What is hypnotherapy?
Hypnotherapy is the therapeutic use of hypnosis, but before addressing what hypnosis is, it is helpful to understand some aspects of what hypnosis IS NOT.
Many people I speak with are aware that hypnosis can help overcome an issue and lots of those say they know someone who has had hypnotherapy to help them quit smoking. I also find that some people are a little nervous to experience hypnotherapy as they are afraid that they will be vulnerable and be in some sort of unconscious or sleep-like state and will not know what is happening to them until their therapist has “woken them up”. It is also common people are nervous that they may be asked to do something they don’t wish to do.
This is perfectly understandable in a society in which hypnosis is frequently misunderstood. However, almost everyone I describe hypnosis to is surprised to learn that you are fully awake and aware of what your therapist says throughout and it is not a case of falling asleep and waking up fixed of your issue. I also explain to clients that hypnotherapy is a process rather than a magic wand that erases problems.
There are issues which are fairly simple to work with and fewer sessions needed in order for a client to feel significant improvement. However, hypnotherapy is a process and client and therapist need to work together to improve an issue. It is not the case that every person who seeks hypnotherapy for the same reason, such as weight loss, needs the same amount of sessions. Every person is unique and it is not possible to say before starting a course of hypnotherapy exactly how many sessions are required. An estimate can be given but it is best to review progress closely throughout the process.
I explain to my clients that our sessions require us to work together to get them the best results possible. This involves thorough discussion during a phone call and consultation to discuss the client’s goals and often several hypnotherapy sessions in which we explore the issue, the potential causes and ways of overcoming these.
So what IS hypnosis?
Scientists have never been able to come up with a unified response to this question, mainly because hypnosis is a very individual experience. Hypnosis is an entirely natural state and people are always surprised to learn that we have all experienced this natural state in other contexts on many occasions. For example, for anyone who drives and often drives the same route, such as to and from work, can often describe doing so almost automatically as if they cannot recollect the entire journey to or from work as they do it so frequently. They obviously did not switch off or they wouldn’t have been able to operate the car safely but their conscious thought was not on the specifics of how they are operating the car, the opposite to how they would have when learning how to drive when we feel the need to think of each and every movement.
Have you ever found yourself staring out of a window and focussing on something outside? You have still been able to hear what is going on around you but it sort of fades into the background. If something should need your attention in the room then you find your awareness coming back into the room and away from your daydream. This is also a form of altered state or trance state that can be similar to that of hypnosis.
Our brains, or our brainwaves, operate at different speeds throughout the day, with higher cycles associated with more intense focus, such as when engaging in conversation, and lower cycles associated with meditative states and sleep. A client will experience higher brainwave frequency when interacting with their therapist during a consultation but then move up and down through frequencies when in a hypnosis session. Therefore we can see how natural a state hypnosis actually is and that we experience similar states in different forms as part of our every day lives.
Hypnosis can be a very relaxing experience with people experiencing different depths of relaxation. Even one person can experience various depths of relaxation throughout a session. Other individuals may describe less deep levels of relaxation but still experience profound benefits from hypnotherapy.
I think of hypnosis as a state of inward awareness and reflection in which the outside world is still around. I can hear it and interact with it should I wish or need to, but that all fades into the background as I focus on the therapist’s voice and my own experience at that precise moment in time.
I explain to clients that everyone does experience hypnosis differently.
How will hypnosis be used to help?
The basis of hypnotherapy is to utilise hypnosis and adapt it to the individual needs of each client in a therapeutic manner. For example, if someone wants to address their lack of confidence it will be necessary to explore the basis for what has caused the lack of confidence. What has given them the incentive to explore the issue at this time and also aspects such as their desired outcomes from hypnotherapy. These aspects can be explored both in and out of hypnosis.
This is just a brief example which also shows that hypnotherapy, as I explain it to clients, is not passive on the part of the client, and requires team work between client and therapist. Few issues are improved with one or two sessions, with most requiring more than this. Therefore communication with your therapist is vital.
Based on your initial consultation your therapist should have formulated a plan as to how best to use hypnosis to help and the most appropriate techniques to address your individual issue. It is important to be aware that since hypnosis is experienced differently by everyone, this plan can be adapted based on client feedback which is why communication is so vital to success. I especially encourage feedback after each session and also feedback at the beginning of a session to find out how clients have felt since the previous session.
This introduction is not intended to be definitive or a substitute for a consultation with a qualified therapist regarding your own personal circumstances.