What are the risks of having hypnotherapy?
It is no wonder that people can be pretty wary about hypnotherapists and hypnosis. Nearly every hypnotherapist in pop culture is evil and hypnosis is used in films, books and TV series in such a malevolent way.
You have evil hypnotist characters making people do things against their will but with the characters having no way of proving that this evil hypnotherapist is actually doing that.
For example in the recent Netflix Film "Hypnotic" a character who initially benefits from hypnotherapy and gets her life back on track finds that her hypnotherapists has implanted "trigger words" in her head. He can call her whenever he likes, say a word and then get her to do anything he wants.
But is it really any surprise whatsoever that people are guarded and unsure about seeking help from a hypnotherapist to resolve their issues? No, I don't think it is surprising at all.
I'm here to explain what hypnosis is and isn't, why you can consider it safe and what the small, potential risks are.
What is hypnosis?
Hypnosis is, in a nutshell, the art and science of suggestion. It isn't a state of mind or a trance like state. In fact, looking deeper, hypnosis is actually a verb - it is a "doing" word, it is something that you as a client would do, it is a skill which is taught to you by your hypnotherapist.
Any hypnotherapist, whether they agree with what I've said hypnosis is or not, would agree that the more hypnosis you experience/do, the better you become at it.
Let's be clear - when you're having hypnotherapy sessions you're simply slightly more suggestible and you will work alongside your therapist to achieve goals, overcome issues and change thought patterns.
Enough about what hypnosis is, what are the risks?
Well the risks are very low of anything bad happening at all.
People become hypnotherapists in order to help other people and as such they will only be using hypnosis in the most conscientious way.
If, and this is a big if, you were to come across an "evil" hypnotherapist I think that you would probably not get along with them in the first place and wouldn't choose for them to be your therapist.
An even bigger if - What if you didn't notice and then they use hypnosis on me evilly? Well here's the next big point about hypnosis which needs to be brought in - it is reliant on a combined effort.
The therapist gives instructions, the client then chooses to follow these instructions. Your brain hasn't switched off, you're not floating through la la land with no control.
If a therapist, evil or otherwise, makes a suggestion that makes you uncomfortable then you can simply choose not to follow it even when you are more suggestible.
It has been said that the most important factor in the success of hypnosis is the relationship between the client and the therapist. There has to be trust, rapport and a belief in that the common goal they are working towards is the right one.
Are there actually risks then?
So, given that you can choose to avoid suggestions and evil hypnotherapists don't actually exist are there any risks with hypnosis?
Yes, there are some risks in certain scenarios.
The first is certain medical conditions, the second is within work with "recalling" memories. There are certain medical and psychiatric disorders which are contraindicated for hypnosis.
If you have PTSD or any mental disorder in which psychosis is an element then it is essential that you let a hypnotherapist know before you start any work with them. They should then have discussions with your medical care team before proceeding with any therapy.
Increased suggestibility combined with either of these conditions can be dangerous, it is not to say that a therapist cannot work with these clients but extreme care must be taken and it is sensible to ask them if they have experience in dealing with these conditions before.
The risk here being that the increased suggestibility makes the client believe in their psychotic episodes even more deeply or cause someone to relive their PTSD trauma again.
If you fall into this category then ensure that you have deep conversations with any hypnotherapist before any hypnosis is undertaken.
The second risky situation is with regression therapy. It is a very popular belief that in order to overcome an issue that it must be re-lived, and you must bring yourself to peace with what happened.
Many hypnotherapists will offer regression therapy in order to do this. There is, however, little or no evidence to suggest that the "so-called memories" which are "recalled" during these sessions are actually factual in any way.
You may well "remember" something happening but there is little or no evidence to suggest that this is what happened. I'm sure you can see how potentially damaging this could be.
The very fact that you are more suggestible and are then encouraged to search for a memory which has hurt you means that you will end up finding a memory that hurt you - this could very well be your mind just creating a painful scenario which you then decide is a memory.
Regression therapy can bring about painful thoughts which might not well be memories, they can re-traumatise people completely unnecessarily and in extreme cases cause people to believe that people have done things to them which haven't actually happened.
I have training in regression therapy but do not offer it in any form and I honestly question the need to go down that route with any clients.
If you are interested in having regression therapy then I'd very strongly advise speaking to regression therapists and cognitive behavioural hypnotherapists like myself in order to ascertain whether there are other/better options to try before diving down that particular rabbit hole.
Hypnotherapy is a calm, safe and sometimes enjoyable form of therapy which can bring about powerful, positive changes in your life.
The most important aspect of your therapy is the bond you form with your therapist so do take your time to get to know them, trust them and like them also - the better the rapport you have with your therapist the more successful your experience of hypnotherapy will be.
If you have PTSD, psychosis or are looking into regression therapy please have candid discussions with any hypnotherapist before you undertake any therapy.