How does hypnotherapy work?
The first session called an 'initial assessment', gives the therapist and client the opportunity to get to know one another and begin to build trust in the therapeutic relationship. The client often has questions about the process and may talk through any concerns they have. The therapist begins to build a picture of the client and the problems they are facing, asking relevant questions to aid understanding. Between the initial assessment and the next session, the therapist can use these insights to formulate a plan to help the client in subsequent sessions.
Sessions are likely to contain a mixture of 3 main elements:
- The client and therapist talk through the client's presenting issues.
- The therapist explores solutions while the client is in a typical everyday conscious state using a combination of psychotherapy and coaching interventions.
- The therapist offers tailored hypnotic suggestions and interventions based on the client's needs while the client is in a trance (altered and induced state of consciousness brought about by the process of hypnosis).
To help the client, it's helpful to get to the heart of the problem. Sometimes the problem is straightforward and sometimes it unravels over time as the client begins to feel more comfortable talking and begins to explore themselves in new ways.
The therapist listens carefully to the problems and discusses how the client would like to overcome or manage the problem better while they are in a 'wakeful' everyday conscious state, so they can ask questions and learn new ways to deal with the problem. The solutions discussed here, however, are not always congruent with the solutions explored and uncovered whilst the client is in an induced trance state, but they provide a good starting point.
In addition to this work in a normal conscious state, hypnotherapy offers something very special and unique. Once the client is in a trance, the therapist can speak directly to the client's unconscious mind. The therapist then offers 'hypnotic suggestions' and employs various interventions to instigate more rapid and sustainable changes. These suggestions could be to eat healthily or to be assertive with a boss or partner. They are written in such a way as to be very appealing to the unconscious. Because old habits (such as being depressed, self-harm or smoking) are often formed unconsciously, the unconscious mind is often the best place to spark change.
Therapies that deal only with the conscious mind can be limited. The conscious mind can be defensive or challenging, make excuses, be critical, deny, resist, flood with negativity, be cynical or disbelieving. This is why many diets fail. Dieters make a conscious decision not to eat unhealthy foods and then make excuses to treat themselves e.g., with cake. The drive to eat naughty foods is being driven by the unconscious and it may take hours, days, weeks, or months but eventually, sure enough, if the unconscious urge is not dealt with, it will eventually win.
In a trance, with the conscious mind temporarily subdued, there is a larger door into the unconscious. The conscious mind's gatekeepers such as negativity, resistance, denial, cynicism, disbelief, and rejection are sidelined and positive suggestions for change reach deep inside the person for a lasting change.