When people use the term ‘hypnotherapy’ they’re often describing suggestion hypnotherapy (sometimes referred to as traditional hypnotherapy). If you have never tried hypnotherapy before and are unsure of what’s involved, this page is a good place to start.
We’ll discuss suggestion techniques used within hypnotherapy - how they work, what they can be used for and what having hypnosis feels like. We suggest looking through our types of hypnotherapy section to familiarise yourself with the different approaches available as this can help you figure out which may work best for you.
On this page
How does hypnotherapy work?
This is the first question many people have when it comes to hypnotherapy. TV shows and stage performers lead us to believe hypnosis involves being put into a deep trance and then doing anything the hypnotist says. In reality, hypnotherapy is nothing like this.
Hypnosis is a state of mind that we all naturally fall into from time to time. Think about those moments when you’re staring into space, or your mind wanders or you are fully focused on something. This is a hypnotic state. According to brain scans, people undergoing hypnosis show a shift in brainwave activity from a ‘Beta state’ to an ‘Alpha state’. This is similar to the way the brain behaves during meditation or deep relaxation.
When our minds are in this state, our subconscious (also known as the unconscious) is more open to suggestion. Our subconscious is the part of the mind that we’re not aware of, but influences our thoughts and behaviours.
During a hypnotherapy session, a hypnotherapist will help you into a hypnotic state and use suggestion techniques to positively influence your subconscious. Being at ease with your therapist is paramount. The more relaxed you are and confident in your therapist's abilities, the more likely it is that you’ll be in the right state to receive suggestion.
The suggestions made will depend on why you are seeking hypnotherapy. For example, if you are looking to quit smoking, your hypnotherapist can use suggestions to encourage a change in behaviour. They may suggest to your subconscious that you hate the taste of cigarettes and do not need them now. Combine this with your own willpower and dedication to health, and you’ll likely feel more capable of quitting. For some, one session alone is enough for them to never smoke again.
Will this technique work for me?
It’s important at this point to highlight that some people are naturally more susceptible to suggestion than others. There are other factors that contribute to success in hypnotherapy too, such as:
- your willingness to undergo hypnosis
- your dedication to the process
- your trust of the therapist
Hypnotherapy can feel like magic at times, but it is not in fact ‘magic’. It is a form of therapy that, like many other types, relies on work from both client and hypnotherapist.
If all the right factors are in place, hypnotherapy can be effective for almost anyone. Those who may benefit from different approaches include those with symptoms of psychosis.
Suggestion techniques, in particular, are well suited to those looking to change a habit, behaviour or thought patterns. Depending on the concern, you may be recommended to pair hypnotherapy with counselling/psychotherapy. The two can work very well together, especially on deep-seated behaviours.
What is suggestion used for?
Suggestion techniques can be used for a wide range of concerns, but the most common include:
- anxiety, fears and phobias
- sleep disorders
- low self-confidence and low self-esteem
- quitting habits like smoking
- weight loss
When used alongside other approaches, like counselling, it can also help with relationship difficulties, depression and other mental health concerns.
"Being hypnotised was the best thing I did it changed my behaviours around smoking I was no longer feeling controlled by the nicotine." - Read Jonathan's experience
How does hypnosis feel?
Hypnosis should be a relaxing, tranquil and positive experience. Many people expect to be put into a trance and not know what’s happening around them. While everyone experiences hypnosis differently, most will be fully aware of what’s happening around them during the session. The key thing to remember is that you will always be in control.
If you wanted to, at any stage you could get up and walk away. Hypnosis is often likened to that feeling when you’re not fully asleep, but not fully awake yet either. Those lovely few minutes before you open your eyes and wake up, but are fully aware of any sounds or movements around you.
Your hypnotherapist should put you at ease and make the process an enjoyable one. Some people struggle to recall exactly what took place during their session, whereas others remember everything. This will depend on the depth of your trance.
Afterwards, many say they feel the same as before, just more relaxed. The effect of the session may be immediate or may take some time to manifest. Depending on the reason you’re seeking hypnotherapy, you may need more sessions.
Often, the hypnotherapist will share some self-hypnosis techniques with you so you can continue your work in the comfort of your own home.
What is clinical hypnotherapy?
Sometimes people use the term ‘clinical hypnotherapy’ when describing hypnotherapy. This is where a person receives hypnotherapy from a qualified hypnotherapist with a healthcare background. In the UK, hypnotherapists are not required to have any specific training by law, but a clinical hypnotherapist is a licensed professional who will use hypnotherapy to treat a range of medical and psychological conditions.
Hypnotherapy is an altered state of consciousness. Clinical hypnosis or hypnotherapy, therefore, uses this altered state of consciousness (or trance) as a therapeutic treatment, meaning that people aren’t treated with hypnotherapy, but treated in hypnotherapy.
Clinical hypnotherapy is the use of hypnosis and other techniques to treat a variety of medical and psychological issues. It is an integrative field of study, meaning that it is formed of different elements from a range of therapies. These can include cognitive psychology, behavioural psychology, EMDR and NLP.
According to the London College of Clinical Hypnosis, “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”. You can learn more about hypnotherapy and the areas it is thought to help with, in our hypnotherapy areas page.
How to find a clinical hypnotherapist
Most health professionals who practice clinical hypnotherapy are registered with a professional body and are regulated by the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). The British Society of Clinical Hypnosis (BSCH) is a national professional body, whose aim is to promote and assure high standards in the practice of hypnotherapy. Membership with the BSCH may vary, as there are various categories available, each of which encompasses a different level of training and experience.
We encourage all members to include as much information as possible within their profile, to help you learn how they work and if they are right for you. All professionals must meet the terms of our proof policy before being listed as members of Hypnotherapy Directory.
If you have further questions about suggestion and hypnotherapy, or you want to book an initial consultation, we would recommend using our search tool to find a hypnotherapist near you. You can then read through their profile to gain a better understanding of how they work and contact them with any queries or to book an appointment.
View other therapies
I have benefited greatly from my experience of CBT and hypnotherapy. It has helped me deal with long standing...
I have been suffering from anxiety and panic attacks for a long time, which I felt I was coping with. However, a...
I was really scared to go see a hypnotherapist. I thought I'd be brainwashed and was worried I'd be unconscious...