Hypnosis is a phenomenon that evokes a range of reactions from the casual observer; from curious and fascinated, to skeptical or even fearful of its apparent “power of control”. Some see it as shrouded in mysticism. Most misunderstand it. Yet when expertly applied in a clinical environment with therapeutic goals and intent, its benefits can be transformational and enduring, even literally life changing.
“Hypnosis, Trance and the Unconscious Mind”
It is difficult to find a consistent and understandable definition in lay terms.
Allow me to provide my own simplistic explanation.
Hypnosis is the process by which someone deliberately guides their “Subject” (the person being hypnotised, often referred to on this site as “you” or the “client”) into a “trance state”. Later, I’ll explain why this is highly useful for therapeutic purposes. For now, stay with me on the definitions and building basic understanding.
In a hypnosis session the trance state is achieved deliberately and intentionally. The Subject typically doesn’t fall asleep or unconscious, have total amnesia, or surrender control. In fact, one simply becomes very deeply relaxed.
What’s it like? Imagine someone communicating with you in a fashion which brings about within you a state of deep comfort and ease; at the same time achieving heightened awareness, focused attention and increased susceptibility to suggestion. This process is called “hypnotic induction” and the state you achieve is called “trance”.
The term Trance is often inappropriately applied and misunderstood. In trance, the subject may appear to be deeply relaxed, with eyes open or closed, in a state not unlike daydreaming. Subjects are in almost all cases consciously aware and in control of what is going on. It is certainly not a puppet or zombie-like state. Blame Hollywood and vaudeville for that misconception.
Being in a trance state is in fact generally regarded as enjoyable; a pleasant combination of deep relaxation and focused concentration.
Sound familiar? It should.
Trance is a natural state that we move in and out of unconsciously and automatically during the day, as different levels of brain activity occur. Everyone experiences “trance” in moments throughout the day. As you daydream, as your mind wanders when you enjoy a warm shower, at times of deep thought and when entering and exiting sleep; at times of intense concentration; just a few examples among many.
In a hypnosis session you achieve a similar state intentionally. You don’t go unconscious, have total amnesia, or surrender control. You do usually become very deeply relaxed.
In trance the unconscious becomes receptive to new thoughts and behaviours. Hypnosis can also access inner resources for creativity, insight and growth.
Hypnosis is therefore a very useful approach to helping a person to change for example their thinking, feelings and or behaviours. When applied in such a way, and with deliberately directed and “targeted” focus, this is called Hypnotherapy.
Hypnotherapy is then applied under the broader category of Strategic Psychotherapy treatment; whereby a trained clinician develops a treatment plan combining for example Neuro Linguistic programming and hypnotic suggestion
An Important Realisation for you. You already know how to go into trance. Trance is something you unconsciously know how to do. Why is this important? Think about it. If it’s something you already know how to do, your therapist simply guides you there deliberately, rather than you unconsciously drifting there as is otherwise the case. The hypnotic induction is as simple and benign as that.
OK, so how does the Unconscious Mind relate to all of this? You’re probably thinking “I’m not in focussed concentration during the times you describe above. Anything but. My mind is all over the place, isn’t it?” Actually no. At such times, while your conscious focus does drift, your unconscious mind is activated and working hard.
Your unconscious mind; that huge reserve of brain capacity and activity beneath your conscious awareness. It’s not a specific region or section of the brain. Think of it as a portion of your brain capacity where certain work occurs. For example, it operates and orchestrates all bodily functions. It determines how you see, feel and experience things; such as emotions and sensations. It generates attitude, good and bad.
It serves functions such as memory and recall; and not just of facts. It’s where habits, reactions and perceptions picked up and learned over time reside. It puts your “view” and “context” on situations. It plays a major role in our experience of feelings, emotions and imagination (good and bad). It holds and influences our fears, phobias and the impacts of trauma. It plays a major role in regulating our experience of sensations such as pain, discomfort and cravings; and much, much more…
Remember at school or Uni learning about the vast untapped reserves of capability our brains have? That’s the unconscious mind.
What are the historical origins of hypnosis and how did it develop? The following summary aims to provide a distillation of the most significant milestones in the known evolution of hypnosis and hypnotherapy.
Hypnotism, or the practice of hypnosis was arguably a part of philosophical, religious and therapeutic traditions dating back thousands of years. Approximately 4000BC, the Sumerians were already practicing it. The Ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians all practiced it for various therapeutic purposes such as sleep, calm and pain relief.
