Recognized as a valid procedure since 1958, hypnotherapy remains an important adjuvant therapy to many mental and physical health treatments. While most people remain unaware of its true potential, the therapy can lead to myriad benefits if used correctly and help people come out of negative habits and beliefs. Learning more about what is hypnotherapy can help people decide if it can benefit them in any way.
What is Hypnotherapy?
Before understanding hypnotherapy, it is imperative to know what is hypnosis. Hypnosis describes a psychological procedure aimed to help change how a person acts and feels. It involves putting them in a state of highly focused concentration where they become less aware of their surroundings and easily accept suggestions or invitations. The therapist is the one to make these suggestions based on the nature of the issues for which a person is seeking help from hypnosis. In most cases, the suggestions are directed to help clients distance themselves from unhelpful behaviors while adopting more helpful concepts. For example, if a person wrongfully considers themselves bad, a hypnosis expert can suggest changing this belief and ensure they are fine.
Hypnotherapy is a type of therapy that uses the technique described above to treat certain physical and mental health conditions in addition to changing habits. Sometimes, mental health experts use it to increase the efficacy of other psychological treatments or manage pain in a better way.
What is Hypnotherapy Used For?
According to research, hypnotherapy can help people overcome the following types of mental health disorders:
Hypnotherapy can also help people with functional disorders with bodily symptoms and conditions, like backaches, irritable bowel syndrome, and headaches, which occur with no medical explanation yet cause severe psychological stress. Moreover, experts believe it to be a beneficial modality to improve memory for people with brain injury.
Due to the anxiety-lowering effects of hypnotherapy, the treatment can also help people manage the following:
- Burn wound care
- Dental procedures
- Medical and surgical procedures
- Anesthetic procedures
- Menopausal symptoms
- Side effects of cancer treatment
Some people believe hypnotherapy has positive effects on the immune system. Owing to these effects, it can improve several physical issues, such as warts and certain types of skin conditions. It can also benefit people trying to lose weight or quit smoking.
What to Expect from a Hypnotherapy Session?
While many people consider hypnotherapy similar to a magician’s hypnotic tricks on stage, the two are significantly different. Hypnotherapy sessions usually involve sitting in a peaceful and comfortable environment with a therapist and listening to them or a recording for at least 10 to up to 90 minutes.
A typical session begins with an induction procedure in which a therapist speaks softly and slowly while suggesting relaxing and focusing attention. This is usually done by describing various relaxing pictures, such as going through a beautiful hiking trail or lying on a beach. When the patient reaches a hypnotic state deep enough to begin therapy, the therapist starts making real suggestions that revolve around things the patients wish to change.
Sometimes, these suggestions may also include creating images of all desirable possibilities. For instance, it may help patients picture themselves in a public situation where they usually feel anxiety. However, as a part of the suggestion, they are not experiencing anxiety which lets their mind accept these images without too much criticism
Hypnotherapy Mental Health Treatment Examples
Following are some examples through which hypnotherapy can help a person:
A person can be experiencing chronic pain without any consequence on their physical health. Such people can use hypnotherapy to pay less attention to their ongoing pain and move more freely by creating distractions.
Many people fear dogs, especially those with dangerous encounters with them. In such people, their attention only focuses on the risk of another attack which can trigger panic attacks and make them avoid going out to places with dogs. Hypnotherapy can help redirect the attention of such people away from the thought of other encounters in the future to reduce the anxiety about leaving the house.
Many people have poor self-esteem because of having an overly critical or domineering parent as a child. Because of the negative criticism, such people fail to develop self-confidence, constantly put unrealistic expectations on them, and have a fear of rejection. Hypnotherapy can help such people move their attention away from the unhealthy associations of the past while creating more helpful ones. For instance, this therapy can help people understand that perfection is not achievable and help them cope independently.
Hypnosis Mental Health: How Long Does the Therapy Last?
How long a person receives hypnotherapy can vary depending on the following factors:
- How they are as a person
- What problems are they using hypnotherapy to treat
- Whether their problems are straightforward or complication
- Their susceptibility to being hypnotized
On average, most people need at least three to four sessions. However, others may continue hypnotherapy treatments for up to 20 sessions for major benefits. If a person is using hypnotherapy alongside other treatments, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), the course lasts for the same duration of time as CBT. If hypnosis is successful, it can even cut down the duration of the ongoing CBT course.
When it is a simple phobia, some people may benefit from even one hypnotherapy course. Others may even perform it on their own as homework through self-hypnosis. Self-hypnosis, if successful, can considerably cut down the number of professional sessions needed to overcome the issue. Some people may require top-up sessions, especially if they relapse.
How Does Hypnotherapy Work?
Hypnotherapy sessions can involve creating a state of focused attention to reduce critical thoughts. This allows patients to immerse in images that change all unhelpful associations and ideas. Most people develop these ideas in childhood and are not helpful in their everyday living as adults.
Many experts consider hypnotherapy as a form of top-down regulation. This is because it involves verbal suggestions (the top), which can affect the way a person feels and thinks (the bottom). The therapy can also help people decide which to give attention to and which to avoid for better mental health. Further research has also revealed that hypnotherapy also causes changes in activity in certain areas of the brain.
Will hypnotherapy work for me?
Hypnotherapy can produce variable results for different people. Many questionnaires are available that can provide experts with an idea about how susceptible a person is to hypnotherapy and the predicted chances of success. However, even for people who score less on these questionnaires, hypnotherapy may still remain beneficial.
Who should not get hypnotherapy treatments?
This therapy may not be appropriate for people with severe psychosis as it may make their issues worse. Tell your therapist about any co-existing mental and physical health conditions before they begin formal sessions is always a good idea. Hypnosis is also not advised for people who are going to be a witness in a trial.
Is it possible for someone to use hypnosis on themselves?
It is possible to use hypnosis on yourself through a technique called self-hypnosis. The procedure can be very useful and can be learned during professional hypnotherapy sessions. Once a person understands hypnosis, they can rehearse these sessions with themselves.
Are there any side effects of hypnotherapy?
When delivered by a qualified therapist, hypnotherapy is usually safe with very little side effects, if any. Some people may feel a bit drowsy following a session, but this usually goes away fairly soon. Therapists conducting hypnotherapy must evaluate how well the treatment is going for a person while identifying any potential side effects. If a patient’s treatment is not going well, a therapist may consider changing it to an alternative treatment. As with any mental health treatment, you must never become overdependent on hypnotherapy and use it to reach a point where you can easily cope on your own.
Who delivers hypnotherapy treatments?
Hypnotherapy must be performed by qualified professionals with accountability to professional bodies. These professionals can be medical doctors, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, nurses, or psychologists with adequate training. Nonmedical people can also offer this therapy with appropriate training, so always check your therapist’s credentials before beginning hypnotherapy. Untrained professionals can risk your health and may misuse the therapy, causing side effects or no improvement.