What is Hypnotherapy?

What is Hypnotherapy?

I am often asked what hypnotherapy is and how it can help with certain situations.  In this article, I hope to answer these questions

The term Hypnotherapy is the mash-up of the words ‘hypnosis’ and ‘therapy’. Hypnosis is an altered state of consciousness caused by our own powers of suggestion. The therapy part of the equation is when we use hypnosis to help enable behavioural and emotional change.

A trained hypnotherapist will not just put a new client into a ‘trance’. They will do a lot of groundwork and ascertain all the aspects of the client's personality, anxieties and goals and only then will they move on to creating the relaxed state required to conduct hypnosis. In addition, a good hypnotherapist will not just immediately conduct hypnosis. Whatever issue you are presenting that you want to change should be investigated and a good therapist will explore all the reasons for the issue so hypnosis can be targeted to the true cause and the effects will be better.

Once the client enters a hypnotic state, they are much more suggestible, making it easier to discuss memories, gain insight, and alter unhelpful behaviour.  The key aspect of hypnotherapy is that although the client is always aware of what is going on during hypnotherapy and is able to access memories and events that may have previously been forgotten, the process also allows for incredible insights, behaviour changes and clarity in order to create positive changes.

History of hypnotism

Hypnotism was one of the techniques employed by Sigmund Freud, who was introduced to the technique by Josef Breuer. Both Freud and Breuer believed that disturbing memories that were not accessible to the conscious mind could be exposed whilst a person was under hypnosis and consequently allowing a “cure.”

During the 19th century, psychology was emerging as its own field, and neuropsychiatrists began to study psychological conditions in more detail, Forerunners in the field of hypnotherapy include Hippolyte Bernheim, Jean-Martin Charcot, Ambroise-Auguste Liébeault, and Pierre Janet.

Today, hypnotherapy is widely practised and a much sought after form of therapy. People seek out hypnotherapy to deal with a number of issues from dealing with daily stresses to dealing with more traumatic events. More and more GPs and doctors refer patients with emotional issues to hypnotherapists and today it is considered a traditional form of complementary therapy.

How does hypnotherapy work?

There is no doubt that hypnotherapy works for many people. There are, however, varying theories within science, medical and psychological fields as to how the process of hypnosis actually works. This may be because not enough studies have been carried out or that science is not yet at a place where it can understand how hypnotherapy works. However, recent studies have shown that hypnotherapy actually alters elements of a person’s neurological and physiological mechanisms.

During a hypnotherapy session, the therapist will identify client goals and decide how the session will proceed, the practitioner will use guided imagery and soothing speech to help the person to feel relaxed and safe. When the recipient of hypnosis has achieved a hypnotic state, the hypnotherapist will provide suggestions that can help the person reach his or her goals. One question of hypnotherapy that comes up time and time again to people unfamiliar with how the hypnosis process works is “can I be hypnotised against my will” and the answer is no. A person in the hypnotic state always remains aware and are able to return to a more alert state once the session is over. Some people find that just one hypnotherapy session is sufficient, and others may attend several sessions.

Uses of hypnotherapy

Although hypnotherapy can seem like it is some kind of bizarre treatment, with no thanks to stage hypnosis and the way it is portrayed on TV and movies,  it is regarded as effective in treating a variety of issues, particularly phobias, addictions, and problematic habits. Hypnosis may also be used to help patients cope with stress, smoking cessation, and chronic pain, and some women even opt to use hypnosis to manage the pain of childbirth.

What is Hypnotherapy?

Dentists can use hypnotherapy instead of anaesthetic to carry out complex procedures and allow their patients to return home or work immediately after appointments. In clients with trauma-related conditions such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), hypnotherapists can talk to them about their traumatic memories under hypnosis and subtly re-frame those memories to help them become easier to deal with.

In addition, hypnotherapy is often applied in a manner that allows for self-exploration and discovery of unconscious intention, motivation, or can explore events and experiences that result in symptoms unwanted. Past Life Regression therapy is becoming increasingly popular as more and more people search for answers about who they are in the here and now.  Hypnotherapy bypasses conscious thought processes, allowing a person to gain better insight into a particular problem. Clients achieve different results with hypnosis, as they do with other forms of therapy. However, it appears that some people are more receptive to this form of treatment than others and achieve increased benefits.

Risks of hypnotherapy

There are two main issues when it comes to hypnotherapy.

1. Ensure that any hypnotherapist you choose is trained, licenced and registered with a professional organisation. You can then be assured that they fully competent, are following standards and a code of ethics set out by that registering body and that they hold insurance.

2. If you seeking hypnotherapy to deal with traumatic events and memories. Those memories can still be painful to recall and discuss, so be aware that you may be subject to feelings of panic, flashbacks, or general feelings of anxiety. A good hypnotherapist will make this process easier and you should always leave a hypnotherapy session feeling better.

Other than bearing these two important things in mind when looking for a hypnotherapist. Hypnotherapy is a safe technique for dealing with any issue that is causing you a problem.

About the Author

Tara | BA (Hons), MSc, DHP Acc. Hyp., DPLT.

Tara is a fully qualified psychotherapist specialising in counselling, hypnotherapy and fitness training in Lincoln, Lincolnshire UK.

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