Does hypnosis work?

Quit smoking. Weight loss. Anxieties. Phobias. Anger management. For all kinds of reasons, people are turning to hypnosis as some sort of a ‘magical’ cure  in which it is perceived that the hypnotists waves a magic wand, more like a pendulum, and speak some incantations and the person comes out of hypnosis having quit smoking, hate cream cakes, love exercise, calm and placid and so on. Does hypnosis really work?

If you are asking the question “does hypnosis work”, strictly speaking, you are asking the wrong question, because it is not the hypnosis that “works” but the person’s response to hypnosis that does.

The most commonly cited definition of hypnosis is that offered by the American Psychological Association’s hypnosis division: “Hypnosis is a procedure during which a health professional or researcher suggests that a client, patient or subject experience changes in sensations, perceptions, thoughts, or behaviour”[1]. Notice that hypnosis involves both the role of the hypnotist and the role of the subject’s experience.

Hypnosis itself does not do anything, in the same way that talking with your best friend about your problems, in and of itself, changes nothing, unless you accept your friend’s suggestions and then do something about it. How well you respond to suggestions, whether your friend’s or the therapist’s, partly depends on your relationship with him/her, how the suggestions are put to you, how you interpret those suggestions, whether they sit well with you internally, and so on. There is, of course, a significant difference between the hypnotically experienced suggestions and those your best friend gives. If you think of  the trance state as separate from suggestions, then the overlap of trance and suggestions best describes the most common form of hypnotic suggestions.

In hypnosis, the conscious mind is somewhat “suspended” in a state of relaxation (mostly but not necessarily) in much the same way as when you’re deep in a daydream and quite forget that your friend is talking to you. That “daydream” is a kind of self-hypnosis. Imagine then that instead of you guiding your mind to your daydream, a therapist is doing it. That is your hypnotic experience. Whether the hypnotic experience is successful or not depends not only on what experiences your therapist is guiding you into but also on your own responses to those suggested experiences. Some people are decidedly more hypnotizable than others, but because the hypnotic state is a naturally occurring state, all people can be “hypnotized”. It is important to know that the mere mechanism of performing hypnosis changes nothing. The change occurs when you experience realities that are helpful to you. In group hypnosis, the same therapist is giving the same suggestions to everyone, yet some will respond well, others will not. It is your inner subjective experience that determines the outcomes. In that sense, the power lies in you, not the hypnotist.

Hypnosis is a state of being as well as a process. As a state, hypnosis is neither good nor bad, neither effective nor  ineffective, but can be enjoyable or neutral. As a process, on the other hand,  it can be good or bad, effective or not effective, and enjoyable or not enjoyable, depending on how skilful the therapist is which partly determines how you respond to the suggestions. Rapport, skilful and appropriate suggestions that neither overshoots nor understate your realities, and your own responsiveness all contribute to effective outcomes.

Can the state become a process without a hypnotist? And can the process of hypnosis be performed without the state of being hypnotized? Just to confuse you further, the answer is yes to both questions! The fact that self-hypnosis is possible and that hypnosis can be performed without the person being ‘induced’ into a hypnotic state [2] does confound our understanding of hypnosis. There are many theories and not one of them explains everything in the domain of hypnosis. However, there is a general consensus that hypnosis, to one degree or another, helps people dissociate from certain unhelpful experiences, thoughts, feelings, sensations and so on and associate with more helpful ones. It helps amplify people’s hidden abilities. It can also magnify their capacity to reduce unhelpful subjective experiences (such as pain and trauma). It can empower people to discover and develop strengths in themselves they didn’t know they had.

The best way to look at hypnosis is that it is simply a vehicle for change. Just like in a real vehicle, to get from A and B, you first have to climb into it (book and attend the appointment). And that presupposes that you feel the vehicle is safe enough (confidence in and rapport with therapist). You then have to ask the driver (if you are not the driver) to drive you to B (give permission to perform hypnosis). If you want to drive (self-hypnosis), you will need to take some driving lessons (learning self-hypnosis) but you may not know the route, in which case, you would have to look it up on a map (decide how you want to change and what your goals are). If you are not the driver, you’d make sure the driver knows the best route to get there (find a competent therapist you connect with). Then you have to trust him/her (a level of faith). And depending on your level of trust in the driver and how you feel about his driving (congruence, rapport), you either relax and enjoy your journey (enjoyable session), or you grab your seat and cringe at every corner (feeling unhypnotized, bad experience). As you can see, how hypnosis can help you depends a lot more than just the process of hypnosis.

