The Relaxation Approach
Hypnosis is probably the most misunderstood kind of therapy out there. Media often portrays it as mind control. Magicians who can supposedly put an auditorium of people to sleep, or opportunists who can make you want to take your clothes off, and then do it!
In reality, hypnotherapy is an effective, scientific, and non-invasive helping intervention. You don’t lose your will to your therapist. Instead, you are assisted in getting to a state of mind conducive for the change you desire.
Hypnosis is a therapeutic intervention designed to induce deep states of relaxation/focus and altered states of consciousness. This process makes you more receptive to suggestions or exploration of problematic behavior. In some cases, hypnosis is geared towards recalling events that lead to your symptoms, in order to allow your therapist to help reprogramme your learned responses.
The word hypnosis comes from the Greek “hypnos” which means “to sleep”, but contrary to popular belief, hypnotic trance doesn’t render you unconscious. Think of it more as a state where in you’re absolutely concentrated on something specific but at ease, no different from being totally absorbed in an engrossing book or movie. At any point you wish, you can come out of your trance. Psychological, psychiatric, and medical associations endorse hypnosis as a valid therapeutic intervention.
How does it work?
As mentioned earlier, hypnosis begins by altering your state of consciousness so you’ll feel more relaxed and focused. This process is called hypnotic induction. Induction is usually done by visualisation, breathing exercises, or trained focus on one point or object.
Induction changes your brainwaves to a calm state similar to when you’re about to go to sleep. Your body’s parasympathetic nervous system also gets activated, lowering your blood pressure, decreasing your heart rate, and conserving energy for non-essential body function. This in turn helps you tune off unnecessary activities in your brain making any intervention by your therapist more effective, much like Mindfulness.
The kinds of suggestions differ per therapist and his or her orientation. Some therapists give direct suggestions (explicit directions on how to feel or behave) or indirect suggestions (metaphors and associations usually through storytelling). There are also instances when other forms of therapy, such as Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy, are used while clients are in altered states of consciousness.
What issues does it treat?
Hypnosis is a versatile form of therapy with many applications. Hypnosis is effective in habit management and addiction treatment. Persons interested in stopping smoking or managing overeating, for example, benefit greatly from hypnosis.
Hypnosis is also appreciated by people needing help with pain management. Doctors have relied on hypnosis to help patients in pain get through the worst of their illness. In some cases, hypnosis is an alternative to general anaesthesia for patients who decide/need to go drug-free during operation. Hypnosis is also for treatment of persons with acute or chronic heart conditions.
Given that relaxation is its hallmark, hypnosis is recommended for mood disorders, stress issues (including clinical levels of stress as in the case of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), and anxiety disorders.
Personal development experts or coaches also often utilise hypnosis in assisting their clients in their goals.
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