Hypnotherapy or hypnosis is a type of guided psychotherapy that can be used as an alternative or complementary treatment to medicines. It leads you to a "trance" or altered state of awareness using extreme focus, concentration, and relaxation to achieve an elevated state of consciousness and mindfulness.
It is used to alleviate various mental/emotional issues and psychological distress such as anxiety, depression, grief, sleep disorders, weight loss, and self-destructive tendencies such as eating disorders, substance abuse, or suicidal ideations.
Techniques used in hypnotherapy:
During a hypnosis session, people are guided through a process to induce a trance-like state that helps them become deeply relaxed, hyper focus and respond more readily. Hypnotherapy utilizes the heightened awareness spawned by the hypnotic state to help you focus on an issue more intensely (Erickson, M.H., 1954). Hypnotherapy utilizes techniques including:
As the name suggests, Direct Suggestion involves suggesting a required behavior or outcome to the individual in the hypnotic state. This is possibly the simplest and most common technique used by hypnotherapists for guiding a patient to the desired outcome.
This technique is most suitable for modifying your behavior or working towards the desired result. It's also most effective when practiced over several repeated sessions to reinforce the changes you want to make.
This technique often works well with different sorts of people because it requires minimal mental effort from the subject. The direct suggestion also favors the fact that the patients' minds are more open to new ideas and suggestions when we are in a relaxed state of mind.
Parts Therapy is based on the notion that a person's personality is made of various aspects, which in turn are responsible for the patient's distinctive behaviors, and all these different parts have a purpose.
This technique works because it helps the patient understand and uncover parts of themselves that they may have never known, considered, or repressed. Once they've discovered and comprehended these parts of themselves, they can create or initiate better behavioral changes they desire.
Unlike the Direct Suggestion technique, which initiates development via external suggestions from the therapist, Part Therapy is a more personal and introspective approach, wherein the answers and changes often come from you.
Regression involves guiding the patient to explore and uncover past memories or experiences that may be the cause of internal (mental/emotion) conflict or negative behavior.
Unlike simply reliving the memory in their minds, regression guides the patient through past experiences in a safe and comfortable space. This makes it more likely for a positive action to ensue. By diving in on specific memories or experiences that caused their internal conflict, therapists can help the patient to change their perspective, mindset and free themselves from its grasp.
Regression therapy works because it uncovers the root of negative behavior and helps the patient understand why they think and act the way they do.
Ways to induce a hypnotic state.
Despite their different modes of approach, all of these techniques share one primary requirement: getting the patient into a hypnotic state.
Hypnosis is often described as being in a trance; it relaxes the subject and helps them put their guard down. This then makes it easier for the therapist to access their subconscious.
There are several ways to induce a hypnotic state in an individual, including:
- Relaxation techniques - these include making yourself comfortable, laying down, relaxing muscles, counting down in your head, controlled breathing, speaking in a soft tone.
- Eye fixation or Fixed-gaze induction - looking into your therapist's eyes or following the watch's movement.
- Creative visualization - deliberate or guided visualization of specific scenarios.
- Disrupting balance and equilibrium - creating a loss of equilibrium typically using slow, rhythmic rocking.
- Misdirection - the patient may be misdirected to the visualization of themselves on a beach. The therapist has directed them from an unpleasant vision towards a pleasant one.
It's important to keep in mind that different people will respond differently to different techniques. You and your therapist will need to work together to find one that is best suited for you.
Things to consider.
While Hypnotherapy is generally pretty safe and well-tolerated, that does not mean it doesn't pose any potential risks, including:
People who are very impressionable may experience a decreased sense of control while under hypnosis.
Some people may experience side effects such as headaches, dizziness, or anxiety.
Hypnotherapy can produce distorted or even false memories in some cases.
Hypnotherapy may not be suitable for people who experience symptoms of psychosis such as delusion or hallucinations.
What you can expect?
Your therapist will explain to you the process of hypnosis and set your treatment goals. Then your therapist will typically talk in a gentle and soothing tone while describing images that create a sense of security, relaxation, and well-being.
When you're in a receptive state of mind, your therapist will suggest ways for you to accomplish your goals, such as "you do not smoke" or "you sleep easily." Your therapist may also help you visualize vivid and meaningful mental visuals of yourself achieving your goals.
When the session is completed, either you can get yourself out of hypnosis on your own, or your therapist will help end your state of relaxation.
Contrary to how hypnosis is typically portrayed in movies or television shows, you don't lose complete control over your actions while under hypnosis. Moreover, you generally remain quite aware of and remember what happens during hypnosis.
Eventually, you may even be able to practice self-hypnosis, wherein you induce a state of hypnosis in and by yourself. You can utilize this skill as and when needed, for instance, after a chemo session.
While hypnosis can be effective in helping some people cope with pain, anxiety, and stress. Cognitive behavioral therapy or dialectal behavioral therapy are considered the first-line treatment options for such conditions. Hypnosis in adjunction to other therapies may also be used as part of a comprehensive program for weight loss or quitting smoking.