Just like there are different cars and drivers, there also are different forms of hypnotic suggestions as well as different styles used by therapists. These forms and styles of hypnosis are not static in their structure, nor are they linear. Rather, they form matrices of the hypnotic experience. Roughly speaking, they fall into four categories. Using your best friend as an example of influence, let us explore these categories as if he/she is talking to you:

1                    Direct vs Indirect suggestions: “Do this.” vs. “You can do this.”

2                    Positive vs Negative suggestions: “Do this.” vs “Don’t do that.”

3                    Content vs Process suggestions: “Remember how happy you were when you were on your honeymoon” vs “Let your mind wander to a time in the past when you felt so happy.”

4                    Authoritarian vs Permissive styles: “Do this.” vs “You may want to do this.”

As you can see, suggestions can be a matrix from all these categories. A good hypnotherapist uses all of these forms and styles of suggestions depending on client needs, although direct and authoritative suggestions are usually used sparingly and only in the right contexts. All suggestions should be client-generated and not therapist-generated. Beware of any therapist that uses a “script” for hypnosis. You are unique, and no script can address your life’s issues! Also beware of therapists who jump into hypnosis without sufficient pre-hypnosis interviewing. It takes time for the therapist to gain an understanding of your problems and goals and for rapport to be established.

Interestingly, psychotherapy research suggests that therapists’ clinical experience, qualification,  professional membership and the like do not necessarily predict successful outcomes![3] That said, and all things being equal, therapists that have knowledge and understanding of other psychotherapies and who are flexible enough to use different disciplines in different contexts, may offer you a more holistic approach to your problems. In my opinion, hypnosis is best conducted in a larger context of psychotherapy, rather than as a stand-alone therapy.

How to find the right therapist? Inquiring of the therapist’s way of working and having a general feel about the person’s professionalism and integrity, and checking with your instinctive sense of connection (or lack of it) will help you find the right therapist. Certainly, anyone that promises you a quick fix without any effort on your part, may ultimately cost you more time, money and suffering down the track.

So, in conclusion, does hypnosis work? Yes. And, no. As we have seen, it is not the process of hypnosis that causes people to change but the subjective experience you will have that does. Successful outcome is a function of your relationship with the therapist, your trust and rapport with him/her, his/her skills and experience in the hypnotic process and above all, his/her ability to work flexibly with you, possibly including other psychotherapies as needed. In the end, hypnosis is not just an art, nor is it  just science. It is both.

I hope this article has been helpful to you. Please leave a feedback or comment, as it is only through continual dialogue and engagement with clients and potential clients that I can grow, both as a person and as a therapist. Thank you.

 

Regards,

Sophie

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Yapko, M. d. (2003). Trancework. New York: Routledge. p.4

 

[2] Kirsch, I ., & Lynn, S. J. (1998). Dissociation theories of  hypnosis. Psychological Bulletin, ISSN 0033-2909, 01/1998, Volume 123, Issue 1, pp. 100 – 115

 

[3] Bickman,  L. (1999). Practice makes perfect and other myths about mental health services. American Psychologist . Vol 54 (11) Nov 1999 pp. 965-978.

 

 

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Do antidepressants work?

Some latest research[1] shows some depressing results about long term antidepressant use: the longer it is used, the more likely for relapse. This is particularly true of the SSRI (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors) group of antidepressants such as Prozac and Zoloft. Anti-depressants have been found in a very large scale study[2] to have little more effect than placebos (fake pills used in controlled trials). In other words, the mind power is similarly potent to the drug effect. One research[3] suggests that giving people serotonin “can produce a kind of compensatory response in the body, such that… it may be producing a change in the brain that then leaves the person more vulnerable to becoming depressed, one way or another.”

