How do I know that hypnosis will work for me?
Health psychologists have long pondered why some people benefit from hypnosis and other talk therapies, whilst others may try several different types of therapy, with little or no success. Interestingly, and not surprisingly, they have come up with a model that predicts whether a particular therapy will work for you or not. They coined it The Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB).
Central to the TPB model is the belief a person holds in the therapy itself. This is one of the central components. So in the example of hypnosis, the client must believe it will work rather than try it for the sake of it, or going through the motions because someone has told them to do so.
This belief has to be coupled with the belief they have within themselves in controlling their behaviour. For example, if a person wants to quit smoking and they have read, watched a programme or had a friend who has quit smoking with hypnosis and from this information they believe it will work and have the motivation to give up, then the chances are they will succeed. It is the expectation that the therapy will help that is part of the treatment (Mair, 1992).
Psychologists have found a lot of data to support the above model in respect to quitting smoking, curtailing binge drinking and abstinence from drug taking to positive behaviours, such as healthy eating and increasing exercise.
But wait, that's not the whole story. There are other factors which increase the likelihood that hypnotherapy is for you and that is the hypnotherapists themselves! This was demonstrated in the 1950s by Dr Albert Mason. He treated a boy covered in warts which made his skin turn black, thick and leathery and resulted in painful skin infections.
Doctors tried desperately to help and even undertook skin grafts to alleviate the boy’s condition, with little benefit. This was when Dr Mason became involved and suggested hypnosis, as he knew warts responded well to this type of treatment. As a consequence he conducted a number of hypnosis sessions on the boy, concentrating on specific body parts. After a number of sessions, the warts disappeared revealing normal skin. Dr Mason knew this would happen, as he knew the power of hypnosis on the treatment of warts.
However, unbeknown to Dr Mason was the true nature of the boy’s condition. The boy wasn’t suffering from warts but from a rare and deadly genetic disorder, called ‘congenital ichthyosis’. When this was explained to Dr Mason he was unable to ever replicate the success with this horrific skin condition. This was put down to the fact that Dr Mason now knew that this condition was incurable and that it was his belief which prevented the successful treatment of this condition.
We have seen that the belief of the client and hypnotherapist is vital for the successful treatment of any condition, coupled with motivation to change. However, there are other factors which linger around the hypnotherapists room that could help, in your hypnosis treatment. Frank (1973), found four factors that increase the success of talk therapies.
These are: firstly, clearly set boundaries of client and therapist. The latter has the knowledge and thus demonstrates this to the client with their expertise. This instils confidence that the hypnotherapist knows their subject well. Secondly, the actual setting of the therapy room is important. Comfy chairs, carpets, low lighting and quietness help ‘set’ the scene.
The third factor is that the therapist must adopt a rational framework for making sense of the client's issues (the all-important detailed history, taken down at the initial consultation). Lastly the therapeutic rituals. This can further enhance the client’s faith in the therapist.
If you think about religious rituals which have been passed from generation to generation and cultivate a sense of something deeply significant and powerful, hence the importance of the ubiquitous hypnosis chair.
So back to the original question, will hypnosis work for you?
As you can see this depends on whether you believe it will work and whether you have the motivation to change. The hypnotherapist will already be playing their role by setting the wheels in motion as you enter their therapy room. They believe you will change and want you to succeed. All they ask is that you believe in the power of hypnosis and that you can change.
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