Take a minute to think about all the images that crossed your mind when you heard the word “Hypnotherapy”. Do you see someone being hypnotized to give up all their money? Or do you instead see someone revealing all their suppressed thoughts and feelings, having no control over what to share? What about instances where one forgets things about his or her identity. Modern media presents hypnotherapy in a manner that only feeds into developing myths about the practice.
Hypnosis can be viewed as a trance-like mental state in which individuals experience heightened awareness, attentiveness, and suggestibility. It involves entering a deep state of relaxation. Hypnotherapy, on the other hand, is the practice of hypnosis in clinical setups. The most powerful feature of hypnotherapy is that it connects the conscious and unconscious minds together. The conscious mind includes our thoughts and perceptions whereas the unconscious mind is a realm of fears, violent motives, unacceptable sexual desires, immoral urges, and selfish needs.
It is important to note that all hypnosis is self-hypnosis which means that the willingness to participate and the presence of self-control are extremely important. It is an altered state of consciousness that engages your imaginative ability. Either you are in the process of hypnosis or you are not, there’s no trial or in-between stage. The practice of hypnotherapy has also evolved over the decades. While it used to be done in an authoritarian and commanding manner, now hypnotherapists practice with mutual respect and gentleness. The focus has shifted towards aiming to empower the client.
One of the key factors of hypnotherapy is hypnotic susceptibility. This refers to the ease with which one can be hypnotized. Some individuals can easily adapt themselves to the process of hypnotherapy while some might question the rationale behind every step. This depends on individual factors like existing mental conditions, age, gender, imagination, and visualization. Environmental factors like aroma in the room, and whether the client is comfortable in the chair or the decor of the room should also be taken into consideration.
Hypnotherapy requires about 8-10 sessions. It begins with a pre-induction education which includes clarifying myths and educating the client on hypnotherapy. Then the suggestibility test takes place. This can be done via a variety of methods like arm levitation. This is when the client is asked to raise his arm in the air- the higher they raise their arm, the deeper he/she enters into the state of hypnosis. Another method that can be used is called thirst hallucination. This is where the client is made to believe that they are feeling thirsty, irrespective of whether they are hydrated or not. Few other ways of hypnotizing are verbal inhibition, body immobility, ”posthypnotic-like” response, and selective amnesia. The next step in the hypnotherapy technique is the induction phase where the client is prepared to transition into hypnosis. This is done via the eye strain technique or body scanning followed by deepening. The eye strain technique involves the client to produce a great deal of strain on the eye muscles by having them look at a certain point with the eyes and without moving the head. It is important to ensure that the eyes feel tired after some time. Doing the body scan is a powerful relaxation technique that can be used to relax or fall asleep fast.
A hypnotic suggestion is provided after this like “you are capable” or “yes, you can quit smoking”. They are made to update your subconscious mind with new adaptive behaviors. In the last step, the client is awakened and the session is terminated gradually.
If you ever visit a hypnotherapist for a session, here’s what you should expect:
The therapist will explain the method of hypnosis and take note of your treatment goals. Then he/she will talk to you in a gentle soft tone and explain images that might create a sense of relief, safety, and emotional well-being. When you’re in a responsive state, the therapist will tell you ways for you to achieve your goals, such as counting calories to lose weight or reducing cravings to smoke.
When the session is over, either you come out of hypnosis or your therapist helps you end this state of relaxation. Unlike how hypnosis is shown in movies, you don’t lose control of yourself under hypnosis and always remain aware of what happens during hypnosis.
Hypnotherapy has varied benefits. It helps in building good habits, resolution of trauma, pain and stress management, goal persuasion, during surgery and labor, building positive moods, and overall emotional and mental health well-being. It also helps to manage anxiety, fear, hot flashes during menopause, phobias, dementia, cancer, and insomnia. Although the use of hypnotherapy remains controversial in some circles, many professionals believe that it is efficient. You can also practice self-hypnosis after consulting with a hypnotherapist. For instance, many cancer patients are taught this skill to manage pain after chemotherapy sessions. It involves setting a goal and framing it with a positive essence and then working towards it.
Clinical & Research Intern, PsychLine.in