Anti-depressants can be very useful in the short term, while undergoing psychotherapy. However, without addressing psychological issues, mere reliance on medication in the longer term seems like not a very good idea, not least of which is that there is a higher possibility of relapse, but also that life’s issues have not been resolved. While anti-depressants (even the name suggests it) are aimed at making people “not depressed”, living life should move beyond just getting rid of depression, but into finding joy, new meanings, resources, hope, excitement and zest for life, which medication cannot do.

A relatively new branch of psychology called Positive Psychology suggests that moving away from deficits and problems to finding one’s “core virtues”, or inner strengths, whereby a more meaningful life can evolve, can “cure” depression. Similarly, some post-modern styles of therapy such as Solution-Focused Therapy and Narrative Therapy also focus on strengths and the future, rather than problems and the past. This is not to say that problems and the past are not addressed, but that they are addressed in the context of moving into a more positive future. A mix of these future-oriented psychotherapies with the more emotionally focused therapies such as Psychodynamic Therapy and Experiential Therapy, with short term use of anti-depressants, may be a more holistic way to handle depression.

Finding a therapist that favours a more humanistic approach, with flexibility of therapy models and techniques (rather than sticking to one model in which he/she is trained for), with whom you connect, will be a step in the right direction in gaining freedom from depression, so that it can no longer “grab” you, so that it loses power over you, so that you can find joy and meaning in life, no matter what life’s circumstances are!

If you have any stories or insights to share, or if you wish to comment on this article, please feel free to leave a reply.


[1] Schwartz, C. (2011). Do Antidepressants Make You Sad?: Some new research suggests people who take antidepressants are more likely to experience relapses of depression. Newsweek Web Exclusives. 14/06/11.

[2] Such as the STAR*D tiral, Sequenced Treatment Alternatives to Relieve Depression Study.

[3] Kirsch as cited in Schwartz (2011).

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Research shows hypnosis works for quitting smoking.

 

 

A number of recent studies have shown that hypnosis is the most effective among other methods for smoking cessation. In a study presented to CHEST 2007, the annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians, hypnotherapy was found to be most effective among four methods: hypnotherapy, nicotine-replacement therapy (NRT), hypnotherapy + NRT and cold turkey. After 6 months, 50% of patients who underwent hypnosis remained smoking-free as were those who received hypnotherapy plus NRT. One quarter of patients who went cold turkey remained successful, while 15.78% of those who received NRT alone continued to not smoke[1]. Nicotine replacement was less effective than going cold turkey. Another study[2] found intensive hypnotherapy is effective in reducing the average number of cigarettes to 3 a day compared to 20 a day in the control group at week 26.

 

Although NRT’s effectiveness has been reported in only 22% of studies funded by non-tobacco related organisations, 51% of industry-funded trials reported significant effectiveness of NRT, a rather large discrepancy[3], which should cause us to question the neutrality of the industry-funded studies.

 

 

 


[1] Kerr, M. (2007). Hypnotherapy most effective smoking cessation aid. Medical Post, ISSN 0025-7435, 12/2007, Volume 43, Issue 39, p. 17.

[2] Elkins, G, Marcus, J.,  Bates, J.,  Hasan, R., M, & Cook, T. (2006).  Intensive hypnotherapy for smoking cessation: a prospective study. The International journal of clinical and experimental hypnosis, ISSN 0020-7144, 07/2006, Volume 54, Issue 3, pp. 303 – 315

[3] http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100208211924.htm

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The intrigues of psychotherapy research: what works and for whom?

Depression. Anxiety. Anger. Grief. Trauma. Stress. Eating Disorders. Weight Loss, Addictions. People have all kinds of needs for psychotherapy. For the consumer, it seems a daunting task to choose the right therapy. Needless to say, most people would want to engage in a therapeutic model that has “scientific evidence” that it works. This, however, also proves to be not as simple as it sounds.

Consider the well-researched Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), the most empirically supported treatment (observable outcomes) in psychotherapy today. To the lay person, this may sound like a therapy of choice. After all, if so many researchers have conducted randomised controlled trials (RCTs[1]) and CBT has been found to produce better outcomes than other therapies, shouldn’t we all head for it? The answer is: not necessarily.

