Hypnotherapy would be better described as Hypno-Therapy, it is the use of hypnosis as a medium to introduce therapeutic interventions. In some sense, it is the combination of hypnotism and psychotherapy. These types of therapy are known as talk therapies. However, with respect to the hypnosis part, the client enters a state of awareness referred to as a trance. There are various levels of trances and they occur both naturally and to varying levels every day of our life. It's also nice to know that they are usually very safe; usually being the operative word! The most common one we experience is that of daydreaming, aka as absent-mindedness. And this is why I said "that they are usually very safe" because daydreaming can pose risks to one's safety!
These natural and varying trance states happen involuntarily, i.e. we just go into and out of them, often without even noticing. Hypnosis-therapy, on the other hand, is different. In the clinical setting, hypnosis occurs when a client voluntarily enters a natural and deeper state of trance. The therapeutically induced states of trance are akin to that of nighttime sleep. The purpose of sleep states (as in nighttime sleep) is to facilitate the brain's natural process of creating, maintaining (consolidation) and updating memories (reconsolidation). Hypnosis produces this natural process to make structured psychological changes. So, naturally, the changes the client wishes to make occur while they are in this familiar state of neural activity. This is known as the therapeutic intervention. To find out more about hypnosis and hypnotherapy, please click here!
For the most part, there are two essential components necessary for hypnotic-therapy (hypnotherapy) to be effective, they are, expectation and belief. Most often this expectation and belief come from the client themselves. Sometimes, however, preconceived ideas, anxieties or scepticism can interfere with the induction process. If this does happen, my skill, training and professionalism will assist you to overcome these hurdles. There will be no attempt to coerce you in any way, merely an open discussion where all of your concerns, etc. will be addressed. Hypnotherapy, as a process, is highly effective, progressive and each successive session builds on the last; a little like life really; "practice, makes perfect."
Once in the hypnotic state, we are essentially in a very similar state to that of nighttime sleep. If for some reason the therapist left the room, you would eventually come out of the trance state, usually in minutes. This is the same response you have on a daily basis when you awake from sleep. Perhaps one major difference, specific to hypnosis, is that relating to the production of melatonin? So, although you may not realise it; you are most likely very proficient in accessing states akin to hypnosis.
While you will not get stuck in hypnosis, you are often more likely to have an issue getting into the state than remaining in it. Some of the inhibitors of entering hypnosis, in the clinical environment, are things like apprehension, anxiety, scepticism and/or doubt. These can interfere with the client's ability to effectively access these specific sleep states. This is simply because all of the aforementioned are more consciously driven aspects of being human! However, as an experienced hypnotist, I will recognise this and help to guide you by finding effective ways to access these deeper states of mind!
Some people may see this as a form of manipulation but it really isn't! After all, why would you go to see a hypnotherapist if you did not want or expect to be hypnotised? In this sense, the hypnotist is merely facilitating your intended purpose in being there? It is also worth noting, that when working with an experienced hypnotherapist, the resultant trance often produces a very profound state of deep relaxation. Perhaps deeper than you have ever experienced in your life before? Consequently, it is very common for clients to say "I didn't want to come back!" This is why I allow the client to regain their sense of normal awareness in their own time; naturally! Some hypnotherapists erroneously describe hypnosis as a deep state of relaxation. This is incorrect because relaxation is merely a collateral effect of hypnosis, not what it is!
How we experience the hypnotic trance is state-dependent, meaning whatever state of mind you're in, can influence the depth, intensity, and duration of any trance experience. Essentially, it is reaching that nebulous state that exists in sleep-states and consequently creates a bridge between the world of emotion and cognition!
Primarily we are emotional beings and secondly cognitive ones. However, we have a compulsion, if not a need, to make conscious sense of our subconscious processes, even though we have no idea what they actually are! So much of life's difficulty arises out of our conscious and non-conscious subjective interpretations of life's feelings. One may say "I feel a little apprehensive," another, "I feel terrified." Our linguistic ability to describe feelings accentuates a direct communication (external and internal) between our understanding of words and the inherent implication at the level of emotion. Simplistically meaning there's a link between the words we use and our emotional understanding of them. This also applies to body language and facial expression. Since emotion elicits cognition and cognition elicits emotion, there must be an interface between the two. Scientists believe this to involve many brain regions. For example amygdala, hippocampus, hypothalamus, thalamus and the extended amygdala (including the central medial amygdala, sublenticular substantia innominata, nucleus accumbens shell, bed nucleus of the stria terminalis. Quite a collection!
