What is hypnotherapy and how has it evolved?
The origins of hypnosis (inducing a trance or pleasant, relaxed and heightened state of awareness) can be traced to ancient Egyptians and Greeks and their use of sleep temples. History suggests it was used typically in religious rites and for surgical preparation and procedure. Hypnosis today can mean stage hypnosis which uses the trance state purely for entertainment. Hypnotherapy however is very different as it uses the trance state for therapeutic purposes and this is what I do.
Modern understanding is credited to the work of contributors in the 18th century onwards:
Philip von Hohenheim later Paracelsus (1500) – credited with providing the first clinical/scientific mention of the unconscious.
Valentine Braithwaite (1600) – continued the work of Paracelsus to heal others by passing magnets over their bodies.
Father Maximilian Hehl (1725) – cured people by laying his hands on them and as he did so they went into a trance.
Franz Anton Mesmer (1750) – used magnets and suggestion therapy to develop what he called “the natural qualities of animal magnetism”. His belief was that magnets could restore the balance of magnetic fluid and thus cure the sick. Hence the term “Mesmerism”.
The Marquis de Pusseguyr (1800) – began to practice Mesmerism and coined the term “somnambulism” meaning “sleepwalker”, which is used today to describe the deepest state of hypnosis.
Doctor John Elliotson (1838); adopted Mesmerism and performed over one thousand painless operations using hypnosis with a low mortality rate and high success rate. Fellow doctors however believed that pain was necessary for healing and he was discredited.
Doctor James Braid (1840); discovered the power of hypnotic suggestion to entrance the patient while working on scientific experiments of mental concentration and called it neuro-hypnosis. In 1843 he wrote “Neurypnology” and in the book he published his observation that it was a clients’ fixation on a single point that caused the state of trance.
Doctor James Esdaile (1850); used Mesmerism to control pain and create speedy recovery as he successfully performed hundreds of operations in India. Upon his return to England his inability to repeat his success left him demoralised and discredited and the invention of chloroform provided a proven solution for pain control.
Doctor Jean-Martin Charcot (1864); experimented with Mesmerism and credited for identifying and labeling varying depths of trance. This was the first recorded attempt at scientific classification. He concluded hypnosis was an inducted form of seizure that only hysterics were susceptible to and that hysteria was in fact an organic condition of brain deterioration.
Doctor Auguste Ambrose Liebault (1864); developed a system of Hypnosis that he stated was not caused by any mechanical means but by suggestion. Successfully treated hundreds of dissatisfied patients from Nancy Hospital.
Professor Hippolyte Bernheim (1865); impressed and convinced by the work of Liebault, discredited the findings of Charcot. Formed The Nancy School of Hypnosis with Liebault.
Sigmund Freud (1885); studied with Charcot and at The Nancy School. Initially tried to use Hypnosis to release the emotions of patients whilst they were in a trance state. Failed to develop the required skills to successfully practice Hypnosis and turned his attention to other methods to cure mental illness. Credited for his theories of the unconscious mind and creating the clinical method of psychoanalysis.
William James (1890); wrote “Principles of Psychology” and coined the term “stream of consciousness” (“stream of thought”).
Professor Clark Hull (1943); wrote “Hypnosis and Suggestibility”, one of the first books covering the psychological studies on hypnosis and a primary observation was that “anything that assumes trance, causes trance”. This suggested that a standard trance induction could be used for everyone.
George Estabrook (1943); wrote “Hypnotism”, in which he suggested subjects would perform actions against their personal wishes or values and they would produce results that were within the beliefs of the hypnotist.
Milton Erickson (1920-1980); studied under Clark Hull but disagreed with his methods and theories of Hypnosis and believed instead in each client’s natural ability to go into trance under the right conditions, referred to as a permissive approach, eventually being called the utilization approach to hypnotherapy. His subsequent development of extraordinary techniques and phenomenal success in helping patients made him the most pronounced and influential figure of modern day hypnosis. His work was extensively modelled by the eventual founders of NLP.
Dave Elman (1950); taught hypnosis to many hundred of doctors across the United States and simplified understanding by removing medical jargon. His very successful technique was to achieve physical and mental relaxation, enabling the theory that the critical faculty (conscious mind) is much reduced or bypassed, opening the access to the unconscious mind.
