What is Hypnotherapy
People actually go into hypnosis all on their own all the time. For example, the last time you were daydreaming while you drove on the freeway and missed your exit, you were in a hypnotic state. When you came home from work and zoned out in front of the TV—not asleep but not paying attention to anything going on around you or anything being said except fot the TV program you were watching—you were in hypnosis. Hypnosis is nothing more than a state in which your mind is so relaxed and focused that you don’t pay any attention to what’s going on around you or what’s being said. Anyone of at least average intelligence can be hypnotized, and the more intelligent you are, the easier it is to achieve this daydream state of comfortable, focused relaxation.
How Does Hypnosis Work?
Science has established that the mind consists of two parts, kind of like a giant iceberg: the conscious mind and the subconscious mind. The conscious mind –the smaller part above the water–holds your short-term memories and is the tool you use for things like doing math problems, driving your car, and making a grocery list. The conscious mind is also the part of your mind that conforms to “shoulds and oughts” and social expectations.
The subconscious mind–the larger part of the iceberg which is below the water– holds your long-term memories, habits, beliefs and personality. It also regulates the functions of your body, such as your heart beat and digestion. In short, your subconscious mind is the programming behind everything you do, think and feel and believe.
In order for a person to make changes in their life, whether it is getting rid of a bad habit or re-framing (changing their perception of) a difficult experience from their past, they must access their subconscious mind by going into a gentle, relaxed daydream (hypnotic) state. However, the conscious mind acts as a filter and gatekeeper, preventing direct access; its like the person at the front desk of an office who always tells you that the person you want to see is “in a meeting”.
In order to access the subconscious mind, and get the conscious mind to temporarily step aside, you simply need to achieve that very relaxed, focused state of awareness and heightened imagination we call hypnosis. In that state you allow your subconscious mind to receive reprogramming “suggestions”, either from a hypnotherapist, or from a pre-recorded tape. Using a pre-recorded set of suggestions, or even repeating affirmations to yourself, are both forms of self-hypnosis.
How Hypnosis is different from Psychotherapy, Social Work, Counseling and Psychiatry
Psychiatry is based on the idea that emotional and psychological problems can be solved by changing the chemistry of the brain with medications. Hypnotherapy is based on the science that the reframing of subconscious beliefs and habits can turn someone’s life around, no medications involved.
Psychotherapy, Social Work and Counseling are based on the idea that talking about a problem from the conscious mind, perhaps over months or even years, will eventually lead to changes in perception that help the client. However, talking about a problem can actually reinforce its impact on the subconscious. Hypnotherapy works directly with the subconscious, and most issues are resolved in 3-5 sessions, which is 3-5 weeks, not months or years.
Why Self-Hypnosis is Less Effective than Working with a Hypnotherapist
Self-hypnosis involves going into a relaxed, meditative state on your own, and then either repeating affirmations to yourself, or turning on a pre-recorded tape of your own or someone else’s suggestions. The limitation of these techniques is that you still need your conscious mind to be in control in order to repeat the affirmations or to deal with the tape machine. This means that your conscious mind does not fully step aside and your access to your own sub-conscious mind programming is still filtered and limited.
What Does a Hypnotherapist Do?
Essentially, the hypnotherapist acts as a go-between, helping you to relax into a comfortable, focused hypnotic state, and then using your own words and goals to make your suggestions to your subconscious mind. The hypnotherapist is a skilled facilitator only. The success of hypnotherapy depends on the strength of your desire to make changes in your own habits and in your beliefs about your life.
Why Hypnosis is Really Creative Visualization
In effective hypnotherapy, you use your imagination to create the life you want. You call upon that same creative imagination you enjoyed as a child, when an old appliance box (think refrigerator or stove, for example) could be a magic castle or a spaceship to the moon. If you can use your imagination to truly visualize what you want, and make it real to yourself in your mind, then you can make it real in your everyday life as well.
Why Group Hypnosis May Not Work for You
In a group setting, the hypnotherapist is limited to making suggestions which may work for many people in the population, but not necessarily for you. Hypnosis is like learning to play tennis; private lessons are more effective. Private hypnotherapy sessions allow the therapist to customize suggestions to your particular needs and wording.
The Truth about Hypnosis
What to Expect at Your First Hypnotherapy Session
When you arrive for your first appointment, after a warm greeting, you will be given some paperwork to fill out to help the therapist understand something of your history and what you want to accomplish. After you have completed your paperwork, you will be invited to sit in soft comfortable recliner while the therapist talks to you about what hypnotherapy is, and what it is not. It is important for you to understand how hypnosis works, and to feel completely comfortable with the process, in order for the session is to be successful.
Next the therapist will ask you to practice using your wonderful imagination to visualize simple things, like the sight of a flag flying in the wind, or the taste of an apple pie. This helps the therapist to phrase suggestions in the way that it is easiest for you to visualize them, whether it is by sight, sound, taste, smell or feel. The therapist will also ask you to relax and visualize how it feels to go “deeper” into relaxation.
After these visualization exercises, the therapist will go over with you the issue you have come to solve. Together you will work on the suggestions you want to give to your subconscious mind in order to program it into a better behavior pattern or perspective.
When you are ready, the therapist will assist you in achieving a hypnotic state of focused awareness. Anyone can go into this state at any time, but only if they want to. Relax, close your eyes and allow the therapist to help you slip into the hypnotic state.
In these sessions, the therapist’s promise and agreement with you is to move you toward your goal, from point A to B, as rapidly as possible, and always to work in your best interest. Your responsibility is to follow the instructions of the hypnotherapist willingly, completely and instantly, and to relax and enjoy the session. After all, you are paying the hypnotherapist to do all the work for you.
While you are in the hypnotic state and your conscious mind is off enjoying a daydream, the therapist will suggest to your subconscious mind the things you and the therapist agreed that she would say, over and over, to reprogram the problematic behavior. Remember that you don’t have to consciously hear any of the suggestions the therapist gives you while you are in hypnosis; your subconscious mind is on the job doing this for you.
During the session, the therapist may give you a suggestion to help you achieve the relaxed hypnotic state more rapidly at your next appointment, so that the maximum amount of time can be spent on your therapy. The therapist may also give you a waking suggestion to help you practice and reinforce your new pattern until your next appointment.
It is strongly recommended that you make appointments in blocks of three. The first session, which lasts up to 2 hours (longer for regression therapy) will be the time to learn more about hypnosis and discuss in depth the problem to be solved. Hypnosis probably will happen in that first session, but sometimes not.
The second appointment is much shorter (up to an hour), and is used to see how the initial set of suggestions worked, and whether any old ones should be modified or new ones added. The therapist will induct you back into the relaxed state of hypnosis again, probably more rapidly this time, and reinforce the suggestions, adding any new ones or modifications.
The third session is another check up on how the suggestions are working with more hypnosis to reinforce, modify and add any needed suggestions.