Hypnotherapy is the use of hypnosis to assist in self-change and promote healing. It's supported by numerous scientific studies and evidence, more than any other complementary therapy. In 1958, the American Medical Association approved hypnosis as a valid treatment modality and recommended that it be taught in medical schools.
Hypnosis has received an unjustified reputation due to numerous movie and book plots depicting the hypnotist as evil and having power over his unsuspecting victims, and also due to theatrical stunts. The truth is that hypnotic techniques have been used in healing for thousands of years.
Priests in ancient Egypt, Greece and China used hypnosis in ritual and in medical treatment and also as an anesthetic for surgery. In modern times (1800s), the physicians James Braid (British) and James Esdaile (Scottish) performed thousands of successful surgeries using hypnotic techniques for anesthesia and relaxation and to reduce bleeding, relieve pain and speed healing. Drastically reduced mortality rates were achieved — even without antibiotics or antiseptic procedures!
Hypnosis was widely used as an anesthetic until the introduction and widespread acceptance of chemical anesthesia. Pavlov's work in psychotherapy gave hypnosis a boost as a tool for behavioral change.
Hypnosis isn't sleep, but a perfectly safe and natural, highly focused state of awareness that we experience just before we fall asleep at night and each morning as we awaken. Daydreaming, being engrossed in a book or television show, missing a turnoff while driving or being "in the zone" are all mini-states of hypnosis. Meditation, prayer, Lamaze breathing, yoga, guided imagery, Biogenics, Dianetics, and Silva Mind Control are all forms of hypnosis.
It's a pleasant relaxation in which the outer or conscious, critical part of the mind is quieted, allowing the subconscious or deep, inner mind to be more receptive to suggestion.
Early memories can also be accessed in this altered state. Our behavior, reactions, emotions, beliefs, and body systems are controlled by the powerful subconscious, which doesn't analyze the information it receives but believes it without judgment. This explains why consciously we can want to change, but faulty subconscious beliefs (of fear, limit or failure) prevent it.
In the hypnotic state, old negative conditioning can be bypassed and reprogrammed with your own positive goals, because the mind will respond to imagery and suggestion as if they were actual events. Hypnosis is most successful when the client is ready and prepared to work toward his or her goals, because the desire for change must come from within.
Hypnotherapy has been effective in eliminating unwanted habits, behaviors, fears and phobias; preparing for medical and dental procedures and post-surgical healing; pain management; accessing and releasing past memories that impede our
progress; promoting relaxation and reducing stress and anxiety; motivation in study or performance; enhancing creativity; alleviating many medical disorders; boosting self esteem and self confidence; enhancing the effectiveness of chemotherapy; and much more.
A hypnotherapy session is a relaxing and refreshing experience. There's no loss of memory or awareness, and the client remains in control at all times. The hypnotized person can accept or reject any suggestion and can leave the hypnotic state at any time. The client can't be made to say or do anything that he or she wouldn't ordinarily say or do.
Hypnosis can only be achieved with the expectation, imagination and cooperation of the client and cannot be induced against his or her will. The hypnotherapist has no magical power but has mastered the skill of utilizing suggestion to bring about the desired results.
JANET BERG is one of two writers for CityBeat's weekly "The Road to Wellness" column, which appears with the Wellness Directory in each issue's Classifieds section.