FAQs for Hypnosis Clients

What is hypnosis?

  1. The simplest definition is that hypnosis is a state of heightened suggestibility. A more complete definition is…
  2. Hypnosis is a state of intensive rapport and heightened suggestibility in which critical thinking is temporarily suspended and selective thinking is installed. An even more complete definition based on this same idea is…
  3. Hypnosis is an altered state of consciousness, during which the conscious critical mind is relaxed and relatively inactive, and the doorway to the subconscious (or inner mind) is opened with a person’s permission. In this comfortable “trance” state, selective thinking can be installed, because critical thinking is temporarily suspended, suggestibility is heightened, mental absorption is increased, the senses are heightened, and the imagination is activated in a more controlled manner. The inner or subconscious or unconscious mind is then more receptive to acceptable, beneficial suggestions.
  4. Hypnosis is a state of controlled daydreaming and believed-in imagination.
  5. Hypnosis is a state of guided meditation or guided self-hypnosis, based on the belief that the client retains the power of entering or resisting trance.
  6. Hypnosis is a state of pleasant, voluntary, relaxed attentive concentration, and effortless concentrated attention.

What is the meaning of the term “Hypnotherapy”?

Hypnosis is a clinical tool, and a very valuable one at that. Hypnosis is not owned by any one profession. It is a therapeutic tool that I define as “guiding a patient to utilize a natural capacity which all humans have to bypass the conscious critical factor of the mind and install selective attention for a specified purpose in the context of a collaborative relationship between a patient and a health professional”.

The appropriate use of hypnosis by a competent professional hypnotherapist in various clinical settings often can facilitate more rapid and long lasting positive outcomes in psychotherapy, medicine, dentistry, nursing, counseling, addictions treatment, pastoral counseling, clinical social work, etc.

NO health professional should view hypnosis as a “magic silver bullet” to enable them to treat conditions that they wouldn’t consider treating if they did not know hypnosis. Nor is it a nuclear therapy tool to walk where angels dare to tread. In my view “hypnosis” is a treatment modality as well as a tool, but unlike unidimensional treatment modalities, such as those utilized in physical therapy, or even Cognitive Behavior Therapy, which is a currently popular approach to doing psychotherapy, hypnosis is a lot more complex.

In my view, the term “Hypnotherapy” is defined as “the use of the hypnosis tool in psychotherapy”.

In practice, I refer to Hypnotically Assisted Psychotherapy as “Hypnotherapy”. I, as do many professional hypnotherapists who specialize in offering Hypnotherapy to clients and patients for a gamut of problems and conditions, do not consider it ethical to treat a person for a condition with Hypnosis that we would not touch without Hypnosis. For example, I can effectively treat patients with chronic pain to help them find realistic relief without hypnosis using Cognitive Behavior Therapy, or CBT, and other methodologies. However with the addition of the hypnosis tool to a treatment plan, pain treatment from a psychological perspective becomes much more effective in my experience.

In some circles of psychologists and psychiatrists, there has been a movement to jettison the term “Hypnotherapy”. This makes no sense to me as the term has always made perfect sense to me. It enables me to refer to psychotherapy, from whichever theoretical orientation (e.g., CBT, psychodynamic, object relations, interpersonal, strategic), when significantly incorporating the use of the hypnosis tool, especially the hypnoanalytical approaches (i.e., regression techniques, ego state therapy, ideomotor signaling, etc.) as “Hypnotherapy”.

I agree there are “pros” and “cons” to the use of the term “Hypnotherapy”, but such is also the case for the term “Psychotherapy”.  People who are not “Hypnotherapists” or “Psychotherapists” typically have little idea what either of these terms mean.  Unfortunately, often the term “Psycho-Therapy” has negative connotations. On the other hand, the term “Hypno-Therapy” is frequently associated in the public’s implicit ideology with STOP SMOKING and LOSE WEIGHT.

So, the question definitely is whether or not the term “Hypnotherapy” is useful?

The reasons I like the term “Hypnotherapy”

“Hypnosis is usually considered an aid to psychotherapy (counseling or therapy), because the hypnotic state allows people to explore painful thoughts, feelings, and memories they might have hidden from their conscious minds. In addition, hypnosis enables people to perceive some things differently, such as blocking an awareness of pain. Hypnosis can be used in two ways, as suggestion therapy or for patient analysis.

