What is hypnotherapy?
Have you ever wondered about hypnosis and hypnotherapy and if it might help with a problem you're having, but are unsure of exactly what it is and how it works? Hopefully, I can answer some of your questions for you and that, by the end of this article, you will know if it is something that you would like to try.
Where does hypnotherapy come from?
The history of hypnosis is very interesting and the earliest known example of hypnosis being applied to treat people was in Ancient Egypt. For people that were sick, the Egyptians would often induce a trance within a sleep temple, whilst helping suggestions would be made to the person to enable them to fight whatever it was that afflicted them.
I often find any scepticism directed towards hypnotherapy as a useful means of helping people, is because of how it is portrayed sometimes in the media. Sensationalist, 'miracle' promises and the depiction of it as entertainment by stage performers emphasise a certain mystique about it.
It is because of these factors that, sometimes, it can be viewed negatively as a mind-controlling instrument with embarrassing implications for people who participate in it. But this is a world away from what I do in clinical hypnosis, which really is a valuable tool for helping people.
Will I feel out of control?
It's important to emphasise that, in hypnotherapy, you are never out of control. You are in a trance for as long as you want to be though, often, I find that people remain for fractionally longer than my directions, as it is so pleasant. If you choose to try hypnotherapy, a hypnotherapist will likely carry out a thorough assessment of your problem and try to find out the duration and severity of the problem, and if there are different aspects to it. This is to try and evaluate which aspects are the most difficult to the most manageable.
The hypnotherapist may choose to do this using what is called a SUDS scale (Subjective Unit Of Distress) where each aspect will be rated from 1-10 in severity. This scale can also be revisited as treatment moves forward to measure progression.
Beyond the initial assessment, you will move on to applying hypnotherapy techniques. You will likely be wondering how that works and how it will help your problem.
Well, the hypnotherapist will induce a trance by bringing you into an extremely relaxed state. This is done by listening to what you consider to be relaxing experiences and applying their own knowledge and looking at how you perceive things.
Will I go into a trance?
It is important to state that everybody has the ability to go into trance. In my experience, some people are easier to put into trance than others - that is often down to individual personalities or how relaxed they may feel at that particular time. But, in short, everyone can be induced into a hypnotic state.
It can also depend on the relationship between hypnotherapist and client and, often, individuals who feel understood and validated by the clinician are the most likely to benefit from the experience. This is why I try to personalise things as much as possible for people and take the approach that no two people ever experience the same problem alike.
How can hypnotherapy help with my problem?
This happens due to your mind consisting of two parts: the conscious mind and the unconscious mind. The conscious mind is the awareness that you employ in your waking life, it is analytical and limiting. The unconscious mind is the part that is always present and always storing information throughout our life experience. It is less analytical and is capable of decoding things in a way that the conscious mind cannot.
The most famous comparison between the two was by Sigmund Freud who likened the conscious and unconscious mind to that of an iceberg, with the conscious mind being the 10% that we see above the surface and the unconscious mind being the 90% below the water. We are most aware of our subconscious when dreaming.
In hypnotherapy, the unconscious mind is being amplified and the therapist is directing suggestions to it, relating to whatever the problem is. This is often done through direct suggestion or the use of powerful metaphors that are of significance to the person and the issue. The experience of the client is that of being aware but not aware like hearing a conversation in the background. It is a very enjoyable and relaxing experience.
Can I benefit from self-hypnosis?
In my own life, as someone who has a therapeutic background of 13 years, I think one of the best things about hypnosis is that it can often inform people about the problem, and not only give initial symptomatic relief but ongoing long-term relief through the use of self-hypnosis. This works by the hypnotherapist providing the client with a recording based on what their issue is, which helps the client induce trance by themselves.
I generally recommend that people listen to their recording at least once a day and the more you listen to it, the easier it is to achieve a beautiful relaxed self-hypnotic state. I also think that any intervention that can help someone get to the root of a problem and then help them manage it can only be a good thing.
For example, an anxiety client may have only tried anti-anxiety drugs to help with their issue. But, through working in their face-to-face sessions on what is driving the anxiety and then being given a self-hypnosis recording, that will concentrate on nullifying that anxiety-provoking trigger. This is, in turn, can be life-changing for some people in helping them understand their problem better and being less reliant on other interventions (like medication) by having their recording to listen to.
I truly believe that we often underestimate our own personal resources in dealing with a problem and that, often, the solution is lying dormant somewhere in our subconscious. Hypnotherapy, unlike other methods such as counselling, generally does not require you to pour over difficult painful experiences for long periods of time. You just have to relax, close your eyes and listen.
Finally, if you are thinking of trying hypnotherapy, I would recommend choosing a verified hypnotherapist that is a member of an appropriate professional body, such as the National Council of Hypnotherapy.
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