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That’s a difficult question to answer quickly and precisely. Some people think that it is an ‘altered state of consciousness’, but since there is currently no agreed definition of consciousness this argument can go around in circles. When we talk about hypnosis we often tend to be either talking about the relaxed, focussed, absorbed feelings associated with a ‘trance state’ (although some people don’t like the term trance), or we tend to be talking about the interesting things people can do when hypnotised – these are the products of ‘suggestion’. For more detail a good place to start reading is the definitions page, otherwise follow the links on the left for more information about the research in hypnosis and its uses.
Short answer: yes! Hypnotic suggestions can alter people’s sensations and perceptions. For example, hypnotic suggestion can be used to generate vivid hallucinations, or alter your perception of pain. Studies which measure brain activity have shown that hypnosis and hypnotic suggestions alter the way that the brain processes information. Randomised controlled clinical trials have shown that hypnosis can be an effective treatment for pain, and an effective part of treatments for other conditions. People often doubt whether hypnosis is real because it would be very easy to ‘fake’ a hypnotic response, and while this is true, there are also real measurable effects.
The short answer is no. Although the word hypnosis is derived from the Greek god of sleep, Hypnos, studies have shown that hypnosis and sleep differ. Studies of brain activity have shown that although there are characteristic patterns of brain activity associated with sleep the same has not been demonstrated of hypnosis. To observers hypnosis might appear to be like sleep because suggestions of relaxation are commonly given as part of a hypnotic routine, but hypnotised people are in a state more similar to wakefulness (and hypnosis has even been induced in people riding exercise bicycles – so called ‘active alert’ hypnosis).
I would recommend talking with them over the phone, and asking any questions you have. Any questions at all. They should be able to answer any questions you have in a friendly, informative, and understandable manner.
You should select a hypnotherapist that seems warm and friendly, and is easy to for you to understand and follow. Their voice should be pleasing to you, especially since you will probably be listening to cassette tapes with their voice on them many times.
If you are worried about qualifications, ask if they are members of any professional hypnotherapy organizations, and why they chose to belong to the ones they do. Ask them about a code of ethics. Ask for references if you like! If they can’t supply you with any, don’t use them. It’s always a good bet to check your local Better Business Bureau to see if there have been complaints filed in the past on this person.
All in all, you should be comfortable with the person’s demeanor, voice, and instructional style. Typically, the first twenty minutes of your first session with a hypnotherapist will be an introduction to hypnosis and a bit of chat about the changes you would like to make. If you find the hypnotherapist rubbing you the wrong way after this twenty minute chat, you should simply say that you don’t think you are quite ready to be hypnotized yet, and you would like to try another day. Then interview other hypnotherapists until you find one you like.
Hypnosis refers to the process of inducing a trance to help promote communication between your conscious and subconscious mind. This can be done with the help of a professional, or by yourself i.e. self-hypnosis.
The term ‘hypnosis’ is often used interchangeably to refer to stage hypnosis – where an audience member may be hypnotised for amusement. However, this form of hypnotic suggestion is designed to elicit a more physical/external response whereas, typically, hypnosis is used to create a more psychological/internal response.
Generally, hypnotherapy refers to the therapeutic use of hypnosis to help with a specific problem or issue. A professional hypnotherapist can help you to find a state of deep relaxation and offer support to enable you to achieve your desired outcome.
The duration of therapy will really be dependent on your circumstances and the reason for which you are seeking hypnosis. If you are seeking hypnosis for a one-off service such as smoking cessation, for example, some hypnotherapists will deliver hypnotherapy in a single session of up to two hours.
Other issues, however, may require a longer-term approach with regular weekly sessions. Your hypnotherapist will let you know how many sessions they feel you might need when you start therapy and will be flexible when it comes to decreasing or extending the number of sessions according to your progress and needs.