More often than not, the challenging emotional and physical issues we live with from day to day are simply surface effects which are caused by a deeper underlying issues. If these issues are left untreated for long periods of time they can often start to affect other areas of our lives.

Hypnotherapy is a natural state of heightened awareness, during which your mind is more susceptible to positive suggestions which are aimed at relieving your symptoms and influencing your behaviour. It is the job of a hypnotherapist to help you access this deeper level of awareness.

Contrary to popular belief, hypnosis is actually not a state of sleep but a state of extreme relaxation. Scientific studies have shown that a person is neither unconscious or asleep but simply in a deeply relaxed state, during which they are engaged in normal mental activity.

How did hypnotherapy begin?

Austrian physician, Franz Anton Mesmer is believed to have begun the system of hypnosis at the turn of the eighteenth century. Using the sound of a glass harmonica, Mesmer would produce a trancelike state in his patients during which they became more susceptible to positive suggestion. Though the benefits of what Mesmer considered to be a curative remedy were dismissed by his friends and colleagues, his work did act as an inspiration to Scottish surgeon James Braid.

1843 saw the introduction of the terms hypnotism and hypnosis, coined by Braid who came up with the term hypnosis after the Greek God ‘Hypnos’. Braid had discovered that some people could go into a trance if their eyes were fixated on an object.

By chance, another Scottish surgeon James Esdeile was working in India around the same time and was also using the process of eye fixation to prepare patients for surgical procedures, putting them into a deep hypnotic sleep causing the body to become anaesthetised.

James Braid and James Esdaile were among the first who could be called 'scientific' in their research and use of hypnosis. These pioneers experimented with direct suggestion of symptom removal, relaxation and other methods in order to find out what could be done to help people with disorders subsequently influencing most of today's forms of hypnotherapy.


1895 saw the publication of a clinical text entitled Studies in Hysteria, a collaboration between Sigmund Freud and Joseph Brewer, detailing a new systematic approach to psychotherapy. In this approach, clients regressed to an earlier age which will help them to recall any suppressed traumatic memories. Though Freud abandoned hypnotherapy in favour of further developing psychoanalysis, his early work continued to influence many subsequent hypnotherapists.

As the system of regression hypnotherapy progressed it became known as “hypnoanalysis”, “analytic hypnotherapy” or “psychodynamic hypnotherapy”.

The method thrived throughout the world wars where it was used by military psychiatrists as a quicker treatment than psychoanalysis for shell shock, which we now know as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy

Cognitive behavioural hypnotherapy is a term which describes a system combining both clinical hypnosis and cognitive behavioural therapy.

This branch of hypnotherapy was established by Theodore Barber and his colleagues, who believed that hypnotism was better understood as a 'special state' but as the result of normal psychological activity such as an active imagination, expectation, appropriate attitudes and motivation.

As the application of cognitive and behavioural theories and concepts grew this paved the way for a closer integration of hypnotherapy with various cognitive and behavioural therapies.

What happens during a session of hypnotherapy?

The initial consultation is an essential component of your treatment because this is the main opportunity your therapist will have to find out what you'd like to change. It is basically a stage of gathering and giving information. Your practitioner will want to know as much as possible about the issue you want to change, the symptoms you are experiencing and any other information you feel might assist them in their diagnosis and treatment.

As well as your practitioner asking you questions about yourself, this is also a time where you can ask questions or voice any concerns you may have. If you are feeling anxious about treatment then always tell your practitioner as they will almost certainly be able to dispel any misconceptions that might be making you feel this way.

Once the session begins, your hypnotherapist will use relaxation techniques, during which you are likely to be asked to concentrate on certain things such as your breathing.

The hypnotherapist is likely to speak to you in a particular way, and at a particular tempo, which is designed to gently slow down the brainwaves. This will help you to gradually drift into the pleasant state of hypnotic trance, in which you will experience feelings of relaxation and well-being.

Words such as 'relax', 'deeper' and 'sleep' will often be used in order to help you feel that little bit more tranquil but they are not intended to send you to sleep.

Hypnosis is not a state of sleep or unconsciousness, you will remain clear and focused and are likely to remember most of what has been said to you.

