9 Things to Know Before You Try Hypnotherapy

Hypnotherapy has been used for over 100 years to help people with issues from low self-esteem to breaking bad habits. Tempted to try it yourself? Read this first.

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So, what is hypnotherapy?

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Hypnotherapy is a form of therapy used to reprogram the subconscious mind. When under hypnosis, you put your mind and body into a heightened state of learning, making you more susceptible to suggestions for self-improvement or behavior modification. The goal is to put the subconscious and conscious mind in harmony, which in turn helps give you greater control over your behavior and emotions.

What isn't hypnotherapy?

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Hypnotherapy is not like what you see in stage shows, where you'll often see people barking like a dog or clucking like a chicken. There are no swinging pocket watches. In a hypnotherapy session, you are in control the whole time. You will hear the suggestions made to you, and you will be able to remember them after the session.

How did hypnotherapy start?

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Many of the clucking chicken images are the result of hypnosis's forefather, Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815). Mesmer believed that there was an invisible force, a cosmic energy, that could be harnessed by one person to influence another person's behavior. While his theory was wrong, the techniques he used were effective. These techniques were picked up on and developed over the coming years for therapeutic and medical purposes. Sigmund Freud, for instance, used hypnosis techniques. In the mid-1900s, hypnotherapy as we know it evolved. Milton Erickson (1901-1980) pioneered "indirect hypnosis," during which therapists work with individual patients to shift their perceptions of themselves and their issues.

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What's hypnosis like?

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During your first session, you will likely begin by telling the therapist about your goals and issues. You will then work together to come up with a treatment plan. Once you enter a state of hypnosis, your body will feel calm and relaxed, even as you enter a state of increased awareness, similar to the way you might feel when meditating. Your therapist will speak to you in a calm and gently assertive voice, and place the suggestions you agreed to in your treatment plan into your subconscious mind.

Who does hypnotherapy work for?

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If you want to do hypnotherapy, you are a good candidate for it. Hypnosis is a willing state. If someone is trying to hypnotize you against your will, it won't work. For that reason, if you are extremely skeptical of its efficacy, or if you are frightened of it, it probably won't work for you.

What does hypnosis work for?

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Hypnosis for weight loss or to quit addictive behaviors like smoking or drinking, is how most people think of hypnosis. While people do often seek hypnosis therapy for these reasons, there are other reasons too. People may see a hypnotherapist before and during childbirth or to increase self-esteem. It can also be used to deal with chronic pain, insomnia, anxiety, or treat irritable bowel syndrome.

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What doesn't it work for?

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It's important to remember that hypnotherapists are not medical doctors. While hypnosis can help with pain management, it does not cure diseases, like cancer or heart disease.

Where can I find a hypnotherapist?

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As with other treatment providers, recommendations from family or friends are a great place to start. You can also check with a therapist, naturopath, or acupuncturist for recommendations. There are several databases of certified hypnotherapists online too. Try checking the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis's database, or the General Hypnotherapy Register. You'll want to check the therapist's website before you choose, making sure to look for credentials and testimony from previous patients if available.

Can I hypnotize myself?

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There are a number of articles, books, and audio guides available for free or purchase online that can give you pointers or guides for self hypnosis. There are also hundreds of self hypnosis apps available for download. However, it is important to note that many of these apps have not been scientifically tested, and are not proven to work, but if they help relax you, there's little downside.


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