Thinking of hypnotherapy? Your questions answered
If you are thinking of trying hypnotherapy but are unsure if it is right for you, or unclear about the way it works, here are eight ideas to consider before picking up the phone or emailing a hypnotherapist for a consultation.
1. How does hypnotherapy work?
The mind can be understood as having two parts: the conscious and the unconscious. The conscious part of the mind is the part that thinks rationally, analyses, works out problems and is logical. It is a more modern part of the brain in terms of evolution.
The unconscious part of the mind is the deeper part where we store all our memories, emotions, habits and it also involves our anxiety triggers - the fight, flight or freeze mechanisms. Most importantly it generates imagination and our dreams. This is the ancient, emotionally-driven brain which is dominated by the desire to preserve life.If our ancestors hadn’t had this brain, the human race would have died out.
2. Are the two parts of the mind completely separate?
No, there is interaction between the two constantly. The rational brain for example, will draw on the emotional brain to make decisions. In an ideal situation, both parts of the brain work together to make one, balanced coherent entity. You may have heard the expression, ‘She is very single-minded. She really know what she wants and how to get it.’ This is a happy and comfortable state to be in.
However, when the two sides of the mind are at war with each other, we experience stress and conflict. We may have tried really hard to resolve a problem, break a habit or free ourselves from anxiety but we just can’t seem to do it. This painful stare is sometimes expressed when people say, ‘I feel really stuck. I know I shouldn’t be like this but I can’t seem to stop it. It is as if I am in two minds over it.’
You may also have hear people make remarks along the lines of, ‘Everyone is worried about him. He seems so miserable and unhappy and is doing crazy things sometimes. You just can’t get through to him. He won’t be talked out of it, no matter what anyone says.’
People turn to hypnotherapy because they have a sense that the problem is very deep and cannot be resolved through rational means alone. They may have tried very good counsellors but were still unable to resolve it and have decided the roots are in the unconscious which maintains the issues. These are exactly the scenarios hypnotherapists deal with.
3. How does the hypnotherapist unlock the power of the unconscious?
In your sessions, a hypnotherapist uses hypnosis to access the unconscious, the deeper part of the mind through the trance state. This might sound scary but it is not. Simple ‘induction’ methods encourage you to go into a state of relaxed but focused concentration. You are switching from your normal state of consciousness to a different, somewhat altered state. It is just the sort of state you will be familiar with when you are watching a great film. A little bit of you knows the film is not real, but you get caught up in it nevertheless.
We are in and out of the trance state in normal life because we all have the capacity to be deeply absorbed in our thoughts and imagination to the exclusion of what is going on around us. We may even lose track of time. If you have ever heard someone say, ‘Sorry I didn’t hear you calling. I must have been miles away.’ That person has been in a trance state
4. How does using the unconscious actually help resolve an issue?
Hypnotherapists engage your emotions, memories and imagination so you consider your unwanted and painful feelings and behaviour without stress or your usual resistance. They use creative and imaginative methods to help you explore where the problem came from. Ultimately you can let go of the issues without trauma, replacing them with healthier ideas and habits. The process is also very demanding for the hypnotherapist who uses a great deal of concentration and intuition to guide you through your particular tunnel, allowing you to find the light at the end of it. Sessions with hypnotherapists are often much longer than with other forms of therapy because of the need to go very deep into the mind, which can take considerable time to achieve.
5. I have heard hypnotherapy is only a placebo. Is this true?
A hypnotherapist is certainly not administering a placebo. The hypnotherapist creates the altered state of consciousness and then make very powerful input into the mind to attack extremely stubborn problems, often where other methods have failed.
6. So why does it get confused with a placebo?
A placebo is an inert, harmless substance, not a real drug or treatment. Health experts realise people can sometimes get benefits from a harmless ‘fake’ placebo medicine because the mind decides it is real and stimulates inner healing powers. Hypnotherapy is quite wrongly, confused with a placebo because the way it stimulates the mind is analogous to a placebo, but the actual content of the hypnotherapy treatment is very substantial and powerful, and is not in any way inert or just imagined.
7. How can I get the most out of my hypnotherapy sessions?
Firstly, decide what you want to get out of hypnotherapy. You wouldn’t expect a doctor to prescribe a new treatment for your symptoms without you being honest and being straightforward about what you need. The same applies to a hypnotherapy consultation. Professional hypnotherapists welcome and encourage openness and curiosity about the process.
So, before booking your first appointment, spend some time thinking about what you do want, rather than what you don’t want (thinking about what we don’t want, can’t get us what we do want).
Be open and expressive at your first appointment, which will include your case history, because it saves you time later. It makes your future hypnosis much more targeted and effective as your hypnotherapist will ensure it is uniquely designed for you.
Use the first appointment to ask the hypnotherapist questions about their particular approach. A trained hypnotherapist is transparent and does not rely on the confusing gimmicks stage hypnotists use, whose aim is to entertain people, not to resolve their problems. If you are still nervous about what to expect, bring along a trusted friend to accompany you for your first consultation (or the first part of it).
8. How many sessions will I need?
This depends on you and the nature of the issue. You should usually see definite improvement after two or three sessions, but no reputable hypnotherapist will guarantee an exact length of time to get results because everyone is different.
What you need to be sure of though, is that you are confident you are safe and respected and that the hypnotherapist is doing their level best to help you.
Seeing a hypnotherapist may be the best thing you ever did. As with engaging any professional service, take your time to find the right person for you.