Christian mysticism, oriental meditation, Indian yogic meditation, Shamanism and certain western philosophies such as Stoicism and Pythagoreanism have all reportedly employed it to varying extents.
Franz Anton Mesmer (1734 – 1815) pioneered the practice of healing by magnetism, seen as the precursor of hypnotism. While Mesmer himself never hypnotised anyone, the term “mesmerised” is often incorrectly associated with hypnosis.
James Braid (1795 – 1860), a passionate critic of Mesmerism, modified the techniques of the Mesmerists and coined the terms “hypnotism” and “hypnotic therapeutics” to describe his approach, which worked through focused attention and suggestion. Braid, rather than Mesmer, is more correctly considered to be a pioneer of hypnotism.
While over the next hundred or so years, various researchers explored the field and its associated concepts, it was Ivan Pavlov’s work around the turn of the 20th century on the notion of conditioned reflex responses that was particularly pertinent.
Interestingly, Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939), widely accepted to be the father of modern psychology, abandoned hypnotism in favour of his own “psychoanalytic” method.
By contrast, Pierre Janet (1859 – 1947), a French psychiatrist, philosopher and pioneer of psychotherapy whom coined the term “subconscious”, employed a method centred on the use of hypnotism. His views greatly influenced later psychotherapists.
Clark L. Hull (1884 – 1952), president of the American Psychological Association and one of the most influential figures in behavioural psychology, conducted a systematic programme of laboratory research on hypnotism published in Hypnosis & Suggestibility (1933); widely-regarded as the first major scientific text on hypnosis.
Milton Erickson (1901 – 1980) is widely considered to be the most influential hypnotist of the last century. Based on extensive and in many cases non-conventional practical works rather than conventional scientific research, his methods and their therapeutic effectiveness were revolutionary. He developed what is described as “Ericksonian Style Therapy” based on indirect” suggestion; an approach favoured by today’s most effective practitioners of strategic psychotherapy and clinical hypnotherapy.
Ernest Hilgard (1904 – 2001) developed the Stanford Hypnotic Susceptibility Scales and was an authority on hypnotic pain control. The concept of susceptibility has largely fallen into irrelevance among contemporary “neo Ericksonian” practitioners.
Theodore X. Barber (1927 – 2005) developed “cognitive-behavioural” theory of hypnosis, suggesting that hypnosis was not a “special state” or trance but rather the result of ordinary psychological processes involving cognition and behaviour such as imagination, motivation, and expectation.
The evolution of hypnotherapy has thus taken an evolutionary path, and over time we have seen the emergence of what we would today describe as contemporary, modern or even neo Ericksonian clinical hypnotherapy.
Strategic Psychotherapy is a term and series of therapeutic methods devised by Dr. Jay Hayley, a leading figure on modern psychotherapy. Targeted Hypnotherapy tailors every client’s Treatment Plan on the Strategic Psychotherapy approach.
In 1973, Hayley coined the term to describe a form of therapy that falls within the broad category of “cognitive behavioral brief therapies”. In such therapy the clinician aims to influence specific aspects of the client’s thinking and behavior. The clinician first and then iteratively works with the client to define and agree on targeted issues and treatment goals, then designs and applies a specific approach to each specific problem. Rather apply a “one size fits all” approach or theory, Strategic Psychotherapists apply an appropriate “blend” and sequence of approaches and theories to address the particular problem(s) at hand. The blend of approaches and style in which they are applied are entirely tailored to the specific needs and preferences of the client. This makes for an approach which not only creates greatest client comfort and receptivity, but which also most closely matches the client’s specific needs.
Strategic Psychotherapy is very results and outcomes focussed. It does not dwell on the time consuming, often frustrating and unproductive process of examining “why” the Client has and maintains a given problem. Most importantly, it is thus arguably the fastest and most means of creating meaningful and enduring positive change.
At Targeted Hypnotherapy, your Strategic Psychotherapist will identify and change the process by which you create and maintain your problem, bringing focus to the underlying cause of the problem, rather than just your symptoms or their content.
Instead of focus on the past, our treatment process attends to the “now”, directing attention to “how” you do what you do. The sequence of actions that create and maintain the problem are brought into your conscious awareness. The point where things go wrong is then identified and changed. Your clinician will be focused on action. Your treatment plan will be unique and tailored. Our joint goal in your treatment will be to activate change and “restore or establish normal”; to get you the desired results quickly and effectively, ingraining the new and desirable patterns.
