Ancient civilizations often practised hypnosis during religious and ritualistic ceremonies. Today we know that hypnosis is more than ceremonial with the value of hypnotherapy confirmed by scientific study. Facilitated by a clinical hypnotherapist, this unique therapy treats both medical and psychological issues.
What is hypnosis?
In simple terms, hypnosis is a state of deep relaxation. It is an altered state where the analytical or critical part of our mind is bypassed, allowing access to the subconscious mind, our personal memory vault for everything we’ve experienced.
Physically, a person’s brain waves slow down during hypnosis, which can be observed using an electroencephalogram (EEG). Heart rate also slows during hypnosis.
Surprisingly, we go in and out of hypnosis all day long. It is called waking hypnosis. When we daydream, drive on autopilot or just zone out, we are experiencing states of waking hypnosis, providing us with moments of calm.
What is hypnotherapy?
Hypnotherapy is a collaborative process that helps a client to examine a physical or emotional issue, past or present. While in a state of focused attention, hypnotherapy facilitates the resolution of issues in a timely and efficient manner.
In 1958, the American Psychological Association and the American Medical Association approved and recognised the benefits of hypnotherapy. Today there are many medical facilities that offer integrated health care, which includes clinical hypnotherapy.
An example of this integrated approach was carried out by Dr Fred Janke of the University of Alberta’s Department of Family Medicine in Canada, and clinical hypnotherapist and instructor Sherry Hood of the Pacific Institute of Advanced Hypnotherapy. They worked with a child who required a painful medical procedure where anaesthetic could not be used. Hood hypnotised the child over the phone while Janke carried out the procedure, and as a result the child experienced minimal trauma or pain, even laughing out loud at some points during the procedure.
Health benefits of hypnotherapy
Hypnotherapy is often sought as a means to cope with physical or emotional issues or gain more control over negative behaviours.
Clinical studies cite hypnotherapy as an effective treatment for a variety of health conditions including irritable bowel syndrome, chronic pain, tension headaches and anxiety.
Hypnotherapy may also benefit those who would like to
- quit smoking
- deal with depression or anxiety
- treat a sleep disorder
- manage phobias
- lose weight
- improve their athletic performance
- ease stress related to medical or dental procedures or surgeries
- cope with grief or loss
- address past traumatic experiences
It’s thought that hypnotherapy’s effectiveness is in its ability to allow individuals to address past thoughts, emotions and feelings without encountering barriers such as the awareness of pain.
Further, hypnotherapy may be instrumental in addressing emotional issues that often manifest themselves physically, such as with tension headaches. As Woody Allen’s character in the movie Manhattan says, “I don’t get angry, I grow a tumour instead”. A funny statement for a movie, but all too true in real life; science can now prove that our bodies react negatively to suppressed emotions.
Why choose hypnotherapy?
Clinical hypnotherapy is a natural, non-invasive, chemical-free solution to many problems, and can often help to supplement traditional treatments for a variety of conditions.
Clinical hypnotherapists help their clients to access their subconscious minds (their personal memory vaults) directly, allowing the root cause of the problem to be revealed, therefore leading to a timely resolution. Individuals receiving hypnotherapy will often begin to see results within four to 10 sessions.
Short-term pain—such as during labour, dental procedures and minor medical procedures—can be managed well with hypnotherapy. Those with long-term pain, too, can definitely benefit, as clients can be taught how to “dial down” the pain to a more tolerable level.
Hypnotherapy is also excellent for stress management, something nearly everyone in today’s society could benefit from.
How to choose a clinical hypnotherapist
There are currently no nationally recognised standards or certification in clinical hypnotherapy, so doing your homework is important. Choose a therapist with the following credentials and/or experience:
- membership in a professional association such as the International Medical and Dental Hypnotherapy Association, the Australian Hypnotherapists Association or the Australian Association of Clinical Hypnotherapy and Psychotherapy
- training or experience in counselling techniques and/or further education in mental health, health sciences or social sciences
The next time your stress levels become challenging—whether due to illness, work or other life stressors—know that there is an alternative treatment in the form of hypnotherapy.
Myths and misconceptions
Myth: a clinical hypnotherapist is the same as a stage hypnotist.
Fact: clinical hypnotherapists are not entertainers. Rather, they therapeutically address physical and emotional issues of past and present.
Myth: a clinical hypnotherapist can make you do things under hypnosis you wouldn’t typically do.
Fact: all hypnosis is self-hypnosis. Nobody can be hypnotised against their will, nor can they be “made” to do anything while in a state of hypnosis that they would not normally do. Clinical hypnotherapists do not control their clients’ minds. Clients are in control at all times and can easily choose to stop the therapeutic process at any time.
Myth: hypnotherapy is associated with the occult.
Fact: this particular belief was falsely perpetuated on 35 mm celluloid in Hollywood. Hypnotherapy is not entertainment but rather an effective therapeutic technique that has helped many people.