HYPNOSIS AND HYPNOTHERAPY - a patient's guide
Hypnosis is often used to help people give up smoking, to lose weight and increase self esteem. This article describes the theories and evidence behind its use.
hypnosis and hypnotherapy
- Hypnosis is the induction of a trance-like state, and can be traced to its use as a healing therapy in ancient Greece
- These days it is mainly used to treat negative emotional and behavioural patterns such as phobias and smoking
- Studies have proven hypnosis to be an effective relaxation tool
- About 10 percent of the population cannot be hypnotised
What is it?
Hypnosis is defined as inducing a trance-like state which is responsive to suggestion from a hypnotist or therapist carrying out the hypnosis.
It is mainly used as a healing tool to help break difficult emotional and behavioural patterns such as phobias, self-doubt, and smoking addiction.
Some practitioners use hypnosis as an aid to psychotherapy due to an individual being more susceptible to changing behaviour when they are in a relaxed state.
Hypnosis was used as a healing aid in ancient Greece, and was revived in the eighteenth century.
Freud began using hypnosis to treat hysteria in patients but abandoned its use when it also brought up powerful emotions in patients.
Hypnotherapy resurfaced again in the 1950s and since that has become more accepted by the medical community.
Hypnosis has been beneficial for many people who have used it, but the reasons for this remains unknown. Some scientists believe it may help to release natural mood-altering substances like endorphins which can help to change pain sensation. The main theory, however, is that it helps control the unconscious mind responsible for involuntary reactions such as food cravings.
Hypnotherapy can also help explain the cause and reason behind a problem which may help a person change their normal reactions to it.
Hypnotherapy is a useful tool for stress relief and relaxation. There is good evidence from properly-controlled studies that hypnosis can reduce anxiety.
What can it be used for?
Hypnotherapy is widely used to help reduce nicotine cravings and to break drug addictions. It is also common for people to use hypnosis for weight loss and to help overcome phobias such as fear of flying, and to increase self confidence.
It is also used to compliment conventional medicine in diabetes care, pain management, reduction of bleeding in haemophiliacs, to reduce asthma and hay fever attacks, and irritable bowel syndrome.
It won't cure cancer, heart disease or infections but some people may find it effective as pain relief.
Hypnosis has been proven to reduce anxiety, panic disorders, insomnia, especially when it is combined with cognitive behavioural therapy.
Hypnosis has also been used for many other concerns such as:
- Breast enlargement
- Wart removal
- Skin blisters
- Food allergies
- Multiple sclerosis
- Parkinson's disease
- Cerebral palsy
- Morning sickness
Hypnotism has also been used in an attempt to recall past lives or events from the womb. However, this is not considered part of mainstream hypnotherapy.
How does it work?
During the first hypnotherapy session, the hypnotherapist will normally ascertain your ability to be hypnotised. (About 10 percent of the population cannot be hypnotised).
Certain exercises can be used to determine your suitability including falling forward and backward, and imaging your hand is so heavy or can not lift it up. Those who strongly respond to the power of suggestion are believed to be the best candidates for hypnosis.
Other tests can be used such as the eye roll test in which you are asked to roll your eyeballs upwards and close your eyelids over them without moving the eyeballs down. If you can do this you are considered a good candidate for hypnosis.
Another test involves staring at a small light in a dark room. Many people believe the light is moving and those who see it change direction the most are thought to be suitable for hypnosis.
Once your suitability for hypnosis has been ascertained, the therapist will ask you what behaviours you are looking to change so they can establish the course of the sessions.
There are a number of techniques used to induce a trance-like state. These include watching a pendulum swing back and forth with suggestions that your feel sleepy, and counting backwards.
As you relax and become less conscious, the therapist will ask you to imagine yourself in peaceful surroundings such as a beach or watching a sunset.
Once this process is completed the hypnotist will begin making suggestions in an effort to change a negative behaviour. You may be told they have the ability to give up smoking or to lose weight and that every time you want a cigarette or fatty food it will make you feel ill.
A hypnotherapy session will normally last for one hour, and the number of sessions will depend on the person's problem and how easy it is to change it.
Some patients are taught self hypnosis at the sessions so they can continue the work in their own environment.
In self-hypnosis, a person attempts to enter a light trace to enable them to relax and concentrate on a particular goal. Often tapes are used in self hypnosis to help an individual concentrate on messages they want to manifest in their lives.
When attempting self hypnosis find a comfortable spot and remove glasses and loosen any tight clothing. If you have a tape let that guide you through hypnosis and suggestions. Stay in the same trance-like state until the tape has finished.
If you have not got a tape, repeat positive autosuggestions to yourself slowly three times, then remain in a trance-like state for 20 to 30 minutes.
A good time to make positive autosuggestions is just before drifting off to sleep and as you are waking in the morning.
What are the risks?
Hypnotherapy is considered safe for anyone no matter what your condition. However, it may not have the desired effects.
Some people avoid hypnotism because they are concerned they may be "brain washed" into acting out of character, such as people in entertainment stunts who are made to pretend to be animals, etc.
However, a hypnotist cannot make you do something that you do not want to do, or is against your own personal ethics.
Although hypnotherapy will not harm you, it should not be used in place of conventional medicines for physical health problems. In these circumstances hypnotherapy should be used to compliment normal medical treatment.
It also not recommended for mental health illnesses caused by chemical imbalances in the brain such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, severe depression or personality disorders.
In some cases hypnotherapy can aggravate psychological problems by bringing back old, and painful memories. It has also been accused of inducing "false memory syndrome" in which a patient may be encouraged to remember an experience of physical or sexual abuse which may never have occurred.
Finding a hypnotherapist:
There are no regulations governing hypnotherapy, however, it is wise to choose a therapist who has also trained as a counsellor or psychologist and who has had experience with treating your particular condition with hypnosis.