Hypnotherapy Today


Hypnosis has been used as a therapeutic tool for centuries, but only in the past 60 years have the clinical applications been shown. The use of hypnosis by the medical community has increased, partly as a result of a growing awareness of hypnotherapy as an available psychotherapeutic treatment, and also as a result of extensive research.

History of Hypnosis

From the Egyptians who used ‘sleep temples’ in which therapeutic suggestions were made, back to the histories of ancient Greece and Rome some form of hypnosis has been practised. The clinical applications, however, have not been clarified until recently. Researchers and clinicians have now introduced theories that are both acceptable and supported by scientific evidence.

In 1843, a Scottish surgeon, James Braid, attempted to explain trance in scientific terms. Surgery was performed under what Braid called ‘hypnosis’ coined from the Greek word hypnos, meaning sleep.

In the early part of the 20th Century hypnosis was used almost exclusively by stage hypnotists, thereby projecting a hopelessly distorted view of this very powerful therapeutic tool. Hypnotherapy is completely different from stage hypnosis. Hypnotherapy is not something that someone ‘does’ to you. You remain in control. Unfortunately, stage hypnotists who capitalise on the entertainment value of hypnosis have done very little to better people’s perception of hypnosis.

In 1955 the British Medical Association endorsed the practice of hypnosis in Medical School education, since then it has become a valuable addition to conventional, medical and other psychotherapeutic treatments.

What is Clinical Hypnosis or Hypnotherapy?

Simply speaking hypnosis is an altered state of consciousness. Clinical Hypnosis or Hypnotherapy, therefore, is the use of an altered state of consciousness, or trance, for therapeutic endpoint. This means that people are not treated with hypnosis but are treated in and out of hypnosis.

All hypnotic states are characterised by a tremendously pleasant state of relaxation, which individuals allow themselves to enter so that desired, beneficial suggestions may be given directly to the part of the mind known as the subconscious. Under hypnosis, the subconscious part of the mind which influences mental and physical functions becomes more receptive to therapy. During the trance state there is heightened concentration for the specific purpose of maximising potential, changing limiting beliefs and behaviours and gaining insight and wisdom.

Although hypnosis may be light, medium or deep, a medium trance is usually used during which metabolism, breathing and heartbeat slow and the brain produces alpha waves. Normal states of consciousness i.e. sleeping, dreaming, being awake, can be detected in the wave patterns produced by the brain. The state of hypnosis differs from all three. The brain waves associated with quiet, receptive states are called alpha waves. In alpha states, the body gradually relaxes. Hypnosis, meditation, day dreaming, being absorbed in a book or music or television, driving and arriving at your destination without recalling all the usual landmarks etc. are good examples of alpha states.

The trance state is therefore a natural phenomenon. Clinical Hypnosis or Hypnotherapy practised by a trustworthy and professionally qualified therapist is completely safe.

How does Clinical Hypnosis or Hypnotherapy work ?

The subconscious mind is the source of many of our problems and self images. Our beliefs, habits and behaviours are stored as information. The subconscious is a tremendous reservoir of our unrecognised strengths and knowledge. Essentially, hypnotherapy is used to help an individual change his unhealthy beliefs and thoughts.

Hypnosis is a natural and effective technique for accessing the subconscious mind – the key to unleashing our potential, changing our unwanted habits and behaviours and finding solutions to our problems and concerns.

Any therapeutic intervention implies change, so entering a trance state alone does not signify a therapeutic endpoint. Once the individual has achieved a trance state the hypnotherapist uses many different therapeutic methods ranging from simple suggestions to analytical therapy. For example, the therapist may ask about past, present or future concerns to establish the reasons for the problem. Alternatively the therapist may give suggestions to the subconscious mind aimed at overcoming specific problems such as lack of self confidence. Some uses such as calming a person require minimal change on the part of the individual, more complex behaviour patterns such as overeating or treatment of panic disorders or reactive (non-clinical) depression require a more complex therapeutic intervention together with psychological and behavioural homework.

What happens in a hypnotherapy session?

The initial task of the therapist is to establish rapport with the client. This involves encouraging the client to talk about his or her concerns. The therapist would spend time with the client first to take a clinical history. As well as establishing a clinical record, the discussion contributes to building trust and confidence between the therapist and the client. Feeling safe, comfortable and secure with the therapist helps the induction of a hypnotic trance.

Goals for therapy are discussed and agreed and a full explanation of hypnosis is provided. Any questions or misconceptions about hypnosis would also be dealt with.

