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What is hypnotherapy?

The use of hypnosis to treat medical or mental health conditions is called hypnotherapy. Hypnosis is a state of focused concentration. The focus of attention is so narrow that you are not even aware of things around you. Have you ever been so involved in watching a TV show or reading a book that you did not hear someone speak to you? You were in a light state of self-hypnosis.

A hypnotic trance is a state between sleeping and waking, like daydreaming. One person may have a deep, heavy restful feeling, while another may have a light, floating sensation.

Some people get so relaxed in a trance that they fall asleep. In trance, sleeping subjects can still follow instructions such as moving a finger, taking a deep breath, or waking up when they are told to do so.

What is hypnosis used to treat?

Hypnotherapy can help you feel better without using medicine, or it can be used along with medicine. Hypnosis can help you:

  • build confidence
  • overcome fears
  • treat sleep disorders
  • overcome depression
  • stop smoking or drinking alcohol
  • improve school or sports performance
  • lose weight
  • reduce stress
  • deal with sexual problems

The use of hypnosis to remember the past, especially memories of abuse, is not something everyone agrees with. People who are hypnotized are very open to suggestion and may give false information without meaning to.

How is hypnosis done?

You can hypnotize yourself or be hypnotized by another person. It is possible to be hypnotized alone or in a group of people. Almost everyone can be hypnotized to some level. You cannot be hypnotized if you do not want to be. Simple tests will help you find out how good a subject you are likely to be.

A good hypnotherapist will ask enough questions to understand what you hope to achieve. The therapist should answer any questions you have before hypnotizing you.

When you are ready, you will be guided into a deep state of relaxation. At first, most people are aware of everything. You may hear every word, or the hypnotist's voice may fade in and out, or you may not hear the therapist at all. You might even get so relaxed that you feel as if you have fallen asleep.

As your conscious mind becomes less alert, your subconscious mind gets more focused. When you are hypnotized, no one can make you do anything that you have a strong feeling against. You are the one in control. The hypnotist is just a guide.

At the end of the session, you feel relaxed and peaceful. The more often you are hypnotized, the deeper you can learn to go. Very good hypnotic subjects are sometimes able to have surgery or dental work without anesthesia. Many women can use hypnosis rather than medicines to have pain-free childbirth.

What are the risks?

Hypnosis may not be right for people with certain medical problems, or people who abuse drugs or alcohol, or those who have delusions or hallucinations. Hypnosis should not be used to treat medical problems unless you have first talked to a healthcare provider.

How do I find a therapist?

Anyone can claim to be a hypnotherapist. It is important to seek treatment from a licensed professional who belongs to the National Board for Certified Clinical Hypnotherapists. If you are interested in hypnosis, ask your healthcare provider for a referral or check the library for good books on self-hypnosis.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2010-05-21
Last reviewed: 2010-05-03
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2011 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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