Key2Empowerment © 1st May 2014
What is Hypnosis?
Healing by trance state (or an altered state of awareness) is among the oldest phenomena known to man and is found, in one form or another, in virtually every culture throughout the world. It could also be legitimately described as the original psychological therapy and somewhat more contentiously, as the basis for many of the more recent styles of psychological intervention.
Although such altered states have been known for thousands of years, the term ‘hypnosis’ (from the Greek ‘hypnos’, meaning ‘sleep’) was only coined circa 1840 by Dr James Braid, a Scottish physician, and remains a somewhat less than accurate description of the experience as the hypnotic state is, in most respects, entirely dissimilar to sleep.
At our current level of knowledge, the phenomenon of hypnosis cannot be conclusively defined but perhaps a reasonable interim definition might be that: Hypnosis is a state of mind, enhanced by (although not exclusively) mental and physical relaxation, in which our subconscious is able to communicate with our conscious mind. It may be better to define ‘hypnosis’ by what it does rather than what it is and in this regard it is widely accepted as a most excellent method by which we may access our inner potential. The state of mind referred to may be brought about either by oneself, unaided (self-hypnosis) or with the help of another person. If this other person is a trained professional, who utilises the resultant state of mind to encourage beneficial change to occur, the process is referred to as ‘Hypnotherapy’.
What is Hypnotherapy?
Psychological therapy and counselling (sometimes referred to as the ‘talking cure’) is the treatment of emotional and psychological disorders, unwanted habits and undesirable feelings, using psychological techniques alone. The aim of all such therapy is to assist people (usually referred to as clients) in finding meaningful alternatives to their present unsatisfactory ways of thinking, feeling or behaving. Therapy also tends to help clients become more accepting both of themselves and others and can be most useful in promoting personal development and unlocking inner potential.
There are many forms of psychological therapy but Hypnotherapy is distinctive in that it attempts to address the client’s subconscious mind. In practice, the Hypnotherapist often (but not exclusively) requires the client to be in a relaxed state, frequently enlists the power of the client’s own imagination and may utilise a wide range of techniques from story telling, metaphor or symbolism (judged to be meaningful to the individual client) to the use of direct suggestions for beneficial change. Analytical techniques may also be employed in an attempt to uncover problems deemed to lie in a client’s past (referred to as the ‘there and then’) or therapy may concentrate more on a client’s current life and presenting problems (referred to as the ‘here and now’). It is generally considered helpful if the client is personally motivated to change (rather than relying solely on the therapist’s efforts) although a belief in the possibility of beneficial change may be a sufficient starting point.
Regardless of the techniques employed, perhaps the most important thing is that a client should expect to feel comfortable and at ease with their therapist. This is of particular importance in Hypnotherapy, in which the value of the treatment is greatly enhanced when there is confidence in the practitioner. For this reason it is recommended that a single session only is initially booked, leaving the client subsequently free to decide if they wish to proceed with more.
Unlike many other psychological therapies, Hypnotherapy is generally considered to be a fairly short-term approach in which beneficial change, if it is to occur, should become apparent within a relatively few sessions.
(N.B. In actual practice, most Hypnotherapists will combine hypnotic procedures with other appropriate counselling and therapeutic techniques. Should there be any doubt about the combination of skills utilised in individual cases, the therapist should be asked directly for a further explanation of their preferred methodology.)