About Hypnotherapy

Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy

Hypnosis is a procedure through which a subject experiences changes in sensations, perceptions, thoughts, and or behavior.  The hypnotic context is generally established through an induction procedure.  Although there are different hypnotic inductions, most include suggestions for relaxation, calmness, and well-being.  Instructions to imagine, think, or visualize pleasant experiences are also commonly included in hypnotic inductions.

What happens in hypnosis?

People respond to hypnosis in different ways.  Most describe hypnosis as a normal state of focused attention, in which they feel very calm and relaxed.  Regardless of how and to what degree they respond, most people describe the experience as very pleasant.  Most people are very responsive to hypnotic suggestions.  A person’s ability to respond to hypnotic suggestions can be inhibited by fears and concerns arising from common misconceptions. 

Contrary to some depictions of hypnosis in books, movies, or television, people who have been hypnotized do not lose control over their behavior.  They typically remain aware of where they are, and what transpired during hypnosis.  Hypnosis makes it easier for people to experience post-hypnotic suggestions, but it does not force them to have these experiences.

Hypnotherapy is not a therapy like psychoanalysis.  It is vocational and avocational (self-improvement) counseling.  Additionally, it has medical applications when a client is referred, by a dentist or physician.  Only credentialed professionals, who have been trained in the use of hypnosis, and are working within the scope of their professional expertise, should use hypnosis.

What is a hypnotherapist?

This question is common from individuals encountering the profession of hypnotherapy for the first time.  While the media has increasingly presented the virtues of hypnosis for a wide variety of applications, rarely do they make the distinction between hypnotherapists and healthcare or psychological care professionals.

Many people assume that a hypnotherapist must be a psychologist or medical doctor.  Hypnotherapy however, is a profession whose scope of practice and preparation is quite different from these other professions.

Only the medical doctor is recognized to diagnose and treat medical disorders.  Medical disorders can be defined as any symptom with a medical etiology; such as headaches, backaches, blurred vision, disease, etc.

The psychologist is the professional trained to diagnose and treat emotional and mental disorders.

If medical disorders are the domain of the medical doctor and emotional and mental disorders the scope of the psychologist, what then is the domain of the hypnotherapist?

The answer is vocational and avocational self-improvement counseling.  In simple language, these areas involve areas that do not qualify as a medical disorder or an emotional or psychological disorder.  They are the little things that the majority of Americans struggle with on a daily basis.

In the United States, 63% of the adult population is overweight, 21% smoke cigarettes, and 30% suffer from some form of insomnia.  It is probably even safe to say that 95 % of the people you know would like to improve in some area or another.  Improving sports performance, increasing confidence and motivation, addressing a fear of public speaking, and more are all specialties of a hypnotherapist.

Unlike psychologists and medical doctors, the hypnotherapist is the only professional specifically trained to work in these areas.  Additionally, hypnotherapists can work, by way of referral from dentists, medical doctors, and psychologists, with issues beyond the scope of vocational and avocational counseling.

California does not have an explicit statute or regulation requiring licensure for hypnotists or hypnotherapy.  California Business and Professions Code 2908 exempts persons using hypnotic techniques from the psychology licensing act to do vocational or avocational self-improvement as long as they do not treat emotional, mental, or medical disorders.  Business and Professions Code 2908 also exempts persons using hypnotic techniques when they are working under referral of persons licensed to practice psychology, dentistry, or medicine.

What is hypnosis used for?

Hypnosis has been used in the treatment of pain, depression, anxiety, stress, habit disorders, and many other psychological and medical problems.  The decision to use hypnosis as an adjunct to medical or psychiatric treatment can only be made in consultation with a qualified health care provider.  In addition to its use in clinical settings, hypnosis is used in research, with the goal of learning more about the nature of hypnosis itself, as well as its impact on sensation, perception, learning, memory, and physiology.  Researchers also study the value of hypnosis in the treatment of physical and psychological conditions.

Hypnotherapy has proved effective with phobias, anesthesia, and especially attitude behavior modifications.  It can create the all-important positive attitude necessary for everything from attaining one’s goals to speeding healing.  It can enhance learning, develop motivation, build confidence, and improve relationships.

A highly competent hypnotherapist, working with a client-subject of average suggestibility, can bring about significant achievements.  Relaxation can be induced to relieve the pressures of stress at home and at work, or to alleviate insomnia.  Additionally, problem habits can be brought under control.  Examples of typical problem habits include smoking, overeating, and unwanted mannerisms.

Hypnotherapy has been emerging as an exceedingly valuable discipline in helping people achieve their goals and objectives.

The following provides an easy to understanding analogy about how hypnosis can be used to change behaviors that my be limiting ones capacity to achieve goals and objectives.

Rapid Relief by Getting To the Root of the Problem

Pretend for a moment, that your mind is like a lawn, and that a problem in life is like a weed in that lawn.  Most lawn is healthy green grass, but even some of the best cared for lawns are going to have a few weeds.  Weeds are challenging because they are so difficult to eradicate.  Think of this healthy green grass as the positive qualities about yourself.  Think of the weeds as the things you would like to change about yourself.

Grass has shallow sturdy roots, whereas, the roots of weeds, though also sturdy, go much deeper.  This is why when you try to remove a weed by mowing it off or pulling it up, you never get its entire root.  Thus, the weed is likely to come back, frequently propagating more weeds than when you started.

Taking this example a little further, imagine the above drawing divided it into three distinct areas as follows:

  • The area where the roots are in the soil is analogous to your subconscious mind.
  • The area where the grass is green is analogous to your conscious mind.
  • The area where the weed that stands out from the lawn, for everyone including ourselves to see, is analogous to that part of ourselves that we would like to change.

The part we desire to change might be an undesirable habit like biting your fingernails, addictions like smoking or overeating, or fears like a fear of public speaking, or even fears of success or failure.

Most approaches just deal with addressing the outward behavioral symptom or symptoms.  These approaches are like mowing the weed, often assuring its return.  In the short term, you might feel better, however because change was not addressed at the subconscious level, you soon feel frustrated as the behavior returns.  Going on a diet, losing the weight, and then gaining back as much or even more weight is like mowing over the lawn’s weeds only to have the weeds return in greater numbers.

Hypnotherapy will address the problem at the root, by helping you to see or experience the situation, thought, or idea that started the problem differently.  Consequently, the root is removed and the problem ceases to exist.

How a problem evolved, into what it is today, is represented by the stack of bricks to the left.  The brick on the bottom represents the first situation in your life (usually forgotten) where the problem started.

Some situation, thought, or idea that occurred in your past was like a seed in the above example of the weed.  By itself it did not amount to much, but given the right circumstances, enough reinforcement over subsequent days, months, and years (the next three layers of bricks), it developed into significant and bothersome symptoms, represented by the top layer of bricks.  Each brick on the top layer could represent a different symptom such as, compulsive eating, smoking, low self-esteem, drug abuse, out of control stress, etc.  These are analogous to the parts of a weed that infiltrated the lawn.

Hypnotherapy removes the bottom brick (the power of the initial event) that holds up the stack of bricks.  If the bottom brick is removed or re-structured, the brick mass crumbles, along with the symptoms and any associated problems.  At the same time, hypnotherapy alone should not be viewed as a replacement for psychotherapy in instances where psychotherapy is indicated or has been prescribed.