Hypnotherapy is the therapeutic use of hypnosis, in which the critical, conscious mind steps to the side, allowing access to the more receptive, unconscious mind.
Hypnosis uses our natural tendency to shift in and out of different states of consciousness: we all do so throughout the day without usually giving it much thought, for instance when we fall asleep or wake up, when we become ‘lost’ in a book or a film, when we suddenly realise we have covered the last few miles of a journey ‘on automatic’, or when we are so happy that time seems to pass without our noticing.
In hypnosis this shift of consciousness is induced intentionally, either by entering a state of relaxation, or by focusing and distracting attention. In reading this, right now, your focused attention creates a mild hypnotic trance. That’s how simple and natural it is.
When the hypnotic state is induced and deepened, ideas are more readily accepted into the unconscious levels of the mind. Positive suggestions can be made, which then effect changes in the waking state. These suggestions can address patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving, making hypnotherapy particularly useful for habit-based problems such as smoking and over-eating, as well as reducing anxiety and alleviating conditions exacerbated by tension such as eczema. It can also be used to relieve pain in surgery, dentistry and child-birth.
With the critical faculties on hold, it is also possible to explore the contents of the mind more freely. Areas of experience considered out of reach by the rational mind, such as the inner workings of the physical body, become available to awareness; lost memories and associations can be retrieved and worked with consciously, and the creative imagination can be engaged to generate new ways of thinking and being.
Because it so natural, everyone can enter into a hypnotic trance. In therapy most clients prefer to combine this with deep relaxation because it is such an enjoyable and refreshing experience. Clients can also be taught simple methods of self-hypnosis to use at home.