Clinical Hypnosis

CLINICAL HYPNOSIS may be helpful in many situations, including:

  • helping you manage pain, healing from surgery
  • treating anxiety (panic attacks, feeling unable to leave the safety of your home . . .)
  • easing pregnancy & childbirth
  • getting to the source of your fear
  • taming your inner critic
  • conquering test anxiety
  • helping athletes reach performance goals, including recovery from training injuries
  • loosening you from the grip of depression
  • helping identify your inner resources
  • achieving a healthier weight or body size
  • helping you end your relationship with tobacco products

Most people have heard of hypnosis. Many people have mistaken ideas about hypnosis, or may have questions about it. First, there is no single, definite, agreed-upon definition of hypnosis. Some call hypnosis a state of awareness or a state of focused attention, while others refer to hypnosis as a procedure. My discussion of hypnosis comes largely from William J. Bryan, Jr. (founder of the American Institute of Hypnosis), the American Psychological Association’s Division of Psychological Hypnosis, and books by well-known hypnosis researchers, teachers and practitioners (e.g., Ernest Hilgard, PhD, Michael Yapko, PhD).

The American Psychological Association states that hypnosis may be a tool in successful treatment, but hypnosis is not a type of therapy. This is why I avoid using the term “hypnotherapy.” Hypnosis may be therapeutic for you, of course, but it’s not therapy in and of itself. Also, a session of hypnosis will include some coaching or therapeutic discussion both before and after the actual hypnosis. I may refer to hypnosis as “clinical hypnosis” to distinguish it from both stage hypnosis (which is a form of entertainment) and “experimental” hypnosis (usually affiliated with a university, and may involve studying brain waves during hypnosis, blood pressure during hypnosis, hypnosis vs medications for pain control, etc).

Often we think of hypnosis as a procedure in which one person (the hypnotist) offers suggestions to someone else (the client) to imagine experiences that involve alterations in perception, memory and/or behavior. This means hypnosis occurs during a social interaction. The professional relationship between the hypnotist and client is a key factor in the success of using hypnosis, just as the professional relationship is a key factor in the success of therapy and coaching. I suggest checking credentials, and I encourage you to be sure the professional will spend enough time talking with you before you start the hypnosis, to allow the formation of a professional relationship. This includes getting adequate background information about your issue.

What can you expect from clinical hypnosis? What does hypnosis feel like? How many sessions of hypnosis are necessary to accomplish your goals? These are all important questions, and they are difficult to answer here because everyone is unique. So I can only provide general answers here.

What can you expect from clinical hypnosis? Hypnosis requires the client’s active participation in order for the hypnosis to be effective. If you expect to remain passively quiet and have hypnosis “done to you,” you are unlikely to achieve your goals. It is helpful to be motivated and to adopt a positive attitude about using hypnosis to help achieve your goals. You may feel just the way you felt when you walked into my office, yet find that now you make different choices (e.g., different food choices if you want to manage your weight) . . .

What does hypnosis feel like? How do you describe an experience?? If someone asked you to describe the experience of walking, how would you respond? Yes, it’s difficult to describe an experience, and describing how hypnosis feels is the same way. Most hypnosis clients experience a sense of relaxation and calm, and many people report feeling mentally alert despite their relaxed body. Did you know that it is possible to move and talk during hypnosis? During hypnosis clients typically focus inwardly rather than on the external environment. You may notice that your focus of attention narrows during hypnosis, so that other sounds in the room or outside the room fail to bother you. After the hypnosis, some people say “I didn’t feel hypnotized,” which may occur because you retain control of your choices while you are hypnotized, or because you are aware that you were focusing intently on something of interest to you during the hypnosis. Finally, research (i.e., experimental hypnosis) has repeatedly demonstrated that people who are hypnotized retain the ability to be aware of, and to respond to, situational cues (e.g., you easily remain hypnotized while your baby coos and giggles, but you immediately come out of hypnosis if your baby suddenly cries in alarm).

How many sessions of hypnosis are necessary? I don’t know. That may depend partly on your goal, how close you are to achieving your goal, your environment and support system outside my office, your level of motivation . . . There is no standard number of sessions in the hypnosis literature. Sometimes only one session is necessary, and sometimes 10 or 20 sessions (or more) are necessary. Everyone is unique; every situation is unique. Someone might need just one hypnosis session to accomplish one particular goal, but that same person might need 12 sessions to accomplish a different goal.

There are also numerous myths and misconceptions of hypnosis. One myth is that hypnosis is the same as sleep, or relaxation. While you may feel and look relaxed during hypnosis, you are actually focusing your attention and becoming absorbed in your inner experience. Your mind may be quite alert while your body looks relaxed. Discussing some of the common myths and misconceptions (and any other questions you may have) is important before signing my consent form for using hypnosis.

Call (916) 990-7733 to schedule your first appointment, or if you have questions that I haven’t addressed here. Please note that I may request a referral from your medical or mental health practitioner if/when medical or mental health issues are involved.

Although hypnosis can be a helpful tool, I cannot guarantee that hypnosis will be helpful for any specific person’s specific problem, and I cannot guarantee that any specific person will achieve their desired outcome.


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