You are likely to have a lot of questions about hypnotherapy, and some of the most common are answered below. First, why not check out this reassuring video clip from the National Council for Hypnotherapy, in which a young woman talks about her experiences as a hypnotherapy client....
What Is Hypnosis?
Hypnosis is a focused state of mind entered into voluntarily, not unlike being deeply absorbed in a book or a TV programme. If you've ever driven home on a familiar route, only to realise, with a jolt possibly, that you cannot remember having actually done it? You were driving 'automatically' in a kind of a trance, without thinking about it at all.
The driving analogy is a nicely helpful one, because also, like when driving, if you become aware of anything that needs your attention (like brake lights coming on in the car in front when driving) when in hypnosis, you can easily open your eyes, re-engage with your your usual state of awareness, and react appropriately.
What Is Hypnotherapy?
At it's broadest stroke, hypnotherapy is a description of the way in which some therapists utilise hypnosis to help a client overcome a problem. Sometimes the hypnosis plays a very large part in their approach, sometimes a smaller part, but still significant nevertheless, otherwise they would be unlikely to refer to their approach as Hypnotherapy.
The methodologies within hypnotherapy vary widely, as do opinions of their effectiveness, but terms you may hear include, not exclusively, analysis, pure analysis, regression, parts therapy, NLP, brief therapy, solution focused therapy, abreaction, meridian therapy, emotional freedom technique/therapy (EFT).
Is Hypnotherapy Regulated?
Only on a voluntary basis, through the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC), which was set up to provide a point of reference for members of the public who are searching for a complementary therapist, and through some of the professional associations who are members of the United Kingdom Confederation of Hypnotherapy Organisations (UKCHO), such as the National Council for Hypnotherapy (NCH), or my own primary regulatory organisation the Association for Solution Focused Hypnotherapy (AfSFH).
To avoid using an inadequately qualified or uninsured Hypnotherapist, you should check that they have an active listing on the CNHC database, or use the database to provide you with a reasonable starting point from which to choose. It is NHS policy (see below) to refer you to this register, in the event that you express an interest in complementary therapies, but do not treat the presence of a therapist on the register as a guarantee of effectiveness, and exercise your own critical instincts.
Safety and regulation issues
Hypnotherapy is practised by some doctors, dentists, psychologists and counsellors, but it's also offered by non-professionals with little training. This is because in the UK, hypnotherapists don't have to join any organisation or have any specific training by law (Alan has been a Registered Nurse for 30 years)
Make sure you choose a qualified hypnotherapist with a solid healthcare background. Most health professionals who practise hypnotherapy belong to a professional organisation such as the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) and are regulated by the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC).
Positive Hypnotherapy's position in relation to regulation is that there should be a further step to bring about mandatory regulation for anybody wishing to describe themselves as a ‘Clinical Hypnotherapist’, with a provision for those who did not wish to work within a regulated system to be allowed to call themselves 'Lay Hypnotherapists', as there are many hypnotherapists who do not want mandatory regulation.
Can Anybody Be Hypnotised?
Nearly. Some people with very low intelligence (very), and some kinds of epileptics (due to the nature of their brains' electrical activity) don't seem to respond to hypnotism.
Some highly intelligent, highly analytical individuals can seem, initially at least, unwilling or unable to engage, but usually succeed with practice, and with the reassuring understanding that quickly develops, that to be hypnotised does not mean to relinquish control.
Nearly everybody who wants to be hypnotised, can be, but it is a co-operative process, a collaboration between client and therapist, and those who wish to prove that 'nobody can hypnotise me' will have no difficulty in doing just that, though to what end is unclear.
Am I Under Your Control?
As indicated in the last answer, hypnosis is a collaboration between the therapist and the client, and the client can withdraw their co-operation at any time, open their eyes and walk away. The reason they don't, of course, is because the hypnotic state is an enjoyably relaxing experience, and the therapist is saying some very helpful things, that in time will prove beneficial to the client, which the client usually recognises and understands.
Will I Tell You My Secrets?
No, your secrets are safe with you! Your verbal input is required only to say 'yes' or 'no', and in only the most limited of circumstances, more than that is simply not needed, and you will not offer. As should be becoming obvious by this point, it simply isn't possible for you to do something that you wouldn't want to do anyway, while in a hypnotic trance, because you are in control.
