“Will I bark like a dog or quack like a duck? Will I say or do something silly? What if I can’t wake up?”
These are just some of the questions I still get about hypnosis. Unfortunately, many people (including some health care professionals) still have a flawed understanding of hypnosis, even in 2018. Much of our knowledge of hypnosis often comes from inaccurate and bad depictions of hypnosis in TV shows or movies, in which the hypnotist is forcing someone to do something against his or her will. Another source of poor information is the stage hypnotist, who acts like a “powerful” person who can control the subjects’ minds and make them do something silly without their knowledge. So, despite there being a tremendous amount of research on the effectiveness of hypnosis for a wide-range of psychological and medical problems, it is still not very well understood.
Let’s begin by clarifying what hypnosis is not. Hypnosis is not a state of sleep. It is a state of relaxed concentration. There is no loss of consciousness. You are aware of everything the hypnotist is saying and what you are doing. There is no weakening of the will. You are in control, not the hypnotist. You cannot be made to do or say anything against your will. A reputably-trained professional will respect your core values. Patients do not spontaneously begin to reveal information they wish to keep secret in trance. You are not stuck in trance. Since the patient is in control, there is no difficulty in ending the hypnotic state. You will remember what happens in trance, unless you chose not to.
So what is clinical hypnosis and how does it work? It has been defined as “a state of consciousness involving focused attention and reduced peripheral awareness characterized by an enhanced capacity for response to suggestion.” (APA, Division 30, 2014) In other words, it is a process during which a licensed health professional invites a patient to experience a very relaxing state of focused attention. In that state of trance, the patient is much more open to respond to suggestions to change one’s perceptions, sensations, thoughts and behavior. Trance is a very natural state that we regularly experience in our daily lives. For example, we can go into trance while driving down a highway and briefly become unaware of where we are or when we are really absorbed in a good book or movie. Therefore, most patients can achieve a level of trance that will be deep enough to help them achieve their goals. The vast majority of patients find hypnosis to be very relaxing and enjoyable.
I have been utilizing hypnosis in my practice for more than 35 years for various issues, including anxiety, phobias, habit disorders, performance enhancement, pain management, sleep disorders, psycho-physiological disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, behavioral problems, memory/concentration, self-esteem issues and depression. I have used it successfully with both adults as well as children, who do, in fact, make excellent subjects: http://morrispsych.com/hypnosis-with-children-by-richard-b-dauber-ph-d/
Most people come to therapy because they are “stuck” in some way. They have been unable to get unstuck on their own or through some other method of treatment. My favorite part of utilizing hypnosis in my practice is helping people discover wonderful resources they have within themselves to help them get unstuck and achieve their goals.
Hypnosis is not a type of therapy; however, it is a powerful technique that can be used to facilitate therapy. Because of this, it should only be utilized by a properly-trained and credentialed health care professional as part of an overall therapeutic plan. If you are looking for a qualified hypnotherapist, you can contact the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (www.asch.net) or locally, the Clinical Hypnosis Society of New Jersey (www.clinicalhypnosisnj.org).