How does Hypnotherapy really work?

I’m a counsellor and hypnotherapist and probably do an equal amount of both.  However, in terms of curiosity, the focus is firmly on the latter.  Just what is hypnotherapy?  How does it work?  What does it feel like?  Does it mean that you lose control? (the sub-text of this: Will you make me cluck like a chicken?)
The existence of stage shows and TV shows which utilise hypnosis don’t unfortunately help the image of hypnotherapy, so here are a few FAQs on the subject, which may help to alleviate some of the questions that clients have.


1. What is hypnotherapy?
Hypnotherapy is a type of psychological therapy which utilises hypnosis.  This process alters our state of consciousness in a way that represses the conscious part of the mind while also revealing or stimulating the subconscious part.  This part is susceptible to positive suggestion, which can bring about meaningful change to thoughts, feelings and behaviours.  A qualified hypnotherapist is able to use suggestion in an appropriate way to facilitate this change.

2. How does hypnotherapy feel?
Hypnotherapy feels really relaxing.  Different people, however, report slightly different sensations – clients have described it as ‘floating in my own head’ for example, ‘drifting’ and so on.  Whatever, your experience, it’s comfortable and pleasant!  Many people also experience time distortion, where a 40 minute session can seem like 5 or 10. Other sensations, such as tingling in the hands or feet, may occur, but these are not unpleasant and they soon pass.

3. Will I fall asleep?
The hypnotic trance is not the same as being asleep.  However, you will probably feel detached from everyday life, perhaps in a bit of a bubble. Whenever I’m hypnotised, I’ve sometimes felt like I’m in that ‘space’ between waking and sleeping – completely aware of what is going on but reluctant to emerge back into normal life.  It’s a lovely, relaxing feeling.

4. Can I be made to do something I don’t want to?
You are in control at all times.  Stage hypnosis works on the principle that the participants want to engage in extrovert behaviour – you don’t volunteer for a stage show unless you are willing to make a bit of a fool of yourself.  In a hypnotherapy session, you cannot be made to do something that you don’t want to.  Moreover, the therapeutic relationship is one of trust and you and the therapist will have discussed your goals for treatment in depth.

5. Can everyone be hypnotised?
Everyone can be hypnotized if they want to be, although some people are more suggestible than others.  Of course some people will say that they ‘can’t be hypnotised’ … personally,  I believe if you resist hypnosis, then that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy!  Clients are sometimes nervous the first time but a good therapist should explain the process to you so that any fears are allayed.

6. What issues can hypnotherapy be used for?
Hypnotherapy is a fantastic type of therapy for lots of different issues including anxiety and stress-related issues, phobias, weight loss, stopping smoking, habit-type behaviours and even pain management.

7. How many sessions of hypnotherapy will I need?
This is a really difficult question to answer because everyone is different.  So, for example, for a habit like nail biting, one person may stop after 1 session while others may take 3.  For deep-seated issues such as anxiety, I usually think that 4 is the magic number but again it’s personal and you need to talk to your therapist about it.

8. How successful is hypnotherapy as a treatment?
It’s very successful – I see the positive effects of hypnotherapy regularly and it’s amazing to see people who now feel liberated as a result of treatment.  Of course, it’s not a ‘miracle cure’ and you need to work with it – just like any other form of treatment.  No therapy comes with a 100% guarantee – just like a trip to the doctor’s for a physical ailment doesn’t either.

Hypnotherapy is a great form of treatment – and a brilliant therapy for your clients. Whether you’re a client or a therapist, best of luck.