What is Hypnosis?
Hypnosis is a procedure in which a psychotherapist makes suggestions to a person so that they experience changes in perception, thoughts or behavior. It is a proven method of helping people move through unconscious barriers to self improvement, enabling a person tap into their natural abilities, use more of their potential and gain more self-control.
Hypnosis (sometimes referred to as ‘hypnotherapy’) is a therapy tool normally used in individual therapy but it is not a stand-alone, separate type of therapy. It cannot, by itself, help people with psychological or physical problems. If the therapist thinks hypnosis will be beneficial, this option would be thoroughly discussed before the client is asked to consent to this treatment.
Applications of Hypnosis
Hypnosis can be used in psychotherapy to treat many disorders and unwanted behaviors including:
- Panic Disorder
- Self Esteem
- Anger Management
- Problem Drinking
- Smoking Cessation
- Pain Management
- Obsessive Behavior & Thinking
- Hair Pulling
- Nail Biting
- Preparation for Medical & Dental Procedures
A common misconception is that hypnosis can make you behave in a way that you normally wouldn’t. The fact is your mind will only accept suggestions that fit well with your personal morals, values and principles and will ignore those suggestions that do not. Clinical hypnosis is not a form of entertainment, and is only used by licensed healthcare professionals who are educated and trained in the procedure.
Examples of Hypnosis in Daily Life
Many of us have experiences during our daily life that are “hypnotic.” For example, when you watch a good movie, you can get “absorbed” into the story and characters’ lives while you ignore your immediate surroundings. Then after the movie is over, you once again notice where you are and the other people.
Or, say you’re gardening and cut your finger, but you’re able to keep working. Your mind is able to ignore the pain because you’re focused on the task of gardening. After you stop gardening you feel the pain in your finger. Or, after driving home from work you realize that you don’t remember the trip. Your conscious mind was focused on something else, like what happened at work during the day, and your unconscious mind drove the car. In each of these examples, you would by in a “trance” – your conscious mind would be fully absorbed and focused on one thing only and nothing else.
What Happens During Hypnosis?
In very general terms, the first step would be to help you to relax. You’ll choose to recline or remain upright, with your eyes open or closed. You may remain awake or you may fall asleep during hypnosis. Being asleep or awake does not interfere with treatment effectiveness. You will become deeply relaxed as you focus only on the sound of the therapist’s voice while he or she orients you toward new perspectives and possibilities. The therapist will help you to intensely focus on one issue, and in this way you’ll ignore everything else.
During hypnosis your relaxed conscious mind “steps aside,” allowing the therapist to make suggestions to your unconscious mind. Your unconscious mind will “absorb” these suggestions, e.g. the possibility of a new perspective, and then works silently in the background, communicating these suggestions to your conscious mind where they can be put into action. Again, your mind will only accept suggestions that fit well with your personal morals, values and principles and will ignore those suggestions that do not.
After a hypnosis therapy session the therapist can teach you how to use self-hypnosis. This can reinforce the suggested changes made by your therapist during your session, and can help the changes continue happening between sessions and after your therapy ends. Of course, you always have some responsibility in the treatment outcome and like other healthcare procedure, there is no guarantee that hypnosis will achieve the desired result.
How to Find a Hypnotherapist
When you contact a psychotherapist or other healthcare professional for clinical hypnosis services, ask if they are currently licensed (not just ‘certified’) in their specialty by the state licensing board in your state of residence. Also ask what their healthcare degree is in. If it is only in hypnosis or hypnotherapy then they are probably a lay hypnotherapist, many of whom have had no clinical healthcare training.
In the U.S., people seeking treatment with hypnosis can contact these organizations for referrals:
Societies of Hypnosis
American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH)
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