How can hypnotherapy nourish your soul?
As its name suggests, hypnotherapy is a way of applying the condition known as hypnosis for therapeutic purposes. Hypnosis is the deliberate induction of a naturally occurring state of consciousness, similar to the condition of your mind during the process of falling asleep, or when you zone out from what’s happening around you during an intense daydream. Although hypnosis continues to be a hotly debated subject, researchers have used imaging technology to show visible changes in brain activity during hypnosis.
The hypnotic state has been invoked in various contexts since ancient times, but its modern popularity largely began with Franz Mesmer, a German doctor, in the late 18th century. He used hypnosis treatment as a therapeutic tool for his patients; his belief that this involved a mystical (which he termed ‘animal magnetism’) was rejected by later practitioners.
James Braid, a Scottish surgeon, took a more rigorous and experimental approach to hypnosis, publishing a book on the basis of his findings in 1843. Sigmund Freud, the developer of psychoanalysis, briefly experimented with hypnotherapy, but it wasn’t until the work of Milton Erickson that this modality evolved into something similar to what is now practised. An influential psychologist and psychiatrist, Erickson devoted much of his professional life to the development of hypnotherapy treatment, and pioneered techniques that are still in use today.
Benefits of hypnotherapy
Hypnotherapy is sometimes used as a standalone treatment, but often incorporated as part of a greater psychological or cognitive behavioural therapy plan. By guiding the client into a hypnotic state, a practitioner can communicate with them at a more profound level than during normal waking consciousness.
This may have positive effects on a wide variety of wellness issues, ranging from insomnia to migraine, smoking cessation to weight loss, and many others. The results of a controlled comparison of hypnosis for depression versus conventional psychotherapy suggested that hypnotherapy is “probably efficacious”. There is extensive research on the subject of hypnotherapy for anxiety, and it is recommended as an aspect of cognitive behavioural therapy. It is also reported that hypnotherapy may be an effective treatment for irritable bowel syndrome.
During hypnosis, you are deeply relaxed, focused and suggestible, meaning you are more open to absorbing new ideas than during ordinary wakefulness. Hypnosis can also reinforce feelings of peace and safety, making it easier to talk about things that cause you distress, such as memories of traumatic experiences, or phobias that trouble you.
By gently editing your mental habits, for example by encouraging you to think of smoking as a harmful activity that isn’t much fun, hypnotherapy may empower you to establish enduring changes to your behaviour in a short space of time. Hypnotherapy may also help with pain management, by allowing you to deliberately change your perception of what you are experiencing.
Hypnotherapy may assist in relieving symptoms related to:
- Alcohol and drug addiction
- Blood pressure
- Childbirth and labour
- Grief, bereavement and loss
- IBS and bowel disorders
- Insomnia and sleep disorders
- Menopause and hot flushes
- Pain relief
- PTSD and trauma
- Smoking and nicotine cravings
- Stress and tension
- Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ)
- Weight control and obesity
What to expect from a hypnotherapy session
The length of time this therapy takes can vary widely, depending on whether it is being used as part of greater treatment program, or whether you are booked in for a session of hypnotherapy alone. Most commonly, a hypnotherapy session lasts about an hour.
To begin, your practitioner will ask you about what you hope to accomplish through hypnotherapy, discuss any concerns you might have, and outline how your treatment will unfold. The practitioner will then guide you into a deeply relaxed state, often by inviting you to imagine calming environments or peaceful feelings, such as lying in a warm bath. You will remain completely conscious and in control at all times during the session.
Depending on your specific goals, you will be offered new ways of thinking about what’s troubling you, or be guided through visualisations to help resolve fears and worries. You might be asked to explore thoughts that are causing you distress and be taught how to frame them in more manageable ways, or be offered strategies to help you find peace when gripped by anxiety.
When the therapeutic part of the session is complete, your practitioner will gently help you shift your attention back to the outside world and and resume normal waking consciousness.
As with any exercise or wellness program, please consult your medical professional before commencing hypnotherapy. If you have any concerns at all, also speak to your hypnotherapist, who will be happy to address these and customise the session to your individual requirements.