How does it work?
There are all sorts of weird and wonderful ideas about hypnosis, but you don’t need a snake in a basket to unlock the depths of your conscious. A common confusion is that hypnosis involves putting you to sleep or in a subconscious state, but you stay completely awake in a deeply focused state of mind.
Hypnotherapy is a practical form of therapy; so before you start paddling in your mind’s deepest puddles, you’ll have a detailed consultation with your therapist. This will involve setting realistic goals and opening up a little about your problem. The therapist will ask about when it started, when it gets worse, how it affects you and probably try to unearth some of the emotional triggers that are putting your wellbeing in the firing line.
You may not be hypnotised at all in your first meeting. When the time comes to start busting your troubles your therapist will perform an induction. This is when he or she brings you into that all-important state of deep focus. Normally, this takes around 15 minutes – some people are more responsive to hypnosis, meaning that they can be hypnotised more quickly and more deeply. Your therapist might ask you to do some visualisations, for example imagining you’re in a certain place, or you might be asked to count backward or fix your undivided attention on a certain object or part of the room. All these are ways to clear your mind of the day-to-day clutter, distance your senses from the physical things around you and bring your thoughts into 20:20 focus.
There are two main techniques used to change your mental patterns once you’re in this suggestible state: regression and future progression. In a nutshell, regression is when your therapist will talk about your past experiences and try to get a good understanding of why you are suffering with your particular problem. In some cases, a therapist might try to plant new, more positive ideas in your mind, to take the emotional sting out of the events and spring you loose from their grip.
Future progression is about visualising the empowered, proactive way you want your life to be after hypnosis. Your therapist will give you positive suggestions and instructions while you are in your focussed state. If the hypnosis works well, these suggestions will stay with you long after you’ve left the therapy room – giving you extra mental strength to change the way you behave or fight those fears.
At the end of the session, your therapist will gradually draw you back to full awareness by raising the volume and intensity of his or her voice. Sometimes ‘anchoring statements’ are used at this point, such as “you can speak in public knowing that there is no need to be afraid”. This will reinforce the work done while you were in the hypnotic state and make sure your conscious mind and your subconscious are working as a team to help you beat your problem.
After your session you might have a crystal clear memory of the whole thing or you might not remember a single word your therapist said. But don’t worry if you’re a bit hazy, this has no direct bearing on whether or not the hypnotherapy will help you.
Although some therapists claim to be able to help you ‘stop smoking in one session’, you will normally need a course of four to six sessions on a weekly basis to see a positive benefit for the most common problems of addiction or phobia. For more serious problems, you may need to continue with the therapy for much longer.
Sometimes, as part of the treatment, a hypnotherapist will teach you ways to hypnotise yourself. This gives you the tools to continue to manage your problem, particularly at the time it’s happening – so, if you’re afraid of spiders, you can run through the self-hypnosis exercise before you tackle the creepy-crawly in the tub.
Is it for me?
If you’re very sceptical about hypnotherapy, you’re less likely to be a good candidate for the treatment. While this might seem like a catch-22, it’s because no-one can hypnotise you if you don’t want them to (which is reassuring, let’s face it).
It’s thought that about 85% of people can be hypnotised – some simply don’t enter the focussed state of mind that is needed – and since we are all unique, it’s not surprising that the therapy will work better for some people than others.
If you’re being dragged down by any of the following problems, a hypnotherapist could try to lift the mental weight:
- Anger management
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
- Panic attacks
- Low self-confidence
- Low self-esteem
- Psoriasis or eczema
- Drug, alcohol or nicotine addiction
- Eating disorders
- Problems with sexual performance
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Hypnotherapy can also be used to ease the stress of childbirth. Some practitioners also claim to be able to increase the size of a woman’s breasts through hypnotherapy… which we haven’t tried out for ourselves yet, but when bikini season comes around we might just give it a go.