While definitions can vary, the American Psychological Association describes hypnosis as a cooperative interaction in which the participant responds to the suggestions of the hypnotherapist.
How Does Hypnosis Work?
When you hear the word hypnotist, what comes to mind? If you're like many people, the word may conjure up images of a sinister stage-villain who brings about a hypnotic state by swinging a pocket watch back and forth.
In reality, hypnosis bears little resemblance to these stereotypical depictions. According to psychologist John Kihlstrom, "The hypnotist does not hypnotize the individual. Rather, the hypnotist serves as a sort of coach or tutor whose job is to help the person become hypnotized."
While hypnosis is often described as a sleep-like trance state, it is better expressed as a state characterized by focused attention, heightened suggestibility, and vivid fantasies. People in a hypnotic state often seem sleepy and zoned out, but in reality, they are in a state of hyper-awareness.
What to Expect
Although there are different techniques, clinical hypnotherapy is generally performed in a calm, therapeutic environment. The therapist will guide you into a relaxed, focused state and ask you to think about experiences and situations in positive ways that can help you change the way you think and behave. Unlike some dramatic portrayals of hypnosis in movies, books, or on stage, you will not be unconscious, asleep, or in any way out of control of yourself. You will hear the therapist's suggestions, but it is up to you to decide whether or not to act on them.
Who can benefit from Hypnotherapy?
The hypnotic state allows a person to be more open to discussion and suggestion. It can improve the success of other treatments for many conditions, including: