Although there are different techniques, clinical hypnotherapy is generally performed in a calm, therapeutic environment. The therapist will guide you into a relaxed, focused state and ask you to think about experiences and situations in positive ways that can help you change the way you think and behave. Unlike some dramatic portrayals of hypnosis in movies, books, or on stage, you will not be unconscious, asleep, or in any way out of control of yourself. You will hear the therapist’s suggestions, but it is up to you to decide whether or not to act on them.
“I never expected how much transformation is possible with this work. This hypnotherapy training went far beyond my expectations. The incredible amount of wonderfully presented material and deep wisdom touched my heart on a very deep level. The combination of hypnosis and very profound and effective methods of processing is incredible. To see the profound changes in my classmates and myself is such a gift, I feel deep gratitude for that. To imagine how much positive change will occur in other people due to this work moves my heart.”
Although Dave Elman (1900–1967) was a noted radio host, comedian, and songwriter, he also made a name as a hypnotist. He led many courses for physicians, and in 1964 wrote the book Findings in Hypnosis, later to be retitled Hypnotherapy (published by Westwood Publishing). Perhaps the most well-known aspect of Elman's legacy is his method of induction, which was originally fashioned for speed work and later adapted for the use of medical professionals.
There is a huge range of societies in England who train individuals in hypnosis; however, one of the longest-standing organisations is the British Society of Clinical and Academic Hypnosis (BSCAH). It origins date back to 1952 when a group of dentists set up the ‘British Society of Dental Hypnosis’. Shortly after, a group of sympathetic medical practitioners merged with this fast-evolving organisation to form ‘The Dental and Medical Society for the Study of Hypnosis’; and, in 1968, after various statutory amendments had taken place, the ‘British Society of Medical and Dental Hypnosis’ (BSMDH) was formed. This society always had close links with the Royal Society of Medicine and many of its members were involved in setting up a hypnosis section at this centre of medical research in London. And, in 1978, under the presidency of David Waxman, the Section of Medical and Dental Hypnosis was formed. A second society, the British Society of Experimental and Clinical Hypnosis (BSECH), was also set up a year before, in 1977, and this consisted of psychologists, doctors and dentists with an interest in hypnosis theory and practice. In 2007, the two societies merged to form the ‘British Society of Clinical and Academic Hypnosis’ (BSCAH). This society only trains health professionals and is interested in furthering research into clinical hypnosis.
Meditation practice focuses on stilling or emptying the mind. Typically, meditators concentrate on their breath or a sound (mantra) they repeat to themselves. They may, alternatively, attempt to reach a state of “detached observation,” in which they are aware of their environment but do not become involved in thinking about it. In meditation, the body remains alert and in an upright position. In addition to formal sitting meditation, patients can be taught mindfulness meditation, which involves bringing a sense of awareness and focus to their involvement in everyday activities.
As with other treatment providers, recommendations from family or friends are a great place to start. You can also check with a therapist, naturopath, or acupuncturist for recommendations. There are several databases of certified hypnotherapists online too. Try checking the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis’s database, or the General Hypnotherapy Register. You’ll want to check the therapist’s website before you choose, making sure to look for credentials and testimony from previous patients if available.
Abnormal results can occur in instances where amateurs, who know the fundamentals of hypnosis, entice friends to become their experimental subjects. Their lack of full understanding can lead to immediate consequences, which can linger for some time after the event. If, for example, the amateur plants the suggestion that the subject is being bitten by mosquitoes, the subject would naturally scratch where the bites were perceived. When awakened from the trance, if the amateur forgets to remove the suggestion, the subject will continue the behavior. Left unchecked, the behavior could land the subject in a physician's office in an attempt to stop the itching and scratching cycle. If the physician is astute enough to question the genesis of the behavior and hypnosis is used to remove the suggestion, the subject may experience long-term negative emotional distress and anger upon understanding exactly what happened. The lack of full understanding, complete training, and supervised experience on the part of the amateur places the subject at risk.
In this state, you are also highly suggestible. That is, when the hypnotist tells you do something, you'll probably embrace the idea completely. This is what makes stage hypnotist shows so entertaining. Normally reserved, sensible adults are suddenly walking around the stage clucking like chickens or singing at the top of their lungs. Fear of embarrassment seems to fly out the window. The subject's sense of safety and morality remain entrenched throughout the experience, however. A hypnotist can't get you to do anything you don't want to do.
In the 2000s, hypnotherapists began to combine aspects of solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT) with Ericksonian hypnotherapy to produce therapy that was goal focused (what the client wanted to achieve) rather than the more traditional problem focused approach (spending time discussing the issues that brought the client to seek help). A solution-focused hypnotherapy session may include techniques from NLP.