How I use Clinical Hypnosis

Hypnosis can be a very useful adjunct to psychological work. In trained hands it is safe, gentle and effective for a variety of psychological difficulties. Sometimes, it can help people move forwards in situations where talking alone has been only partially effective in resolving problems. But hypnosis is not a 'magic bullet' and cannot help you make changes to your life unless you are really committed to making them. It is a myth that a therapist can take control of you under hypnosis and make you do things that you do not consciously wish to do. It is important to understand that the hypnosis seen in stage shows and in other extreme contexts is very different to the gentle and therapeutic ways in which hypnosis is utilised in clinical practice.

Hypnosis is really just a deep state of relaxation. It is a state that we all encounter quite frequently, although we may not have realised that we were in a hypnotic state or 'trance' at the time. Examples of this might be reading a really engrossing book and, in looking up at the clock we realise that several hours have sped by without our realising it. We may also have been in a hypnotic trance when driving a well-worn route - we reach home realising that we are unable to remember the last few miles of the journey. Sometimes when showering, or engaging in other pleasurable experiences, we may enter a hypnotic trance, too.

In utilising hypnosis clinically, the therapist brings about a state of trance for therapeutic purposes. There is no loss of control in hypnosis, and clients usually remember all that was said on returning to a fully alert state. It is generally the case that a client cannot be hypnotised unless they wish to allow it. While clients are still awake in hypnosis, they may experience time distortion or sensations of floating, as well as lightness or heaviness in the limbs. Most clients report these phenomena as pleasurable. Sometimes, memories and experiences that were not accessible in a fully alert state become more available while a client is in trance.

When hypnosis may help

Hypnosis has a number of potential applications, but can be helpful for anxiety and phobias as well as in depression. It can also help with sleep difficulties, therefore helping clients avoid potentially addictive medications.  A number of health conditions are potentially amenable to hypnosis, such as chronic pain, irritable bowel syndrome and unwanted habits like hair-pulling or skin-picking.

Psychologists generally believe that hypnosis should only be utilised in certain circumstances and many of us are critical of the use of hypnosis for entertainment purposes. It is also the case that hypnosis is not for everyone, and should not be employed as a 'cure-all'. In general, I use hypnosis as an adjunct to psychotherapeutic work rather than as a stand-alone intervention.