How Will Hypnotherapy Help Me?

Hypnotherapy is a modality that brings together hypnosis and a series of therapeutic techniques applied while the client is under an induced mental state, often called trance state. Hypnotherapy is often best suited to working on targeted issues and as such is an excellent complementary therapy to traditional talk therapy. Hypnotherapy can function to move past a plateau in a client's treatment, or as a tool to focus in on a particular issue revealed within traditional talk sessions. Hypnosis is essentially the controlled application of the natural dream state we all engage in each time we go to sleep. Hypnotherapy is the therapeutic use of that application to effect memory integration and consolidation, and influence long-term associations, ultimately with a specific goal of creating a natural state of emotional equilibrium and unhindered access to all available resources of mind and body. In other words, unpack the baggage, let go of the drama, and start enjoying life.

Hypnosis has had a long and sometimes colorful history and people often have an idea of what they believe hypnosis is based on stage or TV shows. Clinical hypnosis, which is hypnosis conducted within a clinical setting with very specific clinical treatment goals, bears very little resemblance to stage hypnosis, and clients are often surprised to find it a safe, relaxing, and powerful tool. 

The brain wave state of trance has been identified as being similar to that of a typical five-year-old engaged in fantasy play. That is, the mind is free from the limiting beliefs that prevent us from fully realizing our potential. A child can act out any part in any time and fully immerse themselves in play, learning a great deal about themselves in the process. As an adult of course it is not realistic to imagine oneself to be an actual Olympic athlete, or a real animal in the woods, but with regards to healing a particular issue you might be having, aspects of those identities might hold the exact key needed. An adult mind might dismiss those childish dreams before they even start and in the process lose a valuable resource to their healing. Luckily our mind engages in this mind state each night during dreaming as a way to sort and make sense of memories of the day's events. The ability to work in this mind state with intention by using hypnosis allows us to introduce new ideas and possibilities, and it also allows us to work on the set of rules that you live by, your beliefs. Our beliefs dictate the rules by which we engage with the world around us and those beliefs are the result of us watching and learning over time, most of them created in childhood. They are incredibly useful, in cases such as learning that fire burns and not to stick one's hand into the flames, but we also learn from one-off events and with little, or sometimes no information, we can create beliefs about situations that will later prevent us from reaching our fullest potential, or perhaps create an emotional trigger that will cause problems in different situations. Imagine, for example, that as a child someone you were bullied at school, if only for a few weeks. You might not consciously remember those few weeks, but you likely stored information about being vulnerable, perhaps being unlikable, that will undoubtedly play a role later in life. Most of the time such early experiences are softened or negated by later more positive experiences, but it can also be the case that the person feels such pain that they work around and avoid having similar experiences and thus never challenge or change the initial painful belief. We tend to normalize our experience and are usually not even aware that we are affected in such a way, at least until it becomes an issue in our lives as some form of symptomatic coping behavior that is no longer sustainable. When such symptoms appear, hypnosis allows us to identify the originating beliefs, to challenge their validity, and work to update them.

Aside from working with the beliefs that guide us, hypnosis also allows us to access the memories in a way that is not just simple recall, but rather a reconsolidation of memories with either added information from fragmented and previously isolated memories, or purposeful positive enhancement of memories. Each time you recall a memory you are not just simply reading it back from a static portion of your brain, like looking at a photograph. You are recalling the memory and storing it again with new information, much more akin to painting or drawing a picture, with each rendering being a little different and influenced by your current mood. Because of this, memory is unfortunately very unreliable and is strongly affected by current emotional states, but luckily for us, this also makes it very malleable and able to heal. This reconsolidation process allows hypnosis to be used to take an old memory that is limiting your behavior or negatively impacting your beliefs, and to alter it to help rather than hinder you. This is quite safe and is a normal process that we engage in all the time. This process is how advertising works, by taking familiar happy associations (memories) and adding visuals or sounds of a product. Thought of in this way you can view hypnosis as a tool to positively advertise to yourself with products that will enhance your life. 

So What Happens In A Session?

