Deciding on Hypnotherapy:
Is Hypnotherapy Right for You?
By Mark Bancroft, MA
Helpful Things to Know to Make an Informed Decision
The purpose of this article is provide information to help you decide if, and when, hypnotherapy is right for you. A thorough and detailed analysis of the mechanics of hypnotherapy is not being presented. Rather, the focus is to provide a starting point, or foundation, upon which the reader can become familiar with the basic factors involved with making a decision on choosing hypnotherapy.
GETTING PAST THE CONFUSION
A good starting point from which to begin your decision making process is to know that hypnosis and hypnotherapy are shrouded in a cloud of confusion, mystery and misunderstanding. At the outset the reader should know that "hypnosis" and "hypnotherapy" are speculative terms with no clear and definitive definitions. The definitions you come across will depend on who it is you talk to.
A.) No Clear Definition of Hypnosis:
There is no concrete explanation as to what, exactly, hypnosis truly is or how it works. We can describe hypnosis based on the like-experiences of various subjects; but, one should keep in mind that such descriptions fail to account for the individual's direct and inner experience which is hypnosis. It is fair to say that hypnosis is a termthat is used to label a particular subjective experience. To truly know what hypnosis is, one needs to experience it firsthand. Written accounts are hard pressed to describe the unique, subjective experience.
Hypnosis consists of two primary functions. First of all the hypnotic induction is the method or tool that is used to relax the mind, body, and emotions. In this capacity hypnosis serves as the vehicle which helps an individual reach a balanced, focused, and relaxed state of being. The relaxed state the person enters into is the second, and primary, function of hypnosis. It is the ability to retain a relaxed, balanced, and focused state of inner being for an extended period of time. This relaxed state is generally called "hypnosis". Thus, being "hypnotized" or being "put under hypnosis" is really nothing more than being mentally focused, physically relaxed, and emotionally calm. There is nothing magical or mysterious about it. Hypnosis is, for practical purposes, a relaxed state of being.
Hypnosis proper is not therapy. It is merely a state where the mind is much more clear, focused and relaxed, for an extended duration of time, as compared to normal waking consciousness. Like the surface of a very still, quiet and calm lake on a windless day, the mind is not beset or stirred to and fro by a multitude of surface stimuli (impressions, random thoughts and feelings, assessments, judgments, etc). Yet even while "in hypnosis" you are likely to have occasional, random thoughts. You might attend to a noise you hear in the environment. You might even think things to yourself like, "Did I remember to turn off the computer?", "It feels warm in this room", "I'll need to pick up dinner tonight", "I wonder if Erik will have his homework done by the time I get home". While in hypnosis you don't become a zombie or enter into a coma. You do have fewer and less frequent random and scattered thoughts occupying your mind. Also, your awareness is more centered in the present moment. It becomes easy to momentarily allow the past and future to simply be as you inwardly experience the potential for inner peace and contentment offered in the simplicity and fullness of the present moment.
B.) There are Many Types of Hypnotherapy:
Hypnotherapy, in simple terms, is the moral and ethical application of hypnosis used to support therapeutic healing and self-development purposes. It will help to know that there exists not one type or form of hypnotherapy, but instead there exists numerous different types of hypnotherapy. While some forms of hypnotherapy are similar to each other, some vary greatly. When trying to decide on hypnotherapy, you are well served to know that the particular method by which hypnosis is therapeutically applied, or used for therapeutic purposes, often varies from therapist to therapist. The term "hypnotherapy" is a very generic label which is used to describe anytherapeutic practice which incorporates some form or element of hypnosis.
Just like everyone else in the world, hypnotherapists are at different levels of experience and understanding when it comes to consciousness and the mind. There are some therapists that see the mind essentially as nothing more than a machine, or computer, that is to be programmed (reprogrammed) by the therapist implanting carefully phrased suggestions (software).
Another group of hypnotherapists views consciousness and the mind as a complex, dynamic, and open system deserving the utmost respect. If you were to call and talk to two hypnotherapists who are at different levels of understanding, you would get a very different, and possibly contradictory explanations, as to what hypnotherapy is and how it works. The irony is that a certain amount of confusion surrounding hypnotherapy is generated by hypnotherapists themselves due to varying levels of awareness and understanding about the nature of consciousness.
