A great deal has been written about the history of hypnosis, hypnotherapy, self-hypnosis and the practice of hypnosis in various parts of the world. Nevertheless, even after considerable research has been done and a large volume of literature published, there exists in the minds of many people, considerable doubt and suspicion about the experience of hypnosis. This is attributable, partly, to the way hypnosis has been and still is, represented on stage shows, films and television. In reality, when practised by a qualified and experienced professional, hypnosis is a safe and powerful therapeutic tool that can be applied in conjunction with other therapies.
The playful, innocent, make-believe scenarios of a child’s world often transform into trances which gradually become necessary for survival in this world. They help focus attention in order to navigate one’s journey through life. Some of these trances may be positive, enabling the individual to achieve important goals. However, they can also be negative and dysfunctional trances, giving rise to problems which become barriers to a happy, fully-functional life.
The General Hypnotherapy Register (GHR) of Great Britain is of the opinion that, at our current level of knowledge, the phenomenon of hypnosis cannot be conclusively defined but perhaps a reasonable interim definition might be that “Hypnosis is a state of mind, enhanced by (although not exclusively) mental and physical relaxation, in which our subconscious is able to communicate with our conscious mind.” This state of mind may be brought about by oneself, unaided (auto-hypnosis), or with the help of another person. If this other person is a trained professional who utilizes the resultant state of mind to encourage beneficial change to occur, the process is referred to as “Hypnotherapy” (www.general-hypnotherapy-register.com)
According to the GHR there are many forms of psychological therapy, but Hypnotherapy is distinctive in that it attempts to address the client’s subconscious mind. In practice, the Hypnotherapist often (but not exclusively) requires the client to be in a relaxed state, frequently enlists the client’ own imagination and may utilise a wide range of techniques from story-telling, metaphor or symbolism (deemed meaningful to the individual client), to the use of direct suggestions, for beneficial change. Analytical techniques may also be employed in an attempt to uncover problems deemed to lie in a client’s past (referred to as the “there and then”) or therapy may concentrate more on a client’s current life and presenting problems (referred to as the “here and now”). It is generally considered helpful if the client is personally motivated to change (rather than relying solely on the therapist’s efforts), although a belief in the possibility of beneficial change may be a sufficient starting point.
The initial task of the therapist is to establish rapport with the client. The client is encouraged to talk about his problem or concerns. Considerable time is spent during this initial meeting, during which the therapist takes the client’s clinical history, and also answers any questions the client may have. This helps to build mutual trust and confidence. It is important that the client trusts the therapist and feels secure and safe in order for therapy to commence in a suitable environment for beneficial change to take place. The client and therapist discuss and agree goals for the therapy. As the therapeutic process unfolds, it is important to maintain rapport and address any concerns the client may express.
This is where the individual is both the operator/guide and the subject. In hetero-hypnosis, the therapist or some other individual is the facilitator or guide, and the client is the subject.
The experience of a light self-hypnotic trance is a common phenomenon. Examples taken from daily activities include moments when one is completely engrossed in a book or television programme, losing track of time and even losing momentary awareness of one’s immediate surroundings. Then there is the familiar experience of driving along a familiar route and reaching one’s destination, without being aware of much of the journey. These are all examples of a trance state one may experience without the aid of another individual.
Many experts agree that all hypnosis is really self-hypnosis. A hypnotherapist may help or guide the client develop the trance, but the client is always in control. It is important to bear in mind that the beneficial use of self-hypnosis presupposes the fact that the individual is physically able to engage in self-hypnosis. Therefore, if the client is seriously ill or traumatised, such as an accident victim brought to the Accident and Emergency Department, the presence of a member of the medical team trained in hypnotherapy, or a professional hypnotherapist would be required. Also, hetero-hypnosis, consisting of a hypnotherapist and a client would have an obvious advantage in circumstances where the client is receiving hypnotherapy for therapeutic purposes rather than for eliciting positive behavioural and attitudinal change.
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