What is trance and can anyone experience it?
Hypnotic trance is the process of inducing a state of physical and mental relaxation to gain access to the unconscious mind that can be achieved by anyone either by themselves or with the help of a therapist. A trance state in the therapy room is deliberately induced. In this heightened state of awareness you become very focused and able to concentrate more on the things that will bring about solutions to your problem. However, we all experience trance states. For example, maybe you can remember a pleasant daydream or a fixation on something specific, like becoming engrossed in a book or film, playing computer games, listening to a piece of music or chatting and then wondering where the time has gone (time distortion).
What is the conscious and unconscious mind?
We use our conscious mind when we think ‘here and now’, including practical application and quick decision making. The unconscious mind is the biggest part of our brain and does most of our thinking and feeling. It never goes to sleep and is continually responsible for things like keeping your heart beating, regulating your breathing and recording and storing your memories. However, it is hidden beyond our awareness and in addition to all the positives it provides, it is the origin of our habits, impulses, irrational thoughts and some illnesses.
In most forms of therapy the therapist makes suggestions at a conscious level. The problem with this is that the conscious mind, whilst rational, can be overly critical and sensitive, suspicious, defensive, challenging, flooded by negative thinking, cynical or resistant to new ideas and change. Hypnotherapy is special because it makes suggestions at an unconscious level.
How does hypnotherapy work and what can it treat?
No one knows for sure how hypnotherapy works but it works for most people and most problems most of the time and the results can be astonishing. Hypnosis is the process of inducing a trance. It is the key that unlocks the door to the unconscious mind, allowing therapy at a deep and lasting level. Hypnotherapy is a combination of hypnosis and therapy and when in a trance your busy conscious mind relaxes allowing your unconscious mind to come the fore. I can speak to your more receptive unconscious mind to create a deep-rooted and lasting change of old habits, thoughts, pains, memories and emotions. Hypnotherapy is used alongside your motivation to seek a desired goal.
Hypnotherapy can treat a wide range of psychological, emotional and physical problems including stress, anxiety, sleep, trauma, grief, loss and separation, obsessions and compulsions (OCD), pregnancy, infertility, pain relief, bruxism (teeth grinding), weight control, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), smoking and phobias. It may also help with minor skin conditions that are exacerbated by stress and confidence issues, and to enhance performance in areas such as sport, public speaking, the performing arts, and the corporate world.
An overweight person may be overeating or eating unhealthy foods despite consciously thinking it is unhealthy and wanting to change. The unconscious mind has a reason to continue the behaviour but this is hidden from view and the person cannot understand why they yo-yo diet. This is because the unconscious desire to maintain unhealthy eating keeps silently pestering despite the conscious efforts to stop. Hypnotic suggestions to eat healthily can resolve this conflict to a positive outcome.
A smoker can consciously know that smoking is harmful and is negatively impacting many aspects of their life yet they feel compelled to smoke. Hypnotherapy tackles the powerful unconscious habit and desire to smoke.
Despite knowing at a conscious level that a specific animal, reptile or insect has no intention of harming them and poses no threat, a person with a phobia still finds their unconscious fears taking over when, for example, a spider is present. Hypnotherapy builds confidence and deals with the causes such as film scenes, someone else screaming and having a spider brought up close to you.
Hypnotherapy can be used for medical problems. Evidence suggests the mind and body are definitely connected or part of the same system. For example, it is well known that stress in the mind can cause ulcers in the body and simply thinking about something can make your heart race. Hypnotherapy has been used successfully to treat, manage or improve lots of medical complaints including asthma, burns, wounds, skin problems, menstrual problems, IBS and many more. Hypnosis has been used for dental work and even major surgery where people are allergic to anaesthetic.
I can help you overcome a problem by speaking to your unconscious mind and elicit changes in your perceptions, sensations, feelings, thoughts and behaviours.
What are the common misconceptions, fears and myths?