Efficacy and effectiveness: “same, same but different”.

What the lay person does not understand is that there are two kinds of research studies: efficacy studies and effectiveness studies. In clinical psychology, the term efficacy refers to the “internal validity[2]” of a controlled, randomised, clinical trial of an intervention, performed in rigid settings, with treatment delivered according to prescribed manualised procedures, usually in university research clinics, often recruiting students as clients. Effectiveness studies seek to establish whether efficacy protocols derived from laboratory settings in efficacy studies can be successfully transported to the wider clinical settings to which real life people present for treatment. These studies are usually conducted in the real world, with real clients and real therapists in clinical settings.

In laymen’s terms, efficacy is concerned with the controlled testing of an intervention (defined by the exact procedures detailed in the manual) while effectiveness measures the outcome experienced in the real world through real interactions between therapists and clients.

The idea of manualized psychotherapy depicted in literature often gives one an impression that it has a “technological precision”. But such is not the case, even though the idea of making psychotherapy dummy-proof, through manualised treatment is highly seductive. It is simply not possible to treat the users of manualised treatment, both the client and the therapist, as if they do not count, in arriving at conclusions about treatments.

Although CBT has been the subject of many efficacy studies, these were conducted in controlled environments that rarely, if ever, represent what happens in a real clinic. Another item in these efficacy studies being challenged is the idea of therapeutic placebos (such as using supportive counselling without any other “interventions”). Placebos in psychological treatments are actually logically and practically impossible, because they have the same psychological effects as the treatment they are replacing, thus the placebo becomes the treatment. Furthermore, CBT efficacy studies have also been challenged by a group of researchers who hold that there are “common factors” in therapy that contribute to therapeutic outcomes, not the specific interventions. The earliest such researcher is Jerome Frank (1909-2005) who developed a common factors model that included four factors: 1) the “emotionally charged, confiding relationship” with the therapist; 2) the “healing setting”; 3) the rational or myth; and 4) the believable treatment or ritual . He proposed that if hope and positive expectations are experienced, the demoralised state of the client improves. These hopes and expectations are brought about through the four factors, whether or not they are scientifically valid “treatments” or just “rituals”[3].

Another myth of efficacy studies is that therapists can practice “pure” therapy strictly according to a manual. In a relational interchange of conversations, it is nigh on impossible to “direct” therapy according to a manual, making these very artificial studies quite meaningless. Jonathan Shedler, a researcher from the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine, points out that the mechanisms of change in CBT, for example,  are often not related to the prototype supposedly used, but elements from the Psychodynamic therapy model instead. In fact, two studies have found that if therapists actually adhered to their supposed models, CBT fared worse than psychodynamic therapy[4].

While efficacy tests are being challenged for their relevance in clinical settings, there is a move towards more effectiveness studies. In a 2004 book on psychotherapy research, 279 process-outcome studies and a further 42 empirical reviews and meta-analysis (studies analysing and synthesizing research findings) were counted, nearly a 50% increase as cited in 1994[5]. However, even these effectiveness studies are not without their own challenges. One of which is the problem of ‘common factors’. The question is raised whether therapy works because of the person of the therapist, or because of the particular model of therapy used.

Common Factors in Therapy

There are almost ninety common factors in psychotherapy[6]. These are factors other than the models and techniques employed during therapy. Of the greatest significance is the therapeutic alliance, or the relationship between therapist and client. Then there are factors that are extra-therapeutic such the client winning the lottery and depression is “cured”, or from assessment tools being administered, causing a recognition of the problem and therefore therapeutic change, such as an when an alcoholic gets asked to complete a questionnaire on alcohol consumption, or simply through the passage of time, such as healing from grief over time, regardless of the therapy. Some therapist factors are particularly significant for building the therapeutic relationship: strong working alliance, group cohesion (in the case of group therapy) and a high degree of collaboration, as well as some personality traits such as open-mindedness, creativity and patience[7].

The Medical Model vs. the Contextual Model

The medical model views the client as suffering from a maladaptive psychological disorder or mental illness and the therapist as someone who can ‘dispense’ treatment, by the use of certain techniques of ‘intervention’, as a doctor dispenses medication for physical illnesses, to help the client to alleviate symptoms and to recover. In this model, the therapist is the expert and the client the non-expert.

