Frequently Asked Questions on Hypnotherapy
Q1. What is hypnotherapy?
Hypnotherapy attempts to address an individual's subconscious mind, using the power of suggestion for beneficial change. A hypnotherapist uses hypnosis to give relevant, positive beneficial suggestions to help an individual bring about the change they desire. Although hypnotherapy is not the same as sleep (the individual will still have awareness and control), hypnotherapists often require the individual to be in a deeply relaxed state to enable them to use their imagination fully. For this reason, it’s imperative that the individual feels completely comfortable with their hypnotherapist. Hypnosis is a different state of consciousness from being awake or asleep, and many people compare the deep, relaxed state of hypnosis to daydreaming.
Altered states of awareness have been recognised for thousands of years and hypnosis is widely accepted as a beneficial psychological therapy to access our inner potential. Techniques can be used to reveal issues from an individuals past that may be causing them distress, or the approach can be focused more on their present problems. Hypnotherapy can generally help with most emotional problems an individual is finding hard to cope with, and some physical problems can also be effectively treated with hypnosis too, such as IBS and insomnia. However, it’s important for an individual to consult their GP before approaching a hypnotherapist if they suffer from clinical depression, epilepsy or schizophrenia.
Hypnotherapists will often combine hypnosis with other psychotherapy and counselling techniques to benefit individuals. The techniques used will depend on the issue the individual is seeking help for.
Q2. Types of Hypnotherapy
As a client you do not need to understand the different types of hypnotherapy as your therapist will aim to ensure that they use the best methods to suit you as an individual and your particular issues.
As every person is different the best results will be obtained by utilizing the methods that each person will respond to.
Your therapist may have studied and/or trained using a specific type of hypnotherapy or they may have studied a number of different models (or modalities). For example:
• In "Traditional Hypnosis" the therapist gives direct suggestions to the subconscious mind. This type of hypnosis works well with those who accept what they are told.
• In "Ericksonian Hypnosis," the therapist will use metaphors to give suggestions and ideas to your subconscious mind. This can be very effective because it helps to eliminate the resistance to change that may come from the conscious mind.
When you first meet with your therapist and discuss the issues you want to work on they will work out a programme of treatment with you and explain what will happen next. (If you want to find out more information about the different models of hypnotherapy then do ask your therapist).
Most hypnosis cassettes and DVDs use "Traditional Hypnosis" techniques. This is the reason why this method has only a partial success rate as it is not very effective for people who are critical or analytical in their thinking processes.
Q3. Are there any risks associated with hypnotherapy?
Before considering hypnotherapy, you need a diagnosis from your doctor to know what needs to be treated. This is especially true if your condition is psychological (for example, a phobia or anxiety), and you should be evaluated by a psychiatrist. Without an accurate diagnosis, hypnotherapy could make your symptoms worse. Very rarely, hypnotherapy leads to the development of "false memories" made up by the subconscious mind; these are called confabulations.
Q4. Does hypnotherapy really work?
Hypnosis and hypnotherapy have many research studies done showing how effective the method can be for many types of problems and conditions. If it was not successful at all, there would be publications saying so. If you do a general search on any of the medical search sites, such as PubMed, (National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health), Medscape, WebMD, etc. you will see professional medical journals full of entries on the successful use of hypnosis and hypnotherapy. For example, for IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), hypnotherapy has proven to have one of the highest success rates over other treatment methods, with most studies being done after all other methods have failed with very severe refractory cases.
Q5. How does hypnosis work?
Acts at Subconscious Level: Every human being has latent talent to reprogram emotions, attitudes and reactions. Hypnotic suggestions focus on the subconscious part of the mind that accepts them as a new reality as long as the suggestions are framed within the person's belief system, ethical and moral standards.
Access Subconscious through Conscious Mind: During the hypnotic trance the conscious mind leaves a doorway to the subconscious, which allows it to consider and accept new neurological connections, patterns of behavior and thoughts.
