Hypnosis is a cooperative interaction in which the participant responds to suggestions made by the therapist for changes in subjective experience, alterations in perception, sensation, emotion, thought or behaviour. Hypnosis has been clinically shown to provide medical and therapeutic benefits, most notably in the reduction of pain, anxiety, and in the treatment of phobias, addictions and habits.
Hypnosis involves taking the patient through a number of stages to achieve the desired outcome, whether that is age regression, relaxation or positive thinking.
Step One: Preparation
The patient is asked for information about the problem he/she is facing and any other relevant issues. The process is then explained to ensure that the patient is completely comfortable with it. If they are not, hypnosis will not be successful. The patient’s suggestibility is then assessed so they can be sure of achieving the depth of trance required for the treatment planned.
Step Two: Induction
There are a number of techniques used to induce a hypnotic trance of which the most popular is the eye-fixation technique. This involves the patient staring at a fixed point whilst the hypnotherapist suggests feelings of heavy eyes and tiredness which eventually lead to a deep, relaxed state.
Another technique is the hand levitation technique whereby the hypnotist focuses on sensations of the patient’s hand lifting slowly into the air and touching the face at which point the patient will close their eyes and rest in the same relaxed state.
Step Three: Deepening procedures
Regardless of how the trance has been initiated, there follows a period of deepening of the hypnotic experience to a suitable level. Techniques include counting, periods of silence, visual imagery, hand rotation or automatic movements, confusional techniques and the use of a metronome.
Step Four: Treatment
Hypnosis can be used to treat a variety of mental health conditions including anxiety and phobias, addictions, habit control and pain management. It has also been used in helping patients to stop smoking and to lose weight. The treatment phase focuses on the particular condition, issue or problem the patient is facing.
Step Five: Ego strengthening
This involves removing tension, anxiety and apprehension whilst restoring the confidence that the patient has in their ability to cope with their problem.
Step Six: Termination
Just before terminating the hypnotic trance, often with the use of a counting technique, post-hypnotic suggestions may be used to counter negative thinking and introduce the idea of self-hypnosis sometimes using a tape of the session.
As with all therapies, it is important to select a qualified hypnotist who belongs to a professional organisation such as the Royal College of Psychiatrists or the UK Council for Psychotherapy with whom you feel you can build a trusting relationship.