DEFINITION OF HYPNOSIS
Everyone has likely experienced a trance-like state many times, but we don't usually call it hypnosis. All of us have been so absorbed in thought while reading a book, or riding in a vehicle that we fail to notice what is happening around us. While we were zoned out another level of consciousness, commonly referred to as our 'unconscious mind', took over. These are very focused states of attention similar to hypnosis.
Hypnosis is a state of inner absorption, concentration and focused attention. It is like using a magnifying glass to focus the rays of the sun and make them more powerful. Similarly, when our minds are concentrated and focused, we are able to use our minds more powerfully. Because hypnosis allows people to use more of their potential, learning self-hypnosis is the ultimate act of self-control.
Clinical hypnotists essentially do three things with hypnosis. First, they encourage the use of imagination. Mental imagery is very powerful, especially in a focused state of attention. The mind seems capable of using imagery, even if it is only symbolic, to assist us in bringing about the things we are imagining. For example, a patient with ulcerative colitis may be asked to imagine what her distressed colon looks like. If she imagines it as being like a tunnel, with very red, inflamed walls that are rough in texture, the patient may be encouraged in hypnosis (and with self-hypnosis) to imagine this image changing to a healthy one.
A second basic hypnotic method is to use ideas and suggestions with a patient. In a state of concentrated attention, ideas and suggestions that are compatible with what the patient wants seem to have a more powerful impact on the mind.
Finally, hypnosis may be used for unconscious exploration, to better understand underlying motivations or identify whether past events or experiences are associated with causing a problem. Hypnosis avoids the critical censor of the conscious mind, which often defeats what we know to be in our best interests.
MYTHS ABOUT HYPNOSIS
People often fear that being hypnotized will make them lose control, surrender their will, and result in their being dominated, but a hypnotic state is not the same thing as gullibility or weakness. Many people base their assumptions about hypnotism on stage acts but fail to take into account that stage hypnotists screen their volunteers to select those who are cooperative, with possible exhibitionist tendencies, as well as responsive to hypnosis. Stage acts help create a myth about hypnosis which discourages people from seeking legitimate hypnotherapy.
Another myth about hypnosis is that people lose consciousness and have amnesia. A small percentage of subjects, who go into very deep levels of trance will fit this stereotype and have spontaneous amnesia. The majority of people remember everything that occurs in hypnosis. This is beneficial, because the most of what we want to accomplish in hypnosis may be done in a medium depth trance, where people tend to remember everything.
In hypnosis, the patient is not under the control of the hypnotist. Hypnosis is not something imposed on people, but something they do for themselves. A hypnotist simply serves as a facilitator to guide them.
WHEN CAN HYPNOSIS HELP
We believe that hypnosis will be optimally effective when the patient is highly motivated to overcome a problem and when the hypnotherapist is well trained in both hypnosis and in general considerations relating to the treatment of the particular problem. Some individuals seem to have higher native hypnotic talent and capacity that may allow them to benefit more readily from hypnosis.
It is important to keep in mind that hypnosis is like any other therapeutic modality: it is of major benefit to some patients with some problems, and it is helpful with many other patients, but it can fail, just like any other clinical method. For this reason, we emphasize that we are not "hypnotists", but health care professionals who use hypnosis along with other tools of our professions.
SELECTING A QUALIFIED HYPNOTHERAPIST
A consumer has an amazing level of choice when searching for a hypnosis practitioner. As of today, a simple search in Google™ for "hypnosis" yields almost 35 million hits. As in choosing any health care professional, care should be exercised when selecting a hypnotherapist. Hypnosis and the use of hypnotic therapies are not regulated in most states (Texas is among them), and hypnotherapists are, in most cases, not state licensed in hypnosis. At the extreme, this means that someone without any training whatsoever, or with a minimal weekend course, could hang out a shingle and practice hypnotherapy.
Lay hypnotists are trained in hypnosis, perhaps through excellent training programs, but may lack medical, psychological, dental or other professional health care training. A lay hypnotist can be certified by the organization that trained them or a national hypnosis certification board, and have received a good deal of hypnosis training.
Licensed health care professionals typically have six to nine years of university coursework, plus additional supervised training in internship and residency programs. Their hypnosis training is in addition to their social work, medical, psychological, or dental training. Careful questioning can help you avoid a hypnotherapist who engages in fraudulent or unethical practices. The main issues to consider are professional preparation and accountability.
Ask if the person is licensed (not just certified) in their field by the state of Texas. These days it is very easy to check a professional's state license online. If they are not licensed, they may lack the education required for licensure in their health or mental health field. Find out what their degree is in. If it is in hypnosis or hypnotherapy, rather than a state-recognized health care profession, the person is likely to be considered a lay hypnotist. You can check for membership in the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis or the Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis (which are the only nationally recognized organizations for licensed health care professionals using hypnosis) as well as membership in the National Association of Social Workers, the American Psychological Association, American Medical Association, the American Dental Association. Contact a state or local component section of the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis to see if the person is a member. If you have doubts about any person's qualifications, bring those concerns up.
USES OF HYPNOSIS IN PSYCHOTHERAPY AND MEDICINE
Areas of application include:
(adapted from the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis web site)
- Stress management
- High blood pressure
- Abuse (incest, rape, physical abuse, cult abuse)
- Gastrointestinal Disorders (Ulcers, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Colitis, Crohn's Disease)
- Pain (back pain, cancer pain, dental anesthesia, headaches and migraines, arthritis or rheumatism)
- Concentration, test anxiety and learning disorders
- Sexual dysfunctions
- Smoking cessation
- Sports and athletic performance improvements
- Weight control & Weight Loss
- Eating disorders
- Sleep disorders
- Raynaud's disease
- Hemophilia: Hemophilia patients can often be taught to use self-hypnosis to control vascular flow and keep from requiring a blood transfusion
- Dermatologic Disorders (Eczema, Herpes, Neurodermatitis, Pruritus [itching], Psoriasis, Warts)
- Surgery/Anesthesiology (In unusual circumstances, hypnosis has been used as the sole anesthetic for surgery, including the removal of the gall bladder, amputation, cesarean section, and hysterectomy. Reasons for using hypnosis as the sole anesthetic may include: situations where chemical anesthesia is contraindicated because of allergies or hyper-sensitivities; when organic problems increase the risk of using chemoanesthesia; and in some conditions where it is ideal for the patient to be able to respond to questions or directives from the surgeon)
- Burns: Hypnosis is not only effective for the pain, but when hypnotic anesthesia and feelings of coolness are created in the first few hours after a significant burn, it appears that it also reduces inflammation and promotes healing. We believe that a second degree burn can often be kept from going third degree if hypnosis is used soon after the injury.
- Nausea and Vomiting associated with chemotherapy and pregnancy (hyperemisis gravidarum)
- Preparation for Childbirth: Approximately two-thirds of women have been found capable of using hypnosis as the sole analgesic for childbirth. This eliminates the risks that medications pose to both mother and child, and it is often found that the average duration of labor is reduced by two to four hours.
updated on 2011-09-05