More important, the reader should know that because of the highly subjective nature of hypnosis, the 'consciousness' of the hypnotherapist will exert a strong influence throughout the course of therapy. Similar to the Copenhagen Interpretation in quantum physics, the dualistic relationship between the therapist ("experimenter") and the client ("experiment") is much more relative than absolute. Your experience and the effectiveness of hypnotherapy will, in some ways, be determined by the quality, or degree of consciousness, that the therapist you are working with brings tothe relationship. It is this understanding that helps account for the differences between the effectiveness of hypnotherapy and hypnotherapists themselves, regardless of the number of years they have been in practice.
In simple terms, keep in mind that in deciding on hypnotherapy, some hypnotherapists bring a very simplistic and rudimentary understanding of consciousness and the mind to the therapeutic relationship. Others are capable of bringing depth and insight to the relationship. These therapists will know and respect the subtleties involved with facilitating healing, change, awareness and transformation to a much greater degree than those less experienced. This subjective consideration can be useful when deciding on hypnotherapy for oneself, for it will likely play an important role in the effectiveness of treatment, transformation, and/or self-discovery. (return to top)
PERSONS MOST LIKELY TO USE HYPNOTHERAPY
We will now look at the five most common reasons people turn to hypnotherapy. These fundamental motivations represent why people are most likely to investigate pursuing hypnotherapy as a treatment, or healing option.
Motivation #1: "I have tried everything else."
A large percentage of people who turn to hypnotherapy do so after having tried other, more mainstream and accepted, forms of therapeutic remedies. Most hypnotherapists are well accustomed to working with clients who have literally tried everything else. The good news is, that when you work with a competent hypnotherapist, he or she may very well be able to address the cause at the inner level from which it originates. A good hypnotherapist will help treat more than just the symptom(s); they will address and work with the underlying cause.
The marketplace is filled with far too many quick-fix solutions for nearly anything and everything under the sun. It is soon realized by many that such solutions typically do not work. While symptoms are commonly addressed, the underlying cause is often ignored, repressed, or simply not dealt with. Hypnotherapy offers a safe and effective method by which to address the cause and illicit transformation at the core level from which authentic change originates.
Motivation #2: Condition, problem, or issue deemed "not serious enough."
Another group of people turn to hypnotherapy to resolve personal problems or dilemmas that are a source of persistent annoyance, but deemed not serious or problematic enough to merit formal psychotherapy, counseling, psychiatry, or medical intervention.
Common examples include: stress release, taking life too seriously, body issues, low vitality, worriment, feeling down (vague but persistent feeling of mild depression or inner sadness), wanting to feel happier or more excited in daily life. Emotional nuances such as desiring to get on with one's life; desiring to stop dwelling on a past relationship or divorce; or to let go of anger and edginess are other typical motivations. Sexual dysfunction and many relationship issues are commonly found under this motivation as well.
Motivation #3: Hypnotherapy used to supplement, enhance, or augment traditional treatment(s)/ (medical, emotional, or psychological in nature).
Alternative medicine and nontraditional healing practices are becoming more popular and accepted in our society. People are taking greater responsibility for their ailments, especially with regard to medical conditions. As a result, a good number of people investigating hypnoterhapy are doing so as a way to maximize the effectiveness of mainstream treatments (i.e. chemotherapy, Prozac, traditional counseling, diet and exercise programs).
Can hypnotherapy facilitate, enhance, or maximize traditional treatments of a physical, emotional, or mental nature? Yes, it can. Why? Because hypnotherapy is acutely adept at involving the person in the treatment or healing process- be it healing of a physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual nature. Nearly anytime you take an objective, externally focused treatment and then consciously include the subjective experience of the patient [experiencer] in the healing process, healing is facilitated. The mental, emotional, and physical states are affected and influenced by one another. You are a "whole system" and this can readily be experienced, especially through hypnotherapy.
First and foremost, when looking to supplement current treatment with hypnotherapy, stand up for your right to take responsibility for your health; be it physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual. Take time and care to do your own research on the matter. Ask questions. Be responsible; be responsive; be informed; be proactive. When you are, you will have a much clearer idea as to when and how much credence to give to the opinions of doctors and psychotherapists; as well as hypnotherapists and other alternative care practitioners.
