Hypnotherapy uses the state of hypnosis, achieved through physical and mental relaxation, to bring about required changes to behaviour and perception by suggestion.
When under hypnosis, the critical and analytical conscious portion of the brain relinquishes control to some extent depending on the depth of hypnosis. This prevents it from rejecting concepts as it may do in the normal state and allows deeper penetration into the unconscious mind which is more receptive to suggestions.
The unconscious mind harbours many of the origins of our habits and diseases but tends to be inaccessible due to the shielding of our conscious minds. This is clearly demonstrated by phobias, for instance, where despite the subject knowing that a spider is harmless, and consciously wanting to change their behaviour, they are overwhelmed by all-consuming fear. Bad habits are similar, where the discomforts felt when resisting the habit are perceived and experienced disproportionately despite the logical mind trying to control it.
Hypnosis allows for the placement of suggestions for change to interrupt the unconscious response. It also provides access to the root causes of unwanted behaviours that can be associated with previous experiences that may be consciously remembered or not. Identification of such causes and guidance to deal with them is referred to as hypnoanalysis – literally psychoanalysis under hypnosis.
Many subjects fear that they will have no control over themselves when hypnotised and stage hypnotism may have given this impression. However, the client actually retains control at all times – even those under extremely deep states are able to regulate their responses and actions. If confronted by anything that the client finds unacceptable they would either ignore it completely or come out of hypnosis. Subjects used in stage hypnosis allow themselves to be hypnotised and co-operate with the hypnotist because they are prepared to do so, not because they lose control.
90% of people can be hypnotised to some extent. The 10% of people who are most difficult to hypnotise tend to have limited cognitive function or are unprepared to trust the therapist and relax sufficiently. Generally speaking, a deeper state of hypnosis is achieved with each session and deeper-seated problems are best treated on the second or third session. Clients sometimes claim that they cannot be hypnotised (often following an experience with a stage hypnotist) but it must be emphasised that the rapport built with the hypnotist – the level of trust and empathy – is extremely important and may vary according who the therapist is and where the session is held.
Hypnosis is a state that is very natural and familiar to everyone and, when experiencing the shallower depths, it may feel to the client that they are just very relaxed. However, in progressively deep states, clients often become unaware of their physical body. Most people find it an extremely pleasant experience.