Hypnotherapy is not something I as a therapist do to you. Rather, I create a climate for you to take yourself into trance to find the solution(s) to your problems within and this is empowering. There is no magic or trickery involved. Although there are often magical moments when unexpected changes occur, for the most part, hypnotherapy is a straightforward partnership between you as the client motivated to change and me as your therapist using my skills to facilitate and help the process along.
Common fears about hypnosis are of control and that you might blurt out your innermost secrets or that you will have to re-live your past. The fact is that, in hypnosis, YOU are in control, possibly for the first time in your life. Because your problem is an unconscious programme, you will not be able to fix it by using just your conscious mind. If you’ve tried willpower, you’ll know just how limiting that can be. In hypnosis, the conscious and the unconscious minds work together and this is how effective change takes place, as the conscious (rational) mind is brought to bear upon the unconscious (emotional) mind. Because the conscious mind is ever-present, you will not say or do anything you do not wish to.
The most common myths are “I will be made to ‘dance like a chicken’”, “I will lose control”, and “Hypnotherapy is a miracle cure”. Please be assured that this is a professional relationship aimed at empowering you and not demeaning you for entertainment. YOU remain in control at all times, YOU take yourself into trance, YOU choose to deepen it and when YOU are ready YOU can choose to lighten the trance or return to the room or at any point. YOU can achieve positive outcomes provided YOU take responsibility for the change process.
What is NLP?
Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) was developed in the 1970s by Richard Bandler and John Grinder, largely based upon the work of Milton Erickson, Gregory Bateson, Virginia Satir and Fritz Perls. It has been described as ‘The study of excellence’, the effect of words on brains. By increasing our awareness of another person’s reality, we are better able to understand that person. This is invaluable in gaining rapport and improving communication, as well as helping them overcome negative programming and move beyond limiting beliefs. NLP explores the connection between how we experience life through our five senses, how we communicate and how we behave. It is an attitude and a methodology that leaves behind a trail of techniques and these skills can help therapists tap into the process of what a person is doing, enabling them to understand and deal with the root cause of why they do what they do and ultimately how to change their behaviour from negative to positive. NLP is the study of the structure of subjectivity, modelling and learning from people who have overcome problems and how they did it. NLP is about understanding the process rather than the content. The ways in which we make pictures in our minds, where they are located, their size, where we locate our voices and how we alter our feelings of emotional states. All those little details give you a set of tools with which you can make profound changes, easily and quickly.
What is hypnotic coaching?
Hypnotic coaching consists of coaching, trance and hypnotic suggestion aimed at reaching agreed goals attained through time-limited and measureable action. It is generally catalytic, rather than analytic or advisory and is designed to maintain high levels of motivation. Some people have no specific symptoms, just a general dissatisfaction with the general direction of their lives. Other people may have certain difficulties in life that they want to overcome or feel they have lost their sense of direction. However, these are not normally the kinds of issue that I deal with as a hypnotherapist (e.g. weight control, smoking, fears, phobias, depression etc).
Coaching is concerned with the present and future rather than the past. Clients tend to be well adjusted yet sense that things could be better. The relaxed and positive (no such thing as failure) spirit and emphasis on being able to achieve more is what makes coaching different to therapy. Hypnotic coaching takes all that is good about trance, hypnotic suggestion and coaching and puts them together to form a unique experience. Unlike hypnotherapy, hypnotic coaching uses trance where appropriate. In agreement with you, as a coach I pursue whatever is working in a very pragmatic way and ask you what you think would be most productive, including the use of trance. Whilst trance can improve suggestibility, it can take up a substantial amount of time in a session unnecessarily if coaching is progressing well without it. Thomas Edison’s quote captures the spirit of coaching, essentially a positive mental attitude: “When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.
Coaching is a journey from Point A (your current standpoint) to a better Point B. What is crucial is that both you and I are clear on what we are achieving. Just how accurately does it detail what needs to be achieved, and by what means, and in what timescale? With its effective questioning and focused exploration, goal and objective setting, and work around motivation towards the objectives, Hypnotic coaching is powerful solution-focused approach. Trance is used primarily for the purposes of exploration, enhancing motivation, building belief and consolidating agreed objectives into the unconscious mind and maintaining un/conscious focus.
What is the process of hypnotherapy?
