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Hypnotherapy

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Matthew Hogg BSc (Hons) mFNTP mNNA mABH mABNLP
Registered Nutritional Therapist, Hypnotherapist & NLP Practitioner

While many may think hypnosis is just a bit of fun in the form of "amusing" stage tricks, in the form of therapeutic hypnotherapy it can be a safe and powerful technique to bring about positive change in a person's life, health and well-being. Hypnotherapy when performed by a well-trained and accredited practitioner could give you a new perspective on life and be the spark that leads to much change for the better.

There are many established professional hypnotherapy organizations across the globe who support only practitioners who meet strict guidelines regarding the training they have received and have a high degree of competence to practice this therapy. For example, in the US there is The American Board of Hypnotherapy (ABH) founded in 1982, and in the UK the leading organization is The British Association of Therapeutic Hypnotists & NLP Practitioners (BAThH) which was the first properly constituted body for Professional Hypnotherapists in the UK, founded in 1951. There are many others of varying standards in the US and UK and across the world; as hypnotherapy has grown in acceptance as a legitimate therapeutic discipline.

By visiting the websites of the organizations above, or the equivalent in your own country, you will be able to find a hypnotherapist who has been properly trained and practices by a strict code of ethics and safety. 

Definition

Firstly, it is important to make a distinction; hypnosis and hypnotherapy are not the same thing. Hypnosis simply means going into a trance-like state and has been around as long as we have. Hypnotherapy, on the other hand, uses the hypnotic trance to help you create a positive change in your thinking, achieve a specific goal, or help manage conditions such as IBS, chronic pain and anxiety; unlike hypnosis, it is a relatively recent therapeutic practice, like many other talking therapies. The two should therefore not be confused, hypnosis simply refers to a state of mind, while hypnotherapy is a respected talking therapy that has the potential to create much positive change in your life when performed professionally.

So, how do you define a complex set of techniques that make-up hypnotherapy in simple terms. Here are a couple of examples:

"Hypnotherapy combines the use of Hypnosis with various therapeutic approaches to enable a person to affect change in their life. The hypnosis or trance element, is simply a state of deep relaxation, the feeling you have when you are first waking in the morning or drifting off to sleepat night, it is something we all experience, within hypnotherapy we are utilising this state of relaxation to enable change within the great powerhouse of the subconscious mind.

The subconscious mind holds our patterns, habits, behaviours and our fears, when we are deeply relaxed we can access it, it is believed that 90% of what we do each day is controlled by the subconscious, so it is important to be able to access it and re-train it, rather like altering a faulty programme on a computer." - The British Association of Therapeutic Hypnotists & NLP Practitioners (BAThH)

The United States' Federal Dictionary of Occupational Titles describes the job of the hypnotherapist thusly: "Induces hypnotic state in client to increase motivation or alter behavior patterns: Consults with client to determine nature of problem. Prepares client to enter hypnotic state by explaining how hypnosis works and what client will experience. Tests subject to determine degree of physical and emotional suggestibility. Induces hypnotic state in client, using individualized methods and techniques of hypnosis based on interpretation of test results and analysis of client's problem. May train client in self-hypnosis conditioning". - Wikipedia 

Types of Hypnotherapy

Over the years a number of different forms of hypnotherapy have emerged. Most modern day hypnotherapy techniques are based on the work of Milton H. Erickson in the 1950s; Ericksonian Hypnotherapy makes use of an informal conversational approach with clients and observes specific language patterns then employs numerous therapeutic strategies in order to solve an individual's perceived problems, or achieve goals. 

There are many other forms of hypnotherapy, however. Below are a few of the most common:

Solution Focused Hypnotherapy
This is actually the modern form of hypnotherapy that most hypnotherapists provide their clients. In the early 2000s hypnotherapists began to combine aspects of solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT) with Ericksonian Hypnotherapy, in order to produce therapy that was more goal-focused (what the client wanted to achieve) rather than the more traditional problem-focused approach (spending time discussing the issues that brought the client to seek help). A solution-focused hypnotherapy session often includes techniques from NLP (which is often taught alonsgide hypnotherapy on many training courses).

Cognitive/Behavioral Hypnotherapy
In recent years, greater understanding of hypnosis has led to hypnotherapy being combined with other talking and cognitive therapies to achieve better outcomes for the patient. Cognitive behavioural hypnotherapy (CBH) is one such example which employs clinical hypnosis and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). The use of CBT in conjunction with hypnotherapy may result in greater treatment effectiveness. A meta-analysis of eight different researches revealed "a 70% greater improvement" for patients undergoing an integrated treatment to those using CBT only. Hynotherapy is also now being combined successfully with other therapies and techniques such as meditation in Mindfulness Based Hypnotherapy (MBH).

Curative Hypnotherapy
In curative hypnotherapy, rather than try to override the subconscious information, its founder David Lesser realised the necessity, and developed the process, to correct the "wrong" information. Lesser’s understanding of the logicality and simplicity of the subconscious led to the creation of the methodical treatment used today and it is his work and understanding that underpins the therapy.

