What is Clinical Hypnosis (or Hypnotherapy)?
Hypnosis can refer to a therapeutic technique, or to a state of mind. The hypnotic state is a completely natural state that we go in and out of many times each day. How many times while driving on the freeway have you found yourself approaching your off-ramp, and though, "Wow, I'm here already"? How many times have you become engrossed in a movie, or a song, or even a sequence of thought, and then realized that several minutes or more have gone by? These are just a few examples of how we move in and out of hypnosis naturally all day long.
Clinical hypnosis is where someone purposely induces a state of hypnosis to help that person improve their life in some way. I usually induce hypnosis by through focusing attention while relaxing deeply. I then talk with the person about the problem they are seeking help with. Clinical hypnosis is effective with stopping habits such as smoking and eating too much, but goes way beyond to help with all variety of psychological and relationship problems. Depression and anxiety for instance, can decrease greatly with clinical hypnosis.
It is not that the hypnosis DOES something to you. Rather clinical hypnosis can help you find strengths and abilities that you cannot access in your normal waking state. Did you know that people can be hypnotized to not feel pain during surgery? Not only is this true, but it has been know since at least the 1950's. People that undergo hypnosis rather than anesthesia, do not feel pain, bleed less, and heal quicker. If you're interested, check out the work of the late Dr. William S. Kroger. The larger point is that we possess abilities that we are not aware of and cannot access on our own. You can't make yourself not feel pain during surgery on your own, but you can with hypnois.
Now take a minute to wonder what else you might be capable of if you knew how to access your strengths and abilities. THAT is what clinical hypnosis does! I helps you find resources within yourself to heal from depression, anxiety, abuse and other problems. The potential of clincial hypnosis is immense.
Clincial hypnosis may be effective in one session, but usually it takes a number of sessions to achieve your goal. Human problems are complex and working them out in clincial hypnosis may take time.
Hypnosis Myths and Reality
Myths about hypnosis abound and are perpetuated by stage/entertainment hypnotists and movies and TV shows. As a general rule, don't beleve anything about hypnosis without checking expert sources.
Being in hypnosis does not mean that we are out of control in any way, or that we are putting ourselves at risk of doing things we ordinarily wouldn't do. Stage hypnotists, who put on shows where people seem to do stunts or act in silly ways, are very skilled at picking out members of the audience who show in various ways that they want to perform. Susprisingly, a person is usually aware of what is going on during hypnosis, can talk, and can make decisions. I also provide a recording of the session so that you can listen to it daily between sessions.
Most people CAN be hypnotized. Some people are more resistant and may need to discuss their concerns before being hypnotized. Some people fall into a deep trance the first time they are hypnotized, but many do not. People tend to go into the hypnotic state quicker and easier with practice. Research has discovered that you do NOT have to be in a deep trance for hypnosis to be effective. You can be in a very light state of hypnosis an still get the benefits you want.
Hypnosis is not regulated by most states and so it is important for clients to find out about their therapist's training and experience. Typically, you would want someone who is trained in the problem you are expereincing. If your problem is psychological, you would probably do better with a licensed counselor, social worker, psychologist, or psychiatrist. I use the term "clinical hypnosis" to imply that the hypnosis is done in a therapeutic setting by a licensed mental health professional.
I have been certified in hypnosis and then completed a 100 hour training with internationally respected clinical hypnosis expert Dr. Michael Yapko. I also belong to the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH).
Clients come in requesting hypnosis for various reasons, and it is one of many techniques that a licensed therapist may use to help resolve problems. Hypnosis is extremely helpful in learning deep relaxation for stress and anxiety management, and as a treatment for insomnia and many phobias. Patients who have been diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) may experience significant relief. Many people withchronic pain find that they learn to manage their pain differently. Hypnosis is frequently used to treat "habit disorders", such as smoking, over-eating, motor tics, etc. Frequently clients will be given recordings of their session to use at home, so that they can learn self-hypnosis techniques to continue their progress outside of their sessions.
It is very important that anyone with any sort of medical condition consult with their physician first before considering hypnosis. Your therapist may ask you to sign a release so that they may speak with your physician, prior to using hypnosis to help with symptoms related to a medical condition. Hypnosis is not a substitute for medical treatment.
How is hypnosis used in therapy?
As mentioned above, many clients come in specifically requesting hypnosis. Other times the therapist may suggest using it. Either way, it's important that both client and therapist are in agreement about what the goals of treatment are, and what can be reasonably expected. The first session is usually spent getting a good history of the presenting problem and what other types of treatment have been tried in the past, if any. Usually there will be time to do an "introduction to hypnosis", in the form of a deep relaxation session, so that the client can experience what hypnosis is like for them.
In following sessions, the therapist will help the client enter into the relaxed and focused state that is hypnosis, and will guide the client through the process of thinking differently about their issue and discovering new ways within themselves of deal with it. The client is always awake and in control. Many therapists will record the session for the client, so that they can reinforce what they have learned by listening at home. Time is reserved at the end for questions and discussion of how the session went. Because it is such a relaxing process, most clients leave the session feeling very refreshed and energized, and may notice an increased feeling of well-being.
Some clients will come only for hypnosis sessions for a single issue. Other clients will find hypnosis useful as part of a broader psychotherapy approach to other issues. Which approach to use is something that the therapist and client will decide together.
Here is a link to a great article on hypnosis.