Some examples of traditional therapies and hypnotherapy working together include:
a.) A doctor prescribes "hypnosis" for patients facing difficulties with weight, smoking, or high stress which is impacting their patient's physical health. In this case hypnotherapy sessions may be covered by one's health insurance, prescribed simply as "hypnosis".
b.) Hypnosis is prescribed or encouraged to help patients cope with the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual negative side effects of orthodox cancer treatments.
c.) A psychiatrist who has prescribed Prozac, or some other psychotropic drug, encourages and supports their patient's desire for hypnotherapy. Hypnotherapy is used as a way to help maximize the short-term effectiveness of the drug, while simultaneously creating a long-term, inner foundation capable of supporting a drug-free life by addressing the underlying cause at the inner level. In this case the drug is used as a short-term intervention to manage the symptoms, while hypnotherapy is used to establish long-term well-being by resolving the underlying cause.
Motivation #4: Hypnotherapy sought for purposes of self-development, improved quality of life, performance enhancement.
The three most popular areas for which people seek hypnotherapy are: weight loss, stress reduction, and smoking cessation. Beyond weight, stress, and smoking lies an eclectic collection of motivations loosely termed "self-development". Under this category one finds hypnotherapy sessions focusing on increasing self-awareness, physical and mental performance enhancement, personal and professional growth, emotional healing, physical healing, spiritual exploration, etc.
Hypnotherapy is extremely effective when applied to the areas of self-development, personal and professional growth, awareness, healing, etc. The reason for this is that hypnotherapy can rapidly get you in touch with your inner self- the self beyond ego identity and social conditioning. While in hypnosis, the mental chatter, conscious self-talk, and ego identity is safely placed aside for awhile. This allows for deeper parts of oneself to surface, to become known, expressed, listened to, and eventually integrated. A central element of hypnosis is that it greatly enhances a person's ability to focus inwardly; to focus one's energies beyond the waking, conscious mind.
If you are seeking to improve the quality of your life, be it your inner or outer life, hypnotherapy can prove highly valuable. And it need not take many sessions to experience positive results- usually no more than three to five sessions when working on a well-defined objective. Contrasted to more traditional modalities, it becomes clear that self-development is an area in which hypnotherapy trulyshines.
Motivation #5: Hypnotherapy called upon for short-term, rapid intervention.
A fifth example of what motivates people to seek hypnotherapy is the need for some type of short-term, rapid intervention. By focusing the power and potential of one's mind upon a clearly defined, single, highly-focusedgoal, hypnotherapy can be used to accomplish miraculous results in an incredibly short amount of time.
Some examples of hypnotherapy used in the context of a short-term, rapid intervention include:
- Extreme trauma cases, emotional and/or physical pain.
- Exam preparation (release test anxiety, improve memory recall). Commonly sought by students who are preparing for GRE, BAR, medical exams.
- Interview/ Public Speaking (release fear, anxiety, and nervousness).
- Pregnancy related (the need to immediately cease unhealthy habits, including alcohol, extreme stress or anxiety, drug use, etc.).
- Assertiveness (expected future event which will require assertiveness or increased confidence- career or public performance).
- Rapid intervention is certainly possible in all such cases. Often the first session or two will focus highly on either suggestion for desired behavior, or deep emotional releasement work. In short-term intervention matters, follow up sessions are usually encouraged to facilitate integration or to release a cause in order to avoid relapse. (return to top)
SOCIAL FACTORS REGARDING HYPNOTHERAPY
Some people find it difficult or uncomfortable to seriously look at hypnotherapy as an option for themselves. The hesitancy has diminished in the last decade as more people are seeing that taking care of oneself is of greater value than abiding by notions of social acceptability or conditioning. It takes courage to recognize the times in life when "doing it yourself" just isn't working out, and to see that assistance from a third party may indeed be beneficial and practical. We all have things we are working on in our lives, be it issues, problems, setbacks, goals, unrealized dreams, or a desire for transformation and positive change. Indeed, there are many forms of help available. Hypnotherapy is one such form that has a proven track record for generating results in a comparatively short amount of time. Times are changing. In the past most individuals tended to place great importance on what others would think or say about them if they found out the individual were seeing a hypnotherapist. Nowadays people are discovering that "most people" really don't care. When and if something works, then it works, and that is what truly matters. (return to top)
COMMON FEARS THAT KEEP PEOPLE FROM HYPNOTHERAPY
This part of the article addresses the most common fears and preconceptions, mostly based on myth, that keep people from seriously considering hypnotherapy as an option for themselves.