There are many different ways of achieving trance state. Usually, you lie in a reclining chair or couch and the therapist talks to you in a slow and soothing voice. You may be asked to imagine or visualise walking down a country lane, or stare at a fixed point or listen to the sound of the therapist’s voice. Suggestions for relaxation may also be given. To deepen the trance, the therapist may count you down from 10 to 1 or ask you to imagine walking down a flight of stairs. You will feel very relaxed but still aware of your surroundings.

To return to full consciousness, which you can do all by yourself at any time, the therapist may count up from 1 to 10.

The length of treatments depends on the problem or symptom and the individual’s circumstances. With some people a problem like nail biting can be successfully treated in one session. Other problems such as panic attacks can take up to 5 or 6 sessions.

In the course of the therapy clients are usually taught self hypnosis as part of a number of therapeutic homework tasks.

The first session usually lasts one and a half hours with subsequent sessions between an hour and an hour and a half.

– Nobody can ever be hypnotised against their will and even when hypnotised, people still remain in complete control of any suggestions given.

– The whole object of clinical hypnosis is to take back control that has been lost and which has therefore resulted in the symptom or problem.

– It is estimated that approximately 85% of people of all age groups will readily respond to hypnosis.

Which conditions are suitable for treatment by Clinical Hypnosis ?

Listed below are some of the conditions for which clinical hypnosis is indicated as a practical treatment:

– Breaking unwanted habits e.g. smoking, nocturnal enuresis (bed wetting), nail biting, stuttering.

– Hypnosis in sport. This is a very goal orientated form of therapy focusing on positivity and motivation and dealing with performance limiting beliefs and attitudes and strengthening strong and healthy beliefs and establishing constructive self images.

– Obtaining relief and remission from symptoms such as: headaches, migraine, gastrointestinal and neurological disorders.

– Dermatological conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, neuro-dermatitis.

– Gynaecological problems such as PMT, amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, psychogenic infertility and in obstetrics.

– Pain control for minor surgery, dentistry, arthritis and general neuromuscular aches and pains.

– Hypnotherapy can free individuals from phobias, compulsions, emotional problems, insomnia, inhibitions, guilt feelings, jealousy and many of the worries and anxieties of everyday life.

– Sexual problems such as impotence, premature ejaculation, frigidity, vaginismus and others.

– The use of self hypnosis will help prevent stress and tensions caused by modern day living, reduce high blood pressure and the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

– Hypnotherapy is effective for weight control, increasing work/study/sporting performance, improving concentration and memory, developing the imagination, boosting self confidence, and achieving more of the potential which we each possess.

Hypnotherapy is completely natural and safe and there are no harmful side effects. When used by a professionally trained and skilled therapist the benefits are long lasting and often permanent.

Which conditions are not suitable for treatment by Clinical Hypnosis ?

Any condition that may be caused by serious underlying disease i.e. where the cause of the symptom is organic or serious psychiatric illness.

Points to consider if you intend seeking help from a hypnotherapist

A good training with supervision is absolutely essential for practising clinical hypnosis or hypnotherapy regardless of whether the therapist is a psychologist, medical practitioner such as a doctor or psychiatrist, social worker or a non medical person.

There are over 70 different organisations in the UK offering training in hypnosis, hypnotherapy or clinical hypnosis. Properly taught, the ability to induce hypnosis is easy to acquire. However, it takes a long time to learn how to use this skill effectively within a therapeutic framework.

Established and recognised training organisations and colleges teach hypnotherapy by presenting and then demonstrating the hypnotherapeutic techniques. Students then practice on each other to gain experience of working with acquiescent and resistant subjects.

There are also organisations that offer training in hypnosis through distance learning. You are strongly advised to look for a therapist who has trained with an organisation that promotes the highest ethical principles and standards of professional practice in hypnotherapy and not through distance learning. Would you be willing to be the passenger in a car whose driver ‘qualified’ without ever sitting behind the steering wheel ? Ensure that the therapist is fully trained and ask pertinent questions. A professional therapist would be happy to answer any of your questions.

Remember that hypnotherapy is not a magical cure; it is a branch of psychotherapy. It is termed ‘brief therapy’ which means unlike traditional psychotherapy, it takes much fewer sessions.

Just like any other form of psychotherapy it may not work for everyone.

Anyone who wants to be hypnotised can be. The reverse is also true and you can resist hypnosis.

The mind has an incredible capacity to heal and this power can be unleashed through hypnotherapy. However, it is important to rule out any possible medical causes for the symptoms by first visiting your GP.

Hypnotherapy is completely natural and safe.

Author Avy Joseph