Within the past year I received training to become a certified clinical hypnotherapist (which I now am). A lot of people I work with have either never heard of hypnotherapy or if they have, still don’t know what it is and/or entails. You can search the internet and get some clinical explanations but a lot of them can be very confusing still and many people don’t gain much clarity after reading them. Therefore, I would like to spend a little time today discussing what hypnotherapy is while trying to use more everyday language instead of all the clinical jargon (or at least explaining what it means)!
First off, when people hear the word hypnosis, many times the first thing that comes to mind is the comedy hypnosis shows. I have to admit, I love a good comedy hypnosis show and went to many while I was an undergraduate student as they seemed to have free shows frequently on campus. Hypnotherapy, however, is nothing like those shows! Although a hypnotherapist may have a little fun with the session (creating arm levitations in clients for example- meaning getting the client to raise their arm and hold it there which can have many different clinical purposes), it is nothing that would be embarrassing in the moment or in the future. There is no quacking like a duck involved!
Still I have not explained what hypnosis is. Hypnosis is simply an altered state of consciousness where you are more susceptible to suggestions. An altered state of consciousness is a state of mind different from the normal waking state. Having a daydream, dreaming, being under the influence of drugs and alcohol are all other examples of altered states of consciousness. You experience altered states of consciousness many times a day, for instance, when you are driving on autopilot, not paying attention to the mechanics of driving and sometimes even not remembering passing certain landmarks or even that so much time has past that you have actually reached your destination or how you got there.
The mind is divided into the conscious mind and the unconscious mind. The conscious mind is the thoughts and thought processes that we are aware of on a regular basis. The unconscious mind plays a more behind the scenes role. We are not aware of our unconscious mind and what it is doing or why it is doing it. It has access to memories and information that we are not aware of with our conscious mind. It plays a huge part in our dreaming which is a way of it processing information and emotions and trying to come up with solutions to problems. Our conscious mind frequently gets in the way of us solving our own problems or in perpetuating problems due to its’ ability to rationalize and make excuses for instance or because it does not have access to information that we need. Hypnotherapy is helpful in getting the conscious mind to “step aside” and allow the counselor to speak directly to the unconscious mind which is better able to help solve problems and is more susceptible to suggestions without being resistant.
I hope this clears up some questions you may have about hypnotherapy. I will post more in the coming weeks about its usefulness in counseling!