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Hypnotherapy FAQ

Hypnotherapy FAQ


What is Clinical hypnosis?

Hypnosis is a way to access a normal, but altered, state of consciousness. It is similar to what occurs when you are intently focused on a task to the exclusion of all other stimuli. You are still clear and aware and alert. Hypnosis focuses and concentrates the mind to increase its power, just as a magnifying glass will focus and increase the heat of the sun’s rays.

Clinical hypnosis, also known as hypnotherapy, involves the use of therapeutic techniques to achieve certain goals while an individual is in a deep hypnotic trance. Three general clinical techniques are used:

* To encourage mental imagery, or imagination. This taps into the brain’s own ability to use imagery to create reality. For example, an individual with an ulcer would imagine it looking red and inflamed, then create a mental image of it becoming normal and healthy-looking again.

*Suggestion therapy. This is used to encourage self-improvement or to solve a particular problem, for example, to help quit smoking or lose weight.

* To reveal deep-seated, underlying issues that may be causing psychological distress. Memories of past trauma may be unearthed and the therapist uses these to recreate an event and replace unhealthy behaviors with healthy ones.

What is clinical hypnosis used for?

Hypnosis is very effective for enhancing performance. It helps people overcome mental or emotional blocks that may be impeding progress towards goal achievement, and helps focus on desired outcomes. Such “peak performance” training is useful in a number of areas, including academics, sports, and vocations. Hypnosis has been successful in treating a number of psychological and physical problems.

What happens during hypnosis?

You become deeply relaxed and thoughts are sharply focused. Blood pressure lowers and heart rate slows, and brain wave activity changes. The body is completely relaxed and at ease. You are awake, but the conscious mind is less alert, while the unconscious becomes more focused.

How does it work?

There are different opinions about how hypnosis works. It creates deep relaxation in the brain, and the heightened focus filters out other stimuli to allow access to a different, extremely peaceful yet alert state of perception. It is a fascinating phenomenon that has been recognized and used for thousands of years. The fact that some people are more easily hypnotized than others suggests that a particular hypnosis trait may exist in some individuals. Others believe that strong interpersonal and cognitive components affect how an individual will respond to hypnotic suggestion. Research does indicate that hypnotic communication alters physiological and neurological function, but the exact nature of that change is still unknown.

Is it the same as stage hypnosis shows where people do crazy things?

The relaxation technique is the same, but the outcome and the purpose are very different. The stage performance builds on the desire of the volunteers to participate by playing a part. Stage hypnosis essentially has people doing exactly what they wish to be doing. They simply respond to the hypnotist’s suggestions, but are not receiving clinical therapy.

Can anyone be hypnotized?

Some people can relax more easily than others, and some can enter a deep trance more quickly and more deeply. A small number of people are able to go into trance that is deep enough to allow hypnosis to be used instead of a general anesthetic. About 80 to 85 percent of people can at least go into a light trance, allowing them to access benefits of hypnotherapy. Even the 15 to 20 percent who do not enter even a light trance state can benefit from the relaxation involved and become more receptive to constructive therapy.

Can children be hypnotized?

Children respond well to hypnotic suggestion, particularly for things like behavior problems or self-esteem issues.

What things can hypnosis help?

Hypnosis has been used to treat a wide range of conditions: smoking cessation, anxiety, pain management, weight control, managing fears or phobias, and insomnia. It is an effective adjunct treatment in psychoanalysis for accessing the inner child, healing mind/body, visualization, regression techniques, and addressing deep emotional issues. It is also effective for self-improvement, superior sports performance, skill development, improving self-confidence, enhanced creativity, and increasing motivation.

What is the history of hypnosis?

Trance states have been used throughout history by traditional healers and shamans, but it wasn’t until the 1700s that the scientific community began to pay attention. An Austrian physician by the name of Franz Anton Mesmer theorized that magnetic fluids in the body caused an imbalance that led to illness. He used magnets and hypnotic techniques, and was among the first to provide scientific evidence to support clinical hypnosis as a therapy technique. During the next two centuries, hypnotherapy became increasingly popular, with many respected psychologists and psychiatrists incorporating it into their clinical practice. Clinical hypnosis is now a recognized therapeutic treatment, and its use is supported by a number of professional associations worldwide.

Does it put me to sleep?

No, you are not asleep, but in a deeply relaxed state. There are differences in brain wave activity when you are asleep and when you are in a trance.

Will I remember anything afterward?

Some people remember everything that occurs while they are in a hypnotic trance, others remember very little. How much influence the therapist’s suggestion has on what is remembered depends on the individual.

Does hypnosis reveal the truth about things I’ve forgotten?

Hypnosis can help you remember things you believe occurred. You may be able to re-experience an event, but it is still only the way you remember it. You may not be recalling it correctly, and hypnosis only helps with recall, not identifying the truth.

What does hypnosis feel like?

It is an individual experience. Many people say it is no different from the normal waking state. Others say it is an extremely calm sensation of relaxation, similar to that felt just prior to falling asleep. Most feel more alert and aware, as opposed to the zombie-like state many associate with hypnosis.

Will the therapist be able to control my mind afterwards?

No loss of control happens during hypnosis, and the therapist does not control your mind. Hypnotherapy puts you in a focused and less distracted state. The therapist makes suggestions, but generally clients will only act on these suggestions if they are consistent with their own value systems and goals.

Can it harm me?

The hypnotic state occurs naturally, so it is generally safe. However, it is important to work with a clinical hypnotist who is ethical and competent and who will work in accordance with the client’s belief systems to offer beneficial and acceptable suggestions. A proper diagnosis prior to treatment is required, because hypnosis, if used incorrectly to address a psychological condition,can lead to symptoms that become worse. There have been a few cases where hypnotherapy has encouraged development of false memories.

Can I get trapped in a hypnotic state?

No. You always come out of the trance state, usually in a short time. At any time a clinical hypnosis client can choose to ignore a suggestion and become consciously alert again.

Where can I learn more?

Canadian Federation of Clinical Hypnosis:


American Society of Clinical Hypnosis: http://www.asch.net/

Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy: http://www.elevatedtherapy.org.uk

Hypnotherapy, the University of Maryland:




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