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What is Clinical Hypnosis?
Clinical Hypnosis is a technique that uses attention and imagination to help people make changes in their lives. Research has demonstrated its effectiveness in managing anxiety and depression, treating symptoms associated with traumatic experiences, and reducing or coping with various kinds of pain. Hypnosis has also been found to be quite helpful in habit change (e.g. overeating, smoking) and relapse prevention. Over the last 20 years, a great deal of research has shown that the use of hypnosis can significantly improve treatment outcomes for a variety of emotional/behavioral disorders—and a number of medical conditions as well.
How is Clinical Hypnosis Used in Therapy?
Although clinical hypnosis is sometimes the primary mode of treatment in behavioral health settings, it is more often used as a tool to enhance and support more traditional forms of talk-therapy and medication. In the context of therapy, clinical hypnosis can be used to help clients learn to relax and to better manage physiological symptoms–for example, pain, cravings for food or drugs, panic and agitation, loss of appetite or sleep. Hypnosis can likewise help people to more comfortably talk about difficult situations and past traumatic experiences. Hypnosis is often used to address phobias, anxiety, sexual problems, alcoholism, smoking control, speech disorders, weight control, chronic pain, self-esteem/ego strengthening, and memory/concentration improvement.
How Many Sessions are Required?
Most applications of clinical hypnosis require more than one session. Often, clients are taught a version of self-hypnosis and are provided with recorded sessions that they can listen to on their own. Again, clinical hypnosis is often used as one tool among others used as part of a general course of psychotherapy or counseling. When hypnosis alone is used to address a particular concern (for example, weight loss, or headache management) most people find 4 to 6 sessions sufficient to reach their goals.
As with any other kind of therapy, the client may decide to opt out of using hypnosis at any time. Although clinical hypnosis can be a valuable tool to help you make positive changes in your life, it is hardly the only tool that is available! There quite a few other approaches and techniques that you may pursue, either instead of or in addition to hypnosis.
Is Clinical Hypnosis safe? Are There Side Effects?
Used appropriately, clinical hypnosis is generally considered an extremely safe technique for managing a variety of client concerns. Side effects are rare, but generally are limited to feelings of drowsiness or dizziness upon re-alerting after a hypnosis session.
Stage Hypnosis and Media Portrayals
Most of us are familiar with examples of hypnosis from movies and television shows, or have seen a stage magician hypnotize audience members as part of a performance. Media and stage hypnosis is usually portrayed as being a magical state of mind control. Depending on the story or the performance, it may be presented as a miracle cure, a lie detector, or even a gateway for supernatural forces. These portrayals of hypnosis bear about as much resemblance to clinical hypnosis as a comic-book superhero bears to a real human being.
Do I Go to Sleep?
Most people actually remain awake and conscious throughout a session of clinical hypnosis. The process often resembles a guided imagery relaxation exercise, the primary differences being that the therapist will customize the imagery to suit your particular needs, and will offer suggestions and encouragement to support your treatment goals. Rather than “going to sleep,” the experience of clinical hypnosis is usually one of focused attention/concentration on one’s internal experiences.
What’s All This Talk About Trance?
As noted above, clinical hypnosis is generally described as a state of focused attention on one’s inner experiences. The word “trance,” when used in the context of clinical hypnosis, refers to this state of focused attention. Depending on the depth or intensity of your trance state, you may experience some interesting sensations and heightened openness to suggestions—for example, you may find it easier to imagine a variety of experiences. Again: most people remain fully conscious throughout a hypnotic trance, and are fully aware that they can choose at any time not to respond to particular suggestions or images.
Will You Make Me Do Something I Don’t Want to Do? Or Confront Problems I Don’t Want to Talk About?
In a word: No. Again: Most people remain awake and conscious during hypnosis; there is usually a very real awareness of watching oneself and choosing which of the therapist’s suggestions to follow. You will be able to bring yourself out of trance at any time.
What if I Can’t Be Hypnotized?
The vast majority of people—perhaps all people!–can by hypnotized. Like so many other abilities, some people seem to be more talented than others when it comes to responding to hypnotic suggestions, but most people have at least some ability to experience and benefit from hypnotic trance.
What if I Get Stuck in Trance?
No-one has ever become “stuck” in a hypnotic trance state. Really. Some people have reported feeling so comfortable in trance that they were a little reluctant to “come out”–rather like the resistance most of us feel when it’s time to get out of bed on a Monday morning. And some find that it takes them a few minutes to feel fully alert and present after a session of clinical hypnosis: after relaxing in a chair for half an hour or more, most people to find that they need to stretch and move around a bit before they feel their ordinary, waking energy again.
Be sure to ask your therapist if you have questions or concerns regarding the use of hypnosis
(or for that matter any other therapeutic technique)
as part of your treatment!