applications of hypnosis and therapy

by Louise Watts

It seems that it never ceases to amaze people the wide range of symptoms and circumstances that can successfully be dealt with using hypnosis and hypnotherapy.

However, before hypnosis and/or hypnotherapy can be applied successfully, there are a number of conditions required for this to take place. The therapeutic alliance is paramount to the success of any application of hypnosis, where trust and rapport should be established before any sessions take place. Also highly dependent on the success of the treatment is the BICE model, which relies on the individual’s Belief, Imagination, Conviction and Expectation.

It can be argued that part of the hypnosis protocol is dependent on the placebo effect, where if a client expects their condition to improve, there is a good chance that he or she will be successful. However, hypnosis is more than that. It allows the conscious and subconscious to work together without conflict on the same idea at the same time, and since conflict between these parts of the psyche results in anxiety, the root of many disorders, the therapist can utilise this tool to successfully overcome many problems the individual is experiencing. As a result, amazing things can be achieved when an individual’s subconscious starts working for them rather than against them.

Before continuing, however, it is necessary to distinguish between hypnosis and hypnotherapy: whilst all hypnotherapy employs the use of hypnosis, not all hypnosis employs the use of hypnotherapy.

Hypnosis, in itself, will only induce a trance state and, other than relaxing the client, is not of much use on its own to the therapist. However, aided with the use of suggestions, the hypnotist can bypass the critical faculty of the mind to implant behavioural change into the client’s subconscious. These suggestions can be effective for anything between three minutes to three weeks.

For example, if an individual is suffering from anxiety, it is possible to remove this block using a powerful suggestion, although this solution may be relatively short-term if the anxiety has been caused by an event, or series of events, earlier in life, as the client’s belief about self will not have been altered.

Suggestion therapy is also useful for habit control. Whilst it is necessary for the subconscious to maintain certain habits, such as getting washed and dressed in the morning, it also holds on to all the other habits we have learnt throughout our life, including the unwanted ones. Example of these include smoking, and nail biting, and it is hoped that by the time the suggestion has worn off, a new habit will have been formed, and replaced the old habit of say, smoking.

Additionally, suggestion therapy can be useful in improving performance, including sports, exam nerves or driving test worries, to name a few, by instilling confidence within the individual.

Hypnosis has also been employed in the alleviation of physical pain, often with great success, as demonstrated by James Esdaile in India, where he was able to perform amputations without anaesthetic, due to the absolute faith his patients had in his ability to heal them – something that he was not able to replicate in Britain. However, this deep state is now often referred to as the Esdalle or coma state, where the individual shows signs of anaesthesia and does not respond to suggestion. Whilst this is only achievable in a relatively small percentage of individuals, it is a very valuable treatment for those undergoing surgery.

Hypnosis can also be used in emergency situations where a person may have suffered terrible injury and is in a great deal of pain. Hypnotic suggestions can be applied whilst waiting for the emergency services to arrive, which can also serve as a distraction mechanism. Where there is significant pain, glove anaesthesia techniques may also be employed.

On the subject of pain, hypnosis is also now being used during childbirth, a method known as hypnobirthing, to minimise discomfort to the mother. Similarly, hypnosis is employed in dentistry, allowing some patients to undergo treatment without anaesthetic, or to allow them to feel more comfortable about visiting the dentist.

Far from the clinical setting, is the application of hypnosis used on the stage, whereby the hypnotist’s main aim is to provide maximum entertainment for the audience. In such instances, the hypnotist will carefully select the “best” participants, who will be willing and extroverted individuals, and often if the stage hypnotist is very well known, individuals may go into hypnosis with very little effort!

At the other end of the spectrum, hypnotherapy is the use of hypnosis to apply various forms of psychotherapy to the client. Hypnotherapy can successfully treat those individuals suffering from neurosis, as opposed to psychosis or other forms of mental illness, such as Borderline Personality Disorder and schizophrenia. Often neuroses can be dealt with successfully if the onset was after the age of 3 ½ years, and not part of the client’s fundamental conditioning, which may be much harder to deal with.

Hypnotherapy can be used to reduce the emotional stacks within an individual that have been built upon over months, or even years, and help to restore their confidence. Depression, which often involves feelings of low self-esteem, can be treated, although it would be necessary to ensure that the client was receiving the necessary medication before beginning therapy. This works two-fold: it can tell the therapist whether he or she is dealing with lethargic depression, rather than bi-polar disorder which is classed as psychosis, and also reduce the risk of suicide if the therapy on its own was to motivate the client enough to begin making future plans.

Since our immune system is controlled by our subconscious, psychosomatic and psychogenic illness is also another area where hypnotherapy can be of great help, although it is essential that the client is referred to a GP to rule out any physical or organic cause. Whilst a cure can never be promised, often the client’s illness can become more manageable, with less frequent symptoms, providing them with a better quality of life. Examples of such illnesses include migraines, arthritis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and skin conditions.

Where certain hypnotherapy techniques are not proving effective at alleviating the individual from their symptoms, hypnoanalysis can be applied. This works by using techniques, such as regression, and can also include ego states therapy and time track therapy, to uncover the cause and effect of deep rooted issues within the client’s subconscious that may have been repressed to protect the client from trauma.

Regression to cause may be adopted for those suffering from one particular symptom, maybe affecting just one area of their life. Free association, originally devised by Freud, can be combined with hypnosis to assist individuals displaying a wide range of symptoms; for example, a depressed individual who may be showing signs of general anxiety, low-self esteem and suffers from migraines.

Often analytical work has the benefit of often achieving faster results than psychotherapy and psychoanalysis, and is frequently used from the outset with problems such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, tinnitus and psychosexual difficulties.

Hypnotherapy cannot completely change a person’s entire personality, although the Ancestral Memory approach can be applied effectively to assist individuals in bringing out their best qualities and adapting to a variety of situations they may encounter. This can also assist in inter-personal relationships with others, and take away with them a greater understanding of why people act the way they do.

The use of hypnosis isn’t just restricted to those working as hypnotherapists, hypnoanalysts and stage hypnotists as their main profession. It is being adopted by people from a whole range of backgrounds, including counsellors, reiki healers and even managers of corporations who want to use self-hypnosis within the workplace to reduce stress and encourage both themselves and employees to be more productive.

One of the huge benefits in using hypnosis is the fact that there are no unwanted side-effects. Whilst some individuals may feel worse after a few sessions of therapy, a sign of subconscious resistance, or experience abreactions during a session, even these are positive events, leading the way to healing.

It is hoped that, with increased awareness from the public, together with tougher regulations to practice, more people will understand the various applications of hypnosis and hypnotherapy, and turn to them more frequently as complementary approaches to traditional medicine.

© Louise Watts 2006

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