Healing with Hypnotherapy: How It Works, Benefits, and RisksNov 23, 2022
Hypnotherapy, also known as hypnosis or hypnotic suggestion, is a deep state of relaxation and concentration. Entering into a hypnotic trance can benefit the mind and body. Nearly everyone can benefit in some way from this universal practice!
Below, explore how hypnotherapy works, how many sessions are necessary, and what the mental and physical benefits or risks of hypnotherapy are.
How It Works
First, we’ll describe how hypnotherapy works and the four stages of hypnotherapy. A hypnotherapist must be trained and certified in order to practice. You may want to ask the hypnotherapist about their training and certification before diving into treatment.
The hypnotherapist guides the patient into a deep, focused, and relaxed state using their voice and guided imagery. Once you are pulled into this state, normal distractions fade into the background, and the hypnotherapist begins suggesting behavioral changes to help you. Notably, you do not lose control over your own behavior at any point in the process. You will remain conscious and aware despite the hypnotic state.
These are the four steps of hypnosis:
- In this beginning stage of hypnosis, the hypnotherapist uses techniques to draw you into that deeply relaxed state. During this time, the patient may be encouraged to tense and relax their body muscles or slow their breathing cycle.
- As the name suggests, this stage focuses on deepening the patient’s state of relaxation. Usually, the hypnotherapist describes descending imagery, such as descending down into a deep cave.
- The first two steps led the patient into a very deep state of focus and relaxation. Now, it’s time for the “meat” of the session. Based on the patient’s goal, the hypnotherapist will present a series of language and images. Suggestions may cover emotions, thoughts, memory, or behavior.
- For example, a patient who desires to quit drinking will explore their drinking habits, how they got started, and behaviors associated with it. The hypnotherapist will use techniques to disrupt those behavioral and thought patterns. They may use imagery associating the drinker with negative objects and associating the new, sober version of the patient with positive objects. The therapist may prompt vivid visualization of the patient reaching their goal.
- This is when the patient emerges from the hypnotic state. Remember the deep cave the hypnotherapist may use during the “deepener” stage? Well, they would use the same imagery to allow the patient to climb up and out of the cave. This concludes the hypnotherapy session.
How Many Sessions?
The number of sessions a patient will require to reach their goal varies significantly. Predicting the number of hypnotherapy sessions is difficult. That’s because each patient has a vastly different experience, suggestibility level, and response level. However, some studies show that 15 sessions generally lead to long-term change. In my practice, I offer bundles of 2-6 sessions based on the reason you are seeking hypnotherapy (quit smoking, stress, PTSD, addiction, weight loss, overcoming fears/phobias, etc). Many times, clients do purchase additional bundles but I like my clients to start small and see if hypnotherapy is something that they find beneficial and wish to continue.
Some may wonder what else is necessary before or after beginning their hypnotherapy sessions. Fortunately, no prep work is required. Just show up to the session in comfortable clothes with an open mindset, and the hypnotherapist will do the rest.
Sometimes, patients fall asleep during hypnotherapy sessions, so it’s a good idea to rest up before the session to prevent this.
Eventually, with practice, you may be able to hypnotize yourself using recorded hypnotherapy audio or visualizations. This is called self-hypnosis.
Benefits of Hypnotherapy
Hypnotherapy benefits both the mind and the body. Ongoing scientific research on the benefits of medical hypnosis shows some evidence for both mental and physical benefits. The main mental benefit is stress reduction, while the main physical benefit is pain reduction.
Hypnotherapy may help ease mental symptoms like anxiety and stress. This is due to the calm and quiet state of mind the hypnotherapist produces. Your conscious mind will switch from a frantic fight-or-flight state to a peaceful, restful state. Hypnosis also eases stress or anxiety, particularly before medical operations.
The key to hypnotherapy lies in its ability to access your deepest thoughts and beliefs, whether they’re about the world or about yourself. It may also change the way you perceive problems in your life and the sensations you have. By accessing your emotions, you will be able to change or control them.
For example, behaviors that a hypnotherapist can change are insomnia, smoking, overeating, and bed-wetting.
A hypnotherapist also helps locate and identify unconscious thoughts or beliefs that are wreaking havoc in the patient’s life. By focusing on and unearthing such negative thoughts, the patient becomes equipped to confront and extinguish them. In the same method, hypnosis treats phobias and PTSD.
Summarized list of mental benefits:
- Stress, anxiety, and panic attack reduction
- Control and change negative thought and behavioral patterns
- Resolve bad habits
- Gets rid of limiting beliefs
- Addresses phobias and PTSD
While the majority of benefits are mental, hypnotherapy also produces many physical benefits.
Most notably, hypnotherapy healing sessions help patients cope with pain. A patient may suffer pain from any physical ailment, including joint problems, tooth pain, headaches, fibromyalgia, burns, pregnancy, and so forth. A skilled hypnotherapist will use healing sessions to target the pain and help control the patient’s perception and reaction to it.
Hypnotherapy also addresses hot flashes associated with menopause and may relieve some symptoms of them.
Researchers have conducted studies on hypnotherapy’s effect on patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy for cancer. Regular hypnotherapy sessions may help treat the side effects of these cancer treatments, including nausea and vomiting. Remember, hypnotherapy should not replace primary cancer treatments.
Gastrointestinal disorders, such as IBS, may also be treatable by hypnotherapy.
Summarized list of physical benefits:
- Pain control
- Reduce symptoms of hot flashes
- Alleviate side effects from chemotherapy or radiation in cancer patients
- Lessen gastrointestinal disorders
- Help with asthma and skin conditions
Fortunately, hypnotherapy comes with little to no risks. When a trained and certified therapist conducts your hypnosis session, you have no reason to worry. This practice is safe and highly complementary to nearly any other medical treatment.
One exception is that for any patients with severe mental illnesses, hypnosis may not be the right choice. There is also a slight chance of encountering these rare side effects: headaches, distress, forming false memories, dizziness, and drowsiness.
Sometimes, hypnosis is used to explore and resolve issues with childhood. In these cases, exercise caution during the hypnotherapy sessions. They may induce overwhelming emotion and sometimes cause false memories.
Not everyone benefits from hypnotherapy. If you’re unable to enter into the deep, relaxed state necessary, then there will be no beneficial effects.
However, all things considered, hypnotherapy is a safe and effective manner of treatment for a variety of mental and physical benefits. If you would like to book a hypnotherapy session with me, click here. These can be done in-person or over Zoom. If you are interested in hypnotherapy but not quite sure if you’re ready for it yet, book a free 30-minute Connection Call to ask questions about any of the services offered at Alchemy.
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