What is Hypnosis?
Hypnosis is most often described as hetero-hypnosis, which is hypnosis with a subject and hypnotist, and self-hypnosis, hypnosis done by oneself as both subject and hypnotist jointly. This page describes hypnosis and hetero-hypnosis. Self-hypnosis is described on a separate page/link.
Hypnosis, often referred to as an altered state, is an experience that actually occurs in everyday life. For example, hypnosis happens naturally when your attention becomes focused and you become completely absorbed in an activity such as daydreaming, reading a book, or watching a movie. You become so absorbed in the activity that you become unaware of what is happening in the background around you. For instance, you may slowly become aware of your background by realizing that someone has been calling your name. At that time you will shift your focused attention away from the activity back to your immediate surroundings. Other examples include times when you become fully absorbed watching a play or listening to music concert. You may become so absorbed in the acting or music that you shut out the immediate surroundings to the point that when the play or concert end you will need to reorient yourself back to what is happening around you. So, entering an altered state of consciousness is actually an everyday occurrence. The hypnotic skill of the clinician harnesses that altered state of consciousness to access the subconscious or unconscious mind. While in this altered state of awareness, suggestions are given that both you and the clinician agree to before the induction into hypnosis.
How a hypnosis session is conducted includes an induction, deepening techniques, suggestions, post-hypnotic suggestions, and re-alerting back to an awake and alert state. Clinical Hypnosis works by gaining access to and harnessing the power of the unconscious mind. The goal of hypnosis is to influence physical, emotional, and cognitive aspects of the self towards achieving some kind of wanted or desired change. Desired and wanted changes such as weight loss, quitting smoking, and a good night’s sleep. The licensed professional trained in clinical hypnosis begins with a verbal induction which encourages the subject to let go of conscious awareness of their immediate surroundings and to enter into the trance or hypnotic state. Next, deepening techniques, such deep muscle relaxation and imagery, increase and amplify the deepening of the trance experience. At this point, the unconscious mind enters into a state of heightened awareness where the unconscious mind is receptive to new and novel ideas. At that time, suggestions (which are agreed upon by subject and clinical hypnotherapist prior to hypnosis) are given that empower the subject to make the desired changes wanted or needed to reach realistic goals. Post-hypnotic suggestions are given that produce goal-oriented behaviors which are to occur after the subject is re-alerted. For example, during the trance the subject might be guided into establishing a calm yet alert state. At that point, the post-hypnotic suggestion might be given that any anxious feelings experienced in the future and from that point forward will automatically trigger the subject to reinstate that calm, alert state. Usually, the more these kinds of post-hypnotic suggestions are practiced in self-hypnosis the better the result. Hypnosis ends with the subject being re-alerted and reoriented back to their immediate surroundings to an awake, alert state. Some time is set aside for processing and discussing the trance experience.
Another use of hypnosis is resolving unconscious conflict(s). For example, we all experience times when we must make up our mind and decide whether to see one movie or another, or to eat at one restaurant or another. In these examples, we are consciously aware of both sides of the conflict. With an unconscious conflict, however, only one part of the conflict is conscious; the other part is unconscious or hidden from our conscious awareness. Hypnosis allows for communication with parts of the mind that are usually outside of conscious awareness. Consequently, hypnosis can be effective in the treatment of unconscious conflict. For example, a part of the self that consciously desires change may be in conflict with another part outside awareness (unconscious) that does not want to change (called unconscious motivation). Part of you consciously wants to lose weight yet another part unconscious does not want to lose weight for various reasons or motivations. During hypnosis, once the unconscious part of the conflict is identified and made available to the conscious, the clinician and subject work together to bring the now both conscious parts into agreement with the original desired change and ultimate treatment goals.
An additional benefit of a particular hypnotic and self-hypnotic experience is the achieving of a restorative rest. The conscious mind which usually controls your attention is bypassed to enter into a deeper state of awareness, an altered state where the body achieves a state of deep rest. This kind of restorative rest allows your natural healing resources to activate, enhancing overall health. You see, in addition to the biological circadian rhythm which operates on a 24-hour schedule, we also have what is called the ultradian rhythm (for a scientific paper on ultradian rhythm, click here). The biological ultradian rhythm operates during the day. In increments of ninety (90) to one hundred twenty minutes (120) your body is designed to dip down to a resting, restorative state for about fifteen (15) or twenty (20) minutes. After the rest, you resume your active state with your body replenished and ready for work. You can utilized the ultradian rhythm to renew yourself throughout the day when practicing self-hypnosis.
Often, the first question I am asked is “How many sessions will it take?” This is not an easy question to answer before I have had the opportunity to meet and assess your problem. However, in general, short-term hypnotherapy usually usually runs anywhere between 6 to 8 sessions. There are situations that require less time, but in general you can expect 6 to 8 sessions. Now, I’ll want to describe what to expect during a hypnotic experience.
There is often a cloud of mystery around hypnosis. Actually, hypnosis is an experience that occurs in our everyday lives. For instance, hypnosis occurs naturally when your attention becomes focused and you become absorbed in an activity, such as daydreaming, reading a book, or watching a movie.
The experience of clinical hypnosis or hypnotherapy consists of an induction, deepening, and agreed-upon suggestions and ends with re-alerting the patient/client/subject. Before ending the session, some time is set aside for processing and discussing the trance experience.
Dedicated practice between sessions by the patient or client plays a major part in the successful outcome of hypnosis. Mp3 or CD recordings listened to between sessions act as a reinforcement of what occurs in the live session. By listening to the recordings between sessions, you learn and build skill in self-hypnosis, allowing you to experience hypnosis without the aid of the therapist. Self-hypnosis plays a central role in maintaining the overall results of the initial and subsequent sessions with the therapist.
A question sometimes asked is: Can hypnosis be harmful? The answer to the question is the most sure way of avoiding an unpleasant hypnotic experience is to make certain that the clinician you choose has the proper credentials and license for treating your condition, disorder, or problem.
Beware of lay hypnotists certified through hypnosis guilds and other hypnosis organizations which do not require higher standards and requirements for training and certification in clinical, medical, dental hypnosis. These organizations do not require the kind of rigorous training needed for utilizing hypnosis and working with adults, adolescents, and children with emotional, physical, and psychological needs.
The highest of standards include a) higher levels of education including MD, PhD, Master’s degree, b) proof of an active license to practice in their state, and c) of face-to-face training, evaluations, and clinical evidence of having met the educational and clinical requirements of that particular training and teaching organization.
Two important things to consider in selecting a hypnotherapist:
How Much Does a Hypnotherapy Session Cost?: My hour long clinical hypnosis session costs $120.00.
Linda M. Guhe, MSW
225 S. Merame Avenue, Suite 205
St. Louis, MO 63105-3511
All conditions that may be helped using Hypnotic Techniques also require the commitment of the patient or client.
Hypnotherapy is not magic and can only help you to make changes if you have a strong desire to change and are willing to put in a maximum effort.