Let's talk hypnotherapy
As a subject, it’s fair to say that hypnosis has probably never enjoyed so much public interest as it has in recent times, especially in the Western World.In the UK alone, stage mentalism shows (think Derren Brown for example) and TV programmes like “You’re Back In The Room” have ensured that the topic can still captivate public consciousness and fascinate people of all ages and strata of society.
Unfortunately, because entertainment hypnosis tends to generate greater publicity than clinical hypnosis (or hypnotherapy as it’s more commonly called), much misunderstanding about the process and the discipline still abounds, and this can have the negative effect of putting people off something that could actually, in many cases, help them a lot if they were to actually dip their toe in the water and give it a try.
Okay – so you may be asking yourself, “What actually is hypnosis?”.
Good question. It all depends upon what school of psychology you might subscribe to. Cognitive and psychodynamic psychologists hold that it is an altered state of consciousness in which you are deeply relaxed, prepared to have your conscious critical awareness by-passed, and be more open to new ideas that the hypnotist will want to say to you. Social psychologists are more likely to see it as a social dynamic in which the hypnotist and the subject act out pre-determined roles to ensure maximum effect and compliance.
In truth it’s probably a blend of these factors, and in one sense, who cares, so long as it helps to resolve negative issues in your life? Most people reading this article will probably have already been in mild states of hypnotic trance many times this week. It can happen seamlessly when you’re deeply absorbed in a compelling movie or an exciting book, or when you’re revelling in your favourite music, or even staring out of the train or bus window, content to be absorbed in your own mind and disengaged for a few minutes from the outside world. In such situations it is that part of your mind which operates your automatic bodily processes (such as breathing), runs your fight or flight mechanism and which stores your long held memories and beliefs, that which we largely call the unconscious or subconscious, which very much comes to the foreground and is more open to new suggestions.
Stage hypnotism works therefore because audience members are up for a good time, allowing the stage to lower their inhibitions and allowing the inner focus to heighten their openness to comical ideas, and hey presto they are bopping around as if they’re in “Dirty Dancing”, clucking like chickens or whatever.
You’ll be relieved to know that hypnotherapy, whilst it uses that inner state of trance-focus, has zero to do with stage entertainment. The ethical hypnotherapist will work with you to rid yourself of negative mindsets. Check that your proposed hypnotherapist has the relevant qualifications and is a member of a respected representative body that demands strict standards.
The hypnotherapist will want to discuss your symptom pattern with you. What is it you wish to gain in your life? It might be more confidence in social situations, or calmer nerves in exam or interview scenarios. What it is you wish to jettison from your life? It might be panic attacks or unwanted habits like smoking. Whatever it is, please understand that the only “mind-control” involved will be that of helping you the client to gain more control of your own mind than you perhaps thought possible.
Typically the hypnotist will help you to enjoy a deep state of inner focus and relaxation. Hypnotherapists will of course vary in their approach. Some follow more the Elman approach of direct suggestions to the subconscious, whilst others follow more the Ericksonian approach of metaphor, indirect suggestions and even story-telling. Some may use a mixture of approaches. Many will include other types of strategy such as regression work or techniques gleaned from disciplines like NLP or CBT. The desired endgame will always be to help you on to a more positive life map, and an ethical practitioner should be clear with you what he/she proposes to use. Bear in mind that hypnotherapy is a partnership, and you may be asked to do daily mental exercises to help to strengthen the suggestions given to your mind.
The number of sessions required may vary, and whilst no therapist should use a client as a “cash-cow”, do bear in mind that if you’ve been running symptoms for a long time, it is unlikely that a single session will resolve most issues. No therapist can give any cast iron guarantees, as the mind is a complex entity, but it’s fair to say that hypnosis has helped many people to achieve or release many things.
In short we can say that in a society that still often turns to booze or cigarettes or other external substances to effect a de-stress, hypnosis, like its cousin meditation, is a wonderful alternative way to relax and gain a positive new mindset at the same time.
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