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Hypnotherapy: Guided Transformation

Nov 14 2020
6 min read
A woman lying on a couch while speaking with her therapist.

If you’re unfamiliar with the meaningful uses of hypnosis...

...you might cast it off as a form of amusement; maybe you’ve witnessed someone else being hypnotized in a party setting and it was all for fun. The truth is, hypnotherapy is a serious practice that can help you make a specific lifestyle change, or work through a particular problem or obstacle you’d like to overcome. It’s about taking a personal journey that results in a profound shift and, in some cases, healing.

When practicing hypnosis for therapeutic reasons, there’s no audience and no entertainment factor—just the intention of creating change.

At the start of a hypnotherapy session, your practitioner will ask you what you’re hoping to achieve with therapy; use this introductory time to explain why you’re there and your desired outcome, expressing any concerns you may have as well. He’ll then verbally guide you into a focused, trance-like state. Various methods are used to do this, but some common induction techniques include progressive muscle relaxation or fixating your eyes on a bright object while your therapist describes soothing images in a soft, calming tone.

Once you’re in this state of inner focus, you are deeply relaxed and more open to suggestion than usual. Your practitioner will use this opportunity to share suggestions to help you modify your own behaviors, feelings and/or patterns. If you’re hoping to improve your arthritis pain, for example, your therapist may say something like: “The pain you’ve been feeling is gone. You are no longer feeling pain. You do not feel any discomfort in your joints and your body is moving with ease.” He may also suggest that you imagine yourself reaching your goal successfully. Your therapist will finish by helping you come out of the trance, or you may be able to do so yourself.

Contrary to what you may have heard about hypnosis, this technique is not about relinquishing control. You will retain your mental faculties during a session, remaining aware of where you are, as well as being able to later recall what occurred.

Some of the more common reasons people seek out hypnotherapy are to break negative habits (such as smoking) or create positive ones (like sticking with an exercise program), reduce stress, improve quality of sleep, overcome a fear (like traveling on a plane) or cope with grief and loss. Others turn to this therapy to improve their athletic or work performance or to help treat medical issues, such as allergies, asthma and skin conditions, among others. It is also said to be useful in preparing for childbirth and surgical procedures.

Researchers continue to study the effectiveness of hypnosis on those trying to lose weight; existing studies don’t yield definitive results. Other studies, however, have confirmed that hypnosis can lessen hot flashes, help manage chronic pain (such as the discomfort associated with fibromyalgia), and alleviate symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.

Another well-known element of hypnotherapy, and perhaps the most controversial, is age regression, which is when the technique is used to call up earlier events in your life (most often those from childhood) that are still affecting you today. Maybe it’s recalling when a family member passed away or the turmoil of a past relationship. Though some are wary of age regression because it can stir up powerful, difficult emotions, using hypnosis to work through a situation in the past may be of interest to you if you feel stuck because of what happened. Discuss it with your therapist.

When looking for a hypnotherapist, steer clear of anyone who promises instant cures or amazing results; everyone’s experience and response to the technique will be different. Many doctors recommend hypnotherapy as an integrative element of a broader mental and physical health approach; for example, practicing hypnotherapy in conjunction with psychotherapy. A typical session lasts between 30 and 60 minutes, but some sessions might go longer, and the number of appointments you have depends on what issue you’re working on and how you’re feeling about your progress.

You might consider learning self-hypnosis with the help of books or videos that can help you practice at home. Though you may be wondering how you can get yourself into such a deep mental state, self-hypnosis is a powerful technique that—for many—cultivates peace, calm and wellness in the face of stressful or challenging situations.

Of course, there are no guarantees when it comes to hypnotherapy. Whether or not you are able to enter the trance-like state is largely dependent on your ability to trust in the technique and let yourself go. If you are able to be hypnotized, you may still find that the therapy is more or less effective on you compared to others.

Maybe you’ll discover that you prefer to employ other techniques, like meditation, to calm your mind or support you during a time of change. Still, alternative treatments like hypnotherapy provide another option to consider when seeking out ways to become a healthier, happier you.