So you’ve been toying with the idea of trying clinical hypnosis-what is stopping you? Clinical hypnosis can help with many types of problems, including depression, addiction, chronic pain, weight loss, test anxiety, performance anxiety, and enhancing one’s athletic performance. So why is it that many people avoid this tool that can compliment many other types of therapy, or be used as a treatment modality by itself? In one answer…CONTROL, or should I say the fear of giving up and/or losing control.
Unfortunately, we have all watched, at one time or another, a stage hypnotist who seemed to control their inductee, convincing them to bark like a dog, cluck like a chicken, or act in some other embarrassing manner. Such demonstrations are called “stage hypnosis”, which is not the same as clinical/therapeutic hypnosis. During a stage hypnosis performance, a “plant” is often used in the audience, to increase the entertainment value of the show, and to get the audience involved.
In clinical hypnosis, the client is in charge; he/she is NOT under someone else’s power, and the hypnotherapist cannot, and I repeat, CANNOT, make you do something that you do not want to do! I have had clients who verbalized the fear of turning into someone they are not, and acting in a manner that is the opposite of their personality, fearing humiliation and embarrassment. This type of behavior simply does not happen; when you engage in a therapeutic hypnosis session, with a certified hypnotherapist, he/she is like a tour guide. Gone are the days of Mesmer’s magic, where the client appeared to be under a spell/trance. Unfortunately, this early work by Mesmer, while it was brilliant, has scared a lot of people away, who could benefit from the therapeutic nature of hypnosis.
When you have found a legitimate hypnotherapist to work with, he/she should meet with you for a consultation, before attempting a hypnotic induction of any kind. This is done to find out what the client likes and does not like, so that appropriate imagery, can be used during the session. The presenting problem is discussed in detail, and often therapeutic goals are set for the client. Many hypnotherapists will start with a deep relaxation exercise, that helps eliminate the client’s anxiety about the induction, and makes the hypnosis itself, more pleasant and effective. To do this type of relaxation, the client’s input is needed.
Usually a client undergoing hypnosis, lays on the couch, or sits in a plush chair/recliner, so that the body is physically relaxed and comfortable. Often a hypnotherapy environment has been created that is soothing, and has reduced stimulation and distraction, so that the client can fully relax. Sometimes, candle light is used, or lamps with dimmers, so that the room has a soft and inviting glow. The environment is very important, because when the client is made to feel physically comfortable, and safe, there is less resistance at the emotional level, and the client can proceed to a deeper state of relaxation. Slow deep breathing is often used to relax the inductee, and sometimes a deepening technique is used. An example of a deepening technique, includes the use of a visualized staircase, where the client sees himself or herself, stepping down a set of stairs- each stair taking the client to an even more relaxed state, than the previous stair. Such tools allows the client to control how deep they wish to drift into hypnosis. Again, if the client does not want this, it will not happen. He or she is in charge of the entire experience, and the therapist is just the guide.
Despite what you have probably heard, a hypnosis client is fully awake and often is actively talking with the hypnotherapist. There is no trance, and the client is not asleep; in fact, he/she will remember what occurred, unless the client specifically requested to “not know”. In this latter case, a post-hypnotic suggestion would be used to erase the events from conscious memory. Most clinicians prefer to have their clients remember their hypnotic experience, because the resultant information can be used to work with the presenting target problems or symptoms. Clients I have worked with wished to remember the session, and oftentimes, they even wanted it recorded, so that they could hear everything, and mull over it again and again.
After the client has participated in the hypnosis, and deepening techniques, the real core of the induction occurs, where the therapist tries to help the client ameliorate the problematic behavior, that has brought him/her into hypnotherapy. Once the core of the induction is performed, the patient emerges from the hypnosis as the therapist counts up, reversing the process of the deepening technique (perhaps the client visualizes climbing back up the stairs). I have had clients say, post-hypnosis, that they feel as though they had taken a long nap, because they felt so rested and relaxed after the procedure.
Especially with habit control, or uncovering hypnotherapy, where the client tries to piece together information that he/she is slowing gaining access to, repeat or booster sessions are often needed. This is not because the hypnosis was a failure, but because habits, such as smoking or overeating, are deeply ingrained, and therefore may take longer to master.
If you are considering hypnosis, I suggest meeting with and interviewing several hypnotherapists, to see with whom you feel the most comfortable. In addition, it is important to discuss the process of hypnosis, and techniques that will be used by that particular hypnotherapist. When interviewing, make sure that you and the hypnotherapist have unified goals (those problematic behaviors that you wish to alleviate), so that there are no false expectations present. When these steps are followed, and a competent and ethical hypnotherapist is utilized, hypnosis is a very successful and growth promoting treatment modality.