“Hypnosis started when the first mother kissed it and made it better.”
Occasionally I suggest clinical hypnotherapy as a treatment option to a client and find they look at me as though I’ve suggested I’ll wave a magic wand around to make them feel better. Which is ridiculous. It’s closer to the Force than Fairy Godmother Magic. (‘These are not the droids you are looking for…’)
Okay, I’m kidding. (A little. There’s a little bit of Fairy Godmother Magic in there.)
Seriously though, I do understand many of the misgivings my clients have about hypnotherapy. I had a few myself before I was trained, and I actually remember thinking on my first day, “this is fine, I’m happy to put other people into a hypnotic state, but I’m not comfortable going under myself.” How hilarious! I had some misconception that the hypnotic state was extraordinarily vulnerable.
On the bright side, this now means I really do get it when clients aren’t sure about the idea – most people do feel extraordinarily vulnerable at the thought of being in a trance state. It’s easiest to explain it like this: you know how sometimes you can drive from one place to another and not remember the details of the road? Or you sit in front of the window dreaming, but not be looking at anything in particular? Those are trance states, and they are exactly how hypnotherapy works.
It feels a little like focused day-dreaming, where you’re extraordinarily relaxed. In this highly relaxed state you’re aware of what’s happening the entire time and able to hear every word spoken to you, but the thinking and analytical part of your brain goes into rest mode. When that happens, we can access the unconscious part of your mind to support significant change at the deepest levels.An important point to clarify:
An important point to clarify:
There’s a difference between hypnosis and clinical hypnotherapy. Hypnosis is the process of simply being put into a trace state, during which suggestions are made. This can be helpful, but rarely works with the underlying cause of the issue. Clinical Hypnotherapy is delivered by practitioners trained and qualified in psychotherapy and counselling, and therefore much of the session is spent working on what might be behind the issue before we even begin hypnotherapy.
“Clinical hypnotherapy is a kind of psychotherapy. Hypnotherapy aims to re-program patterns of behaviour within the mind, enabling irrational fears, phobias, negative thoughts and suppressed emotions to be overcome.”
- Dr Hilary Jones
Hypnotherapy bypasses the thinking mind and therefore exceeds even willpower as an agent of change.
I love the way a well-known psychotherapist and hypnotherapist explains this process:
“Though I certainly do not uphold hypnotherapy as the panacea for all psychological ills, it offers any mental health practitioner with an alternative intervention. Like having another tool in the shed, it may be the first one selected, or perhaps a second or third choice if other tools don’t do the job. I like to think of hypnotherapy as an adjustable power tool with various and sundry drill bits and adaptable screwdriver heads. It can be used to repair and build a number of things, but it’s useless if a hammer is called for.” – David Reid
As a good example of the tool analogy, let’s talk about using hypnotherapy to treat anxiety. Clinical hypnotherapy is one of my primary tools to treat anxiety but it’s one of several rather than the only tool required. When clients present with anxiety, it’s rarely simple fear, worry or panic without an antecedent cause. An important part of the process is exploring triggers for their anxiety. What causes anxiety episodes? What historical point in the client’s past may have initiated onset, such as trauma or grief? What physiological processes are in play? What other strategies will support healing? As the answers are explored, healing can begin. Just like other tools I use, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Solution Focused Therapy or Psychodynamic Psychotherapy, Hypnotherapy supports healing.
Most of my clients with anxiety experience significant improvement in their quality of life. They usually enter treatment with a self-reported level of anxiety of around 10, and by the time they finish treatment (which usually takes around six sessions) they’ve often gone two weeks without an episode and self-report that they permanently sit around a level 2.
I’m sure that kind of shift feels magical to many of my clients, even if there is no actual magic involved.
Which reminds me, I wonder how many of you have seen Moana? Without sharing any spoilers, there is a verse sung during the most poignant moment of the film that without fail reminds me precisely of the process of hypnotherapy:
“I have crossed the horizon to find you
I know your name
They have stolen the heart from inside you
But this does not define you
This is not who you are
You know who you are.”
There is an incredible shift that happens with hypnotherapy…one in which as a therapist I can remind my clients that they are not defined by their pain, anger, depression, fatigue, anxiety, grief or any other disorder. Deep in their unconscious, they already know who they are.
If there’s any ‘magic’ in hypnotherapy, it is this: it supports the process of sweeping aside the barnacles of behaviour that have clung and formed habits, side-passing negative thought patterns to reveal the beautiful self that was always there underneath.