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What is Hypnotherapy?

by Stephen Willis, MMFT, LPC, LMFT, NCC

When people think of hypnosis, they usually are drawn to a picture of an entertainer in a Las Vegas nightclub act or someone who goes to a school auditorium and brings people up on stage and gets them to do embarrassing things such as barking like a dog or quacking like a duck. I know this, because people come into therapy, wanting to stop smoking or deal with some other problem and voice their fears that I’m going to make them do silly things. That is not hypnotherapy.

Hypnosis is a natural state that most everyone cycles into every 90 minutes or so. If you have ever had anyone have to call your name 2 or 3 times while you were engrossed in watching TV or reading a book – you were in a trance. ADHD people like me, probably go into trance a lot more often than the 90 minute average.
Daydreaming is trance. Staring off into space is trance. Hearing a lecture on a subject in which we’re not interested typically induces a trance. Listening to music can send some into an age regressive trance – recalling how they felt and what they were doing when a certain tune was first heard.

So you have been experiencing trance for as long as you can remember – you just didn’t know it. But hypnotherapy is a different thing. It is the utilization of hypnosis for your benefit.

Our brains have a conscious and unconscious component. The conscious part is like the working memory in a computer (RAM). It is rather limited in its capacity and function. Multitaskers take a lot of pride in their ability to “focus” on several tasks at the same time. What they are able to switch focus from one task to another more quickly than most others. But there is also the unconscious part of us. That is where our wisdom and motives and unused memories (both pleasant and frightening) reside.

We can intentionally access the conscious part of the brain whenever we like, but the unconscious is more difficult. The conscious brain is linear and fairly organized. The unconscious brain is like a huge warehouse with a little guy at the front desk who goes to retrieve the information we seek. “So, you want to know the name of that movie you saw last summer? I think it’s somewhere over in this section,” and off the guy goes to find it. We forget we even asked the question and sometime in the middle of the afternoon, while we’re doing something else, the movie title pops into the mind.

To bring about faster and deeper change we have to go through the unconscious mind. Hypnotherapy makes this easier. Trance induction temporarily moves the conscious mind aside in order to interact with the person’s wisdom.

In later blogs we will look at how this is done and the variety of problems that can be addressed in hypnotherapy.