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Hypnosis is magic

At least, that's what a lot of people seem to think. As a result, you get the same kinds of attitude to hypnosis and hence to hypnotherapy as you get to magic in general. That's to say: -

  • some people don't believe in it at all
  • some people are sceptical but prepared to give it a go in case it works
  • some people believe in it

All of these attitudes are unhelpful. For hypnosis to be used intelligently in therapy, we need to get rid of the myths and have an idea about how this very valuable tool really can work to produce effects that can seem magical, until one understands what is really happening.

Does hypnotherapy work?

It doesn't work. You do. And, in hypnotherapy, the therapist works too, to help you achieve the outcome you need. Most people have heard the old saying, 'You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink.' It's the therapist's job to know where the water is, to do the leading and also to have skilled ways of encouraging 'the horse' to want to drink when it gets there. But if the horse has decided that it would rather be a mule, the drinking may not happen. If you fundamentally don't want to change, then the most skilled hypnotist in the world can't make you. Anyone taking hypnotherapy sessions needs to give this notion proper thought.

How about one session wonders?

A lot of people know someone who went to a hypnotherapist and ‘it worked – just like that’. Many others have heard stories about this effect. ‘Just one session and a lifetime’s habit was out the window!’ A lot of hypnotherapists have publicized their own work playing on this kind of claim. Is this myth and dishonesty? No it isn’t – not all the time, at least. It does happen. It is possible that it will happen for you. However, it is statistically rather less likely than that you will take several sessions to deal with your concern properly – not multiple sessions as in some old-fashioned therapies, but several.

Will it work for me?

Behind this question is often another one: can I be hypnotized? The answers to both these questions are slightly more complicated than most askers of the question would like.

  • Firstly, yes you can go into a hypnotic state because you already do so every day. Daydreams, fantasies, simply staring into space for a few moments thinking of nothing in particular, going on automatic pilot whilst driving or doing the washing up, getting absorbed in a task or a sport or a hobby or just dreaming in a half asleep state – these are all states that are closely similar to light hypnotic trance.
  • Secondly, you do always have a choice: no one can be commanded to go into a hypnotic state if they want to resist. You don’t have to let it work.
  • Thirdly, standardized hypnotic procedures are not suitable for everyone. Good hypnotherapy is flexible and doesn’t apply a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, which is why for example hypnotherapy recorded on CD only works for some listeners.
  • Fourthly however, there are hypnotic techniques that will suit anyone willing to co-operate, allowing them to get the benefits of using hypnosis to solve challenges. It is the job of a skilled and trained therapist to find the right techniques. Some techniques may match the stereotypical image of hypnosis, whilst some may seem more like casual talk or storytelling for example.
Is hypnotherapy a stand-alone treatment?

No. Therapists using hypnosis need to be skilled in brief psychotherapy and solution-focused counselling methods and have a clear idea of the larger patterns of human need and resources. Hypnosis is a tool. Like any tool, its use depends on the skill, knowledge and understanding of the operator.

How does hypnotherapy work?

To answer this question fully would take a whole book. To give a brief idea, however, most explanations of how hypnotherapy works involve communication with what is sometimes called ‘the unconscious mind’.

To understand this better, one needs to realize that there are now many scientific studies that establish the existence of intelligent unconscious patterns in the brain. These are ways of governing daily habits of functioning and adapting those habits to context. In a sense, all of us depends on these automatic programmes – we are all a series of co-operating systems that come out of both biology and training. It’s only when these collaborating patterns go wrong or need changing that we need to ‘get through’ to the unconscious levels.

Just thinking about a concern and trying to use ‘willpower’ is not often effective – because we are more than our thoughts. Good therapy needs to take into account the very real power of ‘the unconscious’ and communicate effectively with it. This is where the tool of hypnotherapy is enormously valuable.

Is hypnotherapy an alternative therapy? Do I have to change my beliefs?

Hypnotherapy is best described as a complementary rather than alternative therapy and indeed can be entirely compatible with standard allopathic treatments. Any reputable practitioner will be willing to work alongside doctors. Equally, hypnotherapy is compatible with most reasonable belief systems, whether spiritual or otherwise and properly trained therapists do not require clients to change their beliefs and embrace unusual ideas.

Do I have to go into a helpless trance state?

No. Whilst some clients choose to go into what are thought of as deeper levels of trance, most hypnotherapy is highly effective at what feel much more like light to medium levels, at which the client is fully aware of everything that is happening.

What happens in hypnotherapy sessions at the Tonbridge centre?

There is no standards pattern, since as implied above, we don’t apply a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach and work with clients on the basis of individual need. However, hypnotherapy is most commonly given in the context of solution-focused counselling sessions, where the client sits opposite the therapist in a comfortable chair in which it’s possible to relax deeply. (Alternative arrangements can be made for those with different needs.) The therapist will discuss methods of relaxing and giving imagery and will only use more formal methods involving closing of eyes etc. if this is appropriate.

Is hypnotherapy a con?

Yes, it is – in a way. A confidence trick: or a trick that uses confidence. But also a trick that, when practised by properly trained therapists, is actually based on sound science and understanding of how to use the unconscious levels of the mind effectively to make very real and useful changes.


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