Hypnosis works by stimulating the sensory cortices that are involved in both cognitive and emotional processing. Essentially communicating with the brain, via the auditory cortex and stimulating our other sensory regions both directly and remotely. Hypnosis occurs when the brain is in specific phases of brainwave activity i.e. theta/REM/NonREM2, 3. These neural oscillations are further modulated by PGO waves and a reduction of norepinephrine from the locus coeruleus (the precursor to the stress response). Hypnosis creates an almost identical state to that of nighttime sleep. Nighttime sleep facilitates the necessary changes in gene expression, which create an alteration in the way memories are both restored and activated (consolidation and reconsolidation). It is this top-down, bottom-up process which eventually adapts the responses at deep brain levels to meet the clients' desired outcomes. Hypnosis is an integral part of a very complex biological process and that just demonstrates how amazing the brain actually is! It is primarily a part of how and why language allows us to reprogramme the way our brain functions. Evidence to support that can be felt when someone says something very pleasant or very unpleasant to you, either can elicit great changes in the way we feel! To find out more about how hypnosis works, please go here.
Lastly, I often hear other hypnotherapist say, that you have to get to the source of the issue, aka the initial sensitising event. I disagree with this because some of the issues we face are consequential of events that occurred when we were very young. Maybe before we could even speak or while we were still in the womb! How could this be? Well, take someone with a spider phobia. The unborn child experiences the mother emotions, it hears the world outside nut has no context. During gestation, it's likely the mother will have a phobic response to a spider, the baby experiences fight or flight, it feels the gyrations, hears the noises. But obviously, it but has no idea what's going on. After birth, baby observes its mother have the phobic response, sees the gyrations, hears the screams of terror and will likely go into fight or flight itself. However, it still has no idea what is going on. Then some years later, it discovers, observationally, that the object of this abject terror, is this tiny little 8 legged thing called a spider . . . and a phobia is born! Well if I don't know what caused it, how can I ever fix it, you say? I will happily explain all that during the Free Consultation!
When it comes to certain matters, e.g. secret information or information irrelevant to the issue at hand, as a hypnotherapist I have no interest in discovering such information. In essence, you are no more likely to be asked to divulge anything of a sensitive nature under hypnosis, than you would anywhere else. Basically, we are more likely to confide in someone we trust, than someone we do not! So, in that context, if you have a trust issue with your therapist, get another therapist! However, if trust, is the issue at hand, then working on that, without the need to depend too much on trust, will be a good way to go. The comfort you have is knowing that what is said in the room; stays in the room and that's a promise! Although, if you are concerned about what happens during hypnosis, you can ask for the session to be recorded!
Among other things, the conscious or subconscious release of secret or hidden information may release guilt or shame! Quite naturally, from a conscious perspective, one may not wish to talk about such things, they may be considered private, or skeletons in the closet! However, if they are somehow implicated in the issue to which you seek a solution, they are very often better out than in. When these aspects of your issue are open to discussion, the likelihood of finding a solution increases exponentially! That said, once trust is established, these things often tend to come up openly and naturally in the discussion. Some details surface as known memories to the client but on other occasions, they arise as a complete surprise. But the details that arise are essentially the product of a collaborative approach by the therapist to assist the client find the cause of their issue. And, onward from that, the solution evolves!
The answer is "no and possibly". There have been clandestine uses of hypnosis, e.g. some intelligence organisations have been known to engage in unethical uses. However, in a clinical and professional sense, it is entirely safe and can make some profound changes to people with many life-limiting conditions. Many of the conditions that hypnosis helps are the result of dysfunctional sensory responses to emotional and cognitive misperceptions, While the subconscious intent of some of these emotional responses is ostensibly positive, e.g. fear of needles, the resultant phobia feels anything but positive! The downside, though, might be more harmful because the content of the syringe may save your life! The emotional brain lacks the ability or desire to rationalise the ups and downs of needles, they equal danger and danger is a no go area; period!
In some sense hypnosis occurs in the negative, i.e. in trance states, we can develop unwanted behaviours, again citing the fear of needles. The fear may simply have developed in response to observing someone else reacting to a painful injection. It could also be conscious, perhaps as a result of knowing someone contracting an awful disease through using an infected syringe (HIV?). Or, even an ordinarily safe routine or procedure like a blood transfusion. In these instances, learning occurs both consciously and subconsciously and is then consolidated into a fear response during our ordinary nighttime sleep. Hypnotic learning, in terms of the solution, occurs at the subconscious level of memory (not mind) and is therefore out of the reach of our conscious awareness. Basically, this is because our conscious states often do more to exacerbate our issues, than they do to fix them! So, to a certain degree, we are sometimes using hypnosis to de-hypnotize the client?