Strategic Psychotherapy, utilising Hypnotherapy, is therefore arguably much more effective that traditional talk therapies. [PM1]
To briefly compare Strategic Psychotherapy to “talk” based therapies such as Cognitive, Behavioural, Interpersonal and Relational Emotive aim to discover the meaning of thoughts images and feelings a patient experiences, making the unconscious conscious. A typically long and non-directive process, they aim to unlock hidden realisations and resources the patient already has, using “why” and “what’ questions and dwelling on history. Cognitive dissonance for example ascribes the client’s problem and finds resolution in identifying internal conflicts or flawed external comparisons. Psychiatry adds the dimension of medication to the treatment mix.
Strategic Psychotherapy is a variant of these approaches. It is a sometimes more directive discipline that applies targeted and tailored treatment methods including Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) and Ericksonian Hypnotherapy. It is often used to augment other medical and psychological treatments.
Much has been written about the relative strengths and weaknesses of the three models of clinical hypnosis.
At Targeted Hypnotherapy, we utilise the full spectrum of Strategic Psychotherapy techniques including NLP as well as Ericksonian hypnotic techniques, achieving the highest possible level of success. Here is an “at a glance summary” aimed to assist in understanding these strengths and weaknesses.
|Traditional/authoritarian hypnosis||For certain people and cultures receptive to the approach, provides unambiguous and welcomed direction.||For people adverse to being "told", can create resentment and resistance, creating a therapeutic barrier.|
|Leaves nothing to potential misinterpretation.||Might only be partially applicable or relevant.|
|Searches for causes||Past and "why" oriented|
|Scripted hypnosis||Easier for therapist to master.||One-size fits all approach that is less relevant, engaging and influential to the subject. "Feels contrived"|
|Can be indirect or direct...||...but tends to be one or the other.|
|Lots of cheap online content available, far less time/effort to interview/prepare/deliver.||No uniqueness. Cannot leverage and "utilise" Subject's particular strengths and resources.|
|Ericksonian/Indirective hypnosis and its variations|
|Personalised, unique and engaging. More relevant and digestible to the Subject.||More difficult to master for the practitioner.|
|Assumes Subject has useful resources. Present/future and action oriented.||Clinician needs deeper humanistic skills: observation, communication, comprehension, "agility".|
|Accommodates the full spectrum of Strategic Psychotherapy techniques.|
|Leverages individual's specific strengths and resources.|
|Addresses their specific cognitive distortions.|
Professionally applied clinical hypnotherapy is a safe, highly effective and outcomes-oriented way for people of almost any age or demographic to achieve significant positive shifts and therefore improvements in their lives.
Its broader acceptance by the medical, therapeutic, professional and sporting communities sees it rapidly gathering momentum as a credible and accepted treatment. It may be likely as time progresses that we will see its use become as commonplace as a visit to the family doctor for a flu vaccination, or perhaps even taking the family car to a motor mechanic for a routine maintenance check and tune-up.
Hypnosis has definitely suffered from a bit of an image problem due to the way its depicted in such places as TV and stage acts. It’s often portrayed as a way to make someone do something they wouldn’t otherwise do, such as commit a crime or humiliate themselves publicly.
That’s “entertainment hypnosis” and, yes its all about entertainment. It has nothing to do with what I do as a practitioner in the field of Clinical Hypnosis.
Clinical hypnotherapy is a highly strategic and targeted set of treatments. As a trained and certified clinician, my aim is to absorb the patient in new ways of thinking, being and doing that allows them to do things they really want to do, but for some reason can’t.
It’s an incredibly effective way of empowering people to take greater control of their lives. To help people who are troubled; even “psychologically or emotionally stuck”. To treat phobias, addictions and fears. To break bad habits in thinking and behavior.
To lift their focus, concentration, confidence and willpower. To create new, “good” habits that equip them to be happier, healthier, more effective and successful.
In its more advanced forms, it can be used to help treat chronic pain, allergies, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, even certain skin conditions such as psoriasis and warts.
Perhaps the best thing about it is that it’s effective. It can improve the efficacy of just about any other form of medical or psychological treatment. In its own right it can bring about significant and long-lasting change.
