benefits?
In simplest terms, hypnotherapy is a state of relaxation and can be compared to what it feels like about to falling asleep. At that point, our brains generate alpha and theta waves (visible in EEG) introducing a state which allow access to our unconscious mind. In general, hypnosis can help explore and address reasons for behaviors and feelings the individual is not aware of, creating an understanding and opening the way for future changes. During hypnotherapy the causes are uncovered, feelings are released, and positive relearning takes place. As a result of this, individuals experience personal growth and empowerment.
2. Who is Hypnotherapy good for? Are there any contra-indications for hypnotherapy?
Hypnotherapy is good for any individuals who feel that something is holding them back from being the person they can, or want to be. It is not indicated for severe conditions like schizophrenia, mania or severe depression with suicidal thoughts. Such disorders have to be treated by a psychiatrist.
3. Can it happen that some individuals will be not able to be hypnotized?
The vast majority of people can be hypnotized. An exception would be a person who does not want to be hypnotized and fights against it mentally.
4. Is the hypnosis safe? Are the fears of losing control justified? Is there any conscious control about the hypnotized person’s actions?
While under hypnosis the person stays true to him/herself. The hypnotized person will not do anything which doesn’t correspond with his/her moral standard. The person will not reveal any information he/she wants to keep secret. Despite a deep relaxation the person is aware of what’s going on. Hypnosis always is safe while under the care of an ethical and qualified hypnotherapist.
5. Is it possible to get stuck in hypnosis not being able to get out of it?
Nobody gets stuck in hypnosis. It might feel so good that someone is slow to come out of hypnosis, but it`s really just a matter of a few minutes.
6. What kind of experiences can be expected during and after a hypnotherapy session?
Hypnosis has a relaxing effect helping patients let go of the day`s thoughts and worries. Then, depending on the technique the hypnotherapist applies, the patient might just continue to relax and listen, or he/she might be engaged in a therapeutic conversation. Sometimes the patient will follow and imagine therapeutic guided imageries. After the hypnotherapy session ends, in some cases a short moment of drowsiness can appear followed by the feeling of relaxation and refreshment.
7. How does Hypnotherapy help with Weight loss?
Hypnotherapy helps with weight loss, because underlying reasons for unhealthy eating patterns can be discovered and addressed. Also, embedded patterns of eating behaviors that do not benefit a person can be changed in a positive way. Lastly, motivation for follow-through with a healthy life-style can be reinforced.
8. How does Hypnotherapy help rid addictions?
Hypnotherapy is a valuable tool for anyone in recovery from addiction, as it addresses the underlying causes of addiction, and can be effectively used for stress reduction and relapse prevention. Today, addiction specialists agree that the psychological part of the addiction remains lifelong, which means that if someone is truly addicted to a substance or behavior, he/she will not be able to consume this substance or go into the old habits in controlled way without an immediate relapse. Recovery is about being content and happy without the need for mind altering substances or other forms of addiction.
9. How big is the risk to get back to old patterns?
Life-style changes are always difficult. Key is that the old habits will persist until the new, healthy life-style becomes the natural way of living. This new life-style will bring to the individual many rewards, and that in itself is worth the initial effort it takes to make necessary changes. If old patterns begin to creep back in, it is time to ask for support.
10. Will the problems completely go away with hypnotherapy?
Life is difficult and there will always be challenges. The hypnotherapy opens the door for an effective coping with and mastering these challenges. Effective coping relates to self-esteem, confidence, assertiveness, and ability to communicate. Hypnosis is a valuable tool to build these strengths, in essence, creating the foundation the people need to deal with life`s adversities.
11. What is the technic for hypnotizing people?
Hypnotists have different styles and techniques. We induce a hypnotic state through softly spoken words, sometimes a calming background music that encourage relaxation.
12. How many sessions are needed to see a difference in the behavior or symptoms relief?
Usually the person recognizes a difference after the first session. Generally, the number of sessions depends on the problem area being addressed. The range is 3 – 10 sessions. Smoking cessation, for instance, requires only 3-5 sessions.
Hypnotherapy is not a panacea for all human problems and symptoms. The indication for hypnotherapy should be carefully investigated. In some cases psychotherapy will be a more effective method to achieve a therapeutic success.