What Is Hypnotherapy?

Hypnotherapy is an adjunctive technique that utilizes hypnosis to aid in the treatment of specific symptoms or health conditions. Hypnotherapy works by inducing a hypnotic state marked by waking awareness that allows people to experience detached external attention and to focus on inner experiences.

It is sometimes used as part of a treatment plan for phobias and other anxiety disorders. It is also sometimes used for pain management, weight loss, smoking cessation, and a variety of other applications.

Formal explorations of the therapeutic uses for hypnosis began in the late 1700s but did not gain scientific credibility until much more recently. Modern researchers have further explored how hypnosis can be used, which conditions it can treat, and how effective we may compare it to other treatments.

Techniques

During a hypnotherapy session, people are guided through a process to induce a trance-like state that helps them focus their minds, respond more readily to suggestions, and become deeply relaxed. Hypnotherapy utilizes the heightened awareness of the hypnotic state to help you focus on a problem more deeply. Hypnotherapy utilizes techniques including:

Relaxation: The hypnotherapist will guide you to visualize yourself in a state of peacefulness and relaxation, even when confronting a problematic behavior or the object of your fears.

Suggestion: Your hypnotherapist may make gentle suggestions for behavior changes that can help you conquer your issue. For example, you may be taught to see yourself as a supportive advisor during a phobic reaction, thus learning to trust yourself and your ability to get through the situation.

Coping skills: You may be taught certain cognitive-behavioral coping skills, such as guided imagery and the “STOP! technique” that you can use when confronting fears or anxieties.

Exploration of past experiences: You may even be encouraged to talk about the first time you experienced the behavior or problem you are trying to overcome and how you felt.

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Benefits of Hypnotherapy

Some people may experience dramatic results with hypnotherapy. In other cases, people may simply feel very relaxed. Some of the benefits of hypnotherapy may include:

Awareness: Some people remain fully aware during the entire experience. They recall everything that happens and are even able to have conversations while under hypnosis. Other people may experience states of relaxation that are so deep that they may even feel detached from what is happening.

Focus: Most of the time, we are distracted by our surroundings. Whether the TV is blaring, your kids are demanding attention, or your spouse wants to talk; it can be difficult to focus on yourself fully. Our conscious minds are also cluttered. You may be worried about paying a bill, concerned about an upcoming project, or planning tonight’s dinner. The therapy session is intended to break through these day-to-day concerns and allow you to focus completely on the problem at hand.

Relaxation: In the hypnotic state, you are deeply relaxed. Your conscious mind is quieted, allowing your unconscious mind to focus on your issue deeply. You are also calmer and more receptive to facing your problems or fears.

Most hypnotherapists utilize a series of calming messages, such as “you are safe” and “no one can harm you,” to reassure their clients that during hypnosis, they can objectively face their problems without having a panicked reaction.

Common Misconceptions

Hypnotherapy is still considered controversial, as many mental health professionals dispute its effectiveness. Several myths and misconceptions about hypnotherapy can affect how people view this therapeutic tool.

Hypnotherapy is often confused with stage hypnosis. Stage hypnotists are performers who are excellent at reading people. They seek extroverts who will put on a great show for the crowd. Whether or not their subjects are truly hypnotized is debatable, but they are willing to go along with the sometimes outrageous suggestions of the stage hypnotist.

Hypnotherapy doesn’t cause you to forget what happened. You will remember the things that occur during your hypnotic state, you will not be asleep or unconscious, and you will be able to break the hypnotic trance at any time.

Hypnotherapy doesn’t cause you to lose control. During hypnotherapy, you remain in control. Even under hypnosis, no one can force you to do anything against your will. You will be tuned to the work at hand and may not pay attention to your surroundings, but you will always be in charge of your actions, behaviors, and statements.

Being hypnotizable doesn’t mean you are less intelligent. While some people believe that they cannot be hypnotized, research suggests that most people are hypnotizable to a certain degree. Only about 10% of people are difficult or impossible to hypnotize.