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A Short Guide to Hypnotherapy

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You may well have heard of hypnotherapy, but what's it for? The National Council for Hypnotherapy (NCH) website includes a list of nearly 50 issues that hypnotherapy can help to deal with, including:

What Exactly Is Hypnotherapy?

Hypnotherapy is a form of psychotherapy that enables a client to enlist the help of his unconscious mind to bring about therapeutic changes. A therapist will help the client to access his or her inner resources to achieve realistic goals. He will normally do this by inducing a 'hypnotic trance', which is simply a state of altered awareness, not sleep or unconsciousness. Trance may be described as a 'natural learning state'.

What Does Trance Feel Like?

Everyone experiences trance differently. For some, it may not feel any different to the normal 'waking' state. But normally it's similar to that feeling of deep calm that we experience just before falling asleep at night or just before waking in the morning. It's an entirely natural state; every time you get absorbed in a book or a TV programme you are in trance.

Will I Lose Control of Myself?

Hypnotherapy is not a passive experience - it is not something that the therapist does to his client. It is more like a partnership, with the therapist guiding the client to focus on his internal world and access the huge store of resources held in his unconscious mind. The client remains fully in control and will be able to come out of trance at any time he chooses. He will not be made to do or say anything against his will, or give away any secrets. He will only be asked for sufficient information to enable the therapist to help him with his current problem.

So I Won't be Made to Bark Like a Dog or Quack Like a Duck?

Absolutely not! The difference between hypnotherapy and stage hypnosis is one of context. They both involve hypnosis, but a hypnotherapist uses it for therapeutic purposes only, not for entertainment. The Code of Ethics of the NCH makes it clear that the Council takes a dim view of any use of hypnosis by its members for entertainment purposes.

Will you Swing a Watch in Front of my Eyes?

There are many different techniques, known as 'inductions', available to the therapist, who will use the methods, which he considers to be best for each individual client. The swinging watch is a 'classical' hypnosis technique, which clients will be unlikely to experience with any therapist trained in modern methods such as 'informal', 'permissive' or 'Ericksonian' (see under the heading Neuro-linguistic Programming, below). In most cases, the therapist will use only his voice to take the client gently into trance, although he may use other techniques in appropriate cases. He will never use drugs.

Can Anybody be Hypnotised?

Nobody can be hypnotised against his will, so an individual cannot be hypnotised if he chooses not to be. Provided that a client allows himself to be hypnotised, however, almost everyone can be hypnotised, but a hypnotist that may suit one person, may not suit another.

Is Hypnosis Safe?

Absolutely. Hypnosis is a 100% natural state; everyone has been in trance many times today. It is not possible to become stuck in trance, as the client is always in control, although he may feel so comfortable that he may decide to remain in trance a little while longer. No one can stay in trance indefinitely; even if the therapist stopped talking for a while, the client's bodily functions would eventually arouse him. The worst thing that can happen is that the client may become too comfortable and fall asleep!

What is Neuro-linguistic Programming?

Neuro-linguistic programming, or NLP, is a revolutionary approach to human communication and development, based on the discovery that by changing how one thinks it is possible to change what one thinks. NLP can change one's mind and one's life, for faster learning, better relationships and greater success. It can help clients to overcome fears and increase their confidence. NLP techniques have a close affinity with Ericksonian hypnosis, as Milton Erickson was one of the therapists on whom the founders of NLP 'modelled' their system; formal trance is not necessary for their use, but it will enhance their effects.

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