Let’s understand the vast differences between stage hypnosis entertainers, and a qualified clinical hypnotherapist.
Stage hypnotists control their subjects to do things that others might find entertaining. It’s not intended to provide a therapeutic purpose, perhaps other than to give the audience a good laugh.
Clinical hypnotherapy by contrast is a credible and highly effective method of treatment, where the clinician works in a therapeutic alliance with the patient to help them bring about the changes they seek. The patient is in control. Specific treatment objectives and a plan are discussed and agreed. The client is in the driver’s seat, while the clinician simply helps to navigate.
In the following Q&A, Paul Mullins addresses some common hypnosis myths and answer some Frequently Asked Questions:
Myth #1: The Subject is put to sleep and loses all “control”.
Busted! If you actively block the hypnotic process (simply by choosing not to cooperate) you cannot be hypnotised. Once in trance, you’re still fully aware of your surroundings and what is happening. You don’t “lose control”. Hypnosis is not sleep or unconsciousness.
As I explain in my article “Understanding Hypnotherapy in the Context Of Hypnosis” (also within in Understanding Hypnotherapy Section) it’s an active state of heightened inner awareness. You can hear and speak to the Clinician and continue to make choices and decisions. Sometimes a person in Trance does fall asleep. It’s that relaxing. If this happens during one of my sessions with you. I’ll typically gently awaken you and we can move straight back into session. You’ll awake refreshed from the experience.
Myth #2: The Therapist will be able to control my mind.
Busted! No one can control your mind unless you let them. We’ll agree on our approach and goals with you before we commence. I’ll give you suggestions that you want to be given, based on the information you provide during the interview in the first part of your session. At no point during your session will you lose control of your mind. You will remain free to decide to follow a suggestion or not, whatever you choose.
Myth #3: The Subject’s mind is too strong to be hypnotised.
Busted! Applying modern techniques, almost anyone lucid and cooperative can be hypnotised. See also “Who Can And Can’t Be Hypnotized”. Interestingly, statistics show that the higher the IQ of the Subject, the more likely they will be to readily accept hypnosis and be hypnotised. The reverse is also true. A person of low IQ is far more likely to be resistant and have trouble achieving their trance state.
Myth #4: I might remain in the hypnotic trance state, feeling “stuck” and unable to get out.
Busted! There has never been a recorded case of someone experiencing this.
In my practice where someone expresses this concern, I give them a quick initial experience to familiarise them with the sensations of trance and quickly demonstrate how easy it is for them to pop out if they wish. I even give them a post hypnotic suggestion to that effect, which makes it super easy. I’ve never had a subject try it, then refused to continue having been given the choice. At Targeted Hypnotherapy, it’s your treatment your way. Your comfort and ease is always paramount. One of my personal objectives is to always make it a pleasant experience.
Myth #5: You might do something under hypnosis that’s wrong or against your wishes.
Busted! There are lots of reasons why this can’t and won’t happen. As a member of the “Australian Hypnotherapists Association”, I’m bound by a strict code of conduct. Your trust and our therapeutic alliance relies totally on our trust, and that trust will never be compromised.
Although in trance you’re highly open to suggestions, you remain in control. You can disregard any suggestions given freely and easily if you don’t want to accept them. You will still have the control to accept or reject a suggestion. That’s why for example a smoker that doesn’t want to quit at the unconscious level can experience treatment failure. They unconsciously reject the suggestion, still believing they ave more reasons to smoke than not to smoke. (This incidentally is why my treatments for such problems as quitting smoking and weight loss focus so much on addressing and re-programming the client’s underlying drivers).
Myth #6: Hypnosis looks scary. I’ve never been hypnotised before. I’m nervous.
Busted! Now before I actually answer this one, I will say this. Your perception is your reality. Only you can determine what appears scary and what doesn’t. In my practice, I’ll always respect that. The best way to bust that myth for you however is firstly to reassure you and talk you through it, then ultimately show you. I'm confident you won't be scared. I've never has a client that retained that view for longer than a few minutes.
Now to the details. In my article “Understanding Hypnotherapy in the Context of Hypnosis” I explain the experience in some detail.
“Imagine someone communicating with you in a fashion which brings about within you a state of deep comfort and ease; at the same time achieving heightened awareness, focused attention and increased susceptibility to suggestion. This process is called hypnotic induction and the state you achieve is called trance. Treatment itself is just me talking to you in trance”. It’s as simple as that.