Uses Educative/Therapeutic Processes: In a therapeutic hypnotic trance, it is easier to work on issues that are not controlled by the conscious mind. For example, you cannot possibly tell your body to stop the pain. However, with the hypnotic trance and some specific and proven suggestions, you can.
Hypnotherapy as a process may involve few or all of the following:
• Understanding & Reframing the area of concern.
• Relaxation and deep induction(deeply engaged in the words or images presented by a hypnotherapist)
• Responding (complying with a hypnotherapist's suggestions)
• Feeding suggestions
• Returning to usual awareness
• Reflecting on the experience
Q6. What about the idea that Hypnosis can weaken the mind?
Hypnosis does NOT weaken the mind. On the contrary, it helps people use more of their mind’s potential. It helps people access their inner strength. The subconscious mind is protective. Hypnotized people will accept suggestions that are acceptable, and reject suggestions that are not acceptable. Suggestions must be worded in a form and language that the patient’s subconscious can understand.
Q7. What role does the Subconscious Mind play?
The Subconscious part of the mind, or the Inner Mind, controls all of our living functions that keep us alive, as well as all of our automatic behavior patterns. But, the Subconscious is not as easily Communicated with as is the Conscious Mind. Information is imprinted in the Subconscious essentially in three ways: through trauma, through repetition, and through the language of Hypnosis. Thus, Hypnosis is the quickest and most efficient way to impress the Subconscious and imprint changes in behaviors, attitudes, beliefs and feelings. The upshot is that making changes in long-standing, core habits (e.g., eating patterns, smoking, emotional reactivity, coping responses) often creates internal discomfort and stress. Old habits cling and typically resist efforts to change them. This can be because of Conscious conflict about changing, but it can also be the result of conflict between the Conscious and the Subconscious parts of the mind. That is, you consciously may want to change and may have decided to change, but the Subconscious does not know this. If it did, it would help you, but it often has no way of knowing that you consciously want to change. So, it continues to control the old behavioral habits and this creates and perpetuates inner conflict. Once the Subconscious is informed that you want to change, and once it knows that it is in your best interest to be helped to change, it has no choice but to help you change. Then, the two parts to the mind, Conscious and Subconscious, can work together in cooperation with little tension, upset, or stress. Remember, what you can conceive you can achieve, and the Subconscious has a tendency to accept what it imagines as real.
Q8. Why visit a hypnotherapist?
Quite simply, visit a hypnotherapist if there is anything in your life you wish to change. Whether you would like to start doing something you wish to do, or stop doing something that's become a problem.
Q9. Are drugs used in hypnotherapy?
No, not at all.
Q10. What does hypnosis feel like?
Believe it or not, there will have been many times in your life when you have already felt it, but maybe don't even know about it.
If you've ever said to someone "I'm sorry, I missed that, I was 'miles away'", then hypnosis feels just like the bit where you were 'miles away'!
Q11. Does everyone respond to hypnotherapy?
According to the British Society of Clinical Hypnosis (BSCH), it is estimated that 85% of people will respond at some level to clinical hypnotherapy. Some individuals are more likely to respond to hypnotherapy than others and having confidence in the technique helps. Believing change from hypnotherapy is possible is important and if an individual is personally motivated to change, hypnosis is often more likely than if the individual relies completely on their hypnotherapist and doubts whether they have the ability to access their subconscious and make changes happen.
It is important to recognise that it is not possible to hypnotise an individual against their will, and even if an individual is hypnotised, they can reject any suggestion that is not beneficial to them. Hypnotherapy is therefore natural and safe, with no harmful side effects.
Q12. Will this work for me?
Well, there is no way to know for sure, but that goes for other treatments and medications too. But you can rest assured that most people of normal intelligence are fully capable of taking part in this form of therapy. As long as you follow the simple instructions, be open and positive about the approach and process, you should become receptive to the suggestions and obtain improvement. As with any treatment method, there is no magic bullet, nothing in this world works for 100% of those who use it, but that being said, this method has a very high success rate. And since it is completely safe, there is no worry about its effects. At the very least, it will do no harm, at minimum, you will find better sleep and be more relaxed in general, and for most, you will see improvement in your condition, and in many cases for many applications, elimination of symptoms.