1.) Fear of losing control while in hypnosis:
This fear stems primarily from the way hypnosis is portrayed in movies and stage shows. A great many people believe that while "under hypnosis" their conscious mind is blocked out, or pushed aside- they lose control. This being the case it seems logical that unconscious material, you saying things you would never say or want revealed to anyone, could also come out during a session. In hypnotherapy this just doesn't happen. In fact during most, if not all of the session, your mind is so focused and clear that you are much more aware of what is being said to you, and what you say in response, than while you are awake!
I occasionally work with clients who entere an incredibly deep state of hypnosis called somnambulism. Less than ten percent of the population are somnambulists. It is somewhat of a rare occurrence. Somnambulists are people that, when given the opportunity, can so clearly relax and retain an utterly clear state of conscious mind that it appears they have completely tranced out. Even though their conscious mind is disassociated to the degree that they are not affected by stimuli that does not mean the person is "not there". Awareness does remain present.
In working with persons in a somnambulist state there was never any loss of control, nor were anything close to being deep, dark secrets spoken or revealed. The client's protective awareness is always present. In my own practice, and that of most hypnotherapists I know, the goal is not to get you to trance out or go so far "under" that your conscious mind is not at least somewhat present during the entire session. Better results are generated when the client is in either a light or medium state of hypnosis [mentally focused, physically and emotionally relaxed]. When working with somnambulists a very light state of hypnosis can be employed. If the somnambulist begins to drift off he or she is brought back up so the conscious mind is more fully aware and present of the session taking place. Hypnosis and hypnotherapy provide "an experience"; and it helps for the client to consciously experience the experience being provided to them during the session. Perhaps the only time a somnambulistic state would be desired would be for amputation without anesthesia or some other type of severe physical pain control.
2.) Fear of saying or revealing things about yourself you wish not to reveal:
This fear is closely related to the above fear of losing control while in hypnosis. The objective of hypnotherapy is not to have you go under and start communicating unconscious material. Hypnosis does not do away with person privacy. Even if you did enter a somnambulistic state you would not say or reveal things about yourself or your life that you would not wish to consciously share with the therapist while awake.
3.) Fear of being controlled:
You do not lose control while in hypnosis. No matter how deep you go your protective self-awareness (consciousness) remains present. This explains why a person in hypnosis does not do anything against their moral, ethical or religious beliefs. If such a command or suggestion is given the individual either wakes up or simply does not carry out the command or suggestion. Your conscious mind (representative of 3% to 5% of your mind) may find the experience of hypnosis so relaxing that you feel you are a "million miles away", drifting effortlessly, peacefully and serenely on a sea of inner calm and tranquility. However, no matter how far out you drift, your consciousness (the majority of your mind) remains aware and is fully present during the session. You are not controlled, you cannot be made to do things you would not do while awake, nor do you communicate things while in hypnosis that you would not be comfortable with sharing.
4.) Fear of not waking up, or not coming out of hypnosis:
Nobody has never not woken up or come out of hypnosis. You do not enter a coma-state or a state of unconsciousness while in hypnosis. The most common thing that can happen is that the client's experience of hypnosis is so relaxing, restful, and peaceful that they feel a bit of reluctance to come back to normal waking consciousness. Hypnosis is most definitely a return to a natural state of being. It is very much a regenerative and restorative experience; especially mentally. Despite any reluctance the client has to come out of hypnosis at the end of the session, it is extremely rare for a hypnotherapist to have any trouble bringing you out of hypnosis. There are many simple techniques the hypnotherapist can use to help you awaken completely when its time to do so. Even without these techniques the worst that would happen is you would end up awakening on your own. You would awaken on your own in usually no more than two to three hours; just as though you were waking from a much needed nap.
5.) Fear of not being able to enter hypnosis, i.e. "I am too analytical, my mind is too busy. I can't be hypnotized":
If you can fall asleep at night, either on your own or with the aid of sleeping pills, you can be "hypnotized". The term "being hypnotized" is the primary reason some people encounter this uncertainty. It is a poor term because it implies you are going to be put into a sleep, unconscious, or comatose state. Such is not the case. Many of the best hypnosis subjects are the ones that enter merely a light state of hypnosis. The goal of the hypnotherapist is not to get you to "trance out". Hypnosis is simply a technique that helps you to relax physically, emotionally, and mentally.