In the Medical Model, clients are labelled as suffering from ‘disorders’. In fact, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th Edition) is nearly a thousand pages thick and lists nearly 300 disorders, seven times as thick and listing almost three times as many disorders than when it was first published in 1952. Note also that at one time, homosexuality was a mental disorder! Currently, there is a huge debate in the psychotherapy circle concerning the impending publication of the 5th edition, which may include some troubling new categories of mental disorders. Although it is not clear if some of the debated new disorders (such as bitterness, apathy, extreme shopping or overuse of the internet) will be classified as mental illnesses, the fact that the American Psychological Association (APA) has assigned a task force to decide on these conditions sounds like it’s a case of diagnoses gone mad. As one commentator posts on the internet, “If you spend hours online, have sex more frequently than aging psychiatrists, and moan incessantly… [about] the federal government…, take heed, you may soon be classed among the 48 million Americans the APA already considers mentally ill[8].”

The Contextual Model, sometimes called the Common Factors Model, however, views techniques and interventions less significant in producing therapeutic change than the therapeutic relationship. In this model, techniques are viewed as necessary only “to construct a treatment that therapists have faith in and that provides a convincing rationale to clients” but that these techniques are only part of a bigger picture in which the six elements common to all psychotherapies exist:

-          The therapist develops a relationship with he/she helps the client to combat feelings of demoralisation;

-          The therapist maintains the client’s expectation of being helped and instils a hope of improvement through the therapeutic processes;

-          The therapist provides new learning experiences;

-          The client’s feelings are aroused because of the therapy;

-          The therapist enhances the client’s sense of self mastery;

-          The therapist provides opportunities for practice[9].

The Contextual Model, as can be seen, is a more humanistic model in which the client is the expert of his/her own life and the therapist works collaboratively with the client for therapeutic change, rather than dispensing treatment techniques to “cure” the client.

Collaborative Therapy

Collaborative therapy is not another model of therapy. Rather, it is a philosophical stance, a “way of being”, in which the client is the expert (of his/her life) and the therapist is the non-expert (of the client’s life) who starts from a not knowing position, rather than a power position. They are conversational partners joining together for mutual inquiry in a relational-responsive way of understanding so that client and therapist transform together. The therapist places trust in uncertainty whilst maintaining confidence and views therapy as everyday, ordinary life[11].

A collaborative approach of inquiry challenges traditional empiricism which typically separates the researcher from the subjects of research. Instead, the investigator joins with the subject to work towards mutual goals while retaining participants’ agency[12]. This is a more respectful way of doing therapy.

Brief Intervention vs Intensive Therapy

There is also evidence, indeed overwhelming evidence, that the length of therapy, is not necessarily a good predictor of therapy outcomes. In a study called Project MATCH, testing three forms of therapy, it was found that 12 sessions of CBT did not produce better results than just 4 sessions of Motivational Enhancement Therapy, for people with alcohol problems.[10]

Conclusion

The long and short of psychotherapy research is that what is “scientifically-proven” may not necessarily be more effective in the real world than therapies that have received fewer controlled trials. Also, intensive therapies are not necessarily more effective than shorter therapies. Models of therapy are not the determinants of therapy outcomes, as there are factors common to all therapies. Therapy can either be viewed from a medical, problem-oriented perspective, or from a relational, motivational perspective of change.

As a therapist who combines collaborative counselling using a multi-modal approach, with clinical hypnosis, I consider therapy both an art and a science. I hope this article has helped you understand more about psychotherapy research and that you will be able to make an informed choice of a therapist, rather than just relying on “scientific evidence” which may not reflect real life outcomes.

If you have any questions about this and other topics, or if you have some therapy stories you feel will help others, please feel free to leave a comment.

 

 

 

 

 

 


[1] RCTs are studies in which clients are randomly assigned therapies and therapists without knowing what therapy they’re receiving, with results compared with controlled group(s) being treated with an alternative therapy and/or with no therapy (such as being put on wait list). The idea is to scientifically test whether it is the particular form of therapy that produces the outcomes, which are measured by various “instruments” or tests that clients take at intervals during and/or after therapy duration, which give indications of their wellbeing, degree of problems being experienced (or not) and any number of factors that indicate therapeutic outcomes.

