I’ve created a list of Hypnosis FAQs for you.
But you don’t have to take my word for it. Here are some other reputable sources that provide similar overviews:
What is Hypnosis?
Hypnosis is a natural state of relaxation we enter into every day — while we’re reading, watching TV, falling asleep, waking up, and daydreaming. It is a state of highly focused attention. Being in hypnosis is incredibly relaxing and usually brings a sense of peace and well-being.
What is Hypnotherapy?
Hypnotherapy is the name for applying therapeutic techniques while in a state of hypnosis.
Is hypnosis similar to meditation?
The state of hypnosis is essentially the same state of mind individuals strive for during meditation. What is the difference? In meditation, one generally seeks to clear the mind of all thoughts while in the clear and focused state; whereas in hypnosis, one is generally there to use the power of that state for a specific therapeutic purpose.
Is the client awake and fully aware of the process or do they go under a dream like/trance state?
Hypnosis is a spectrum with different depths. I work in lighter and medium states, which is like having your eyes closed, being deeply relaxed, and being in state of rich visualization. But you are always aware of where you are and the situation and you are always in control.
What does hypnosis do?
Hypnosis reduces or eliminates the activity of the conscious mind, calms the nervous system, and allows the benefits of a relaxed, focused state to come to the surface. In hypnosis there is an enhanced ability to:
- Access deep self-knowledge and wisdom
- Experience natural ease, well-being, and grace
- Step out of a negative thought pattern or perspective
- See a more positive perspective, to embody hope, to release attachment to outcome, and to forgive
- Revisit and reinterpret memories from the past in a broader, more supportive context
- Reveal emotions that may be associated with and causing psychosomatic illness
- Influence physiological processes through visualization (medical hypnotherapy)
What is the conscious mind?
The conscious mind a name given to describe a certain set of mental functions in the waking state. Typically when we talk about the conscious mind, we are talking about the analytical part of the mind — it is the part of us that judges, analyzes, scrutinizes and filters the information and experiences we encounter.
Our conscious mind is where we experience our running “stream of consciousness”, our self-talk, our fears, our doubts, and our sense of limitations. The conscious mind is rooted in what we generally think of as “reality” and generally only believes things to be possible when they make logical sense in the context of our past experiences. When the conscious mind is relaxed, and its functions subside, anything is possible. This is what happens when we dream at night — the most fantastical dreams of flying or other seemingly impossible feats and circumstances seem completely feasible and we believe them to be real. This is because the conscious mind is out of the way – dreams occur in the subconscious.
What is the subconscious mind?
Our subconscious mind a name used to describe a certain set of mental functions that occur below our level of conscious awareness. These activities occur regardless of being awake or asleep. The dream state is a great insight into the function of this so-called subconscious.
The subconscious mind does not judge or filter experiences. It believes what it is told and generally holds onto those beliefs permanently. The subconscious is where all our memories and beliefs are stored, where our emotions are generated, and where our imagination lies.
As children, we generally don’t have very developed conscious filters before the age of 10, explaining why children believe much of what they are told. Children don’t yet have enough life experience by which to judge or filter new information as being correct or reasonable. This is why so many of our emotional challenges as adults lie in events or circumstances from our childhood. Parents who don’t show love to their children or who abuse their children verbally or otherwise can cause deep-rooted negative beliefs in the child about the self and the world. Common examples include believing that they are inadequate, undeserving, unloveable, unimportant, unvalued, unappreciated, etc.
So what makes hypnosis so powerful?
Hypnosis opens up the subconscious mind to the way it was when we were children – malleable and open to changes in belief. This is extremely powerful since it allows a skilled therapist to literally undo damage that was done through a person’s misinterpretation of earlier life experiences.
While regular psychotherapy (talk therapy) allows a client to understand on an intellectual level how an earlier life experience affects their current psychology (and in the process provides some empowerment), hypnotherapy targets the actual experience, reframes how it is perceived, and completely changes the associated emotional context and resultant belief.
Working with the subconscious mind directly also allows incredible changes to occur physiologically. There exists a very strong connection between the subconscious mind and our physical body. Science is only beginning to understand the mechanisms of these connections, yet in the meantime we have found that simple hypnotic and visualization methods can improve or eliminate a large range of medical conditions.
How deep will I go?
How deep you will go, depends on a variety of factors:
The strength of your desire or motivation to reach your therapeutic goal. The more you really want to achieve whatever it is you are seeking hypnotherapy for, the more “on board” your whole being will be with engaging in the process.
The level of comfort and trust you have with your hypnotherapist (rapport). Allowing another person to guide you through the hypnosis experience can make some people feel vulnerable, particularly if they have never experienced hypnosis before and don’t know what to expect. Naturally, allowing one’s self to go to deeper levels of relaxation and comfort requires a certain level of trust and confidence in your hypnotherapist. It is important to follow your gut instincts when choosing a hypnotherapist. If you don’t get a good feeling from them, seek someone else. Also, it helps to seek a hypnotherapist that describes a life and healing philosophy that matches your own. A hypnotherapist with a value set close to your own will act synergistically to accelerate the change you are seeking.