There are many ways a hypnotherapist has to help you relax using hypnosis. Based on the movies you would think that nearly all hypnotherapists induce hypnosis using the old watch trick- you stare at a watch swinging back and forth in front of you while being told, "you are getting sleepy, close your eyes, go to sleep now, you are getting sleepier and sleepier". This is not the standard induction technique used by hypnotherapists. It isthe induction technique most suited to movies trying to dramatize hypnosis in a scene.
Most hypnotherapists know that at the very least they will be able to guide you into a light state of hypnosis (relaxation); and this is usually all that is needed to generate positive results. Ironically, analytical people, or those with extremely busy minds, are often the easiest people to "hypnotize". A busy, full, and active mind is quick to have a chance to unwind and relax for awhile. The experience of hypnosis often gives such persons a much needed break from the sheer amount of conscious attending and thought monitoring the conscious mind engages in throughout each moment of every day.
6.) Fear of psychological damage caused by hypnosis:
This fear if apt to arise when hypnosis is incorrectly thought of as a method of mind control, or the exertion of one person's will over another. Hypnosis is neither of these two things. Hypnosis, in itself, is proven to be a safe method effective at focusing and relaxing the body, mind, and emotions. Hypnosis does not produce or invoke psychological damage. In fact, you typically enter a hypnotic state two times a day- the time when going to bed, just before you drift off into sleep; and the time between sleep and awakening in the morning (assuming you awaken naturally without an alarm clock jolting you out of your slumber).
7.) Fear of what family, friends, coworkers, others might say or think:
Things in life that are not understood or well-known often evoke an element of fear or uncertainty. A common form that fear or uncertainty takes is social condemnation despite whatever the facts may be. Hypnosis, not being well understood by most people, often gets a negative social rap. Typical social reactions define hypnosis as strange, weird, odd, mysterious, bizarre, etc. This does not make it so. Hypnosis is no more strange, weird, odd, mysterious, or bizarre than one's own mind. Hypnosis is a subjective experience. It is an experience of mind.
A person considering, or who opts for hypnotherapy, and encounters a negative social reaction by someone, can inform the person, "Yeah, hypnosis sure seemed strange to me at first too, but it's really nothing more than focusing your mind to create a positive change in your life, and it works. You can either work with or against yourself. Hypnosis helps you work with your mind in creative, powerful and supportive ways". You don't need to internalize others' misunderstandings, or take things too personally. What is, is. People are who they are, and that's what is. Instead, use it as an opportunity to inform and educate people about what hypnosis is and how it works.
8.) Fear of religious consequences:
As demonstrated throughout history, ignorance quickly gives way to judgment of a negative assumption. Hypnosis is not black magic; it is not the work of the devil; it is not witchcraft; it does not need to be feared. If anything, religiously, you are working with your own, divine self. A Self that God or Spirit created and has given life to for you to experience. You have been given the gift of life, and all that it entails. There is nothing irreligious about taking responsibility for yourself and your life in positive ways. There is nothing wrong about using the potential of the mind you were born with to live a healthy life. A lot of the religious dogma surrounding hypnosis is not based on the facts. Rather, it is often based on nothing more than an outdated and unquestioned interpretation that seeks to condemn hypnosis; not because hypnosis is "evil", but rather hypnosis is viewed as a potential threat that could take away or undermine the power and control of the religious institution in question.