 

[2] Internal validity is achieved in a clinical setting when all other variables are controlled except the one that is being trialled so that the results can be shown to be caused by that particular variable.

[3] Wampold, B. & Weinberger, J. (2010). Jerome D Frank: psychotherapy researcher and humanitarian. In L. G. Castonguay, J. C. Muran, L. Angus, J. A. Hayes, N. Ladany, & A. Anderson. Bringing psychotherapy research to life. (pp. 29-38). Washington: APA.

 

[4] Shedler, J. (2010). The efficacy of psychodynamic psychotherapy. Feb-Mar 2010 Vol 65. No. Vol. 2. pp. 98-109.  American Psychologist.

 

[5] Orlinsky, d. E., Ronnstad, M. H., Willutzki, U. (2004). Fifty years of psychotherapy process-outcome research: continuity and change. In M. J. Lambert. Bergin and Garfield’s handbook of psychotherapy and behaviour change. (pp.307-389). New York: Wiley.

 

[6] Gastonguay, L. G., Reid, J. J., Halperin, G. S., Goldfried, M. R. (2003) Psychotherapy Integration. In G. Stricker & T. A. Widiger (Vol Eds), I. B, Weiner (Ed.). Handbook of psychology: volume 8: clinical psychology.  (pp. 327-345). New Jersey: Wiley.

 

[7] Gastonguay, L. G. & Beutler, L. E. (2006). Common and unique principles of therapeutic change: what do we know and what do we need to know? In L. G. Gastonguay & L. E. Beutler. (Eds.). Principles of therapeutic change that work. (pp.353-370) Oxford: OUP. p.358.

 

[9] Frank & Frank (1991, as cited in Wampold, B. E. (2001). The great psychotherapy debate: models, methods and findings. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. p.25.

 

[10] Andreasson, S. & Ojehagen. (2003). Psychosocial treatment for alcohol dependence. In M. Berglund, s. Thelander & E. Jonsson. (Eds.). Treating alcohol and drug abuse. (pp.43-188). Weinheim: Wiley-VCH.

[11] Anderson, Harlene. (2007). The heart and spirit of collaborative therapy: the philosophical stance – a “way of being” in relationship and conversation. In Anderson, H; Gehart, D. (Eds.) Collaborative therapy: relationships and conversations that make a difference. New York: Routledge. Pp. 43-59.

 

[12] Gergen, K. (2009). An invitation to social construction. London: Sage.

 

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Myths and truths about hypnosis.

People are always intrigued about hypnosis, hypnotism or hypnotherapy. Even these three terms are baffling to many. There is no clear distinction between hypnosis and hypnotism, both terms having been derived from 19th century physician and pioneer of hypnosis James Baird’s “neurypnology”, originally “neurohypnology” or the science of nervous sleep, from his book Neurypnology: or, the Rationale of Nervous Sleep[1]. Because of the unfortunate association with stage hypnotism, which does not belong in the therapeutic domain, the term hypnosis is generally used in favour of hypnotism. To distinguish hypnosis for entertainment and therapeutic use, the term clinical hypnosis is generally used. Hypnotherapy, on the other hand, is often viewed as a particular, unique, school of therapy. This, however, should not be the case, because many other therapy approaches “emphasize generating and utilizing a client’s dissociated and suggestible state for increasing therapeutic responses the way practitioners of hypnosis do”.[2] In other words, hypnosis can be integrated into (and indeed often used but called different names in) other models of therapy.

 

In this article, we will briefly discuss some of the myths and misconceptions about hypnosis:

Myth #1: I will lose my freewill.

Truth: You always have the power to choose. You are always free to overtly or covertly reject suggestions that do not fit you. In stage hypnotism, the subjects make a choice of going along with the hypnotist’s suggestions because of prior consent (by volunteering to be on stage), which is why you never see any unwilling participants being dragged on stage, because it will not work!

Myth #2: Hypnotic outcomes are caused by the power of the hypnotist.