Your previous experience with hypnosis or meditation. The ability to go into hypnosis, like meditation or any other activity in our lives, improves with practice. Individuals who experience multiple sessions of hypnosis usually experience successively deeper hypnotic states. Each session is training for the mind, and as someone has reaches a certain depth in their first session, the feeling of that state is often noted in the mind as a reference point from which they can go deeper during the next session. For individuals with some apprehension of the process, this increase in depth is also likely caused by increasing levels of trust in the hypnotherapist, and a realization of how incredibly enjoying the hypnotic state feels.
Preconceived ideas about hypnosis. If you have any negative, preconceived ideas about hypnosis that you have not had resolved with your hypnotherapist in your pre-session talk (pre-talk), you may not be completely open to the experience. This resistance can cause mental distraction from the focus required to both experience deeper levels of hypnosis, and achieve your therapeutic goals. Your hypnotherapist should ask you in the pre-talk whether you have any previous experience with hypnosis, and if you have any concerns they can put to ease. If you are not asked about any previous experience concerns, make sure to ask about what you can expect during the session — it will positively impact your results.
Your natural susceptibility. Individuals have a wide range of natural susceptibility. Some people go into a very deep hypnotic state during their very first experience, while others may take several sessions before getting to that point. The reasons for this variation in individuals likely depends on a number of factors, some of which incorporate some of the factors described above – personality (how trusting you are in general), ability to relax, stress level, and right brain-left brain dominance (highly creative and imaginative people often engage in the process more easily) are some of the commonly accepted factors.
Do I need to go into deep hypnosis to achieve my goals?
Usually not. Most of the work can be done in a light state of hypnosis, where the client is actively participating in the process, and emerges fully aware of what transpired. However, deep trance is beneficial when working with particular topics whose solutions lie outside of our conscious awareness, requiring us to access information stored in the subconscious mind. Such instances where deep trance is beneficial includes the recovery of lost memories, detailed memory recall as when trying to recall the location of a lost object, and finding the subconscious root of a psychosomatic physical ailment.
What does being in hypnosis feel like?
As you go into hypnosis, you will feel a deepening relaxation. A good state of hypnosis is similar to that wonderful feeling of just gaining awareness as you wake up in the morning. Your body is still very much asleep, and your conscious range of awareness is very narrow, but perhaps focused on a dream, an idea, a feeling or an image. Physiologically, going into hypnosis is similar to falling asleep, except with hypnosis, your mind stays aware while your body goes to sleep. During hypnosis, you will likely lose total awareness of your body, as your mind is completely focused on whatever is being discussed at the time. When you do turn attention to your body, you will often feel like it is extremely heavy. Your heart rate has slowed down, your breathing has slowed, and your body temperature will have dropped slightly. At the end of the session, when you emerge from the hypnotic state, you may not be able to move your body for the first few moments. Your mind typically wakes up first, then your body, and you have the desire to stretch out, just as if waking up from a nap. After the session is over, you will typically feel so relaxed that it can feel like you’ve just had a full body massage. Your stress levels will be very low, you will feel very calm, peaceful, and centered.
Will I cluck like a chicken? Bark like a dog?
Many of us have seen a stage hypnosis show, or know someone who took part in such a show. Stage hypnosis utilizes a very deep state of hypnosis that not everyone enters into naturally. Stage hypnosis is an excellent display of the sheer power and malleability of the subconscious mind when the function of the conscious mind is temporarily suspended. These experiences are far removed from clinical hypnosis which is a well recognized and serious therapeutic modality. Everything done in a therapeutic session is done in complete cooperation and agreement with you, the client. Hypnotherapy clients usually feel a sense of awareness throughout their sessions and are able to recall what transpired. Occasionally some individuals in deep hypnosis will experience a natural amnesia and will not remember portions of the session.
What’s a session like?
In a 2-hour session, we talk for at least the first hour. I learn about you, and teach you about the conscious and subconscious minds and put your challenges into the context of this model. I explain my philosophy for healing and lay out a plan of what we’ll do in hypnosis to ensure you are on board.
When we get to the hypnosis part of the session, you are reclined in a comfortable chair. I lead you through some guided breathing and visualizations, while giving you suggestions for relaxation along the way. I lead you through a journey in your mind, much like a guided dream, using specific techniques to make new impressions on the subconscious that can change patterns of thought and emotion at the core level. I work only within the framework of the therapeutic results that we’ve agreed on together. When the hypnosis is complete, I guide you back out, and we talk about what your experience was like and next step.
How many sessions are needed to see permanent results?
