What is hypnosis?
Hypnosis refers to a collaborative effort between the therapist and client in which the client actively addresses a goal while the therapist acts as guide toward a state of deep, focused awareness. This process has been shown to enhance problem-solving and relaxation as well as to help alleviate psychosomatic symptoms such as IBS, migraines and chronic pain. Habit control for smoking and over-eating can also be enhanced with hypnosis.
These are comments and questions I sometimes hear when I introduce this treatment option to psychotherapy clients and others, and they reveal some of the common misconceptions about therapeutic hypnosis.
“I tried it once – it doesn’t work on me.”
Often this means someone has taken part in a group induction in an entertainment or classroom setting. Hypnosis involves, at minimum, some observation skills and communication techniques that almost anyone can learn, and when they are applied in a demonstration setting, they will be successful only to the extent that that the participant is relaxed and open to cooperating. Ericksonian hypnotherapy involves light trance, and anyone who daydreams, meditates, or goes into “the zone” during exercise has had this experience. Brain wave activity under light trance is almost indistinguishable from waking-state activity. Almost anyone can experience hypnotic trance.
“So, will you make me quack like a duck or something?”
Only if you want to! Ericksonian hypnotherapy is a collaborative activity. Once the client and therapist have identified a goal or need, the therapist uses his or her clinical training to facilitate change at an unconscious level in trance. This is not an induced somnolent state, and clients are not “put under” or out of control and directed by the will of the therapist. Milton Erickson M.D., considered by most in our field to be the father of modern hypnotherapy, believed that trance is the state where learning and openness to change is most likely to occur. Clients tend to find the experience relaxing and pleasant, and these feelings become more accessible for the client in their day-to-day lives.
“I like to stay in control, thank you very much.”
See the previous paragraph.
Can you make me
a) stop smoking?
b) lose weight?
c) get along with my kids/spouse/boss…?
Again, Ericksonian Hypnotherapy is not something that one person does to another. In my practice, I have used hypnotherapy with clients who have chronic pain, insomnia, anxiety, and stress-related illnesses such as irritable bowel syndrome or migraine headaches. It is very effective with people who are committed to eliminating habits such as smoking and binge eating. However, the client must be committed to change. With that commitment in place, client and clinician work together to create a positive experience in light trance that supports growth, change, and discovery.