Interestingly enough hypnosis can be used to deepen and enhance an individual's religious experience. With a clear mind it is easier to focus on prayer or devotion. It is easier to reconnect with what's most important in life and your deepest values. The inner experience of hypnosis can serve to open the heart and a person's capacity for compassion for self and others. For church members that feel out of touch with their religion, hypnosis can be used to help them reconnect with the essence and true value their religion has to offer. Parishioners that live busy and stressful daily lives can find hypnotherapy especially beneficial for stress release and the cultivation of a balanced lifestyle. A lifestyle that is much more suited and capable at helping such persons live lives that are a closer and truer representation (example) of their faith. (return to top)
To answer whether or not to pursue hypnotherapy for oneself essentially comes down to a two-part decision process. The first part of the process is familiarizing yourself with the basics, or fundamentals, of hypnosis and hypnotherapy. To start with it helps to have a general idea as to what hypnosis is and isn't, and how hypnosis is used in the therapeutic setting (i.e. hypnotherapy). Assuming you have read this far then you know that there are many different forms of hypnotherapy available. Knowing what the different forms are, their potential strengths and weaknesses, and how hypnotherapy is generally marketed, places you in a group of a select few that are in a strong position upon which to base an informed decision. The parts of this article that review stage hypnosis and the common fears surrounding hypnotherapy are included to ensure against your decision being influenced or based on false preconceptions and negative social conditioning associated with hypnosis.
The second part of the decision making process involves making an informed decision on choosing a hypnotherapist to work with. It is highly important to remember that hypnotherapy is a generic term encompassing many different forms of practice. Even though it's called the same thing, the actual form hypnotherapy can take and your experience of it can vary greatly from one hypnotherapist to the next. Your goal, at this stage of the decision making process, is to now know what you need to know in order to make an informed decision on how to choose a hypnotherapist. To do this you are encouraged to read the article, Choosing a Hypnotherapist: How to Find and Choose a Hypnotherapist That's Right for You. That article picks up here this one leaves off. It will guide you through the next steps you will take if, thus far, you think hypnotherapy might be worth looking into further.
Over the years it has become more and more clear that the average consumer (potential client in the marketplace) indeed has a challenge before them when it comes to deciding on a hypnotherapist to work with. Not only are credentials in the field misleading, it also seems that the therapist's years of experience can be misleading as well. Logic and common sense suggest that choosing the hypnotherapist with the most years of experience would be an easy and safe criteria. It is not. In this field one is not working with straightforward physical mechanics. Due to the dynamic nature of hypnotherapy which is a unique subjective experience to each client, and given that one is working with the complex nature of mind and consciousness, special care and insight is required to make an informed decision as to which hypnotherapist to work with.
I have been observing an interesting phenomenon taking shape in the field of hypnotherapy over the last decade. There are older hypnotherapists available who bring many years of experience to their practice. Some of them, through years of personal and professional experience, bring wisdom to the client/therapist relationship as well. There is also a growing contingent of younger hypnotherapy practitioners that, despite not having thirty or forty years of experience to their name, nonetheless bring a deep and innate understanding of consciousness and the mind to their practice and the client/therapist relationship. A natural grasp and innate understanding of the nature of consciousness and the mind can provide more benefit and value than decades of experience when it comes to hypnotherapy.
The reason for this is because the consciousness, or level of awareness, that the hypnotherapist brings to the relationship forms a crucial and fundamental part of the entire experience. It is drawn upon to determine and guide the actual sessions. Insight and the ability to perceive patterns and to recognize the subtle themes that emerge is more consciousness-based, rather than the number of years a therapist has practiced. When it comes to hypnotherapy you want a hypnotherapist that can attune themselves to your unique needs surrounding the therapy process. At this level you are getting more than just a regression, suggestion, or parts therapist. You are getting the highest degree of personal service and expertise that is capable of respecting and honoring the special and unique person you are. Credentials, years in the profession, background, age, etc. are, in themselves, inadequate and incapable of determining this subjective, but most important quality of a hypnotherapist. The best advise here is to evaluate potential hypnotherapists on an individual by individual basis. (return to top)
HYPNOTHERAPY & HYPNOSIS OPTIONS
When it comes to the therapeutic and healing applications of hypnosis there are a range of options available. This part of the article briefly highlights the popular options commonly available.
Assuming you find a competent hypnotherapist, hypnotherapy will give you the most direct experience of hypnosis. You will most likely experience the results you seek in the shortest amount of time, with the least effort. The reason is because when you work with a hypnotherapist it becomes easier to mentally let go and focus inwardly, for an experienced guide is there to lead you through the process.