It is often cited by therapists, relative to hypnosis, you cannot be made to do anything against your will. But what will is it, conscious or subconscious?? In any event, this is not true but let me explain why! If you're a smoker or someone who eats emotionally, the subconscious elements of your brain want to smoke and it just loves cream cakes and french fries! This part of you wants to maintain its agenda, which is obviously not good for you but you do it anyway. So, if you already know all there is to know, e.g. smoking will kill you and obesity makes you unhealthy, stopping those behaviours should be easy, right? Obviously you know the answer is no. But what is interesting is this. You know that something you are doing is bad for you, yet you continue to do it. That means, at some level you want to do it, correct? So, if part of you wants to and part of you doesn't, I have to be able to get the part of you that wants to do it, to stop. Therefore, I have to get you to do something against your will. Of course, the message about not being coerced to do anything against your will is just one of many iterations taught in hypnotherapy training schools. The intention, I believe, is honourable but it flys in the face of the reality and it is incongruent with many other things that are said of hypnosis!
So, in answer to the question, if you are looking for a safe, natural and effective way to overcome a challenging life issue; I would highly recommend hypnotherapy. It is safe, in the right hands!
However, to answer your question frankly, the answer is no. That said, anyone who says they can guarantee results may be stretching reality beyond its natural bounds. As it would be with a doctor, the best I can give you are the odds of probability. The same goes for medications, there are strong odds in favour of most medications being effective. However, all that can be offered, by way of guarantee, are clinically proven results; statistics of probability. Over the years, empirically speaking, I have found hypnotherapy to offer each client an outstanding prospect of success. However, even when using hypnosis, there is still a certain need for cognitive responsibility. This is despite the ability of hypnosis to empower the brain. Very often hypnotherapists cite alterations to the subconscious mind, implying that you are merely a participant in the process. A natural problem to this view though is that we are uniquely conscious beings at some level! Much of this consciousness, makes you feel like you made a conscious choice or decision. However, it is worth remembering, that all behaviour, thought and words are processed in the brain moments before they become a physical manifestation? The downside for us is the dialogue that takes place after the subconscious processing (intent) and the conscious realisations that follow (outcome)! Hypnotherapy merely allows us to have a better perspective at the conscious level, much of which can occur out of conscious awareness. What? We are conscious beings but we are not always consciously aware of that and that is the place where issues develop, fester and manifest! Hypnotherapy is an art and science and practiced often enough (self-hypnosis), combined with cognitive responsibility, can lead to pronounced behavioural change.
The change that occurs in hypnosis is caused by the way your brain processes the information it receives, relative to the hypnotic prescription. It occurs in the same way that all brain functionality occurs; i.e. at a cellular level, the place where memories are stored, activated and expressed. There is actually no magic involved in the process. It's simple, when the brain repetitively fires on the same experience, over and over (real or imagined), synaptic strength (long term potentiation LTP) is achieved. Similarly, this can cause the opposite effect (long term depression) in other areas. Long term depression, is a process of synaptic weakening and nothing to do with clinical depression!. During a potential LTP situation, there is less resistance from the postsynaptic neuron. This is a consequence of an event called an action potential. Essentially an action potential is the initiation phase of a neurochemical messenger process, aka neural communication! Over time the repetitive nature of action potentials/LTP creates what we call habits or behaviours and, as you know, practice makes perfect! In essence, our brain is a well-oiled machine and what we term a routine or habit is the natural outcome of this process. However, this process works in both the negative as well as the positive! So, in a positive context, the secret to the effectiveness of hypnosis is in the way information is delivered to the brain. This occurs through sensory modalities, e.g. during the conscious fact-finding part of the session, then through the auditory cortex during the hypnosis. This is often what other hypnotherapists refer to as effecting change through the subconscious mind! But in reality, it is the brain's functioning that actually changes!
Finally, some clients work on themselves more than others and often get better outcomes. Some clients do absolutely nothing, other than attending the hypnotic sessions and still get outstanding results; others, usually very few, get absolutely no benefit. That is not necessarily because the hypnosis didn't work but perhaps because elements of their condition were not accessed or did not surface. Much less often, it is just the consequence of a mismatch between client and therapist; nothing other than a fact of life. Like anything in life, some people, be they plumbers, lawyers, accountants or doctors, are better at some things than others! It is because of the uniqueness of each us that guarantees cannot be offered. This is because we (the client) are the very ones that ultimately (subconsciously) determine the outcome!