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What Is Hypnotherapy And How Does It Work?

Talk about hypnosis and most of us immediately picture a shady magician bringing people on stage and making them cluck around like a chicken. Probably that's why we cringe away from the idea of undergoing hypnotherapy.

After all, what if the practitioner subtly tricks us into destroying our life?

Well, let me free your mind of that fear. Hypnotherapy does nothing of that sort to you. On the contrary, it can actually free your mind of incredibly tough blocks that are causing you pain in life.

So, here's everything you need to know about hypnotherapy and how it works.


What Is Hypnotherapy?

Hypnotherapy is a medical therapy where a trained practitioner guides you into a state of relaxation and heightened concentration (also called a trance), and then helps you focus your attention on a specific outcome through gentle suggestions and positive imagery.

At present, this therapy is routinely used for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), anxiety, stress, and eating disorders. But it is also quickly catching on as an alternative treatment protocol in other specializations, like oncology, endocrinology, and psychotherapy.

In fact, hypnotherapy has a great track record of helping people quit smoking, after years of failing to do so with conventional cessation techniques and counseling.


How Does Hypnotherapy Work?

"Hypnosis is the oldest form of psychotherapy," says Dr. Michael Miller in the Ask Harvard Medical School video podcast. "It's an approved form of treatment for the relief of pain and anxiety."

And according to the Harvard Medical School, there are 3 states of hypnosis: absorption, suggestibility, and dissociation.


The State of Absorption

In the state of absorption, you are temporarily unaware of your surroundings and are focused completely on your therapist and their words.

This state is used commonly in forensic hypnotherapy to extract details regarding a crime from witnesses and victims who do not fully recall every detail clearly.


The State of Suggestibility

Dr. Miller clarifies that all hypnotic states are self-hypnosis. That is, you can refuse to accept the suggestions of the practitioner if you want to, since you are the one in control at all times, not your therapist.

"It's simply a heightened state of concentration similar to daydreaming or meditation."

That's why, this state of hypnosis requires the patient's cooperation and willingness to accept the therapist's cues.

Suggestibility is most commonly used for the treatment of anxiety disorders, PTSD, and IBS. But it can be helpful in other specializations as well.

Please note: You should only allow a trained and licensed practitioner, like a psychologist, psychiatrist, or social worker, to put you through hypnotherapy, since they are trained to modulate the session based on your medical history and treatment aspirations.


The State of Dissociation

The last state of hypnosis is that of dissociation, where your conscious and unconscious minds are completely dissociated from each other.

In this, your conscious mind can still register everything happening to you, but it's the unconscious mind that is at the forefront now, allowing your therapist to draw out the real reason behind your suffering, like phobias, trauma, insomnia, and other mental blocks.


Are There Any Drawbacks of Hypnotherapy?

Sometimes, inexperienced practitioners can ask too specific questions to the individual under hypnosis, which can induce false memories. That's why information obtained from subjects need to be verified before they are accepted.


Who Should Not Be Hypnotized?

Hypnotherapy is contraindicated for those under the influence of alcohol or drugs. And also for those suffering from psychological conditions that cause hallucinations and delusions.

But it's best to get the opinion of a licensed professional on such matters before proceeding.

Story first published: Wednesday, March 21, 2018, 13:00 [IST]
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