Self-hypnosis/hypnotherapy Tapes and CD's
Self-hypnosis/hypnotherapy audio programs can work very well depending on the objective you seek. You have a guide to help. You don't have to control or guide the session yourself using your conscious, mental mind. In my own programs I try to capture the essence of a hypnotherapy session as close as possible. While self-hypnosis tapes and CD's, by their nature, simply cannot provide the two-way, interactive exchange between client and therapist that a private hypnotherapy session does, they are nonetheless an effective tool to focus inwardly for purposes of healing, self-development, awareness, etc. They are a good option for people who are self-motivated and self-starters. This option requires dedication and commitment on your part. A one-time listen here and there usually won't produce the desired results. If you are somewhat self-motivated and committed to the process, self-hypnosis/hypnotherapy audio programs can provide you a high degree of session structure and guidance which can prove highly valuable.
With practice nearly anyone can become very adept at using self-hypnosis for nearly whatever purpose they choose. One nice thing is that your self-hypnosis sessions can address your particular issues. The difficulty lies in the need to retain a relatively high level of conscious involvement in order for yourself to guide your own session(s). This retention of conscious interaction can get in the way at times, keeping you from going as deep as you may otherwise wish to go. By having to monitor and guide your own sessions it becomes more challenging to enter fully and deeply into the change/transformation process.
Based on the subtle repetition of positive affirmations you hear while falling asleep, or while asleep, sleep programming can generate positive results. Before using such a method you really should investigate the affirmations that are used. I have personally used sleep programming tapes for years, and have found them most effective at enhancing overall mood and cultivation of a positive outlook on life.
I would not advise the use of sleep programming for no more than thirty minutes, played at the time as you begin to fall asleep. The sleep cycle is highly complex. Concern is valid that use of sleep programming after you are well into sleep could interfere with the inner work that takes place during sleep. A good option is to use a pillow speaker. Lay down for sleep, turn off the lights, use a pillow speaker (readily available at Radio Shack for $5). Relax, mentally unwind for a few minutes, then turn on the tape. Be open and receptive, allow yourself to drift off, knowing that soon after you enter the sleep state the tape will turn off.
The use and effectiveness of sublimals is a mixed bag. Some people have experienced very positive results using subliminals, thus they should not be easily dismissed. In my own use of subliminals I discovered that subliminals were useful, but not for the reasons for which they are claimed to work. Subliminals give you the experience of taking proactive action for improving your life. This in itself is of value. Unconsciously, you build a positive expectation within your mind that something good will or must come about as a result of your use of subliminals. This too has value. However, the claim that subliminals work because of imbedded suggestions which the conscious mind doesn't hear, but which the subconscious picks up on and carries out, is questionable. (return to top)
CONCLUSION & AUTHOR COMMENTS
You have within yourself the capability and potential of realizing and experiencing positive change in your life. People oftentimes already know what they can do to bring such change about. It is oftentimes common for the actual physical steps involved in creating positive change to not be very difficult or complex in and of themselves. With some exceptions, the greatest challenge is apt to take place on the inner levels of self; namely, the emotional and mental levels where one inwardly relates to and associates themselves with the object, goal, issue, problem or desire. A good example which demonstrates this is public speaking. The actual physical act of standing at a podium and talking is certainly not a difficult or complex task for most people. However, the emotional and mental components associated with the act can make public speaking incredibly challenging. In fact, a good many people rank the fear of public speaking higher than the fear of death!
Hypnotherapy is primarily designed to address, resolve and integrate the emotional and mental (some cases spiritual and physical) dynamics associated with the inner change process. Because one is not immediately consciously aware of such dynamics, they are often referred to as "unconscious" or "subconscious". Thus when you talk about hypnotherapy or hypnosis you are likely to hear something along the lines of, "hypnotherapy works with the subconscious (or unconscious) mind for purposes of positive change".
Here's an important point to keep in mind. The unconscious mind is not a separate, foreign, or alien part of yourself which you (conscious mind) are denied access to. In normal waking consciousness it is likely to function as such; hence the term "un-conscious". But this does not mean you are unable to consciously work with your unconscious mind. In fact, it doesn't take much to become aware of and work with the unconscious self. A relaxed state of body, mind and emotions greatly helps, as does a clear and focused mind. When you are able to be fully present in the moment, it is not difficult to work effectively with the incredible potential of your subconscious mind. Hypnotherapy is an effective, proven, and safe technique that facilitates this. And it is by no means the only technique.
