Hypnosis is an intriguing and wonderful therapeutic modality that remains controversial for the general public despite its shown efficacy in treating a variety of psychological and somatic ailments. Hypnosis has been around since the Egyptians, who used sleep temples awaiting dreams that may reveal a cure for their problems. It wasn’t until Freud and Charcot in the early 19th century that hypnosis entered the field of behavioral modification and started to be seen as a legitimate treatment.
What is hypnosis? According to the American Psychological Association, hypnosis is defined as a procedure during which changes are suggested in sensations, perceptions, thoughts, feelings or behavior. I have come to see the phenomenon of hypnosis as a state of mind and being where one is attentive, receptive, concentrated and which may include features of dissociation, absorption and suggestibility. Hypnosis is not sleep even though it sometimes looks like it because patients are still and quiet. Studies have found that when we engage in self-hypnosis, our brain waves shifts to patterns that are similar to those typically associated with relaxation, meditative states or dreaming. This suggests we all have the capacity to enter this state of mind. I am fascinated by how many of us experience some form of this state throughout the day. Day-dreaming, being “in the zone” when working out, playing a game or driving home on ‘autopilot’ are all examples of being in this state.
Within a clinical practice setting, hypnosis is a treatment modality where patients can learn to harness and enter this trance-like state. Presenting problems that may benefit from clinical hypnosis include anxiety management, pain management, trauma work, increasing healthy habits like weight loss and quitting smoking. Similarly, clinical hypnosis is also used to treat individuals suffering from gastrointestinal disorders, insomnia related disorders and hypertension. It is generally accepted that most of us have some ability to enter a state of trance and have the potential to benefit from clinical hypnosis. Beyond our physiological aptitude to enter a dissociative state, there are cognitive factors such as one’s mindset, expectations, motivation all of which will likely impact how well one will respond to the treatment. Much of clinical hypnosis is guided self-hypnosis and patients learn how to enter a trance-like state with the guidance of a provider. Patients have and remain in total control over the entire process. Given that we all naturally enter these states daily, why not see if learning this skill may be a beneficial tool to add to your toolbox?
The American Society for Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH) and the American Psychological Association (APA) both have websites that offer resources for anyone wanting to learn more about this treatment.