Truth: The “power” of the therapist is actually given by the client. In other words, if the client has a good therapeutic relationship and trusts the therapist, better therapy outcomes might be expected. But this is not unique to hypnosis, but is inherent in all therapies, under the banner of “common factors” of therapy. The therapist therefore is only a guide for the experience of hypnosis but what the client experiences depends on how he/she permits the role of the therapist to function.[3].

Myth #3: Not everyone can be hypnotised.

Truth: Hypnosis is a naturally occurring phenomenon. When you are driving on the highway and miss the exit because you are deep in thought about the holiday you just took, you are in a hypnotic state. Although many hypnotherapists still use formal induction techniques, these are found to be not necessary, although they can be helpful for clients whose expectations demand it. The American Psychological Association’s definition of hypnosis does not prescribe the necessity of formal induction, nor does it include the word “trance”.

Myth #4: One is asleep or unconscious during hypnosis.

Truth: Although the word hypnosis is derived from the Greek word Hypnos, meaning sleep, or the God of Sleep, hypnosis is not sleep. There is always some level of awareness of the current environment, even in deep hypnosis. Most people experience it as a relaxed state, although physical relaxation is not necessary for hypnosis to occur. They can hear the sounds of the surrounding environment, such as someone’s phone ringing next door, and so on.

Myth # 5: Hypnosis is simply relaxation.

Truth: While people are often relaxed in hypnosis, hypnosis is not just relaxation. Rather, it is an inner experience of focused attention, being absorbed, to a greater or lesser degree depending on various factors, in the therapist’s suggestions. Hypnosis can also occur in a non-relaxed state, such as with eyes open and in hyper-focus of an object, an imagination, or an event from the past. This is often called open-eye hypnosis or waking hypnosis.

Myth #6: Hypnosis cannot harm you.

Truth: Unfortunately, this also is a myth. However, the potential harm in hypnosis is not related to the hypnotic process itself, but rather, to the incompetency of the therapist, no different from any other form of psychotherapy. In any therapy, the client is in distress and in a vulnerable state, seeking help and relief of symptoms. Any inexperienced, insufficiently educated therapist may inadvertently (rarely intentionally), “misdiagnose a problem or its dynamics, offer poor advice, make grandiose promises, impose an antitherapetuic point of view, or simply waste ther person’s time and money”[4]. In these respects, hypnosis, along with any other forms of psychotherapy, can be harmful.

 

I hope the above has helped you in your understanding of  clinical hypnosis. If you have any opinions or experiences of hypnosis that you wish to share, or you wish to ask specific questions about hypnosis, please leave a comment.


[1] Gauld, A. (1992). A history of hypnotism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 281.

[2] Yapko, M. D. (2003). Trancework. New York: Routledge. p. 52.

[3] Zeig, J. (2001, as cited by Yapko, 2003). Trancework: New York: Routledge, p.38.

[4] Yapko, M. D. (2003). Trancework. New York: Routledge. p. 47.

 

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Hypnotherapy for fear of flying.

Fear of flying is often rooted in some past traumatic experience that had similar dynamics and bodily felt senses, even if the context was totally different. Hypnotherapy on its own can be very effective but combining it with experiential reprocessing of any similar thoughts/feelings/sensations from the past makes it so much more powerful. I combine hypnotherapy with experiential therapy. The results are usually permanent. In all my years as a therapist, I have never heard of a client “relapsing” back into it.

Generally, one session (two hours) is all it takes. And success rate for this is generally very high, compared to other presenting problems. This is probably because the thoughts, feelings and sensations are very unique and can be addressed very specifically, unlike, for example, for weight loss problems, in which there are varied dynamics relating to food and exercise.

If you have a fear of flying, you can be free from it by tomorrow. That’s the reality. What’s more, I do scaling assessments during the session so that you can gauge for yourself if you have gained results, before you even leave the clinic.

I hope this identifies with you and that you will book a session soon.

 

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Depression? Hypnosis plus positive psychotherapy can help.