  • Suggestion therapy: The hypnotic state makes the person better able to respond to suggestions. Therefore, hypnotherapy can help some people change certain behaviors, such as stopping smoking or nail biting. It can also help people change perceptions and sensations, and is particularly useful in treating pain
  • Analysis: This approach uses the relaxed state to explore a possible psychological root cause of a disorder or symptom, such as a traumatic past event that a person has hidden in his or her unconscious memory. Once the trauma is revealed, it can be addressed in psychotherapy.”
  • The term, “Hypnotherapy” provides a useful frame of reference for psychotherapists (across health care disciplines) for the integration of hypnotic techniques into their established, contextually appropriate, time tested and empirically validated ways of working.

Admittedly, the term, Hypnotherapy is not perfect.  But I still think it is useful and furthermore, there is a growing legitimate profession called “Professional Hypnotherapy”.

In conclusion, Hypnosis is a tool that makes psychotherapy briefer and yet deeper, especially when incorporating Hypnoanalysis, which is a form of Hypnotherapy.

What do the adjectives “Medical” and “Clinical” mean as in Medical Hypnosis and Clinical Hypnosis?

We have the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis and the American Board of Medical Hypnosis. “Clinical” refers to NOT “forensic” or “stage”/entertainment and “medical” refers to the use of hypnosis in medical settings. But this actually begs the question.  A long time ago, the late Herb Spiegel MD explained to me that in utilizing the Spiegel stop smoking method, it was key to reframe for the patient what he/she is in the office for as opposed to what he or she is against which could be smoking or might not be depending on the situation. Few patients could argue that they were not for their health and for wellness of their body. So, from my point of view, it does not hold water to eschew the term Hypnotherapy in order to distance ourselves from “lay hypnotists”, as some licensed psychologists, physicians, clinical social workers, and dentists who use hypnosis do.

I am all for building bridges between professions, and especially between professions that use the hypnosis tool. In my case, in over half of my “clinical” practice I routinely do hypnotherapy, and it is not CBT or psychoanalytic psychotherapy.

Psychotherapy as I define it is the business of helping a patient or client recover his/her mental and/or emotional wellness by recovering from a mental illness or an emotional or behavioral disorder.

Hypnotherapy or hypnotic psychotherapy as I define it is the use of hypnotic techniques primarily in this enterprise.

As a professional hypnotherapist, I am doing different things then when I utilize CBT or other modes of psychotherapy without hypnosis. I am partially “Ericksonian”, so I do believe in tapping into and helping a patient draw out his or her inner strength. But essentially as a hypnotist or hypnotherapist, I am a “dream pilot.”

Can a person be hypnotized against his will?
No. You cannot be hypnotized against your will. You must be a willing subject. Your hypnotist must have your full cooperation.

Will a hypnotized person perform any anti-social, criminal or immoral acts while under Hypnosis?
NO! People who are hypnotized will not do anything in Hypnosis that they would not do in the waking state. This applies as well to sexual acts. Hypnosis is not a master-slave relationship. When you are in hypnosis, or in a “trance” state, you are aware of everything that is going on and you continue to retain your values and morals.

Does a weak-minded person make a better subject than a strong-minded person?
NO! Strength of mind really has little to do with it. Either a weak-minded or strong minded person who resists will make a poor hypnotic subject. On the other hand, a weak or strong-minded person who cooperates will be a good subject. However, because Hypnosis helps a person gain greater control over both mind and body, it can help a person develop a stronger mind.

Will I be asleep?
No. When a person is in Hypnosis, he is not asleep. He or she remains aware of what is going on. In actuality, in Hypnosis, one’s senses become heightened and more acute. Of course, if a person is tired, it is possible to fall asleep during hypnosis. Then, the subject is asleep and no longer in hypnosis. In actuality, when this occurs, the state of sleep is a light but relaxing state of sleep. A simple suggestion to wake up given by the hypnotist is all that is required to rouse up the subject.