You will first be invited to an initial assessment. This is a chance for us to get to know one another, for you to ask any questions and for me to find out more about your problem. We’ll complete a questionnaire including your contact details, medical history and any other issues or information that may be useful for therapy. We’ll then agree a main goal e.g. to stop smoking. The initial assessment allows me to formulate a treatment plan for future sessions. This will be a mixture of you talking about your problem and me asking questions, using techniques and offering hypnotic suggestions while you are in trance. Please be assured I will always seek to gain consent from you at each session before we go ahead with any therapy.
How long is each hypnotherapy session?
Each session lasts for 60 minutes and I will carefully manage the session to ensure you get the maximum benefit in the minimum amount of time. I value your time and my time and I will ensure that the session ends appropriately.
How many hypnotherapy sessions does it take?
This depends on the nature and severity of the problem, whether there are lots of related issues or just one, your motivation, your commitment, how challenging your goals are, and many other factors, some of which can change during the course of therapy. As a rough guide, most issues take between 3 and 6 sessions. Smoking is usually tackled in a single longer session. Depression can take 10 or more sessions depending on its severity. I am ethically obliged to ‘terminate therapy at the earliest time, commensurate with the good care and continuing welfare of the client’ (National Council for Hypnotherapy). This means I neither continue therapy for my own personal needs such as enjoying your company or financial gain, or terminate it so soon that I leave you anxious, with unfinished business, or with effects that are not likely to last. Of course, you are free to terminate therapy at any time if you choose to leave sooner.
Are there any guarantees?
Hypnotherapy is not a ‘miracle cure’ and to claim it is would be unethical. All forms of therapy work differently on different people and can fail to bring about the desired change in some people.
What I do guarantee is that I will bring all my knowledge, experience, skills and effort to bear on the problem and I will always have your best interests at heart.
Ultimately, therapy requires a partnership in which you are highly involved and committed.
What are your success rates?
Every client is unique and it is the individual that matters. Other people are different and they are not a reliable guide as to whether you will be successful. Everyone has a different set of problems, personality, support structures, motivation etc.
Are the effects of treatment lasting?
The wonderful relaxation effects of a hypnotherapy session can last hours depending on the person you are and what is going on in your life after leaving the therapy room. I can offer techniques to enable you to return to these relaxed feelings at will. Treatment has no impact on your ability to drive, operate machinery, etc. and you will feel wide awake, refreshed and ready for the challenges ahead.
The overall effects of hypnotherapy can last a lifetime, whereas quick fixes tend to treat the symptom and not the root cause. If there is an underlying emotional problem it can take a few sessions for us both to understand it. The results of hypnotherapy can generalise out across many areas of your life.
Problems can return but they are usually ‘new’ problems. For example, treatment for a phobia of lifts would make a person comfortable travelling in a lift, like many people are. However, if a lift had a lengthy power cut, they could develop a new phobia of lifts just like anyone else could – even if they had never had a phobia previously.
You do not become reliant on hypnotherapy to maintain the solution.
Can anyone be hypnotised?
Yes but not by someone else because all hypnosis is self-hypnosis. So, anyone who has experienced daydreaming, being totally ‘lost’ in a film, book, music, boring or repetitive task has already experienced a trance. As a therapist, I guide you with language that helps you find your relaxing state in which you can enter hypnosis if you want to. People with severe learning difficulties and children under the age of 5 may find it more difficult to benefit from a ‘talking therapy’. I would not attempt to work with someone against their will.
What does trance feel like?
A trance state is pleasant, relaxing and peaceful. It is different from being awake or asleep. Some people experience mild tingling sensations, lightness or heaviness, daydreaming, warmth, peace, drifting, floating, strong imagery, etc. In subsequent sessions they usually find themselves going deeper and deeper. It is so pleasurable that some clients have sessions purely for relaxation rather than therapy and some clients begrudge being brought out of trance! In contrast, some people hardly notice the trance because they just felt their mind wander a little.
What happens if I don’t enter a trance?
This is unlikely to happen. You will enter a trance if YOU want to and feel ready, even if you might believe you ‘cannot be hypnotised’. You do not have to want to relax, or be able to relax, although you might as well take time out and enjoy the process even more!
