I became a certified hypnotherapist, some years ago. It was pure coincidence that I ventured into this arena of healing. It was a few months after my wife had succumbed to her fight with cancer that I was given a book to read by a good friend. It was Many Lives, Many Masters by Brian Weiss, MD, a medical doctor and psychiatrist, who uses hypnotherapy as a healing modality.
I read the book and I was intrigued and fascinated. No wonder, Weiss is today considered a leading figure in the area of past-life regression using hypnotherapy.
Regardless of whether one believes in past lives and reincarnation, or not, in the United States, hypnotherapy is rapidly becoming a widely-accepted healing modality — an adjunct to conventional medicine and therapy.
Many of us have experienced the use of hypnosis by stage magicians and hypnotists who have hypnotised a willing subject to "follow every command" on stage — sometimes with a comic element to the show. This is different to the process and purpose of hypnotherapy.
The Cleveland Clinic, US, defines hypnotherapy as follows: "Hypnotherapy is a technique that uses the hypnotic state, which enables changes in perception and memory, a major increase in response to suggestion, and the potential for controlling many physiologic functions that are usually involuntary. Hypnotherapy uses guided relaxation, intense concentration, and focused attention to achieve a heightened state of awareness that is sometimes called a trance. The person’s attention is so focused while in this state that anything going on around the person is temporarily blocked out, or ignored. In this naturally-occurring state, a person may focus his or her attention — with the help of a trained therapist — on specific thoughts or tasks."
If we cut through the mumbo-jumbo, hypnotherapy is the use of hypnosis for therapeutic and healing purposes. When the subject is open-minded towards hypnotherapy, it can have manifold benefits and applications. Hypnotherapy is successfully being used to help people address, among other things:
Addictions such as smoking and drugs
Fears and phobias; past trauma
Anxiety and stress
Improved performance in sports
Memory loss and recall
Pain management during dental procedures, and surgery
Grief and loss
This is only a short list of the potential applications of hypnotherapy.
I myself work mainly with cancer patients, helping them prepare for surgery, or other treatment modalities. In such situations, hypnotherapy can help diminish fear and provide a useful imagery of healing and recovery.
A GROWING FIELD
Hypnotherapy is a rapidly-expanding field. Compared with traditional therapeutic modalities, the results of a relatively brief series of hypnotherapy sessions are often swift, effective and lasting. It is no surprise why so many professionals in the healing arts are implementing hypnosis within their practices. Physicians, dentists, chiropractors, psychologists, social workers, marriage counsellors, nurses, massage practitioners, electrologists and physical therapists are among the many who are enthusiastically embracing hypnotherapy.
I find that people get quite concerned when they hear about hypnotherapy. Questions arise such as, "Will my mind be altered?", "Will I be unconscious?", and “Will I remember anything”? There are many myths associated with hypnotherapy which need debunking.
In the hands of a trained and qualified hypnotherapist, hypnotherapy is a safe and gentle process. In basic terms, the hypnotherapist, through the use of one or more methods of inducing a state of deep relaxation in the subject, accesses the subconscious mind in order to offer suggestions for healing and transformation. These can be direct or indirect suggestions. During most of our awakened periods, we are aware of our conscious minds and working with it. Our subconscious mind has receded into the background. We can only access our subconscious mind during this deep state of relaxation caused by hypnosis, or through intense meditation.
What is important, however, is that any meaningful personal transformation that has ever occurred in or out of therapy result from a shift in the subconscious mind. The subconscious mind is the seat and source of all our emotions, imagination, memory, habits and intuition. It is the core, the essence, of how we experience ourselves and the world. If we believe in reincarnation, we believe that our subconscious mind holds the experiences and memories of all of our past lives.
Many Olympic athletes, swimmers and gymnasts, not to speak of cricketers, have successfully used hypnotherapy and guided imagery to condition their subconscious minds towards increased performance.
So, what is a visit to a hypnotherapist like? Let me begin by saying that one should not expect results from just a single session or two. Deep-seated phobias and behavioural patterns didn't occur overnight and we can't expect to remove them overnight either. Generally speaking, one can expect healthy results after about 5-6 sessions. It can also take longer. But, it does work in the majority of people.
Typically, and more so during the first session, the hypnotherapist will probably not do any hypnosis on the subject/client at all. This is the intake session, where the hypnotherapist probes and asks questions regarding the issue [or, issues] the subject/client is facing. Or, whether the subject/client has been exposed to hypnotherapy before and what concerns or fears the subject/client has about hypnotherapy itself.
Starting with the second session, the hypnotherapist would use a 3-step process to implant suggestions of healing or behavioural change into the subconscious mind of the subject/client. The three steps, or phases of the session, are 1] induction, 2] post-hypnotic suggestions, and 3] retrieval or revival.
During the induction phase, the therapist uses one or more techniques to gently induce the subject/client into a state of deep relaxation. The subject/client is never ‘out’ and is always aware during the whole process. I have seen hypnotherapists induce this state of deep relaxation in their subjects/clients within a couple of minutes, and others who have taken as much as 20 minutes. It depends entirely on the issue the subject/client is facing and on the practitioner.
Once the subject is in this wonderfully relaxed state, the hypnotherapist offers specific suggestions and instructions to the subconscious mind that address the specific issue/s the subject/client is dealing with. The subconscious mind does not accept suggestions that it would consider harmful to itself, or to others. This is the way it is conditioned. In other words, we cannot be programmed to go out and do harm to ourselves, or to others. Quite often, this phase can also be a dialogue between the hypnotherapist and the subject/client, while s/he is ‘under’ hypnosis.
The revival phase is quite rapid and allows the subject/client to gently come back to the state of being fully awake and alert and present. Generally speaking, the hypnotherapist will conduct a debriefing session with the subject/client at the end to discuss the experience.
I have found that an array of factors separate a successful session from a less-than-satisfying sitting.
‘OPEN UP’ TO HEALING
The more motivated and open-minded the subject/client, the better will be the results. I have seen hypnotherapy work with sceptical people who come in with a true sense of wanting change and accepting this modality helps a great deal. Secondly, if the therapist is experienced and has a tool-kit of many different approaches and techniques, and most importantly, is creative, intuitive and flexible, good, tangible, as also wonderful, results may be achieved.
Compassion on the part of the therapist plays an important role in the process of induction and post-hypnotic suggestion. Thirdly, if the rapport between the subject/client and the therapist is good and the therapist takes a holistic approach going beyond just the face-value issue the subject/client has mentioned, deep healing can take place.
When choosing a hypnotherapist, assess whether the professional’s voice is soothing and calming, and if there is a measure of trust, as the two elements contribute a good deal to a successful outcome. Learning self-hypnosis, by the way, can be almost as important as visiting a hypnotherapist. Anyone can learn it — it is a tremendous tool for self-discovery.
Hypnotherapy has a definite place in the future of healing. It is one of the most exciting tools for re-empowering people to take charge of their spiritual, physical and mental health and also optimal well-being.