Most people realise that this is going to help them, it is nothing scary at all, they have complete control at all times, and we have many, many people who tell us they love their sessions and look forward to the peace and well-being they provide.
Q13. What types of problems can hypnotherapy help?
Too many to list, but including...
• Lack of Confidence
• Social Fears
• Stopping Smoking
• Fear of being sick / Emetophobia
• IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
• Panic Attacks / Anxiety Attacks
• Stuttering / Stammering
• Sex Drive Issues
• Eating Disorders
• Feeling Down
• Shy Bladder
• Fear of driving
• Anxiety and Stress
• Chronic Fatigue
• Low Self-esteem
• Driving Test Nerves
• Vaginismus (Primary Vaginismus and Secondary Vaginismus)
• Premature Ejaculation
• Sexual Problems
• Fear of Heights
• Emotional Problems
• Interview Nerves
• Public Speaking
• Fear of the Dentist
• Long Term Grief
• Poor Self Image
• Nail Biting
• Driving Phobia
• Bruxism (Teeth Grinding)
• Migraines (linked to emotion / stress)
• Fear of Commitment
• Depression (Depressive Illnesses)
Q14. I've tried countless diets, but still can't lose weight or keep it off. Can hypnotherapy help me?
Hypnotherapy for weight control is geared towards finding the reason why a person is repeatedly feeling the need to overeat - whether it be 'comfort' eating, or eating due to stress. Analytical hypnotherapy is by far the best method used here for this.
The other method that can be used for this is suggestion therapy. However, this is really only used for those times when a person is either on a diet, or about to embark on a diet and feels the need to treat themselves to an enjoyable visualisation session.
Q15. I've tried giving up smoking countless times before, why is hypnotherapy different?
Smoking serves a need to the smoker, a basic necessity which is actually laid down very early in their life: the need for 'oral satisfaction'. It is something that must be met.
When the smoker tries to stop smoking by willpower alone, the need is no longer met, and the person can feel anxious, restless, and irritable. Usually the need reinforces itself, and the smoking starts all over again. Curiously, it is this same need which can sometimes cause ex-smokers to put on weight.
Hypnotherapy aims to 'reprogram' that need, and channel its energies into feeling pride and pleasure in stopping the smoking habit. It also aims to counter the possibility of 'symptom substitution', which can lead to overeating, for example.
Q16. Is there any age limit?
Anyone over the age of 18 years can choose to see a therapist. If you are a minor you may need the permission of a parent or guardian and you should talk to your therapist about this. If you are a parent or guardian seeking a hypnotherapist for a child or young person it is best to talk to the individual therapist. There is no upper age limit.
Q17. Should I use hypnotherapy as an alternative to seeing my doctor?
The answer is NO. It is not an alternative to seeking proper medical care. Hypnotherapy is a complementary therapy and should, where needed be used in partnership with conventional medicine. Your physician’s or consultants training in diagnosis cannot be replaced by hypnotherapeutic recordings. Check out all health problems first with your doctor if in any doubt about using any self help treatment.
Q18. I am taking prescribed medication – is it ok to have hypnotherapy as well?
It is likely that when you first meet your hypnotherapist they will ask you about any pre-existing medical conditions that you may have and also if you are taking any prescribed medication. They may well ask you to check with your GP before you start hypnotherapy.
Q19. How many sessions of hypnotherapy will I need?
This will depend upon your individual circumstances. This is something that you will discuss with your therapist when you first meet and many therapists will agree a set number of sessions with you which they will review with you. Depending on the issues you want to address hypnotherapy can often be a relatively short process.
Q20. How long is a session?
An individual session will usually take 50 – 60 minutes and your therapist will make this clear to you at your first meeting. In some cases a session can take longer but you will discuss this with your therapist in advance.
