The word hypnosis makes many think of mind control, past life regression, entertainment, and even habit control. But, what is hypnosis? According to the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis, it is "a state of inner absorption, concentration, and focused attention." While in this calm and relaxed state, you may be more willing to accept suggestions made by the hypnotherapist. These suggestions are geared toward the goal that you are working on, such as reducing chronic pain.
Very few practitioners actually swing the gold watch popularized by movies and television. Instead, the hypnotherapist talks to you, and you actively participate in achieving the hypnotic state. Progressive relaxation techniques, verbal repetition, or mental images are commonly used. When you are in the hypnotic state, the hypnotherapist makes suggestions based on your goal. At the end of the session (usually 30-60 minutes), you either come out of the trance on your own or the hypnotherapist assists you to end the hypnotic state.
Most hypnotherapists acknowledge the importance of individual abilities and differences within the person being hypnotized. Being hypnotized is affected by your capacity to:
- Focus attention and concentration
- Become absorbed in an activity
- Engage your imagination
- Play a role
- Act upon suggestions
- Trust the hypnotherapist
Some people are more susceptible to hypnosis than others. The combination of a skillful hypnotherapist and a subject that is easily hypnotized may be able to produce positive results. In general, most people can experience hypnosis to at least some degree. But, if you are not easily hypnotized or reject the techniques, then it will not work. You are the primary influence as to whether hypnosis will happen or not and the extent to which it will occur. And, despite common misconceptions, if you are hypnotized, you will not lose control over your behavior or forget what happened during the session.
As with any healthcare professional, choose carefully. The hypnotherapist should:
- Have graduate training from an accredited school
- Have a license in the healthcare field—medicine, psychiatry, psychology, social services, or nursing, for example
- Be a member of professional organizations such as the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis and the American Psychological Association
If you are interested in working with a hypnotherapist, find out if your insurance will cover the cost of the sessions.
Hypnosis is used to treat a wide variety of problems, including:
Hypnosis may be used in addition to
Is hypnosis effective? While there are some studies that have shown positive results, hypnosis is an area that needs further research. If you are interested in this technique, your doctor may be able to recommend a hypnotherapist.
Hypnosis today: looking beyond the media portrayal. American Psychological Association website. Available at: http://www.apa.org/topics/hypnosis/media.aspx. Accessed February 6, 2014.
Hypnotherapy. EBSCO Natural and Alternative Treatments website. Available at:
http://www.ebscohost.com/academic/natural-alternative-treatments. Updated July 2012. Accessed February 6, 2014.
General Info on Hypnosis. American Society of Clinical Hypnosis website. Available at: http://asch.net/Public/GeneralInfoonHypnosis/DefinitionofHypnosis/tabid/134/Default.aspx. Accessed February 6, 2014.
Last reviewed February 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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