When the time comes for unconscious material to be integrated, released or resolved, and the process goes unheeded, problems are likely to become exaggerated and may seem insurmountable. They aren't. The exaggerated form coming through is a wakeup call, there to get your conscious attention on matters that are important or of value to your self. You have the freewill to ignore, deny or repress the process trying to take place. Some people just "give up" and conclude "that's just who I am, I can't change it". Other people suffer through years and decades of hurt, pain, and frustration.
If your car has a problem-wheel that is out of balance and alignment, you have the option to drive about wobbling and shaking as you go down the road- you can choose to live with the annoyance and inconvenience, and it will likely only get worse over time. Another option is to simply not drive the car at all. You can give up on the car altogether and deny yourself the freedom of mobility, of getting about when and where you want on your own terms. Or, you can take action. The most practical thing to do in such a case is to take the car to a mechanic who has the knowledge, tools, and skill to diagnose and fix the problem.
A car is of finite worth and value. You, as a unique, one-of-a-kind person, are of infinite worth and value. There is only one "you", and you get to experience this "you" each and everyday of your life. If you find you are experiencing something about yourself or your life that just isn't working, a competent hypnotherapist can be a valuable guide with the knowledge, tools, and skill needed to facilitate positive change, healing, and transformation. You have the freewill to make your journey down the road of life a rather harmonious and pleasant one. And, there are likely to be times when a guide is needed to help get things back on course; or to help out when your "vehicle" needs special attention. The action you take is a choice and decision that is yours to make.
There are many people experiencing pain and suffering that could greatly benefit from all that hypnotherapy has to offer. Some people seek or desire understanding and awareness of themselves and their life. Other people are ready to experience inner healing, positive change, and transformation. Some are at a point where they would like to reinvent themselves and their life altogether. Hypnotherapy, working with the power and potential of one's mind, is highly effective for all of these things.
Having studied and practiced hypnotherapy for the benefit of others, as well as myself, for more than a decade, I have directly experienced time and again the benefits and incredible results hypnotherapy has to offer (both as a therapist, and as a client). I am also all too aware of how often hypnotherapy goes unused and overlooked by so many that could otherwise benefit from it. Hypnotherapy is unable to help those that can be rightfully served by it, not because the techniques don't work, but for the simple and unfortunate fact that hypnosis and hypnotherapy is just not well understood by the majority of people.
Education and information can reverse this. The purpose of such is for those that can be helped by hypnotherapy are able to be served by it. Knowing that the option exists, what it can be used for, what it is, how it works, and understanding what's involved is a good, solid start. How to find a good hypnotherapist and what you can likely expect rounds out the primary purpose of hypnosis and hypnotherapy education. This will help ensure that the people who could benefit from the value of hypnotherapy are able to find it easily accessible and also know how to choose a good hypnotherapist to work with.
Being a hypnotherapist, I observe and notice what's in the marketplace. I understand that getting a clear explanation of hypnosis and hypnotherapy can be a challenging, if not frustrating, experience. In broad terms the field of hypnotherapy is truly unique, an anomaly for the most part, in an otherwise very mature, experienced and sophisticated marketplace. This is an area that the average, if not otherwise sophisticated, consumer tends to know very little about. Most people that go to a hypnotherapist do so going in "blind". They just don't know much, if anything, about hypnosis and hypnotherapy. Nor is it the consumer's fault. It has to do with the subjective nature involved, the relatively small overall market base, and a lack of quality information easily available.
It is my intention for this article, in combination with the other articles I've written, to take it from the standard hit and miss approach consumers are subjected to (due to not being informed), to a systematic, knowledge driven approach that gives the prospecting client the greatest advantage for experiencing positive results. If you have found this article to be of value to you, I strongly encourage you to share what you have learned about hypnotherapy with the people you know and come in contact with. You are encouraged to help educate and inform people about the value and benefits hypnotherapy has to offer. Your help is needed. A general understanding and awareness of hypnotherapy is growing, and it is a slow process. As the scientific paradigm loosens its dominance, the subjective arts and sciences will find a more prominent and rightful place in our society. Hypnotherapy, along with a number of other truly useful and beneficial alternative practices, will become more accessible and capable of reaching the thousands of people that can be helped and served by it. The importance and worth of helping to improve even one person's life makes this a worthy and meaningful cause. (back to top) (back to articles)
Mark Bancroft, MA/CHT
Nevada City, CA