Q21. What happens at the first session?
It is possible that you will feel quite apprehensive about meeting your therapist for the first time – they will understand this and do their best to put you at ease. At the first session they will tell you all about the practical information you need to know and of course you will be able to tell them about your own goals for attending therapy. They will give you the guidelines about:
• How many sessions you will have
• What type of therapy they use
• How much will it cost
• What happens if you miss a session
• If you can contact them between sessions
You will also have the opportunity to ask them about things like their experience and most importantly, decide if you will feel comfortable working with them.
Q22. Will I be unconscious when in hypnotherapy?
No. No loss of consciousness is involved. Individuals will be perfectly aware of their surroundings, including sounds, movements and smells and will be hyper-sensitive to touch. Some individuals will achieve a deeper level of trance than others. However, the results remain the same.
Q23. What happens if I can’t relax?
Your therapist is skilled at helping people to relax and there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way for you to behave. Try not to worry about things like this as this may make you feel less relaxed. This is something you will be led into gently – and your therapist will be aware of your apprehensions.
Q24. What happens if I fall asleep or don’t wake up?
The state of relaxation that you enter is not the same as sleeping – but some people do fall asleep and this is nothing to worry about. You will be in a secure environment and your therapist will be aware of this possibility. Your therapist will also explain about the method that they will use to ensure you are fully aware and ready to get on with your usual activities after the session.
Q25. Will I be aware of what is going on?
Yes, you will. You will hear everything that is said (in fact, for analytical therapy, you will be talking yourself!).
Q26. Will I remember the session?
Another misconception is that you won't be able to remember anything that went on in the session. The truth is that you will be able to remember most of it. Any portions not remembered, will be where your mind has drifted off to some distant thought or memory.
Q27. Can I get 'stuck' in hypnosis?
There is no evidence that anybody can become stuck in hypnosis. The worst that might happen could be that you fall asleep - and wake up unhypnotised! Orne & Evans 3 conducted a famous study where participants were hypnotised, and the experimenter leaves the room under the pretense that there is a problem he has to attend to, the participant is then observed (without his knowledge) to see what happens. The result was that participants spontaneously woke up, the high hypnotisables taking slightly longer to do so.
Q28. How soon can I expect results?
This varies from person to person, some individuals notice better sleep and relaxation the very first time they listen, others notice this comes later. Simply work with the listening schedule if your chosen programme has one. Don’t try to do anything, but simply listen. Impatience is your greatest enemy. Take away the importance of your presenting problem and work with the programme, enjoy it and acknowledge the fact you are doing something different to help you feel better, and to reduce or eliminate the condition..
Q29. Is it confidential?
Yes it is important that you can feel that you can talk about things in complete confidence. Your therapist will not talk about you with others – the only time they might breach confidentiality is if by keeping a confidence it could cause significant harm to you, your therapist or another person – for example if your life is at risk. They will explain about this when you first meet.
Hypnotherapists generally have a Supervisor and it is very likely that they will talk about your case (without disclosing your identity). This is to ensure they offer you the best possible service – a similar process to a doctor discussing your medical notes with a specialist.
Q30. How will I feel afterwards?
After a course of therapy, many people feel invigorated, more confident and enthusiastic about their new outlook on things.
It's very common too, for people to feel a great deal of relief in getting over the issue which had been causing such anxiety, often for many years.
Q31. Is Hypnotherapy guaranteed to make me feel better?
A hypnotherapist will never offer to ‘cure’ you. During your initial consultation you will be able to talk about why you are seeking hypnotherapy and together you will decide on a course of treatment. They will always refer you to your General Physician first for any medical issues.
Q32. How often will I see my therapist?
This is something that you will decide with your therapist. It may be once a week but this is flexible for example you may meet once a week initially and then decide together that you want to meet more or less frequently depending on how you feel.
Hypnosis has fascinated psychologists and medical professionals for over a century and has been subject to a great deal of rigorous testing and research.