A pocket watch dangles from a chain, a black and white swirl spirals into infinity, and a deep voice intones “You are getting very sleepy.” A person falls into a hypnotic trance and is convinced to rob a bank for the cartoon villain or dance around a stage like a chicken at a comedy show. This is the view most of us have of hypnosis.
In truth, hypnosis doesn’t involve pocket watches or anyone getting sleepy. In fact, it can be a very powerful form of therapy to combat addictions, PTSD, and more. If you’ve ever asked the question, “Does hypnotherapy work?” read on to learn more about what a session looks like.
What Is Hypnotherapy?
Many of us know about hypnosis from the context of cartoons or entertainment shows. So it may seem strange that this is a well-researched and effective form of therapy. But hypnotherapy can be effective in managing everything from chronic pain to a smoking habit.
Hypnotherapy uses hypnosis as a way to access some of the deeper roots or meanings of our problems. This allows both us and our therapist to tackle those problems more effectively. A hypnotized person is also extremely suggestible, so your therapist can help combat unwanted behaviors and addictions by suggesting that you no longer want to do those things.
What Hypnotherapy Isn’t
People often get nervous when the topic of hypnosis comes up because of what we’ve seen entertainment hypnotists do. It’s all fine and good to act like a fool on stage or watch someone else do so, but therapy is different. You have to trust your therapist in order for hypnosis to work, and that includes not worrying about what they’ll make you do.
A hypnotherapist will never take advantage of the hypnotic state to make you do something strange or implant some sinister desire. You won’t wake up with a desire to rob a bank; in fact, you can’t hypnotize a person to do anything they wouldn’t do anyway. Hypnosis, similar to being drunk, just removes your inhibitions, but it doesn’t change you as a person.
One of the most important parts of your first hypnotherapy session will be getting to know your therapist. This introduction will allow you to build rapport and trust and will let you set the guidelines for what you want to work on in the session. During a hypnotherapy session, you will lead; the therapist is simply there to help guide you in the direction you want to go.
Your first hypnotherapy session will begin much like any other counseling session. You and the therapist will sit down and talk about which problems you want to work on. Your therapist will ask you some questions and may explain to you how hypnosis works and set any boundaries you would like to.
Once you and your therapist have established the guidelines of the hypnosis session, your therapist will begin the induction into hypnosis. This is when you enter the state of extreme relaxation that characterizes hypnosis. You will be aware of everything happening around you, but your mind and body will be deeply relaxed, similar to during a meditative state.
The induction part of the session may take only a few minutes, or it may take a long time. Your therapist may have to experiment to figure out what technique works best for you, and you may need more time to let go of any stress and relax. This is all normal, so don’t worry if you don’t drop into a hypnotic state as soon as your therapist snaps their fingers.
Once you have reached that deep state of relaxation, your therapist will begin the session. Based on what you discussed earlier, your therapist will begin to suggest changes to your behavior. For example, if you want to stop smoking, your therapist may suggest to you that you no longer feel any desire to smoke and that you are happier when you don’t smoke.
Your therapist may also suggest a trigger that can be activated after the hypnotic trance ends. This will only be done with your express permission ahead of time and will not be anything sinister.
In our smoking cessation example, your therapist may tell you that whenever you feel two light taps on your left wrist, your desire to smoke will vanish. After the session, when you feel a desire to smoke, you can just tap on your wrist, and that desire should go away.
After about twenty minutes of hypnosis, your therapist will begin to bring you back to full awareness. This will be a gentle process, somewhat like ending a yoga session or a long massage. There will be no “snap” and you’re awake again.
Like with induction, the amount of time it takes for you to return to awareness will change from session to session. Some days you may rise out of hypnosis quickly and easily; other days, you may be enjoying the blissful relaxation and take longer to return. Your therapist will make sure you come out of hypnosis feeling happy, relaxed, and at ease.
Once you have come out of hypnosis, your therapist will ask you a few questions to assess your emotional state. They will explain what they did and give you techniques you can use to feel safe and comfortable when you need it. They may also schedule another session with you if they feel it is needed.
Your therapist will also give you an MP3 recording of your session to listen to later. This will allow you to relive the hypnotherapy session as often as needed and in spaces where you feel safe and comfortable. Make sure to do any post-session work your therapist suggests, as it will help you progress more effectively.
Does Hypnotherapy Work?
Hypnotherapy can be a powerful tool for managing PTSD, pain, anxiety, depression, addiction, and much more. Knowing what to expect going into your first hypnotherapy session will help keep you relaxed, making the therapy that much more effective.
But don’t take our word for it; if you’re curious to answer the question, “Does hypnotherapy work?” check out the rest of our site at The Motor City Hypnotist. We help clients with everything from phobias to weight loss in a safe, professional environment. Learn more about our personal sessions today.