What is hypnosis?
Hypnosis is difficult to define and the definitions have changed over the years as more is discovered about it.
Hypnosis is a therapeutic technique in which clinicians make suggestions to individuals who have undergone a procedure designed to relax them and focus their minds.
Psychology Today offers another useful description
Hypnotherapy is guided hypnosis, or a trance-like state of focus and concentration achieved with the help of a clinical hypnotherapist. This trance-like state is similar to being completely absorbed in a book, movie, music, or even one’s own thoughts or meditations. In this state, clients can turn their attention completely inward to find and utilize the natural resources deep within themselves that can help them make changes or regain control in certain areas of their life.
So we know that hypnosis is about a sleep-like state but people are not asleep. We know that it’s pleasant and relaxing and we know that it is about suggestions that influence change. Although it does have a placebo effect just like going to the doctor can, it is more than placebo as it has an effect on the brain as seen through neuroimaging studies.
What can hypnosis help with?
Many research studies have shown that hypnosis can help with:
- Pain management
- Weight loss
- Fears and phobias
- Smoking cessation
- Some skin problems
- Sleep problems
- Irritable bowel syndrome
and much more.
How can I get hypnotised?
1. Hypnosis face to face with a hypnotist
Traditionally hypnosis is delivered face to face. This can be in groups or to individuals. The hypnotist or hypnotherapist starts by making assessments and gathering information. A treatment plan, the number of sessions and contract are agreed.
Getting the client into the trance-like state involves an induction. There are many techniques that could be used. One old fashioned technique that most people think of is a dangling watch held in front of the client’s eyes. This is a fixation technique. Other similar fixation inductions are still used. Conversation delivered in a hypnotic way can also induce hypnosis. Every hypnotherapist is different. Consequently, procedures will change according to the training of the hypnotist, the client’s needs and the issue that is being helped.
Once the client is in hypnosis (this can take seconds or minutes). Then positive suggestions can be given directly. Alternately delivery is indirect through stories to help the person make the changes that they want to make. There are also techniques for reorientation at the end of the session.
One to six sessions is a common number of sessions required but this will need to be discussed with the hypnotherapist before treatment starts. Some hypnotherapists also give their clients audio recordings to listen to at home between sessions.
Advantages of face to face hypnosis are that the sessions are tailored to the needs of the individual client and the client is able to see and build rapport with the therapist. In addition. it has been found that hypnosis is a good adjunct to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Therefore using both methods can produce better results.
2. Hypnosis via audio recordings
Probably the second most common method of delivering hypnosis is via audio recordings. In the past tapes and CDs were used. Today recordings are made digitally in an MP3 format. Subsequently, recordings can be listened to from smartphones and tablets. They are made to meet the needs of the general population and depend on the skills of the hypnotist.
Advantages are that they are very cost-effective, easy to access from websites and online shops and can be used as many times as the client wants. Many people state that they are helpful. Nevertheless, some researchers question their effectiveness especially if the person has not been taught self-hypnosis e.g. Eason and Parris (2019). Yet some other studies state that they are effective e.g. Forbes et al (2000) and Van Barrevelt et al (2015) and Scholz (2000). As the quality of recordings can vary its recommended that trained and experienced hypnotherapists recordings are used. More research is also needed as better digital recordings are now used compared to older taped versions.
Recordings can also be given to clients to listen to between sessions with a hypnotherapist.
Sometimes hypnosis is called self-hypnosis. But generally self-hypnosis means that there is no hypnotist present and the client finds a way of getting themselves into a trance-like state to give themselves the positive suggestion needed to change something.
Self-hypnosis can be used for many things included self-development, motivation, sports improvement, habit reversal etc. Studies have shown self-hypnosis to be helpful for children and adults.
This method doesn’t cost much; only the time and effort to learn and practice. It can be learnt online through videos, from reading books on self-hypnosis or through being taught by a hypnotherapist.
Disadvantages are that it takes a lot of determination and practice. Its argued that some issues are better dealt with by going to a hypnotherapist.
4. Hypnosis via Apps
Increasingly hypnotherapists are developing apps. These apps often cover health and wellbeing issues.
They are relatively cheap to buy but the same as the audio recordings, they are generic.
Disadvantages are that they need regular practice.
5. Hypnosis delivered via Virtual Reality (VR)
Hypnosis delivered through virtual reality is not readily available to everyone yet, so could be costly. It has been found to help with some health-related issues.
6. Hypnotherapy online
Hypnotherapy delivered online uses videoconferencing systems. This means that the client and hypnotherapist can see and hear each other. It has gained increasing popularity over the last 10 year. Furthermore, since the COVID 19 pandemic, there has been a surge of hypnotherapists around the world offering hypnosis online.
It’s a cost-effective delivery method. It’s easy to access if you have the right equipment and a fast broadband connection. You can choose an expert to meet your specific needs and you can access hypnosis at any time of the day.
However, the client needs to be okay with technology and have the correct equipment and broadband connections. Sometimes the picture can ‘freeze’ or people can become disconnected so additional sessions may be needed. Although people can come out of the trance-like state on their own, safety precautions will need to be put in place. Some people worry about the ability to get good rapport online but this is not proven to be any different to face to face hypnosis. Furthermore, telemedicine has been used around the world for many years and is encouraged by the World Health Organisation.
In conclusion, hypnosis is a proven treatment for many conditions. Its an accessible complementary therapy. Consequently, as there are several different delivery methods there are a variety of delivery methods so providing lots of choice for the person.
Linda at Awaken the Change provided face to face, hypnosis online via videoconferencing and audio recordings.