Among people who have no experience with hypnotherapy, there are many myths about how exactly this therapeutic technique works. Unfortunately, there is a widespread assumption that hypnosis is some kind of pseudoscience that is not to be taken seriously, but the truth is that modern hypnotherapy has come a long way. In fact, numerous studies and abundant research have proven that hypnosis really does have tangible therapeutic benefits. Thus, much of what you’ve heard about hypnosis is probably not true.
Hypnotherapy myths vs. reality
Before we go any further, let’s start by dispelling some of the false rumors surrounding this therapeutic practice:
• Myth: People under hypnosis lose control of themselves.
• Reality: At no point during a hypnosis session will you black out, lose control of your mind or body, or come under the power of your hypnotist. In fact, hypnosis qualifies as a heightened state of consciousness wherein your engagement in the moment is deeper and more powerful than in normal states of mind.
• Myth: Hypnosis is associated with black magic.
• Reality: The science of hypnosis has been around for at least three thousand years, and at some points in history it has indeed been associated with spiritual and religious practices. But today’s hypnosis has left all of that behind. It is based on real research and sound science. While it is sometimes associated with the more spiritual aspects holistic health, this is merely an indirect connection.
• Myth: Some people can’t be hypnotized.
• Reality: Many people assume that being hypnotized means that you are easily controlled, but in fact susceptibility to hypnosis just means that you are capable of intense focus. Sure, some people take to it more easily than others, but everyone can be helped by a good hypnotist.
• Myth: People black out under hypnosis.
• Reality: When your hypnosis session is over, you will remember everything that occurred when you were under hypnosis. In fact, you’ll probably remember everything that happened during your session with a great deal of clarity.
How hypnotherapy works
Hypnotherapy has much in common with psychotherapy and meditation, yet it is a science unto itself. The main goal of this treatment is to change the patient’s accustomed patterns of thought on a subconscious level. In other words, hypnotherapy aims to get past the noise that clutters our brains on a conscious level and to have a deep impact on the difficult-to-access, foundational portions of the mind.
Real, deep change can only occur through profound experiences. That’s why, for example, people who have a breakthrough in psychotherapy often feel that they’ve had almost a religious experience. The same is true of meditation; a particularly good session can create a feeling that something profound has happened. Hypnotherapy taps into the same parts of the brain and leads to similar results.
On a more practical level, hypnotherapy usually takes a somewhat formulaic approach. Before your first session, you and your hypnotherapist will discuss the problem you seek to treat, and you will talk through any questions or concerns you may have. Then, your hypnotherapist will help you to relax and bring you into a state of relaxation where your subconscious mind can be accessed. Sessions last anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour.
What can hypnotherapy treat
There are countless reasons why people seek hypnotherapy, but some of the most common ones include:
• to mitigate phobias such as public speaking anxiety, claustrophobia, or fear of flying;
• to overcome grief or a traumatic experience (including PTSD);
• to help overcome addiction to nicotine, drugs, or alcohol;
• to treat moderate anxiety or depression;
• to improve self-esteem or self-confidence;
• to control diet and exercise with the goal of losing weight;
• to ease symptoms of various physical conditions such as migraine, chronic pain, or allergies;
• to relieve stress;
• to cure insomnia.
The effectiveness of hypnotherapy depends upon how it is used. In many cases, it is a good idea to combine hypnotherapy with other types of treatment. For example, it can be great for supplementing traditional addiction treatment programs, and it’s useful for treating symptoms in hospital patients recovering from surgery or other events. But of course, the biggest factor contributing to the success of a hypnotherapy program is the patient’s commitment. You have to stick with it, attend your sessions regularly, and believe that positive effects are possible.