Hypnosis is popularly understood as a form of entertainment—stage hypnotists use focused attention combined with suggestions to have the willing act in often embarrassing ways to excite and amuse audiences.  If you have ever attended or witnessed a stage hypnosis act, you may have made certain assumptions, had skeptical questions, or perhaps even walked away scratching your head at what you had just experienced.  Common inquiries of those who have been on stage may include “What did it feel like?  Were you really hypnotized?  Do you remember anything?”.  Skeptics may search for clues that the entire performance was a fallacy and make comments such as “I saw you crack a smile” or “That wasn’t real”.  Still others may leave feeling mesmerized, ironically a term named after an early contributor to hypnosis, Franz Anton Mesmer.  Regardless of observer response, the fact remains that individuals participating in stage hypnosis perform according to the suggestions given by the hypnotist.  Stage hypnosis demonstrates the power of the mind to create change.

In fact, hypnosis is scientifically verified as an effective technique that can promote human change.  In a treatment setting it is used for issues such as anxiety or stress reduction, improving motivation and confidence, addressing fears and phobias, resolving grief and loss, changing habits, and increasing self-esteem. With hypnosis, we can create desired changes in behavior and encourage mental and physical well-being.  http://www.apa.org/topics/hypnosis/media.aspx

So what does hypnosis look like in therapy?  There are often myths to debunk that have emerged from theatrical depictions or misunderstandings.  The truth is that most people enter a trance state on a daily basis- think about the sensation of losing track of yourself while driving, watching television, or brushing your teeth.  There is no mystical loss of consciousness, giving over control to a hypnotist, or getting stuck in a hypnotic state.  A hypnotist cannot force somebody to do something against their moral code or will.  Even those participating in a stage event do so willingly with the expectation they are going to act silly.  Hypnosis is not sleep; the person being hypnotized is under full control of himself/herself.

Hypnosis in therapy guides clients into a naturally-occurring, wonderful relaxed state where one is much more able focus than in the normal waking state.  After inducing a trance, a hypnotherapist may then use imagery, relaxation, or processing depending on the goals of the client.  As an integrated tool in therapy sessions, the therapist and client work together to explore the subconscious mind.  People usually emerge feeling relaxed and energized.

Hypnosis is not a substitute for therapy!  It is an intervention used by a trained hypnotherapist who is also a licensed professional.  Throughout history and across contexts, hypnotic strategies have been employed by famous therapists including Sigmund Freud, Alfred Adler, Carl Jung, and Carl Rogers as effective tools to help people reach their goals and promote emotional, cognitive, and behavioral change. http://www.historyofhypnosis.org/.  In the words of Milton Erikson, “You use hypnosis not as a cure but as a means of establishing a favorable climate in which to learn”.

If you are considering using hypnosis to help you reach your treatment goals, take steps to ensure that you are working with a qualified provider who has been trained in the use and limitations of clinical hypnosis.  http://connecthypnotherapy.com/10-questions-to-ask-your-potential-hypnotherapist

“When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this: you haven’t” –Thomas Edison

Leanne Christian is a Licensed Professional Counselor.  She became a Certified Hypnotherapist by the National Guild of Hypnotists in September 2015.  She uses Hypnotherapy in conjunction with other evidenced-based interventions to help her clients reach their treatment goals.

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