“Very few topics in the whole history of mankind can have given rise to so many absurdities, misunderstandings, and misconceptions. From the very beginning the study of hypnosis has been tied up with fantastic conceptions like animal magnetism, the influence of the stars, and similar tarradiddle. Even nowadays popular conceptions of hypnosis are extremely confused, and journalistic reports in newspapers have done but little to clarify the issues involved.”
- H. J. Eysenck, Sense and Nonsense in Psychology (1957)
What is Hypnosis?
Hypnosis is essentially a simple, down-to-earth and common-sense therapy. Opinions on the precise definition of hypnosis can vary greatly, however in the Cognitive-Behavioural model hypnotherapy is thought of as:
'a combination of various naturally occurring physiological and psychological states in which we become more responsive to positive suggestions.'
Is Hypnosis safe?
Hypnosis is completely safe when used in a responsible and professional manner. Nobody has ever been ‘stuck’ in hypnosis. Given time, the subject will either rouse themselves naturally or drift off to natural sleep.
What does Hypnosis feel like?
Hypnosis is a state of pleasant relaxation and everyone has a different experience. Some people liken it to daydreaming, or the moment when you are just about to drift off to sleep at night.
Is Hypnosis like being asleep?
No, hypnosis does not normally feel like being asleep or unconscious. In fact, most people (roughly 90%) are aware of everything that happens while hypnotised. Although the word hypnosis comes from the Greek word for ‘sleep’ (hypnos), it is actually an abbreviation for ‘neuro-hypnotism’ meaning ‘sleep of the nervous system’.
Can anyone be hypnotised?
Yes, anyone can be hypnotised, it is actually very easy. It does not take any special skill or ability. Entering into hypnosis is as easy as daydreaming. If you can daydream or relax your mind in any other way then you can enter into hypnosis. It is important to remember that hypnosis is essentially a matter of belief and imagination. To really benefit from hypnotic suggestions it is important that you really want to accept them, imagine smiling inside and agreeing with everything that is said during treatment helps.
Are some people easier to hypnotise?
Absolutely, some people are exceptionally good at going into hypnosis. However, anyone can do it and people tend to get better and better at hypnosis each time they use it.
Am I under someone else's control in Hypnosis?
Hypnosis is definitely not a state of mind control. You cannot be made to do anything against your will. On the contrary, normally you must want to accept suggested ideas and actively imagine responding to experience their effects. The idea of being ‘under somebody else's power’ stems from movies, cartoons and comedy stage hypnosis. Stage hypnosis has very little to do with Clinical Hypnotherapy and has been shown to foster misconceptions which can prevent people from benefiting from treatment. Take what you see on television with a large pinch of salt - it's just entertainment.
How many Hypnotherapy sessions will I need?
Hypnotherapy, apart from smoking cessation, usually requires more than one session. However, it is probably one of the briefest forms of psychological therapy and in clinical studies the average number of sessions is around 4-6.
What can be treated with Hypnotherapy?
Hypnosis can help with an enormous range of issues. Research tends to provide most support for its use in:
Overcoming sleep disorders
Treating certain psychosomatic or stress-related illnesses
However, hypnosis is also used to overcome habits such as nail-biting or smoking cigarettes, and for personal development in areas such as sports performance, public speaking, or creativity.
Is Hypnotherapy a recognised therapy?
Yes, in the United Kingdom hypnotherapy is classified by the Department of Health as being a branch of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), while hypno-psychotherapy is recognised in the UK, and internationally, as a branch of integrative psychotherapy.
AMA (1958). ‘Council on Mental Health: Medical uses of Hypnosis’, JAMA, Sept 13 1958: 186-189
BMA (1955). ‘Medical uses of Hypnotism: Report of a Subcommittee appointed by the Psychological Medical Group Committee of the British Medical Association’, Supplement to the BMJ April 25, 1955: 190-193, ~Appendix X.
BPS (2001). The Nature of Hypnosis. Leicester: BPS
APA (1997). Update on Empirically Validated Treatments, The Clinical Psychologist, 1997
Alexander James is a Mindfulness-Based Therapist and Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapist helping clients overcome addictions, stress and anxiety disorders.
Appointments are available at various clinics across Central London including:
1 Harley Street, Bank, Canary Wharf, Notting Hill, Wimbledon and outside London at the Cowdray Therapy Rooms in West Sussex.
I also offer home visits and Skype consultations.
Disclaimer: Results are not guaranteed and may vary from person to person.