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Is there a difference between hypnosis and hypnotherapy?
How does hypnotherapy work?
Welcome to a beginner’s introduction to hypnotherapy!
If you’ve come across this article in the middle of a labyrinth of contradictory or uninformative web sources, you are not alone.
Although both hypnosis and hypnotherapy have deep roots in history and tons of scientifically verified results, negative rumors and misinformation about these practices still abound.
As a qualified, certified, and experienced psychotherapist, you need to find high-quality, scientifically proven answers.
Unfortunately when it comes to hypnosis or hypnotherapy, straightforward answers are usually hard to come by. And so, let us start from the beginning
What Is Hypnosis?
Hypnosis is a process of leading a patient into a trance-like state. Experts tend to define this state in different ways, but most characterize it by the following aspects:
- A state of deep relaxation;
- Heightened focus and concentration;
- An increased receptivity to suggestion.
If this does not immediately sound like anything special, that’s because it is not.
Most people enter a state like this from time to time without even realizing it.
If you sometimes zone out during your daily commute, fall into a fond memory while listening to your favorite music, or find yourself immersed in a movie or book, then you’ve experienced this trance-like state before.
The only thing different about these everyday versions of the trance state from that of hypnosis is that with hypnosis this state is achieved for a specific purpose: emotional well-being, self discovery, or relieving stress.
What Is not Considered Hypnosis?
You’ve all heard of those hypnotist tricks where you end up quacking like a duck or pulling other crazy stunts.
This image of hypnotists taking over people’s minds and controlling their actions, however, is a completely media-driven fabrication.
In the trance-like state of hypnotherapy, you are in complete control of yourself and are aware of everything around you: you cannot be made to do anything unwillingly.
For example, a certified hypnotherapist, Cassie Salewske, said: “In a hypnotherapy session, clients are conscious; they are awake, participating, and remembering.”
Although hypnosis is indeed, as she points out, known for its “power of suggestion”, it is by no means the only thing that makes people susceptible to suggestions. “Advertising, music, movies, and books routinely plant suggestions into our subconscious.
Language and communication are saturated with suggestion,” writes Salewske.
Even the audience members of a stage hypnotism show are cooperating with the hypnotist willingly since it is just not possible for a person to be unconscious during hypnosis.
What Is Hypnotherapy?
In order to understand the difference between hypnotherapy and hypnosis, think of the latter more as a tool, and the former more as the purpose of the tool. In other words, hypnotism is to hypnotherapy is what art is to art therapy.
The exact definition of hypnotherapy can be seen clearly from the word itself: it is the use hypnosis for therapy.
So, if someone is a professional therapist or doctor using hypnosis to help a patient to overcome a physical or mental condition, they are practicing hypnotherapy.
The trance-like state brought about by hypnosis is a remarkable tool for helping to solve a variety of mental and physical problems.
Here is just a small sample of the uses of hypnotherapy:
- by focusing their minds and implanting suggestions towards healthier habits, hypnotherapy can be used to help people quit smoking or lose weight;
- relieving chronic or acute pain (including that from childbirth or surgery) by accessing the patients mind-body link;
- dive deeply into the patients subconscious in order to find and root out the deep-seated causes of anxiety, depression, PTSD, or even addiction.
The remainder of this article will be on this last use mentioned above. As discovered by many, the trance-like state is key for plumbing the hidden depths of our consciousness, our memory, and our basic motivations.
How Does Hypnotherapy Work?
The most characteristic feature of the trance-like state is the way in which it connects our subconscious to our conscious mind.
Hypnotherapy specialist Diane Zimberoff, who is also the co-founder of the Wellness Institute, likens the subconscious mind to a computer’s memory bank.
Our subconscious is something like our hard drive, in which we save every emotion, experience, or thought that we’ve ever had.
Accordingly, in the calm and hyper-focused state brought on by hypnosis — always under the guidance of a trained hypnotherapist — something like a Google search can be run on our entire subconscious, retrieving as results any repressed or buried memories or emotions at the root of our mental health problems.
According to Zimberoff: “Each unhealthy current behavior, such as smoking, losing one’s temper, excessive alcohol consumption, or compulsive overeating has a chain of events that laid the foundation for all of our current unhealthy choices.
Through the ‘memory chip’ that has been laid down in the subconscious mind, we can trace back the experiences and subconscious decisions we made as children that may be leading us to the behavior that is no longer healthy for us.” This goes far beyond the simple suggestibility of stage hypnosis.
Another expert hypnotherapist, Judi Vitale, describes two distinct approaches to help a patient quit smoking by using hypnotherapy:
“With hypnosis, you might help someone stop smoking by suggesting the taste or smell of cigarettes is worse than it actually is.
But a hypnotherapist can also use age regression to examine the impulse that fuels the client’s habit and discover old conclusions and behaviors. The healing will take place when the client creates new conclusions about old memories and chooses new behaviors rather than smoking.”
Since the second approach gets closer to the root of the problem, according to Vitale, it is generally more successful than the first one. The results are made quickly, and they also last.
If you are experiencing high levels of stress seek the expertise of a professional hypnotherapist for expert advice and treatment.
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