There are so many myths and rumours circulating, that many people find it hard to take clinical hypnosis seriously.
This is primarily because we are used to seeing “hypnosis” as a stage show or form of entertainment, where the hypnotist controls somebody else’s actions for our amusement.
Clinical hypnosis on the other hand, is the use of trance (a state of deep relaxation) for therapeutic purposes.
Further damage was done in the nineties, with a number of people claiming they had “recovered” memories of abuse or molestation buried deep in their subconscious (now known as “false memory syndrome”).
Skeptics also point out the fact that just about anybody can do a weekend of training and call themselves a “hypnotherapist”. And while this may be true, clinical hypnosis is best employed by a health professional, with training in psychotherapy. This is because hypnosis in and of itself is not considered a therapeutic approach; rather it is a tool used in conjunction with evidence-based methods such as Cognitive Behaviourial Therapy (CBT).
Personally, I have Masters degrees in Social Work and Counselling, and have done further training in Ericksonian hypnosis. Milton Erickson, considered the father of modern hypnotherapy, was an American psychiatrist and the founding president of the American Society for Clinical Hypnosis. His work remains influential in a number of therapeutic fields, including strategic family therapy, solution focused brief therapy, and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP).
The credibility of clinical hypnosis has increased dramatically over the past century, thanks to a large body of research. In fact, both the British and American Medical Associations approved the use of hypnotherapy as far back as the 1950’s.
Today, evidence has shown that clinical hypnosis is useful in reducing pain, anxiety, depression, and helping with sleeping problems and sexual difficulties – to name just a few.
Your Mind is Like an Iceberg
The easiest way to explain how clinical hypnosis works, is to think of your mind as an iceberg. The portion above the water is the conscious (thinking) mind, while the submerged – and far larger – section, represents your subconscious (feeling) mind.
When we want to change certain habits in our lives, we decide on a course of action with our consicous (thinking ) mind and begin to pursue it. The trouble is, even though our conscious mind is aware of the benefits and reasons, our subconscious (feeling) mind is not convinced and doesn’t “feel like” making the changes! Most of us can attest to the fact that using willpower alone to stop smoking or biting our nails, or to exercise more, usually fails miserably. This is because lasting change happens at the subconscious level.
Hypnosis is simply a natural and effective way of accessing the subconscious mind – the area that stores your feelings, attitudes, memories and behaviours.
Clinical Hypnosis: What to Expect
Your therapist will usually begin by asking what has brought you to therapy, and exploring some of your personal history and background. Once your goal/s have been ascertained, your therapist will discuss a treatment plan with you, and what it is likely to involve – for example, the number of sessions required, and if they feel clinical hypnosis might be helpful for you.
The clinical hypnosis process is about making you feel relaxed, safe and secure. By talking to you in gentle, soothing tones, and describing images, your therapist will help you to enter a peaceful state known as “trance”. You are still awake and fully in control, but the benefit of trance is that your abilities to imagine, remember, be creative, and respond positively to suggestion, are heightened.
While you are in trance, your therapist will continue to speak in a soothing manner, suggesting ways for you to achieve your goals, and asking you to visualise what success looks and feels like – because feelings are a powerful motivator for change. At the end of the session, the therapist will guide you out of the trance state.
If you would like to find out more about clinical hypnosis, and if it could work for you, please make an appointment with me.
Author: Linda Thomson, B Soc Sci, M Couns, M Social Work, Member of AASW.
Linda Thomson is a Brisbane Psychotherapist with many years of experience in counselling, as well as training, mentoring and providing professional supervision to other mental health professionals. Linda has extensive training in and a passion for sex therapy as she believes that it is such an important and often misunderstood part of our lives.
To make an appointment with Brisbane Psychotherapist Linda Thomson, please call Vision Psychology Mt Gravatt on (07) 3088 5422, or you can book online.