Hypnosis, often identified with comedy stage shows and other forms of entertainment, has a far more useful and appropriate place in the mental health counselor’s toolbox. Hypnotherapy has a long history as a respectable technique used in counseling and therapy by trained hypnotherapists.
Simply defined, hypnosis is a safe, altered, trance-like mental state characterized by deep relaxation, focused attention, and openness to “positive” suggestions. The hypnosis trance state is very similar to sleep, but unlike sleep, it is recognized as heightened consciousness rather than the unconsciousness of sleep. Did you know we all go into a hypnosis trance every day? A prime example is when you are driving home, get there, and don’t even remember driving there or even pulling into the driveway. It also occurs when you are just about to fall asleep or wake up and are in a dreamy, drowsy state.
Realize that in this state you are in complete control and will never do anything you wouldn’t otherwise do. But it is in this state of trance when you are more susceptible to permanent change and will be most successful in making the lasting changes you desire. Almost all permanent change occurs in the subconscious mind. The subconscious mind does not know the difference between a real experience and a suggested experience. If you can imagine it, your body will respond to it if you want it to. Again, a hypnotherapist can’t make you do anything you truly didn’t want to do. “If the mind can conceive, the mind can achieve” is a common phrase used in hypnotherapy.
Try this. Close your eyes and, in as much detail as you can, imagine a very cold, bright yellow, very sour lemon in your fridge. Get it very clear in your mind. Now imagine taking a bite out of it and the juice flowing into your mouth and down your throat. What kind of face did you make? Now realize that you did this all from your mind and no actual lemon was used. Imagine if you could do the same thing with quitting smoking (cessation), losing weight, or fighting depression. Well, you can with the help of a hypnotherapist.
Hypnotherapy is most effective if the person really wants to make the change. For example, a person who is attempting to give up soda and caffeine because a doctor said he or she should but does not really want to quit drinking soda will have a hard time and most likely will not quit. On the other hand, if that person really wanted to quit drinking soda, regardless of the doctor’s recommendation, he or she likely would be more successful utilizing hypnotherapy. Why? Because in hypnotherapy you are in an altered trance state where positive suggestions are more likely to make a lasting impact and affect change if you want them to.
Conquering unpleasant habits is not the only benefit of hypnosis; it is also used in helping people deal with or overcome pain, stage fright, fears, and phobias as well as for stress management, child birthing, and much more. What hypnosis can’t do is cure a major disease such as cancer or Parkinson’s, make you give all your worldly possessions to the hypnotherapist, or make you do anything else you wouldn’t normally do. If you are considering hiring a hypnotherapist, here are some helpful tips for finding the right one:
- Depending on your state of residence, the hypnosis practitioner may be called a hypnotist, consulting hypnotist, or hypnotherapist. Know the difference, and let that guide you in your decision process. For example, in my state of North Carolina, a hypnotist and a consulting hypnotist will not have the same educational background as a hypnotherapist, who is required to have an advanced counseling degree. Thus, a hypnotist would not be a good choice for someone needing help with mental health concerns, but may be good for someone wanting to quit smoking.
- Does the practitioner have specific experience in the area you are seeking help with?
- Is he or she affiliated with a national hypnosis organization, such as the National Guild of Hypnotists or the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis?
- If you are seeking help with a mental health issue, make sure the practitioner has the proper credentials in the mental health field, usually a master of science degree or above, and specific experience with your issue or in your area of concern.
- How long has he or she been practicing, and where did he/she receive training?
- Does the practitioner have any verifiable testimonials or references you can check?
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