Imagine it is bedtime. If you try hard to stay awake you will. Yet if you try too hard to sleep you’ll also stay awake. (Law of reversed effect or ‘paradoxical intentions’). Either way you are swimming against the tide. Although hypnosis is not sleep, the problem is the same. You should neither resist hypnosis nor try too hard to enter a trance. You will enter a trance if you accept your thoughts and feelings as they come, allow yourself the chance to relax, and communicate any concerns to me so I can help.
Is hypnosis safe?
Hypnosis and trance are 100% natural and safe, you already experience trance in day-to-day life, just think of the last time you had a daydream. You cannot ‘get stuck’ in trance. You remain aware of yourself and your surroundings, you can speak and you can voluntarily end the trance at any point.
Does my doctor or psychologist need to refer me?
No. However, if your problem is a medical one such as problems with the heart, breathing, stomach, digestion, high blood pressure, arthritis, anorexia, tinnitus, a skin complaint or an allergy it should be diagnosed by a doctor first and you should continue taking any medication. If it is psychological, again, you should continue with any support you are currently receiving and view hypnotherapy as an additional form of help. I might want to contact your doctor or psychologist before commencing therapy so I can fully understand the condition and make sure my work is complimented.
How do you induce a trance?
I use a range of techniques, including you fixating and closing your eyes, breathing exercises, relaxing your muscles, a visualised journey through a beautiful environment such as beach, woodland, lakes or mountains. Everything I use is harmless and very pleasant!
Do I need to prepare for hypnotherapy sessions?
Eating and drinking is fine but please avoid alcohol and stimulants such as tea, coffee, energy drinks, and cigarettes to help you relax more. Depending on your problem, you might be given simple and manageable homework, e.g. a food diary for weight control. Homework is sometimes directly for your benefit and sometimes to help me understand the problem better.
Will hypnotherapy be distressing?
Hypnotic trance is a very gentle, non-invasive process. However, the nature of some problems may mean revisiting memories or imagining things you are fearful of in order to treat them. Please be assured YOU can stop any therapeutic technique at any time. YOU are always in control, even when in a trance. Sometimes even difficult material can be processed whilst remaining calm and relaxed.
How will I feel after a hypnotherapy session?
In most cases you feel wonderfully relaxed, refreshed, positive, empowered and ready for the challenges ahead.
Are there any negative side-effects from hypnotherapy?
No! You can look forward to a range of positive side-effects such as being more relaxed, realising your potential, problem-solving, being happier, less fearful, more content and/or sleeping better.
Will my information remain confidential?
I am registered with the Information Commissioner. The law, specifically the Data Protection Act 1988, determines who has the right to read your records and it requires the data is accurate and up to date, not kept longer than necessary and is secure. The information is always accessible, on request, to you and those with a legal right, e.g. the police. Your notes and contact details are not shared with anyone except in exceptional circumstances where I may be forced to by law or if it is in your interests because you pose an immediate danger to yourself (e.g. considering suicide) or to others (e.g. child abuse). I may discuss cases with my supervisor so they can help me if need be. They are bound by the same responsibility to maintain confidentiality.
Are there any people or problems you will not work with?
I need to feel comfortable and safe and will only work within the boundaries of my professional competence using the skills in which I have been trained. Anyone who became aggressive or abusive would be asked to leave therapy immediately and permanently. If I feel the problem is beyond my capabilities, I will refer you on to another therapist.
People I will not work with:
- Children under the age of 5
- Children aged under 16 (unless with parental consent)
- Those suffering severe mental problems where they pose a risk to me or themselves
- Those who are forced to attend sessions against their will, e.g. by a partner or relative
Problems I will not work with:
- Serious mental disorders
- Direct symptom removal demand without tackling the root cause of the problem
- Substance abuse
I am committed to learning new skills from Continual Professional Development (CPD) and my capabilities may change in future.
Do you have any testimonials?
No and for the following reasons: The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) insists “that if a testimonial includes a direct or indirect claim to relieve a condition or symptom then this will be subject to the same rules as any other claim. So where efficacy has not been proven, they should not be used to imply that it is.” One of the rules is that testimonials must be based on dated and signed documents that are available for checking. This, however, would break confidentiality.