What is hypnotherapy?
Hypnotherapy simply means therapy using hypnosis. The word “hypnosis” was coined around 1840 by Dr. James Braid from the Greek word for “sleep”, but it’s actually quite different from sleep. A hypnotic “trance” is more like the time after you wake up in the morning but before you get out of bed, when you’re relaxing and enjoying the warm comfort of your bed, and yet you’re fully aware of everything that’s going on around you. And it’s also rather like one of those times when you’re driving somewhere on “automatic pilot”; you arrive safely but you have no recollection of how you got there, because your thoughts were somewhere else.
When you’re in this kind of relaxed trance state, your imagination and your subconscious mind can operate more freely than when you’re trying to control everything at a conscious level. And this means it’s easier for you to imagine different possibilities and get a sense of new ways of doing things. In other words, it’s easier for you to make positive changes in your life, which is essentially what therapy is about.
Is it safe?
Many people have seen or read about stage hypnosis, and are worried that (even in hypnotherapy) they might be given a hypnotic suggestion to do something strange, embarrassing or dangerous. Actually this is never a problem, for two reasons:
- When you are in a therapeutic trance, you are always fully aware and in control of what’s going on (just like when you’re waking up in bed), and if the therapist suggested anything you were not happy with, you would immediately be able to come out of the trance, or simply decide to ignore the suggestion.
- As a therapist, I have signed up to the ethical code of various professional bodies (see the About page) which forbid me to practise any kind of stage hypnosis or do anything harmful to a client. So if I tried to manipulate someone with hypnotic suggestions I would risk losing my licence as a therapist.
Can it help?
Because hypnotherapy is a general way of helping you change how you think and access your inner potential, it can help with many different issues, whether about problems from the past or concerns for the present and future. People have found it helpful for stress, anxiety, panic, phobias, unwanted habits and addictions (e.g. smoking, overeating, alcoholism), disrupted sleep patterns, lack of confidence and low self-esteem, fear of examinations and public speaking, allergies and skin disorders, migraine and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and many other conditions.
And in case you’re wondering “What if I can’t be hypnotised?”, this needn’t be a problem. Only about one person in eight doesn’t experience trance, and even then hypnotherapy may be of some use. And whether you experience a light trance or a deeper trance, the level you experience will be right for you, and you should start to experience some benefit after just a few sessions.
In practice, like most therapists, I combine hypnotherapy with other counselling and psychotherapeutic techniques, and I only use hypnotherapy if this is what you are looking for. So you are always in control of the kind of therapy you are receiving.