Is it possible that a subject could not be brought out of Hypnosis?
NO! This is not possible. You cannot get stuck in Hypnosis because you do not lose control when you are hypnotized. Hypnosis is a cooperative relationship. When you are hypnotized, you retain full control over your mind and your body. Sometimes, people feel so relaxed and comfortable in Hypnosis that they may wish to remain in that state for a little longer. However, a simple suggestion for awakening (or alerting) is all that is needed to bring a subject back into the Waking State even if the subject has fallen asleep. Additionally, when the hypnotist stops talking, the subject will soon awaken on his own. Most importantly, you can come out of hypnosis any time you want.

Will I tell any secrets under hypnosis?
NO! Hypnosis is not a truth serum. You retain full control over what you say. Subjects in Hypnosis reveal no secrets in the Hypnotic State that they would not reveal (because they want to) in the Waking State.

Can a person in Hypnosis be made to bark like a dog or cluck like a chicken?
NO! They cannot be made to do anything against their will. This is not what happens in Therapeutic or Clinical Hypnosis. On the other hand, volunteers during Stage Hypnosis Show, which is for entertainment purposes only, will typically go along with the Stage Hypnotist’s suggestions as long as it is all in good fun and for entertainment purposes. But again, they are NOT being made, or forced, to do anything. But this is not the context of Clinical Hypnosis.

Can a person be made a ‘slave’ to a hypnotist?
NO!! Hypnosis is not a master-slave relationship or a power relationship. It is not about “zap, you are under my power!” like Svengali who seduces a female subject. Hypnosis is a cooperative and collaborative relationship. It is NOT seduction. The subject retains full control and responsibility for his or her actions at all times. This myth comes from old movies and novels such as the old novel “Trilby”.

Can a person become addicted to Hypnosis, or is it habit forming?
No. A person can resist going into Hypnosis or being hypnotized anytime he or she desires, regardless of how many times he has been hypnotized.

What is the best age for being hypnotized?
People can be hypnotized at any age. However, on the average, the years between 12 and 20 are a developmental stage when pre-adolescents, adolescents, and young adults are most fantasy prone (they daydream more freely, or better) and capable of employing that trait to benefit from hypnosis. Nevertheless, children can be helped to solve their problems with the tool of hypnosis as can middle aged and older people.

Can an insane person be hypnotized?
Persons who are clinically insane are typically out of touch with reality and have difficulty concentrating. The ability to sustain concentration and the ability to follow instructions are necessary prerequisites to being able to be hypnotized. Thus, clinically insane or psychotic persons can be very difficult subjects. Nevertheless, there are clinical practitioners who specialize in working therapeutically with this population, and some of these practitioners do have the training to use the hypnosis tool effectively and therapeutically in selected cases.

Who can be hypnotized?
Anyone who can daydream, pay attention and follow instructions can be hypnotized–if they want to be. People will vary however, as to the extent or depth to which they can be hypnotized.

What are the requirements of a good Subject?
They are mainly the ability to daydream, the desire to be hypnotized and experience Hypnosis, the ability to concentrate, the willingness to cooperate and follow instructions, and the relative absence of mistrust and fear.

Is deep Hypnosis necessary?
For most purposes, deep Hypnosis is not necessary. For most purposes, in a therapeutic setting, a light degree of Hypnosis is all that is necessary for experiencing the therapeutic benefits of Hypnosis. In other words, we typically do not need or aim for Deep Trance. The therapeutic subject (the patient or client) is awake and aware of everything that is going on, but very relaxed and absorbed or focused.

Can ‘poor’ subjects become better subjects?
Most definitely yes. Repeated conditioning can improve the depth of relaxation, concentration and absorption that a client can attain. Also, strong motivation is a plus. A poor subject with a strong desire to benefit from Hypnosis in order to get relief from a problem can become a very good subject. Additionally, a “poor” subject can become a better subject to the extent that the Hypnotist instills confidence and helps the subject diminish anxiety and fear.

What is Self Hypnosis?
This is Hypnosis induced by a person by himself or herself without the help of a hypnotist. Some experts say that all Hypnosis is Self Hypnosis since the hypnotist is in actuality not doing anything to the subject, but rather guiding the subject into the hypnotic state of consciousness with the subject’s permission. Because the subject permits it to happen, he is really hypnotizing himself with the assistance of the hypnotist.

How can one learn Self Hypnosis?
You can learn Self Hypnosis from a good CD or even a book authored by a competent Hypnosis professional. However, your best bet is to have the experience first of being hypnotized by a qualified Professional Hypnotherapist, and then learn from that hypnotherapist how to enter the hypnotic state on your own. At that point, tapes (CDs) and books can be useful tools, aids, guides, and sources of information and inspiration.

