Hypnotherapy 101: What It Is and How It Can Help You
Hypnotherapy, also known as hypnosis or self-hypnosis, is a straightforward and practical approach to psychotherapy in which hypnosis is used to produce a very deep state of relaxation. In this relaxed state, the mind becomes open and responsive to suggestions around positive change.
At The Mindful Therapist, Harley Street London, I use Hypnotherapy as part of my treatment plan to help clients overcome a range of mental health conditions including anxiety disorders, such as social anxiety and phobias.
Hypnotherapy, in its various forms, has been around for thousands of years, but many people still don’t know exactly what it involves or why it works the way it does. This guide on hypnotherapy will help you understand what this therapeutic practice entails and why you might want to try it out if you have a challenge that you want to overcome in your life.
A little more about Hypnosis...
The more people understand about hypnosis the more they tend to benefit from it. It is also important to dispel a number of false ideas and misconceptions about hypnosis which are common in society.
First of all, it is important to understand that being in hypnosis is not at all like being asleep or unconscious. ln fact it is quite the opposite. Most people are aware of everything that is said however, if you do feel sleepy or as if you are drifting off, that's absolutely fine.
People in hypnosis cannot normally be made to do anything against their will. Because you know what is happening and are totally in control you will only accept suggestions which you choose to accept.
Hypnosis is also completely safe when used appropriately by a professional therapist and is simply a state of mind in which we become more responsive to positive suggestions making therapeutic change quicker and more powerful.
Hypnosis feels different to different people. For example, some people feel more immersed in their imagination, others may just feel very relaxed. A number of my clients have likened the experience of hypnosis to that moment on a flight when you close your eyes and start to drift in and out of sleep, but you can still hear the conversation of the people in the row behind you.
Anyone can be hypnotised, it is as easy as daydreaming and the more you go into Hypnosis, the better you become at it. lt doesn't take any special skill or ability but allowing yourself to relax and think positively seems to help.
The Birth of Hypnosis
The origins of hypnosis began a few hundred years ago in Switzerland where a Roman Catholic Priest, Father Gassner, discovered he had certain powers that enabled him to heal people. In the years to come, crowds travelled to visit him and amongst them was a young German physician called Franz Anton Mesmer. Mesmer, having been very impressed, built on the initial work done by Gassner, surmising that the human body had two poles, like a magnet, emitting an invisible magnetic ‘fluid’ and that all human diseases were a result of some sort of interruption of this magnetic flow.
Mesmer, unsurprisingly, concluded that only a very few people possessed the gift of controlling this flow and the ability to transfer it between themselves and their patients. He also stated, for it to be successful, it was important for there to be a close ‘interest’ and ‘sympathy’ between the physician and the patient - which he called ‘rapport’ - one of Mesmer’s few theories that the modern day practice of hypnotherapy still uses.
Because of his successes, he became somewhat of a celebrity and as his popularity grew he attracted students, one of whom, whilst performing a Mesmeric public demonstration evoked the interest of James Braid - the founder of our modern approach to hypnosis. On examination, Braid recognised the psychological nature of the ‘phenomenon’ and from there the name hypnosis was conceived. From the 1840’s until the present day, hypnosis has developed through numerous concepts such as sleep, dissociation, amnesia and trance, finally arriving at Bernheim’s modern day psychological theory of increased suggestibility.
Understanding the differences between Hypnosis and Meditation.
Although hypnosis and meditation both achieve the same therapeutic outcome, helping clients reduce their levels of stress and anxiety, both practices are actually very different in nature.
Hypnosis is an experience of deep relaxation, where a client is encouraged to focus on different ideas and imagery whilst their therapist delivers hypnotic suggestions. On emerging from hypnosis, clients nearly always say they feel very relaxed, experiencing the benefits immediately. The client I spoke to before writing this blog described it as her ‘spa for the brain’.
If you would like to try hypnotherapy please click on the image below.
Do not watch or listen to this material whilst driving or operating machinery, where it is not safe for you to close your eyes and fully relax, if you have been diagnosed with clinical depression or suffer from epilepsy.
The Ego-Strengthening recording is a ‘confidence building hypnosis' and I use it with most clients at the beginning of therapy to help them relax body & mind and build confidence.
In this context ‘ego’ does not refer to a sense of arrogance or self-importance but more an individual’s overall adaptability and personal resourcefulness when it comes to facing and dealing with their problems.
So find a quiet space, relax, think positively and immerse yourself in this 20 minute exercise.
Meditation, on the other hand, is an experience of being fully aware of one's present moment experience. As we meditate, sitting upright, focussing on our breath for example, we notice how our attention is interrupted by different thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations that come and go.
Even after a short 10 minute meditation, clients report the experience being ‘quite hard work’ and ‘not as relaxing as expected’. However, the long term benefits of incorporating a meditation practice into your day are well worth it.
Mindfulness and meditation practices are effective in helping reduce levels of stress, increasing your resilience to stress and building emotional intelligence.
Start your mindfulness journey with this Short Meditation On The Breath and become aware of the patterns of the mind.
Do not listen to this material whilst driving or operating machinery or where it is not safe for you to close your eyes and fully relax
Modern day, applications of Hypnotherapy
Hypnotherapy is used in clinical practice to help with an enormous range of different issues. Research tends to provide most support for its use in:
Overcoming sleep disorders
The NHS use Hypnotherapy in treating certain psychosomatic or stress-related illnesses (such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome - IBS)
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 overcoming phobias like fear of flying, needles, and heights.
Questions to ask yourself before trying Hypnotherapy
What is your goal?
As with most things in life, it is good to have an idea of where you're going before you start your journey. Therefore, before treatment begins it is important a client is clearly able to define their main problem and goals for coming to therapy. However, you don't need to have it all mapped out. Your therapist will work collaboratively with you in your first session to set some therapeutic goals.
Cognitive behavioural hypnotherapy focuses on achieving S.M.A.R.T goals. The use of the acronym S.M.A.R.T can help in achieving positive outcomes by defining goals as being specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-limited.
For example, certain landmarks of success can be set, such as, anxiety being reduced by 30% over 3 sessions or the client developing 20% more assertiveness in social situations etc.
Am I a good candidate for hypnotherapy?
It is said that ‘expectation rules hypnotism’ (D.J Robertson 2013) therefore a committed client who has a positive attitude, is motivated and has realistic expectations towards hypnotherapy, not as a ‘quick fix treatment’ but being an exciting, useful and worthwhile experience are vital.
A good hypnotic subject is said to be a ‘creative problem-solving agent’ (Lynn and Sivec 1992) so approaching therapy with a learner attitude, a willingness to participate and a sense of imagination makes success more inevitable.
Other client qualities that are predictors of suitability are a sociotropic attitude, a general curiosity to ‘see what happens and try things out’, married with a conviction of readiness and confidence to change and a psychological mindedness regarding insight into their own condition.
What are the risks of Hypnotherapy?
Hypnotherapy is a generally benign procedure. There are however some conditions where a therapist would not use Hypnotherapy as part of their treatment plan including:
Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Alcohol or drug psychosis
Bi-polar conditions and clinical depressive illnesses or those exhibiting suicidal tendencies.
Hypnotherapy and Mindfulness in Harley Street
I combine techniques from CBT, Hypnotherapy & Mindfulness to provide a structured and straightforward approach to therapy.
Please click on the links below to find out more about how Hypnotherapy can help you today.
Robertson, The Practice of Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy (2013)
Lynn & Rhue, Theories of Hypnosis (1991)
M.Heap, K.K Aravind, Medical and Dental Hypnosis, Harlands (2002)