What does it feel like to be hypnotised?

Generally most patients report being in a trance as a relaxing and tranquil experience but this will vary from person to person. One component that always remains the same is the fact that the patient will always remain in control throughout the session and will be aware of all physical senses, often even experiencing a heightened sense of awareness.


If you are fairly new to the idea of hypnotherapy then you might be unfamiliar with some of the terminology used. Below is a simple guide to the numerous variations of treatment and a definition of some of the technical jargon you might stumble upon.

Subconscious/Unconscious mind

Your mind consists of two parts, the conscious and the subconscious. The conscious part of your mind is basically the part of your mind where you do all of your everyday conscious thinking and your subconscious mind is the part which deals with the unconscious actions which occur automatically without us really giving them any thought. It is here that we keep our habits and fears, and from here is where all automatic responses are triggered.

Positive suggestion

This is a relatively self explanatory process which involves positively worded statements being sent through the sub conscious. The subconscious mind becomes more receptive to these messages and can accept and store the positive suggestions before acting upon them.

Types of Hypnotherapy

Neuro-Linguistic Programming

NLP is based on the relationship between patterns of behaviour and the subjective experiences underlying them. NLP and hypnotherapy work together to influence your conscious and unconscious mind by teaching your conscious mind to focus on the positive rather than the negative. The process allows you to let go of old patterns and bad habits, taking away those automatic subconscious responses and replacing them with new and positive ones.

Suggestion Hypnotherapy

This technique involves the practitioners sending a series of suggestions to an individual's unconscious mind. These suggestions can often ease the difficulty of doing something they have previously struggled with, such as public speaking or giving up smoking.

It is also popular for cases where there are time limitations in place as this process doesn't involve dealing with the underlying cause of the issue.

Analytical Hypnotherapy

In contrast to suggestion hypnotherapy, analytical hypnotherapy is most effective when dealing with the root cause of a deeper issue and often incorporates psychotherapy to help seek out and remove the underlying cause.

How can hypnotherapy help me?

Hypnotherapy addresses a long and varied catalogue of ailments and issues, bringing about beneficial changes to any problems originating in the mind without causing the side effects conventional medicine often does. Listed below are a number of areas commonly treated with hypnotherapy:

  • Alcohol Abuse
  • Anger Management
  • Anxiety
  • Blushing
  • Depression
  • Drug Abuse
  • Eating Disorders
  • Exam Nerves
  • Fear of Flying
  • Insomnia
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Low Self-Confidence
  • Low Self-Esteem
  • Obsessions & Compulsions
  • Panic Attacks
  • Phobias
  • Public Speaking
  • Relationship Issues
  • Smoking
  • Sports Performance
  • Stress
  • Stuttering
  • Weight Loss

Misconceptions about Hypnotherapy

Hypnosis is loss of consciousness

Unlike sleep or a loss of consciousness, during hypnotherapy your senses will stay completely alert of what is going on around you. You'll remain awake but will simply be in a deeply relaxed state during which your mind will be more open to excepting positive suggestion. After a session of hypnotherapy, patients will usually recall everything that has happened throughout, although in some rare cases individuals enter into a deep hypnosis known as the Theta state and may consciously forget what has been said. However, the subconscious mind will have picked up on everything and will respond to this accordingly.

Not everyone can be hypnotised

Figures from the British Society of Clinical Hypnosis state that an estimated 85% of people are responsive to hypnosis. It is true that some people respond to treatment better than others but it really has a lot to do with how willing the patient is to subject to it. If you really want to overcome certain issues and problems then hypnosis can help you accomplish this, but it is important to recognise that is is not possible to hypnotise an individual against their will and it is only possible with cooperation.

It is also a common misconception that a person has to be in a deep trance to reap the benefits of hypnotherapy. This is not the case and in fact many researchers have concluded that the level of trance does not relate to the results that could be achieved. This means that even if a patient feels their treatment has been unsuccessful, the desired outcome may still occur if given time.

To search for a qualified hypnotherapist, visit Hypnotherapy Directory.

Therapy Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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