Hypnotherapy: A modern, flexible therapy


By Rory Z Fulcher

When people think of ‘going for therapy’, usually they think of psychotherapy and counselling as a first port of call. For many people, just the word ‘therapy’ invokes images of laying on a chaise lounge and pouring your heart out to a Freudian-looking character who’s making notes and asking you to tell him all about your childhood. However, that’s not always the case. In fact, there can be a lot more to therapy than just talking. Hypnotherapy is a prime example of this…

What is hypnotherapy?

Hypnotherapy is the use of hypnosis along with the application of tried-and-tested therapeutic approaches. These approaches run the gamut of the main schools of psychology, for instance, there’s cognitive hypnotherapy, behavioural hypnotherapy, analytical hypnotherapy and even regression hypnotherapy. However, it doesn’t stop there! As well as drawing from those well-established therapy schools, such as with hypno-analysis and hypno-CBT/REBT, a professional hypnotherapist also has the ability to make use of other therapy modalities, such as Mindfulness, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), within the hypnotherapy process

As the hypnotherapist is trained to use a number of existing therapy interventions, you might then wonder, and quite rightly, why they don’t just ‘skip the hypnosis part’ and get on with the therapy with the client ‘out of hypnosis’(like every other talking therapist)? However, there is a good reason to perform therapy within the hypnotic state. Within hypnosis, there is less conscious resistance to change. In fact, there is less resistance to any suggestion that the therapist gives to the client. During a standard (non-hypno) therapy session, as a client, you are constantly weighing up and considering your responses as you interact with the therapist. Sometimes there can be a conscious ‘filtering’ of what you share with the therapist, and sometimes there can be a conscious rejection of what the therapist is asking you to consider doing. In hypnosis, the therapy client is less consciously aware (though not un-conscious), and more reliant on their ‘subconscious mind’ to process the suggestions that are presented to them.

The famous psychiatrist and hypnotherapist, Milton H. Erickson (1901-1980), asserted that our subconscious mind has our best interests at heart. As such, the subconscious mind will only allow us to do what it believes is right and healthy for us. In non-therapy terms, the subconscious mind is the part of us that some call ‘instinct’ and others call ‘intuition’. Fundamentally, it’s an accumulation of all our knowledge, beliefs and experiences, and it’s a lot less easy to change than our conscious thoughts… Unless you’re a hypnotherapist, that is!

With this in mind, the hypnotherapy client, who is not consciously standing in his or her own way, will find they require fewer therapy sessions than if they were to attend counselling or psychotherapy, for example.

What does hypnotherapy consist of?

During a hypnotherapy session, just like with other therapies, a hypnotherapist will talk to you about your problem and what you’d like to achieve. Many professional hypnotherapists can be classified as ‘solution-focused therapists’, as they will help you ‘move towards a goal’, rather than just ‘moving away from a problem’.

After getting sufficient information about you, and also informing you about the hypnosis process, you’ll then experience a ‘suggestibility test’. This is an out-of-hypnosis warm-up activity, where the hypnotherapist will assess how well you respond to simple suggestions, and get information about your preferences in terms of language that they will then go on to use throughout the session. You’ll then experience the ‘hypnotic induction’ process, which simply means the therapist will hypnotise you. There are many different methods that can be used to hypnotise, some of them are progressive and simply involve listening to the hypnotherapist. Others are quicker and involve physical components, and are often known as ‘rapid hypnotic inductions’.

Once hypnotised, the therapist will then deliver a number of different ‘hypnotic suggestions’ relating to your problem or goal. They may also use any number of ‘therapy techniques’, drawing from the different schools of psychotherapy, as well as ‘ego strengthening’. The term ego-strengthening refers to the increasing of self-confidence and self-esteem in clients. Therapists will also often employ ‘future pacing’ (mental rehearsal in hypnosis) in order to help clients prepare for future success, and in some cases will also teach ‘self-hypnosis’ so that they are able to continue reinforcing the hypnotherapy work after the session has been completed.

What can hypnotherapy help with?

Hypnotherapy is able to help clients with any number of issues. In fact, there aren’t many issues that a hypnotherapist won’t be able to help with. Hypnotherapists frequently help clients to reach their ideal weights, stop smoking, sleep better, reduce stress and anxiety, become more confident, and much more. In fact, these topics are the ‘tip of the iceberg’, and the majority of hypnotherapists also work with niche issues on a day-to-day basis, including hypnosis for sports performance, medical hypnosis, hypnosis for specific clinical conditions (such as bruxism, dystonia, migraines, psychosexual disorders, tinnitus), and even hypnotherapists who work with fertility issues (with great success)!

So, although many people think of hypnotherapy mainly for ‘weight loss’ and ‘smoking cessation’, in reality, a hypnotherapist can help clients of all ages, with any number of issues, whether clinical, physical or psychological in nature. Here’s a short list of some of the common issues hypnotherapy can help with:

  • Addictions (alcohol, drugs, shopping, smoking, food, etc.)
  • Anger management
  • Anxiety
  • Blushing
  • Bereavement
  • Bruxism (teeth grinding)
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Depression
  • Eating problems
  • Exam stress
  • Fears/Phobias
  • Hay fever
  • Hypnobirthing
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Low self-confidence
  • Low self-esteem
  • Nail biting
  • Obsessions and compulsions 
  • Pain management
  • PTSD
  • Public speaking
  • Relationship issues
  • Relaxation
  • Sexual problems
  • Sleep problems
  • Skin conditions
  • Sports performance
  • Stress
  • Stuttering
  • Tinnitus
  • Trauma
  • Weight management

How long does hypnotherapy take?

As mentioned above, a hypnotherapy intervention is often relatively brief. The average hypnotherapy client will see their hypnotherapist between two to five times. Contrast this with the average counselling client, who will usually see their counsellor for between six to twenty sessions, and you can see why hypnotherapy is a very attractive option for those seeking therapy. This is also why hypnotherapy sessions often cost a little more than other types of therapy, because less sessions will often be required.

How do I choose a hypnotherapist?

There are many websites out there listing hypnotherapists in your area, yet as with all types of therapy, not all hypnotherapists are created equal. There are different schools of hypnotherapy and some teach more thoroughly, whereas others are more limited in their training approaches. So, when you’re looking for a hypnotherapist, it’s a good idea to check they are experienced in behavioural, cognitive, analytical and regression hypnotherapy as a minimum, and that they are a member of a professional body. Professional bodies such as the NGH (USA/international) and the GHR and NCH (UK) are there to protect the public by ensuring that hypnotherapists are trained to high standards, and follow a professional code of conduct.

Thanks for reading, we hope this short blog has helped you on your journey and you’re now better able to seek out a top quality hypnotherapy practitioner in your area!

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