What is Clinical Hypnosis?
Simply speaking hypnosis is an altered state of consciousness. Clinical Hypnosis or Hypnotherapy, therefore, is the use of an altered state of consciousness, or trance, for therapeutic endpoint. This means that people are not treated with hypnosis but are treated in hypnosis.
All hypnotic states are characterised by a tremendously pleasant state of relaxation, which individuals allow themselves to enter so that desired, beneficial suggestions may be given directly to the part of the mind known as the subconscious. Under hypnosis, the conscious, rational part of the brain is temporarily bypassed, making the subconscious part, which influences mental and physical functions, receptive to therapy. During the trance state there is heightened concentration for the specific purpose of maximising potential, changing limiting beliefs and behaviours and gaining insight and wisdom.
Although hypnosis may be light, medium or deep, a medium trance is usually used during which metabolism, breathing and heartbeat slow and the brain produces alpha waves. Normal states of consciousness i.e. sleeping, dreaming, being awake, can be detected in the wave patterns produced by the brain. The state of hypnosis differs from all three. The brain waves associated with quiet, receptive states are called alpha waves. In alpha states, the body gradually relaxes. Hypnosis, meditation, day dreaming, being absorbed in a book or music or television, driving and arriving at your destination without recalling all the usual landmarks etc. are good examples of alpha states.
The trance state is therefore a natural phenomenon. Clinical Hypnosis practised by a trustworthy and professionally qualified therapist is completely safe.
How does Clinical Hypnosis work?
The subconscious mind is the source of many of our problems and self images. Our beliefs, habits and behaviours are stored as information. The subconscious is a tremendous reservoir of our unrecognised strengths and knowledge.
Hypnosis is a natural and effective technique for accessing the subconscious mind - the key to unleashing our potential, changing our unwanted habits and behaviours and finding solutions to our problems and concerns.
Any therapeutic intervention implies change, so entering a trance state alone does not signify a therapeutic endpoint. Once the individual has achieved a trance state the hypnotherapist uses many different therapeutic methods ranging from simple suggestions to psychoanalysis. For example, the therapist may ask about past, present or future concerns to establish the reasons for the problem. Alternatively the therapist may give suggestions to the subconscious mind aimed at overcoming specific problems such as lack of self confidence.
Some uses such as calming a person require minimal change on the part of the individual, more complex behaviour patterns such as overeating or treatment of panic disorders or reactive (non-clinical) depression require a more complex therapeutic intervention together with psychological and behavioural homework.
What happens in a hypnotherapy session?
The initial task of the therapist is to establish rapport with the client. This involves encouraging the client to talk about his or her concerns. The therapist would spend time with the client first to take a clinical history. As well as establishing a clinical record, the discussion contributes to building trust and confidence between the therapist and the client. Feeling safe, comfortable and secure with the therapist helps the induction of a hypnotic trance.
Goals for therapy are discussed and agreed and a full explanation of hypnosis is provided. Any questions or misconceptions about hypnosis would also be dealt with.
There are many different ways of achieving trance state. Usually, you lie in a reclining chair or couch and the therapist talks to you in a slow and soothing voice. You may be asked to imagine or visualise walking down a country lane, or stare at a fixed point or listen to the sound of the therapist's voice. Suggestions for relaxation may also be given. To deepen the trance, the therapist may count you down from 10 to 1 or ask you to imagine walking down a flight of stairs. You will feel very relaxed but still aware of your surroundings.
To return to full consciousness, which you can do all by yourself at any time, the therapist may count up from 1 to 10.
The length of treatments depends on the problem or symptom and the individual's circumstances. With some people a problem like nail biting can be successfully treated in one session. Other problems such as panic attacks can take up to 5 or 6 sessions.
In the course of the therapy clients are usually taught self hypnosis as part of a number of therapeutic homework tasks.
The first session usually lasts one and a half hours with subsequent sessions between an hour and an hour and a half.