If you hear the words “hypnosis” or “hypnotherapy,” you
may imagine an old professor waving a pocket watch in front of your face
asking you to count to 10. Or perhaps you think of your local comedy
club, where a small group of audience members are counted into a trance
as a lounge lizard-looking guy with a bad suit orders them to do embarrassing
Actually, this is not what hypnosis is like at all. Television has made hypnosis seem like either entertainment or a magic trick, when it is in fact a natural state of heightened awareness, focused attention, and often, deep relaxation. This experience is sometimes called the “alpha state.” In the alpha state our brain wave frequency is slower than when we are awake, but faster than when we’re asleep.
The alpha state is a very dreamy, pleasant state. The mind is very open to visualizations and creating a rich sensory experience. The more real the experience becomes in the subconscious mind during this state, the more effect it will have on our waking behavior.
People turn to hypnotherapy to help them refocus their minds on something positive. It can help to change patterns of behavior and thinking. Hypnotherapy is performed to help with a myriad of issues including weight loss, smoking cessation, stress, study problems, and much more.
Athletes have been known to undergo hypnotherapy treatments to improve performance, while college students may use it to reduce anxiety before taking a test.
How does it feel to be hypnotized? Relaxing and pleasurable, according to most hypnotherapists and their patients. Patients can talk and answer questions while their focus tends to be very narrow, as the patient’s attention is directed toward what he or she is hearing or thinking rather than the outside environment. Many people actually enter into a mild hypnotic state several times a day such as when driving a regular route without thinking about it, or zoning out while watching TV or listening to music.
Can anyone be hypnotized? Some people may think that they can’t be. There is often the suspicion that being hypnotized means they are weak, naive, or unintelligent. But in fact, studies have shown that the ability to be hypnotized is correlated with intelligence, concentration, and focus. Most people can be hypnotized to some degree. Experts say it is not a matter of willpower, but the ability to use the imagination, listen, and follow directions.
During a first-time visit to a hypnotherapist, he or she will typically ask you questions about your medical history as well as why you are visiting them. The specialist will probably explain what hypnosis is and how it works. You will then be directed through relaxation techniques with a series of mental images and suggestions intended to change behaviors and alleviate symptoms. For example, people who suffer from panic attacks may be given the suggestion that in the future they will be able to relax at will. Most hypnotherapy sessions last anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes, but they may run longer depending on the type of hypnosis.
One of the most popular reasons for hypnosis is for weight loss. Approximately 30% of individuals who are successfully hypnotized by a professional hypnotist experience weight loss. In a recent reanalysis of six studies, people who went under hypnosis lost twice as much weight as those who didn’t. In another study, those who lost weight kept it off for more than two years.
Another popular reason for undergoing hypnosis is to quit smoking. Research shows that when done correctly, the success rate is slightly above 66%. Compare that to the 5% success rate of trying to quit on your own or the 25% success rate when using nicotine replacement products, and hypnosis looks like a good option. But beware of anyone or any product claiming a 99% success rate, as that is almost always untrue.
For such success to take place, patients should understand that treatment requires quite a bit of time. Most issues take at least four or more sessions, so don’t think that one visit to the hypnotherapist will cure you of all your bad habits. Secondly, there is a specific protocol used that only licensed or certified professionals have access to. According to most smoking support groups and Web sites, the quality of hypnotherapy varies widely and it is very important to do your research before choosing a therapist.
One of the newer applications for hypnosis is HypnoBirthing®. Some professionals are certified in HypnoBirthing and offer childbirth classes, which will guide you through the philosophy and techniques of normal, gentle birthing. You and your partner will learn to use self-hypnosis, guided imagery, and special breathing techniques that can help to bring about a shorter, easier, and more joyful birthing, free of harmful drugs for you and your baby.
Since during hypnosis patients are in an impressionable state, experts suggest making sure your hypnotist has the proper credentials and training. Choose a hypnotist who has credentials as a health care provider such as a clinical psychologist or someone with psychology or counseling experience.
Ask if the person is licensed or certified in her field. Find out what her degree is in and where she received her training. Professional organizations maintain standard codes of conduct and a strict code of ethics for all individuals and organizations in the field of hypnotism. A peer ethics committee exists to investigate any complaints. They strive to achieve harmony, mutual trust, and cooperation among practitioners.
Many practitioners offer CD’s that they have created, and some record your sessions for you to play between sessions for added reinforcement.
Hypnosis is not the circus-like entertainment we may have once associated with its name. If you’ve found yourself wishing something in your life was different, hypnotherapy may provide some answers.
Sources for this article included: www.hypnobirthing.com, http://ngh.net, and www.clevelandclinic.org.
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