Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy

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Hypnosis & Hypnotherapy

By Judith E. Pearson, Ph.D.
Executive Director of the National Board for Certified Clinical Hypnotherapists

What is Hypnosis or Trance?

Hypnosis is a method of communication that induces a trance or a trance-like state. Hypnosis can be conducted by one individual addressing another, or it may be conducted with the self (self-hypnosis). Trance is a naturally occurring state in which one's attention is narrowly focused and relatively free of distractions. The attention may be focused either internally (on thoughts---internal self-talk or images or both) or externally (on a task, a book, or a movie, for example). The focus of attention is so narrow that other stimuli in the environment are ignored or blocked out of conscious awareness for a time. Examples of trance states are daydreaming and some forms of meditation.

Hypnosis can help clients enter a relaxed, comfortable, trance state for obtaining specific therapeutic outcomes. With clinical hypnosis, the therapist can make suggestions designed to help the client formulate specific internal processes (feelings, memories, images and internal self-talk) that will lead to mutually-agreed-upon outcomes.

Hypnotic suggestions can influence behavior when the listener is

(a) relaxed, receptive and open to the suggestions

(b) experiences visual, auditory, and/or kinesthetic representations of the suggestions

(c) anticipates and envisions that these suggestions will result in future outcomes.

These three criteria are facilitated through the use of "hypnotic language patterns." hypnotic language patterns include: guided visualization, stories, guided memories, analogies, ambiguous words or phrases, repetition, and statements about association, meaning, and cause-effect.

Myths and Misconceptions about Hypnosis

Hypnosis is not mind control or brainwashing. People change their minds and actions throughout their lives. When such changes occur as a result of exposure to specific information, it is because this information has been presented through persuasion and influence. A Hypnotherapist uses communicative methods to influence positive outcomes. During trance, you are not immobilized. You know exactly where you are the entire time. You can adjust your position, scratch, sneeze, or cough. You can open your eyes and bring yourself out of trance at any time you wish. During trance, you can still hear sounds around you, like a phone ringing. You can alert yourself and respond to any situation that needs your immediate attention. You remain oriented as to person, place, and time. You can even hold a conversation in trance.

Trance is not sleep, although some people get so relaxed in trance that they may fall asleep. This is no problem because some part of the mind continues to listen to the voice of the Hypnotherapist. In trance, sleeping subjects can still follow instructions such as moving a finger, taking a deep breath, or awakening themselves when they are told to do so.

There is no "right" way to experience trance. One person may experience it as a deep, heavy restful feeling, while another may experience it as a light, floating sensation. Some people hear every word spoken by the therapist, while others allow their minds to drift to other thoughts. Some experience vivid imagery, while others do not. Some people remember the suggestions they hear, and some do not. Every person's experience of hypnosis is unique.

Hypnosis cannot cause anyone to do something against their will or that contradicts their values. First, a Hypnotherapist is ethically required to make only those suggestions that support agreed-upon outcomes. Second, clients are not receptive to suggestions that go against their morals or values---because receptivity is one of the ingredients of success in hypnosis.

Remember: hypnosis cannot solve every problem. Even with hypnosis, it may still be necessary for you to do some conscientious planning and research about the types of changes you want to achieve. You must still take action to get results. Hypnosis is not a cure-all. Hypnosis can be effective in many cases, but there are no guarantees that any therapeutic approach (including hypnotherapy) will be successful for everyone.

Risks and Precautions

Hypnosis carries very few risks. Hypnosis may be contraindicated for individuals with certain medical problems, or who are actively abusing drugs or alcohol, or who are delusional or hallucinatory. Hypnosis should not be used for physical problems, such as pain, unless the client has first consulted a physician to determine underlying physical causes.

Formal hypnotic methods are not recommended for very young children, because they may lack the necessary attention span. More interactive treatment methods can be used, however, such as art therapy, play therapy, storytelling, and guided visualization, during which helpful suggestions can be made to the child.

Hypnosis is often requested for the purpose of uncovering childhood memories. Hypnosis may or may not work in this regard. When memories do surface, the client may have a "false memory" and there is no guarantee that such memories are accurate or based on reality. In some cases, such memories may be uncomfortable or distressing, nonetheless.

Sometimes after trance-work, the client may feel somewhat lethargic. The therapist and the client can work together to make sure the client is fully alert and energized sufficiently to leave the therapist's office and continue the day's activity.



The services provided by New England Hypnotherapy Center are for educational and self-improvement purposes only and are not for diagnosis or treatment of any mental or physical ailment.

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