What are the benefits of Self Hypnosis?
The premier benefit of learning and practicing Self Hypnosis is to initiate and continue the process of positive self-change. The regular use of Self Hypnosis facilitates the continuation of healthy changes in behaviors, feelings, beliefs and attitudes. When you practice Self Hypnosis you enter a state of self relaxation. When you are relaxed, you cannot be uncomfortable or anxious or stressed or in pain. Relaxation is the physical and emotional opposite of these negative feelings. Practicing Self Hypnosis conditions your ability to relax at will. It builds your ability to control your mind and your body. More control is the goal, and with more control, you gain greater ability to master and control your symptoms. Additionally, when you are in a state of Self Hypnosis you are able to give yourself positive suggestions and use positive imagery for positive self-change.

Can anyone learn Self Hypnosis?
Any normally intelligent person who can concentrate and follow instructions, and who is motivated and willing can learn Self Hypnosis.

What is Hetero-Hypnosis?
This is Hypnosis wherein one person, the Hypnotist or Hypnotherapist, hypnotizes (induces the Hypnotic State in) another person who is the subject or patient, or client. To do this, the Hypnotist uses an appropriate hypnotic induction, which is a method for inducing the state of hypnosis. For many types of problems where Self Hypnosis is taught, the Hypnotist teaches Self Hypnosis to the patient while he or she is in the hypnotic state.

What is a hypnotic induction?
It is a method of inducing the hypnotic “trance” state. There are numerous ways of inducing hypnosis. Most clinicians who practice hypnosis have their favorites. However, it is important for a clinician to choose a hypnosis induction method that fits the needs of you, the client. The hypnosis professional gives you carefully worded instructions to follow with the goal of helping you enter a state of deep relaxation and focused attention. This is called the hypnosis induction. For this hypnosis induction to be effective, you must cooperate as an active participant in the process.

How does Hypnosis make a person more suggestible?
This occurs first and foremost with the subject’s permission and cooperation. By following the “hypnotist’s” instructions, you become more suggestible. When you are in this altered state of increased suggestibility, your mental “clutter” is cleared away along with your tendencies to criticize and analyze things. Then, you can pay attention to the hypnotist’s suggestions and be open to experiencing new perspectives and solutions to your problem. In this “hypnotic trance state”, you remain aware of everything that is going on, but at the same time, you become increasingly absorbed in using your imagination as directed by the “hypnotist”.

How does Hypnosis work?
Once the Hypnotic State is induced and the doorway to the Subconscious Mind is opened, with your permission and cooperation, the competent Professional Hypnotist or Hypnotherapist can provide information, in a language and form that the Subconscious can accept, to help you change the behaviors, feelings and thoughts that you want to change. We utilize the fact that the Subconscious Mind has the ability (actually the tendency) to accept what it imagines as real. This can greatly reduce the felt stress of changing unhealthy habits to healthier habits.

What role does the Subconscious Mind play?
The Subconscious part of the mind, or the Inner Mind, controls all of our living functions that keep us alive, as well as all of our automatic behavior patterns. But, the Subconscious is not as easily communicated with as is the Conscious Mind. Information is imprinted in the Subconscious essentially in three ways: through trauma, through repetition, and through the language of Hypnosis. Thus, Hypnosis is the quickest and most efficient way to impress the Subconscious and imprint changes in behaviors, attitudes, beliefs and feelings.

The upshot is that making changes in long-standing habits (e.g., eating patterns, smoking, emotional reactivity, coping responses) often creates internal discomfort and stress. Old habits cling and typically resist efforts to change them. This can be because of Conscious conflict about changing, but it can also be the result of conflict between the Conscious and the Subconscious parts of the mind. That is, you consciously may want to change and may have decided to change, but the Subconscious does not know this. If it did, it would help you, but it often has no way of knowing that you consciously want to change. So, it continues to control the old behavioral habits and this creates and perpetuates inner conflict. Once the Subconscious is informed that you want to change, and once it knows that it is in your best interest to be helped to change, it has no choice but to help you change. Then, the two parts to the mind, Conscious and Subconscious, can work together in cooperation with little tension, upset, or stress. Remember, what you can conceive you can achieve, and the Subconscious has a tendency to accept what it imagines as real.