What About Those Stage Shows Then?
The hypnotism is real in these shows, but forms only a small part of the ‘subjects’’ motivation, and
the 'control' of the subjects is largely illusory, and the same dynamic as above exists between audience and performer.
The performer is lent 'authority' by his presence on stage, and the audience feels safe due to their
numbers, and the collective sense that 'they' wouldn't allow it if it wasn't safe. Therefore the audience trusts, and goes on to co-operate.
Where the shows are outlandish or obscene, and whilst acknowledging that the audience members wouldn't do anything outside of their value range, it is in our view difficult to accept that consent has been fully given by an informed participant, which in our view makes this kind of show unacceptable.
What Does Hypnosis Feel Like?
Different things to different people, but some will feel very little, whilst others will feel profoundly relaxed, possibly experiencing heaviness, or lightness, of arms, legs, head, and/or hands, maybe with 'pins and needles'. Some will have no recollection of the process afterwards, others will remember everything, and most will be somewhere between those two.
Can I Get Stuck In Hypnosis?
There is an (inaccurate) idea that some people can't be roused from hypnosis, and one of Hypnotherapy's founders, James Esdaile found he was able to induce 'hypnotic comas'. Dave Elman, later discussed what became known as the 'Esdaile State', in his self named book, in which he estimated this 'hypnotic coma' affected around 1 in 10,000 subjects, who would not come out of hypnosis on command, but always later came out of their own accord, sometimes hours later.
When Dave Elman asked these subjects why they hadn't come out of trance, they explained that they were very content where they were, and could see no reason to change matters!
Elman discovered that threatening to never hypnotise the clients again proved to be a very effective method of 'persuading' these clients to leave their hypnotic state!
It is probably the story of the Esdaile State, combined with the illusion of control within stage shows, that maintains the myth that it is possible to get stuck, but it categorically is not!
What Sort Of therapist Are You?
I am a Solution Focused Hypnotherapist, which means that I use waking and hypnotic techniques to allow my clients to discover what needs to be done with their lives, and give them the confidence to do it, so they can just get on with things with the least possible interference from me.
It is a method that acknowledges the clients' expertise in the field of their own lives, and is intended to be forward looking, very positive, and as brief as possible in nature. I do not employ analysis or regression, and never require my clients to recollect aspects of their lives that have caused them unhappiness or distress, except in extremely limited and specific circumstances, such as the rewind technique (see phobias).
What Do The letters Mean After Your Name?
HPD means Hypnotherapy Practitioners Diploma. This is a nationally recognised qualification, and is at level 4 on the National Qualifications Framework. The work is externally verified by NCFE.
DHP is the Diploma in Hypnotherapy and Psychotherapy awarded by my training body, The Clifton Practice in Bristol. The Clifton Practice can be found on the NCH list of accredited training bodies, and is accredited by NCFE. Clifton Practice offers the 'gold standard' in relation to it's submitted portfolios. I am very proud of my association with The Clifton Practice.
CBT(Hyp) an additional, externally verified (NCFE), diploma, at NQF level 4, in CBT skills for hypnotherapists. CBT is an evidence based methodology, and can provide invaluable additional approaches to my own evidence based methodology of Solution Focused Hypnotherapy. This can provide some useful extra tools for use with some clients.
Acc Hyp Sup, is the qualification that allows me to act as a Supervisor for less experienced Hypnotherapists. It is a standard arrangement found with providers of psychological interventions, and allows the recipient to be able to reflect on their work and therefore to improve. In turn I also have a senior Hypnotherapist who acts as my Supervisor, and I belong to CPHTs Supervisors Supervision Group.
MNCH(Acc) full (Acc) Member of the National Council for Hypnotherapy, No 1217.
MAfSFH Member of the Association for Solution Focused Hypnotherapy.
Can I Hypnotise Myself?
Yes, and numerous courses exist to enable you to learn just that. It is generally acknowledged that you are best advised to experience hypnosis at the hands of a hypnotist, before embarking on a self hypnosis course, and of course, the two could be combined, one leading to the other.