Clinical hypnosis is a procedure during which a qualified hypnotherapist gives you carefully worded instructions to follow with the goal of helping you enter a state of deep relaxation. In this hypnotic state, when you are “hypnotized” you are aware of everything that is going on, but at the same time, you become increasingly absorbed in using your imagination as directed by the hypnotherapist.
The hypnosis practitioner uses carefully worded language to help you enter into a state of highly focused, suggestible attentiveness in which you are able to clear away mental “clutter” and focus on your problem and solutions to the problem. Hypnosis practitioners employ a body of techniques to help you acquire the self-control, self-mastery, willpower and confidence to visualize, realize and achieve your goals. Frequently, I will teach you self-hypnosis methods that you can employ on your own to reinforce and continue the process of positive change.
I will give you suggestions to experience changes in behaviours, feelings, sensations, images, perceptions, thoughts, beliefs, and physical functions or symptoms. Suggestions are typically included for relaxation, calmness, confidence, increased self-control and well-being. Instructions typically include imagining or thinking about pleasant experiences.
Hypnosis is a relationship-based process of communication through which the clinician induces in the patient an alteration in consciousness and internal perception characterised by increased suggestibility.
People respond to hypnosis in different ways. Most people report that they were not asleep, but instead, felt very relaxed and could hear everything the hypnotist said. Some people describe hypnosis as a state of focused attention, in which they feel very calm and relaxed. Others describe the experience as being one in which they feel detached and deeply inwardly focused. Still others describe the experience as one in which their sensations and perceptions feel heightened and more vivid.
In the hypnotic state, which is an altered state of consciousness, awareness, and perception, suggestibility is heightened. Both parts of the mind (conscious and subconscious) are more receptive to acceptable, therapeutic suggestions than they are in an ordinary waking state. Even in a light hypnotic “trance”, with your permission, the “doorway” to your subconscious mind opens. This makes it possible for the hypnotist to provide information to your subconscious in a form that the subconscious can accept.
Hypnosis is a safe procedure when it is employed by a qualified, licensed, responsible and experienced health professional. It is NOT about “Zap, you are under my spell!” as in some sort of a master/slave relationship. It is also NOT magic! Nobody can be hypnotized unless they want to be and unless they are willing to be a cooperative subject. No one can be hypnotized against their will.
In reality, all hypnosis is self-hypnosis. This is because in order for a person to enter the hypnotic state, you must follow the hypnotist’s instructions, and your conscious and subconscious minds must accept the hypnotist’s suggestions and make them your own. The subconscious mind is like a preprogrammed, driverless motor car it will automatically take the road that it knows and has no ability to steer itself or to deviate from its well-run route, or even to accelerate its progress. But by using self-hypnosis, you become the driver of that car. You can steer it in a new direction, you can show it how other routes might be more interesting or beneficial, and you can show it all the other journeys it can make, now that you are the driver and now that you are in control.
Anyone who can follow instructions and who wants to be hypnotized can be hypnotized. You are simply asked to suspend your disbelief and critical, analytical mind, and to allow whatever happens to happen without trying to make anything happen. You are thus asked to imagine and visualize the things the hypnotist says. Hypnosis occurs without effort on the patient’s part. It is the therapist/hypnotist’s job to analyse what is happening—not the patient’s!
If your mind wanders, that is perfectly all right. Hypnosis is among other things a state of controlled daydream-type thinking—a state of believed-in imagination. Mind wandering is what happens when a person daydreams. You are told that even when your conscious mind wanders, your subconscious mind will hear everything that the hypnotist is saying.
When will hypnosis be beneficial?
While individual responses vary, and no guarantees of a “cure” can be ethically made, clinical hypnosis is beneficial when a patient is motivated to change and overcome a problem.
As stated by the Australian Society of Clinical Hypnosis “It is important to keep in mind that hypnosis is like any other therapeutic modality: it is of major benefit to some patients with some problems, and it is helpful with many other patients, but it can fail, just like any other clinical method. For this reason, we emphasize that we are not ‘hypnotists’, but health care professionals who use hypnosis along with other tools of our professions.”
Clinical Hypnosis is employed for treating problems of:
- Chronic pain
- Drug dependency
- Nail biting
- Panic attacks
- Post-traumatic stress
- Preparation for child birth
- Preparation for surgery
- Preparation for test taking
Length of Hypnosis Treatment
As with most treatment procedures, length of hypnotic treatment will vary depending on the nature and severity of the problem. For some problems, such as smoking cessation or nail-biting, treatment can be as short as one visit. However, with other problems, such as weight loss, treatment requires several sessions.
For some problems (such as some types of anxiety and depression), hypnosis is employed as a tool in conjunction with some form of psychotherapy. By itself, hypnosis treatment is short-term, generally requiring anywhere from one to five visits.