Hypnotism can be a useful and versatile tool for addressing sexual concerns, including several types of sexual problems (such as non-medically caused erectile dysfunction and low desire) and negative body image, shame, and sexual inhibitions. Hypnotism can help discover and correct inner obstacles to sexual health and pleasure. As a skill set, hypnotism is used in a complementary way by many types of helping professionals. Hypnotism also provides the foundation for a growing group of professional practitioners variously known as consulting hypnotists and hypnotherapists.
I spent a good portion of 2011 working on a doctoral project related to this topic. The literature search was extensive, fascinating, and deeply frustrating. Part of my frustration had to do with the strange history and frequently tarnished reputation of hypnotism, which has created a number of public and professional myths and misconceptions. Another complication had to do with the diversity of practitioners who use hypnosis to address sexual problems; licensed therapists (and sex therapists in particular), clinical sexologists and sex coaches, professional hypnotists and hypnotherapists, and a wide variety of erotic hypnotists (professional and amateur) have all found human sexuality to be fertile and often lucrative terrain. This meant that my literature search ranged from peer-reviewed articles in journals, to popular “how to” erotic hypnosis books, and everything in between. While I labored on my project, I found myself thinking that one lifetime would not suffice to understand it all. The history and use of hypnotism for sexual concerns is that broad, that deep.
What does stand out is the efficacy and promise of hypnosis in this area. This is supported by numerous peer-reviewed articles, as well as books by authors and practitioners such as Dr. Daniel Aroaz, who has became a tremendous guiding light to me.
Another thing that stands out is the almost universal lack of training in the specialty I’ve come to call “sexological hypnosis” – the application of hypnotism to sexual and gender concerns. My concept of sexological hypnotism is based on the triple-pronged idea that:
- (1) more therapists, counselors, and other licensed professionals should be trained in sexology (a multi-disciplinary study of human sexuality, which includes but is not limited to clinical considerations)
- (2) more therapists, counselors, other licensed professionals, and sexologists should be trained in hypnotism
- (3) more consulting hypnotists and hypnotherapists should be trained in sexology, human sexuality, and gender studies – particularly those who want to offer hypnosis for sexual problems.
However, there are no comprehensive programs which specifically address the application of hypnotism to sexual and gender concerns. The one hypnotism school I found which includes sexuality courses in its curriculum was founded by a man (now deceased) who believed that most women don’t have an orgasm – they have a “climax” – and that “ethnic sexuals” are distinctly different than non-ethnic sexuals (whatever that means!). In other words, discredited ideas and inaccurate information is likely still a part of this school’s curriculum, as the books are still published and sold without revision. (Incidentally, none of these books cite even a morsel of research or contain a bibliography or list of sources – however dated!) Hypnotists trained in this school get something worse than no sexuality education at all – they are sold an old “clunker” when they rightfully deserve a Ferrari. Clients may suffer as a result.
Up-to-date, comprehensive training in human sexuality is crucial because people whose understanding of human sexuality is limited to their own experience (or a few books or workshops or outdated programs) may have a skewed perspective on the bigger picture of adult, consensual diversity. Such practitioners may pathologize or misinterpret any behavior or expression that seems out of the ordinary to them. This is a disservice to clients who seek assistance with sexual or gender concerns. Issues of erotic or gender authenticity – so crucial to sexual health and well being – may not be acknowledged, let alone addressed, respected, and supported.
I would like to see more real training and expertise in this area. In my doctoral project, I designed a 150-hour certificate course capable of delivering the triple-pronged training that I wish already existed. In 2012, I hope to teach the entire program, in addition to the partial courses I now offer online through Creative Sexuality and Sex Coach U. As a dual practitioner, I’ve experienced the value of combining clinical sexology with hypnosis and believe that my clients are generally well-served as a result.
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