In my clinic, first-timer’s are eased into the process at a rate that suits them. Almost universally, they emerge from their first trance experience with a big smile exclaiming “that was nice”!
I’ve not met anyone yet that’s felt discomfort or dislike for the sensation. That’s not to say it couldn’t happen; everyone is different. I’d suggest however that it’s pretty unlikely.
Myth#7: Hypnotherapy seems expensive.
Busted!: Expensive is all relative I suppose. It depends on what you’re comparing it to. The first thing I’d suggest is to compare it to the real cost of doing nothing. What price do you put on living with the issue you have? At moments of calm and quiet, its probably less important. If you’re in the throes of a panic attack, or facing a phobia such as claustrophobia, needles or spiders first hand, the answer might be different.
The maths on a comparison of costs for hypnotherapy vs other treatments is overwhelmingly in favour of hypnotherapy.
Here are the effectiveness statistics: Results of a comparative study published in American Health Magazine:
Psychoanalysis therapy has, on average, 38% recovery after 600 sessions. Behavioural therapy has, on average, 72% recovery after 22 sessions. Hypnotherapy has, on average, 93% recovery after 6 sessions. (Based upon statistics gathered by Dr. Alfred Barrios, PhD documented here: http://stresscards.com/hypnotherapy_reappraisal.php)
At an average session cost of $200, the relative costs of a programme of treatment are:
Psychoanalysis: 600x$200 = $120,000 (38% effective)
Behavioural Therapy: 22x$200 = $ 4,400 (72% effective)
Hypnotherapy: 6x$200 = $ 1,200 (93% effective)
Now, obviously results vary according to the issue being treated, and of course there ARE many cases where Psychological and or Psychiatric treatment is preferred OR used in conjunction with Hypnotherapy. This is simply an interesting insight into cost/effectiveness.
Let’s next look at the smoking equation just in dollar terms to consider the "expensive" notion.
My smoking program typically requires three sessions and costs $790. A pack of cigarettes costs on average $30. Thus, for a pack-per-day smoker, my program should pay for itself in under a month. Let alone the huge health benefits.
Myth #8: Hypnosis applies some “magical power” through which a Subject can be “zapped” once to bring about change, regardless of their desire and commitment to that change.
Busted! While a highly effective means of bringing about sustained behavioural and perceptive change, sustained and effective behavioural change requires commitment, cooperation and collaboration on the part of the Subject. It is typically not a one-shot, somehow “magical” process.
Having said that, I will with all humility say this. Watching the before and after of many of my treatments, you might in some cases be forgiven for thinking that magic has occurred. The contrast of change both to the observer, and to the subject as seen from within, is that significant.
#anxiety, #stress, #depression, #sydney city, #2000, #hypnotherapist, #hypnotherapy,
- overcome an executive’s fear of public speaking, or improve their focus and motivation;
- assist a medical patient to comply with their doctor’s orders, or to alleviate chronic pain;
- improve an HSC student’s retention, recall and concentration, assisting with sleeplessness while steadying their exam day jitters;
- improve the accuracy and consistency of a professional golfer’s swing; and even
- improve moods and attitudes within a troubled marriage.
|Traditional/authoritarian hypnosis||For certain people and cultures receptive to the approach, provides unambiguous and welcomed direction.||For people adverse to being “told”, can create resentment and resistance, creating a therapeutic barrier.|
|Leaves nothing to potential misinterpretation.||Might only be partially applicable or relevant.|
|Searches for causes||Past and “why” oriented|
|Scripted hypnosis||Easier for therapist to master.||One-size fits all approach that is less relevant, engaging and influential to the subject. “Feels contrived”|
|Can be indirect or direct…||…but tends to be one or the other.|
|Lots of cheap online content available, far less time/effort to interview/prepare/deliver.||No uniqueness. Cannot leverage and “utilise” Subject’s particular strengths and resources.|
|Ericksonian/Indirective hypnosis and its variations||Personalised, unique and engaging. More relevant and digestible to the Subject.||More difficult to master for the practitioner.|
|Assumes Subject has useful resources. Present/future and action oriented.||Clinician needs deeper humanistic skills: observation, communication, comprehension, “agility”.|
|Accommodates the full spectrum of Strategic Psychotherapy techniques.|
|Leverages individual’s specific strengths and resources.|
|Addresses their specific cognitive distortions.|