Hypnosis uses guided relaxation methods, focused attention, and sharpened concentration to achieve a heightened state of awareness—a trance state. This hypnotic trance state allows for openness to positive suggestions. While in this state, a person’s attention may be so greatly focused that almost anything going on around the person is temporarily blocked out or ignored.
We go into trance states on a daily basis. Case in point, when we are watching TV, listening to music, or reading a great book. We can still hear the passing cars outside, the bus that drives by, and the neighbor’s dog barking, but will not be alarmed or bothered by them.
This trance state is a naturally occurring state of mind. During a hypnosis session, a person will focus his or her attention with the help of a trained hypnotherapist on specific tasks or concerns they want to work on or improve. A few areas that a person may want to focus on during hypnosis include feeling less depressed, becoming more productive, decreasing pain, stress management, and, more commonly, weight management, smoking cessation, and dealing with phobias.
Hypnotherapy is not designed to be a cure for a disease such as cancer, a heart attack caused by stress, or being overweight, but rather is a tool to help relieve the symptoms of these issues. Hypnotherapy may also be combined with counseling, including therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and relaxation techniques to help increase the positive outcome and to enhance the overall therapeutic process.
In my private practice, I often work with people who are struggling with stress management and anxiety, and use hypnotherapy to help relieve the symptoms. I then use CBT to help understand what is causing the stress and anxiety. Once we know the cause, we are able to figure out a way to handle situations differently so a person is less stressed and less anxious when facing the situation.
So how, exactly, does hypnotherapy work, and is it dangerous? Hypnotherapy is not an altered state of sleep, but for some, it may feel like sleep. When done properly, hypnosis is very relaxing. Although there is no consensus as to how hypnosis works, some people believe it causes the brain to react by releasing naturally occurring chemicals that affect how we sense and feel pain and other symptoms. Others believe hypnosis works on the subconscious mind, and fosters the ability to control bodily reaction to blood pressure and heartbeat. Regardless of how it works, it is widely accepted that hypnosis is safe, especially when performed by a trained professional.
So what constitutes a trained professional? A well-qualified hypnotherapist has extensive training in hypnosis and belongs to a hypnosis organization, such as the National Guild of Hypnotists, Inc. (NGH), American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH), or International Medical & Dental Hypnotherapy Association (IMDHA). There are no formal licensing policies in the United States, so choose your hypnotherapist wisely. Make sure he or she has training in hypnosis and you have met and feel comfortable working with them.
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