A Typical Hypnotherapy Session

Much like seeing an appointment with any doctor or professional therapist your first hypnotherapy session will begin with you providing a case history of your medical (or other issues) and explaining why you have chosen to see the therapist and what you wish to get out of the session(s). From there the hypnotherapist will offer reassurance that hypnotherapy is a credible approach for you (if this is the case) and explain what will happen during the session. The following is how an initial hypnotherapy session will typically go:

1. Case History - as discussed above, the starting point is you providing the hypnotherapist with the basic information they need to be able to decide how best to help you. A professional hypnotherapist will first ask for your permission and assure you of confidentiality and data security. Information asked for will likely include your full name, date of birth, contact details (for follow-ups or potential referrals), medical history, how long you've had the problem, and finally the methods you've already tried to solve the problem and the results of these attempts.

2. Inducement of Trance - the first stage of any therapeutic intervention in hypnotherapy is to induce a trance state in you, the client/patient. The term used for this is Induction and it brings about a wonderful feeling of relaxation. By helping you relax you will more easily go into the deep trance state required for the techniques of hypnotherapy to do their work and produce a positive outcome. There is nothing to worry about here, on the contrary, a trance state is simply the feeling we have when we are just drifting off to sleep, or waking up. However, when in trance, you are never asleep and always fully aware of what is happening in the hypnotherapy session.

3. The Actual Therapy - once the hypnotherapist is satisfied that you have entered a deep trance state and you have confirmed you are happy and wish to proceed, the real magic of hypnotherapy can begin. The actual therapy is the process in which suggestions are given by the hypnotherapist and transformed by your unconscious mind. We use the term 'transformed' because it is your unconscious mind itself that does all the work, finding its own way to implement the new suggestions it is being given. By doing this your unconscious mind is taking onboard what the hypnotherapist is suggesting and making sense of it in its own way. Your unconscious is essentially being given new instructions, or programming, by the hypnotherapists suggestions and figuring out how best to make this work for you. As such, you can see that the hypnotherapist is essentially just a facilitator, and it is actually you and your own mind that are in control and making the desired changes in your mental programming, and thus behaviors.

4. Stregthening Your Ego - once the main therapetuic suggestions have been given to you by the hypnotherapist, they may decide that some 'ego-strengthening' is required. This is essentially a technical term for a "pat on the back" to enhance the therapy and make sure the new suggestions given during the therapy actually stick. Hypnotherapy is a powerful tool but it will only work if you are commited to the goals you have set. You may feel better after a hypnotherapy session (you almost certainly will), but if long-term change is to be achieved you really have to want that change. This is all that ego-strengthening is for, it is used to enhance the chances of your conscious brain taking on the new programming your unconscious has received and continuing to act on it - rather than falling back into old routines and behaviors.

5. Coming Out of Trance - clinical hypnotherapists typically take great care once the therapy session is over and it is time to come out of trance. The feeling of being in a trance state is quite similar to that of sleepwalking, any qualified hypnotherapist will not let you leave their office until they are sure you are fully out of trance. Stage hypnotists, on the other hand, take little care in this regard which can be very dangerous indeed. Your hypnotherapist will bring you out of trance gradually, just like during inducement of the trance state. You should feel yourself emerging from the highly relaxed state you were in and feel your body returning to its normal waking state, with all physical sensations and senses back in sharp focus. You are coming out of your unconscious mind and back into your conscious mind, and you should feel fully awake and focused, just as you did when you entered the hypnotherapist's office. The therapist will likely ask you a series of questions, perhaps the same they asked during case history taking, to ensure it is safe to end the session.

6. Homework - hypnotherapy doesn't always end after a session. Your therapist may give you some exercises to do at home or work to stregthen the suggestions that were given and ensure they become your new normal. They may also teach you some self-hypnosis techniques to do at home (strictly at home!) that will give further weight to the desired thoughts, emotions and behaviors which were the aim of the hypnotherapy session. 

Finally, if you enjoyed the hypnotherapy session and feel that it at least began to change the way you feel about yourself and your thinking patterns and behaviors in the desired manner, you may wish to have follow-up appointments with the therapist. Typically hypnotherapy is a process that requires several sessions with the therapist to be truly effective.

Hypnotherapy and Invisible Illness

As you should recognize from the above, hypnotherapy has much to offer the environmental and/or invisible illness patient. For example, it could be suggested to the unconscious mind of someone with chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) that they are able to do more than they currently believe they can. In fibromyalgia (FMS), the correct suggestions could help reduce the perception of pain, while in multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) hypnotherapy could be used to reprogram the brain so as not to react and cause symptoms when chemical triggers are encountered.

Hypnotherapy, in fact, has the potential to benefit those with any environmental / invisible illness in some way; and as you are in charge of the process, you can target the symptoms that are most troublesome or debilitating in your individual case, since everyone experiences these illnesses differently.

Conclusion

Hypnotherapy has a huge amount to offer everyone; whether suffering from environmental / invisible illnesses, or if you are simply looking for an effective method of self-growth or self-improvement. Just make sure to choose a suitably qualified hypnotherapist (registered with a respected professional body) whom you feel comfortable working with, leave any preconceptions at the door, and the possibilities and benefits of this therapy will no doubt surprise you.

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