What are some of the benefits of Hypnosis?
There are many benefits and uses for Hypnosis. To mention but a few of the more common uses:

  • relieve stress
  • control pain, both acute and chronic
  • preparation for surgery or other medical procedures
  • ease pregnancy, childbirth and labor
  • diminish and control anxiety
  • eliminate phobias
  • treat depression
  • improve self-confidence
  • control mood swings
  • manage anger and impulsivity
  • modify or change harmful habits
  • stop smoking
  • lose weight through changing overeating and other habits
  • improve concentration, memory and study habits
  • sports performance improvement
  • reduce insomnia
  • as a tool in police investigations for refreshing the memory of witnesses to a crime
  • stop fingernail biting
  • relieve dental anxiety and control dental pain
  • stop bruxism

What can Hypnosis ‘cure’?
Hypnosis by itself is rarely a “cure”. It is a tool to be used in therapy or treatment by a professional who is qualified to render that treatment. Medical treatments must be supervised by a medical physician. Similarly, psychological treatments for emotional or psychological problems must be supervised by a qualified psychology or mental health practitioner.

If you decide that you want to see a Professional Hypnotherapist, how should you go about finding someone who is qualified?
Do Your Homework! When choosing a professional hypnotherapist, it’s best to make sure you’ll be working with someone who is properly trained and with whom you’re comfortable. Consumer Beware.
The practice of hypnosis and hypnotherapy is not regulated by most states as is the practice of other healing arts. Therefore, in most states, clinicians and therapists who use hypnosis are not licensed in hypnosis. The implications of this are that anyone can call themselves a “certified hypnotherapist,” or “clinical hypnotist,” and hang out a shingle after taking a weekend course of instruction on how to hypnotize. So, beware of quacks.

The American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH), the largest national organization of licensed health professionals who use hypnosis, advises on its official Web site (http://www.asch.net) that, just as in choosing any health professional, you exercise care in selecting a clinical hypnosis practitioner. However, ASCH does not recognize Professional Hypnotherapy as a field or profession in its own right. In order to be accepted as a member of ASCH, a provider must hold (a) a license to practice a recognized primary health care profession (e.g., psychology, counseling, social work, medicine, dentistry, nursing), (b) at minimum, a Masters Degree from an accredited college or university, and (c) have a requisite number of hours of basic and intermediate training in the use of hypnosis within his/her area of practice.

The International Medical and Dental Hypnotherapy Association (IMDHA) and the National Guild of Hypnotists (NGH) are the two of the largest and most active membership and training organizations for professional hypnotherapists in the United States. Unlike ASCH, IMDHA and NGH do recognize Professional Hypnotherapy as a profession in its own right. Thus, IMDHA and NGH do not require that their members be licensed health care providers, although they do have many licensed health care providers as active members. Both IMDHA and NGH run comprehensive training programs in professional hypnotherapy and continuing education programs annually. Professional Hypnotherapists who belong to IMDHA and who are awarded Fellow or Diplomate status by that organization are typically highly trained, experienced, knowledgeable, and ethical practitioners of the art of hypnosis and hypnotherapy.

By the way, a psychologist is a mental-health professional with either a master’s degree or a doctorate in psychology (a Ph.D., Ed.D., or Psy.D.) who has taken post-degree internship or residency training in clinical or counseling psychology. A psychiatrist is a physician with a medical doctoral degree (an M.D. or D.O.), who has taken post-doctoral internship or residency training in psychiatry.

MY ADVICE. Screen a Professional Hypnotherapist’s qualifications up front! Careful questioning on the telephone can help you avoid falling into the hands of unscrupulous persons who engage in fraudulent or unethical practices. (1) First, ask the person what his or her primary profession or health-care field is. (2) Whether or not the practitioner is a licensed health care provider or not, ask about the nature and extent of his or her hypnosis and hypnotherapy training. (3) Also, find out what areas of professional hypnotherapy practice that individual specializes in, and how many years of experience he or she has (or how many clients he or she has successful treated in that specialty; e.g., phobias, depression, trauma, etc.) . If you have doubts about the person’s qualifications, or you don’t feel comfortable, keep looking.