I have worked with people suffering from depression here in Brisbane for 10 years and in that time, I have noticed that Positive Psychology works best. People who are depressed (often for good reasons) can get stuck into that state for a long time. Even therapy with a very empathic counsellor often works only for a little while before the same old depressive thoughts and moods creep back in. In Positive Psychology, the aim is not to “treat” depression, but to shift the focus on what makes meaning for the person and what strengths and resources are already there within the person. In other words, by shifting the focus from the problem to the greater meanings of life, the person begins to get happy again. The founder of Positive Psychology, Martin Seligman calls this “authentic happiness”.

The way I view depression is that it is not something you have, but it is something that’s trying to get you. If you begin to view it from this perspective (which I help you with experiential counselling and Narrative Therapy), you begin to pitch yourself against this “thing” that’s trying to get you. This is a process called “externalisation”. As well as externalising depression, hypnosis is used in the latter part of a two-hour session to help you experience the change you seek, as if you are already happy, carefree, peaceful, laughing, and so on. It is a wonderful way to change your unconscious thoughts and feelings.

I practice a lot of different “therapies”: hypnotherapy, narrative therapy, solution-focused therapy, emotionally focused therapy, experiential therapy, and so on, but they are just names for different approaches of helping your unconscious mind to integrate with your conscious mind. Often healing occurs spontaneously and people experience results in just two to three 2-hour sessions, which is within the definition of Brief Therapy. Brief Therapy has been shown in research to be as effective as more intensive treatments, such as for alcohol misuse, but is a whole lot more cost-effective.

If you identify with what I am saying, I hope you will book an appointment and begin to get into Authentic Happiness.

:-)

Sophie

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Weight loss: requires more than seeing a hypnotist!

Does hypnotherapy work for weight loss? Here in Brisbane, there are countless weight loss clinics  that offer excellent advice,  programs, diets, and the like. However, these strategies will  work even better if they are aligned with your readiness to change, as well as working through the thoughts and emotions about food and exercise in your unconscious mind that might be conflicting with your conscious mind. For example, “I really want to lose weight, but I do love chocolate and cream cakes.” Most people who struggle with their weight are absolute experts on what foods they SHOULD be eating and what exercises they SHOULD be doing, but the unconscious mind is sabotaging the conscious, rational, well-meaning mind. Information about change does not cause people to change as effectively as experiencing the change in the unconscious. This is what hypnotherapy can do.

Most people try to fight their “negative” self, but then lose out due to a lack of resolve and go on a yo-yo diet which can spiral into depression and low self-esteem. If you are one of these people, perhaps hypnotherapy combined with experiential counselling, that addresses the emotions related to food cravings/addictions, might help you. Many people view hypnotherapy as something like magic. Somehow, the therapist suggests some wonderful strategies to them while they’re in trance and they come out of trance changed. No longer will they like chocolate, cream cakes and they will be motivated to run round the block every morning. This is a gross misunderstanding of what hypnotherapy does.

The reality is that success depends on your readiness to change. The theory of Stages of Change suggests that there are six stages: pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance, relapse/termination. This means you have to be ready to change in order for change to occur. However, hypnotherapy and motivational interviewing techniques in the counselling style I use, can help move you along the stages of change.

Readiness to change also consists of two parts, the conscious and the unconscious. You can be consciously wanting to change, but unconsciously, there are benefits of the old self that you don’t yet want to deal with. I view change in terms of integration of the different parts of being: body (sensations, taste), mind (cognition, thoughts), soul (emotions, feelings), spirit (insight). Unless one addresses all these parts  and integrate the parts till there is congruence, the person is still fragmented with different parts pulling and tugging at one another.

I hope this makes sense to you and that you will book a session to get slim and stay healthy.

Sophie

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Scientists Highlight Link Between Stress and Appetite

ScienceDaily (Aug. 12, 2011) — Researchers in the Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI) at the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Medicine have uncovered a mechanism by which stress increases food drive in rats. This new discovery, published online this week in the journal Neuron, could provide important insight into why stress is thought to be one of the underlying contributors to obesity.

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Can Blaming Others Make People Sick?

ScienceDaily (Aug. 11, 2011) — Constant bitterness can make a person ill, according to Concordia University researchers who have examined the relationship between failure, bitterness and quality of life.

Read the full article on:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110809104259.htm

 

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