A typical hypnotherapy session begins with a check in to identify the changes since the previous session. Often changes are subtle, which is ideally what you want in hypnosis since rapid or abrupt changes will often be resisted by the subconscious mind. After checking in, some discussion will take place to determine the best course of treatment for that session and will depend on current circumstances, current emotional state, as well as any short term or long term goals that may have been established in the initial intake. While the earlier part of the session does not focus on hypnosis directly, it is important to note that, having been previously hypnotized, the client is already entering into a light trance state from the associations established in previous sessions. In the second part of the session the client is guided into a trance state to continue work on whatever issues or goals they had discussed. Before the completion of the session the client is brought back out of trance to allow adjustment to being present once again, and a short debriefing is done to cover any new insights discovered.

What Does Hypnosis Feel Like?

You have experienced the feeling of hypnosis many times during your life. When falling asleep for example. Or daydreaming. Or when you were a five-year-old and lost in play. All of those moments have a similar brain state and feeling. You are fully in control at all times, but you consent to be guided or shown alternative paths. Much like a dream that profoundly affects you, hypnosis is very much based in the imagination and without the normal limitations of our belief about what is possible, your mind has access to a much larger range of resources and ideas with which to approach any issue. Most clients describe the hypnotic process as anywhere from very relaxing to descriptions of transcendence. Some clients are initially concerned that they will not be able to go into trance, but the truth is that everyone can go into trance. The only factor in the depth of trance is how safe and relaxed you can allow yourself to feel. For people who have deep trauma it can take a little longer to achieve greater depth and have stronger post-hypnotic effects, but as with anything worthwhile it takes time and patience.

How Will I Know It Is Working?

Like any form of therapy, hypnotherapy is only one side of the equation. The other side, that is you, is an unknown and hugely complex set of associations and beliefs, as well as particular life situations. As hypnotherapy is applied, specific to your needs, you are placed in a position whereby you have two choices. One is to stay the same, unchanged. The other is to change, to move towards healing or growth. It is not as simple a choice as it sounds, and is not a choice that you consciously have control over at all. Change involves not just changes in your mind and your emotional state, but requires changes in your surroundings too. In turn, your friends and family need to change in response to the newly changing you. Something they might resist depending on how your changes impact them. Your changes might bring about changes in your job, in your social life, in your intentions, in your purpose in life. Everything is interconnected, requiring subtle negotiation, and when you examine the web of influence we exist in it is surprising that change happens at all. If all that sounds overwhelming then you might find that, despite consciously wanting to change, you subconsciously decide not to and consequently progress will be slow or seem non-existent. It is an unfortunate fact that many people seeking help are more willing to deal with the problems of staying the same than to face the changes and challenges brought about through healing. No amount of any kind of therapy can make someone move towards healing, and nor would you want to force someone to move forward when they are not ready to. For many people the process of therapy is about learning to feel safe, about resourcing themselves and preparing themselves and others for changes down the line. This can look like not a lot is happening in therapy, like nothing is working, but it is an essential phase in the process. You can rest assured that any therapy session is inviting you to move towards healing, is working on some level. However, leaving certain impulsive and addictive behaviors aside, your subconscious does not like large overnight changes that leave the system in an unpredictable state and even if you are ready for change and are engaged in change, those changes will likely be subtle over time. Hypnotherapy can be even more subtle, in that changes introduced under trance often are incorporated into natural processes and feel very much like something you were going to do anyway, or are attributed to other more obvious influences in life. It is not uncommon to leave a hypnosis session and find yourself profoundly affected by an unrelated event a few days later, wherein the groundwork done under trance is fully realized and integrated and consciously witnessed in another context. It is not uncommon for clients to state that yes, hypnosis was helpful, but they (suddenly) just decided to deal with the issue themselves! So, all that to say, you might not know it is working, but trust that placing yourself in a therapeutic, safe, compassionate, and focused environment with specific intention to resource and support healing is going to have a beneficial effect. Trust also that your system will know when it is ready to change and by how much when the time is right.

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