What Is Hypnosis Therapy And Is It Right For Me?
Updated June 10, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Melinda Santa
Many people may think of hypnosis as something that a magician does during a magic show or something that is known as stage hypnotism, which is used in movies or the theatre. It is, however, a real treatment that is used in hypnosis therapy. There are many misinterpretations about and contentions with this psychological therapy.
What Is Hypnosis?
"Hypnosis is a state of highly focused attention or concentration, often associated with relaxation and heightened suggestibility" (Source: psychologytoday.com). For a person to benefit fully from hypnosis, several elements need to be in place.
1 - The person being hypnotized needs to trust the hypnosis therapist. Since the person being hypnotized will be vulnerable in an unconscious state, they need to know that no harm is coming.
2 - There needs to be a complete focus of attention on the hypnosis therapist's voice. This focus needs to turn off all outside distractions, including the individual's thoughts and any noises in the immediate environment.
3 - Relaxation is a key to hypnosis. The individual's entire body, from head to toe, needs to be in a state of relaxation. Since all focus will be on the hypnosis therapist's voice, this will ease the body's relaxation.
4 - When in hypnosis, the individual also needs to imagine what the hypnosis therapist suggests and recommends.
The willingness to being hypnotized supports this type of therapy.
If the individual going into this therapy is undecided or doubtful of the hypnosis process, it may not work for them. Since trust and relaxation are part of this process, the individual needs to be willing and trusting of this method.
When individuals are in a relaxed, hypnotic state, they are more open to beneficial suggestions than otherwise. When an individual has an issue that is not improved by traditional therapy, hypnosis therapy may be a great way to improve their healing process. Suggestions that were ignored or held as skeptical in traditional therapy may be embraced with hypnosis therapy.
How Does Hypnosis Therapy Work?
The optimistic ideas that individuals are given when hypnotized are called "post-hypnotic suggestions." This title is that the ideas are given to take effect after they come out of the hypnotic state. Since the individual is in a relaxed, focused, trance-like state, anything said to them during this time will be their chief focus so that they will go quickly and directly into their mind. This direct flight into their consciousness will give those ideas a place to grow and prosper.
Contrary to what many people think, hypnosis will not make individuals do things they wouldn't do if not hypnotized. Individuals are totally in control of their actions during this time. To be hypnotized, an individual needs to have "hypnotizability."This means that they are receptive to being hypnotized. Some people do not have this trait, and, therefore, hypnotism may not be an option for them. Hypnosis therapy can work for those who are open to being hypnotized and have hypnotizability.
There is no guarantee that hypnosis therapy will work, even for the willing individual. It is usually performed over multiple visits to strengthen the suggestions that are given.
What Does Hypnosis Therapy Help With?
Therapists may use hypnosis to take care of many states, including generalized anxiety disorder, phobias, panic disorder, pain, stress, breaking negative habits, helping with insomnia, remembering forgotten incidents, irritable bowel syndrome, some skin ailments, weight loss, and to stop smoking.
Anxiety: Since the overall environment of hypnosis is relaxation, it is a perfect atmosphere to combat anxiety. Significant physical outcomes include slower breathing patterns, decreased heart rate, relaxed muscles, calm voice, and rapid eye movement (REM). These physical states can be great tools for when the individual is in an anxious situation.
Phobias: A phobia is a groundless fear of a specific circumstance, item, or activity. Hypnosis helps by retrieving the fundamental source of the phobia and removing the person's habituated reaction to that circumstance, item, or activity. Many times a phobia grows out of a traumatic incident that the individual may not even remember. In hypnosis, they can uncover that traumatic incident and, with the post-hypnotic suggestion, alter the person's habituated reaction to a more positive, calm reaction.
Panic Disorder: When in the relaxed state of hypnosis, the therapist can offer coping skills to use when feeling panicked. The therapist can offer words of support such as, "You feel calm despite your uneasiness" or "You are safe despite your worry."
Pain: Hypnosis therapy for pain is not about taking the pain away. It's about relaxing the individual and transmitting their attention away from the pain. The post-hypnotic suggestion, in this case, would be to have the individual think about a happy place, thereby focusing their attention on something positive and relaxing instead of something negative and painful. The therapist may offer a suggestion such as "You may continue to feel some pain, but you will be much less stressed about it, much less worried about it, and will feel calmer about it."
Stress: Hypnosis, as we have seen, puts the individual into a calm, relaxed state. While in this state, tension is released by the use of focused and guided imagery. Stress comes from many different places, and if it is not managed, it can affect many areas of life, including sleep, mood, and relationships, and can manifest as physical symptoms. As in the hypnosis for anxiety, phobias, and pain, the therapist gives post-hypnotic suggestions that become coping mechanisms when the individual comes out of hypnosis.
Negative Habits: Bad habits can start at a very young age as something that served a need at the time. It is repeated because it may be comforting or becomes familiar and comfortable. As that child becomes older, those habits that may have been acceptable in childhood may be considered negative or inappropriate as they get older. Our subconscious fears things it doesn't know about, so it reverts to these habits in moments of stress. Post-hypnotic suggestions, in this case, will be to replace the negative, inappropriate habit with more positive and acceptable behavior.
Insomnia: Since hypnosis and sleep have similar attributes, it makes sense that hypnosis can be used for insomnia. Hypnosis lessens the activity of the central nervous system, which can sometimes be a cause of insomnia. The sensory part of the nervous system controls sensory input, which can also cause insomnia. In hypnosis, the activity and sensory input are lessened when the individual is relaxed and trance-like. The relaxing state can encourage sleep to come.
Recalling Forgotten Memories: The brain is a remarkable organ, and the mind can remember everything an individual has ever gone through. It is stored in their memory bank. Hypnosis can help with retrieving these memories when it is in a deep trance-like, relaxed state.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Although not a cure-all, hypnosis has been shown to help with the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. When in the relaxed hypnotized state, post-hypnotic suggestions of calm imagery and awareness are given to the individual. These suggestions have helped with symptoms including abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and overall wellbeing.
Weight Loss: When in a relaxed hypnotic state, the therapist can suggest healthy, positive behaviors that will replace bad eating habits and other bad habits that lead to weight gain. These suggestions will help the individual when they are in a situation that involves making good vs. bad food choices. This is not a 100% weight loss solution but can help when added to a healthy diet and exercise program.
Smoking Cessation: Many therapists who use this approach to help individuals quit smoking use the relaxed hypnotic state to associate with smoking negatively. Smoking in itself is a negative, but people who smoke feel positive effects, so they need to hear negative suggestions. Suggestions may include disagreeable smells, tastes, and feelings about smoking. This therapy is usually done in combination with other therapies and medical methods.
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