Hypnosis is probably one of the most misunderstood therapy techniques of all time. It’s not surprising, given that there are always stage entertainers who use hypnosis as part of their act, supposedly “forcing” people to quack like a duck and otherwise embarrass themselves.
Hypnosis as used in therapy is so different from what is seen on television that people are often vaguely disappointed at first. It’s not magic, nothing is forced, and it doesn’t produce results instantly.
Before we talk about its use in therapy, let’s address the whole “stage act” issue. Stage hypnotists are experts at finding the people in an audience who very much want to be on stage acting silly. They go through a series of screening questions during the act, and quickly separate those who would not good entertainment from those who would. We all are familiar with the idea of “body language” and other forms of non-verbal communication. Stage hypnotists are experts at quickly reading this in audience members. After that it’s very easy to set up situations where certain people from the audience provide a lot of entertainment, and yet convince themselves that they didn’t know what they were doing.
Hypnosis in therapy is used in a very different way. First, the therapist screens clients to make sure that hypnosis is a safe technique for their situation. For instance, someone who has been through a lot of trauma and is used to “spacing out” , or dissociating, as a way of coping with stress might not be a good candidate, at least not without a lot of preparation.
Next, the therapist educates the client about what hypnosis is and isn’t . The main point is that we all use self-hypnosis to some degree already. Great examples of this are daydreaming, mentally rehearsing an event, arriving at a location while driving thinking of something else, etc. Hypnosis is really a state of relaxed focus on the internal, and in therapy clients are taught to use this ability to remove unconscious blocks to desired changes.
Also, it’s important to know that nobody can be forced to do anything against their will, and that they are always in control. Hypnosis is not like being asleep or unconscious. It is much more like being in very deep thought or concentration. We all have experienced that state, and know that regardless of how deep it is, we will instantly “snap out of it” if we need to or want to.
It can be helpful to learn more about hypnosis, because it can be very useful for many situations, such as relaxation and stress management, insomnia, pain management, and many other things. For more information, please visit http://www.simi-therapy.com/simi-hypnosis.html . You’ll also find links there to two professional societies’ websites, with even more information.
One caution: if you are considering finding a hypnotherapist, be sure that they are also a licensed psychotherapist. In California this means a psychiatrist, psychologist, marriage and family therapist, social worker, or licensed professional counselor. You want to work with someone who will know whether hypnotherapy is right for you, and what to do if it isn’t.