Permanent results are often seen from the first session, but it varies by person. The extent of those results can vary widely as well, from marginal improvement, to a complete resolution of one’s issue. Often one session is enough to achieve a goal. Other times, a more gradual and layered approach is appropriate. Each session is entered with the optimism of full and spontaneous healing. And while this happens frequently with the majority of my clients, your ability to achieve this for yourself depends on your level of openness, trust, and comfort level with facing the core of your issues, which often means looking at the memories that gave rise to the core issue in the first place.
As with any good holistic practitioner, I work with you to heal the root cause of your issue(s). When we can heal the core issue, we almost always find rapid and lasting relief from symptoms. Unlike psychiatry, which treats imbalances of thought and emotions as a chemical problem, or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which tasks the client with conducting their own never-ending though-interruption work, hypnotherapy works to identify core limiting beliefs that often date back to childhood, and directly change them out for more empowered perspectives. Guiding you to your own internal wisdom to generate these alternative perspectives is a key aspect of the work, and to generate the healing answers for yourself is also great at building self-esteem. Core beliefs are simply deep-set thoughts that are often outside of our conscious awareness. When we can bring these core issues to light, we have the power to change them. And when we heal our thinking at a core level, mental and emotional peace naturally follow.
Does hypnotherapy work independently or can it be combined with therapy?
It works independently, and also works wonderfully in combination with standard talk therapy. Revelations and insights from talk therapy can be “downloaded” in hypnotherapy to the deeper, emotional levels of the mind. It’s a great combo.
Do anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medications interfere with hypnotherapy?
While there doesn’t seem to be any research conducted on this topic, my experience has been that clients who are on psychopharmaceuticals sometimes have reduced ability to visualize make emotional connection to memories and imagery. The success of hypnotherapy is closely tied to these two abilities, and so yes, these types of medications can sometimes interfere. But not always. I have had many medicated clients who were still able to achieve powerful insights and breakthroughs. Each drug and each person are unique, so if you are concerned about this, you can get an idea of how you might do in a live session by trying out one of my free audio downloads available on the right hand side of this page and seeing if you are able to have a rich experience or not.
Is the client in control through the whole process or is the hypnotherapist completely in-charge?
You can think of it like I am leading you through a guided visualization. If I ever say anything that you disagree with or makes you uncomfortable, you immediately break out of the relaxed state. There are no control dynamics because I am simply acting as an extension of your desires and requests for healing. If I were to ever veer from that, you would immediately notice, the rapport between us would be broken, and you would immediately stop accepting the suggestions I am giving you.
What if the ideals and beliefs that are instilled are not what the client believes or wants or ready to accept? Can it be reversed?
I take great diligence in our pre-hypnosis conversation to ensure that we are on the same page philosophically, and that the approach for the session is clear and that you agree with it. For serious, personal matters of a value-based nature I do not take people into hypnosis and then “guess” what they want to hear. Much of our discussion up front is about me getting a deep understanding of your perspective, beliefs, ideals, comfort zone, and desires, so that the session is then an accurate mirror of your psyche and stays within the bounds of our beliefs and values.
Is there a code of ethics or industry guidelines and regulations for hypnotherapy?
Hypnotherapy is an unregulated profession. There are professional organizations that lay out some guidelines, but there is no mechanism in place to ensure a given hypnotherapist is complying. Generally, the guidelines provided serve the purpose of minimizing the susceptibility of hypnotherapists to lawsuits.
Are results lasting? What is the success rate?
Results on emotional resolution issues are often permanent. The majority of people are able to experience quick peace, calm, and transformation in a first session. Success hinges primarily on you – how strongly you desire the positive change in your life, and how good you are at following instructions.
For medical hypnotherapy, there is plenty of literature showing the lasting benefit of doing applied hypnosis. Medical hypnotherapy results often take longer to notice, since the biology of the body often needs time to reallocate resources, heal tissues, re-regulate internal systems, etc.. In general for medical hypnotherapy, my model is that you do one live session, I record it for you, and then you continue to listen to that recording daily for several weeks. After a few weeks you should have a clear idea of whether your medical condition is benefiting.
In terms of success rates, the only statistics I can offer are posted on my website through research abstracts on the use of hypnosis for specific medical and emotional conditions. There are complicating factors in determining success rates at the level of a practitioner such as myself because the study population is a self-selected group of clients who have sought hypnotherapy and decided to work with me (i.e., not randomized and no control group). Therefore, we can’t compare the success of these self-motivated individuals with others who have the same issues but are not actively seeking help or others who are not open to doing the emotional healing work required to heal their issues. But with my clients, for issues such as anxiety, I’d say 95% experience profound improvement with their first session. Please check out the Anxiety blog post on my website where I have collated the research, the stories of clients, and other information about how hypnotherapy addresses anxiety.
What is the cost per session and how long is each session?
See my “Book Appointment” page for list of services, session lengths, and rates.