Using Hypnosis in Psychotherapy

By Stephanie Camins – MA, LPC

verified by Psychology Today

Working with my own hypnotherapist changed my life!  (Thanks Pam!) Letting go of negative behaviors and beliefs paved the way for my personal growth journey. After a very painful few years that included the loss of my Mom after a long, ugly struggle with MS and a pretty terrible divorce, I found myself doing things in excess rather than in balance to cover up the pain.  I also found myself in toxic, chaotic relationships that were definitely distracting me from my pain but were destroying me physically and emotionally.

Hypnosis allowed me to get past all my conscious defenses to really address the pain and anger I was feeling and finally release it.  At the point I found Pam, I had been carrying this load around on my back for years.   I will say it was emotional work but the relief I felt was immediate and to this day, many years later, I still feel the benefit.

My negative, destructive habits are a thing of the past and I have healthy relationships that nurture and support me. This is why I decided to spend the time getting certified in this highly effective technique.  I have used hypnotherapy with aiding the grief process, negative body image, anxiety, emotional eating, obsessive thinking, performance anxiety, mindfulness, and more.  In this article, you will discover the wide range of problems/issues hypnosis can resolve. The benefits are astounding and I look forward to helping you make powerful changes in your life.

What is hypnosis?

Hypnosis is a state of altered consciousness, inner absorption, concentration, and focused attention. When our minds are concentrated and focused, we are able to use it more powerfully to reach our highest selves. This altered state of consciousness leads to a heightened focus which, in turn, results in a higher susceptibility to suggestion.

Everyone has experienced “trances”, but we don’t usually associate those events with hypnosis. For example, times when we have been so absorbed in thought that we fail to notice what is happening around us or when you visualize yourself accomplishing a much-desired goal or find yourself daydreaming about your upcoming vacation while you’re at work or when you’re so engrossed or captivated by what you are focused on (ie, the latest season of your favorite show or the much-awaited sequel to the series you’re reading) that you lose track of time.  These very focused states of attention are similar to hypnosis.

In fact, 95% of our thoughts, behaviors, and emotions originate in the unconscious mind. Leaving only 5% of our typical cognitive activity to normal consciousness.

We slip in and out of this state all day.  Hypnosis allows for a relaxed subconscious state of mind.  In this relaxed state, the subconscious mind is open to receiving helpful and beneficial suggestions, thus enabling you to reach your desired goal.

How is hypnosis different than hypnotherapy?

 Clinical hypnotherapy is the use of hypnosis as a tool in psychotherapy by a professional counselor. Hypnosis is the method a therapist uses in conjunction with therapeutic work.  The therapist acts as a guide taking clients to a deeper level of the subconscious than they could normally achieve on their own. In this state, the client is highly suggestible, allowing the therapist to then deliver appropriate positive suggestions.

“Clinical hypnotherapists do essentially three things with hypnosis.

  1. They encourage the use of imagination. Mental imagery is very powerful, especially in a focused state of attention. The mind seems capable of using imagery, even if only symbolic, to embody the things we imagine.
  2. They present ideas or suggestions to the patient. In a state of concentrated attention, ideas and suggestions compatible with the patient’s desires seem to have a more powerful impact on the mind.
  3. They facilitate unconscious exploration, to better understand underlying motivations or identify whether past experiences are associated with a problem. Hypnosis avoids the critical censor of the conscious mind.”

Myths about hypnosis

Hypnosis is always a choice.  In fact, all hypnosis is “self-hypnosis”. This means that you are always in control when in a hypnotic state.  You accept the direction of the therapist and choose to allow the therapist to lead you into a hypnotic state.  Remember hypnosis is simply an altered state of consciousness

and 90-95% of our day is spent in the subconscious!

You aren’t asleep or unconscious.  Your mind is active, and you are aware of everything happening around you. Just as you remember what happens just before you fall asleep.  You will feel deeply relaxed and possibly groggy afterward but aware of all that has happened in the session.

“Many people have said to me “Oh I can’t be hypnotized; I don’t want to lose control, or I’m not susceptible enough. Remember, hypnosis is simply an altered state of consciousness. If you can daydream; if you can go off into your own little world; if you, say leave home and when you arrive at your destination you don’t remember your journey and how you got to your destination, well that’s self-hypnosis, so yes you can be hypnotized.  You are in total control during the entire time of your treatment and you can terminate your session at any time.”

Levels of hypnosis

 Hypnosis is a spectrum of awareness that occurs in levels or stages, from light hypnosis to deep state hypnosis.

  1. Waking Suggestion – Being fully engrossed or being “in the zone”
  2. Waking Hypnosis – 1st level of hypnosis you are aware and open to suggestion
  3. Hypnoidal State: The stage of hypnosis is entered into during induction. This is a ‘light’ state of relaxation and inner focus. The hypnoidal state is characterized by fluttering eye movements.
  4. Cataleptic State: The second stage of hypnosis is a ‘deepening’ of the altered state. This level is characterized by side to side eye movements. Your conscious and subconscious are working at the same time.
  5. Somnambulistic State: This stage is the ‘trance state’ characterized by rolling upwards of the eyes. Suggestions are received on an unconscious level and the person may have no memory of hearing them.
  6. Esdailian – The deepest level where natural anesthesia occurs

Most hypnotherapy happens in the first 4 levels. In these levels overcoming bad habits, stress reduction, positive affirmation, goal visualization, and increased self-esteem is achieved. In the deeper states, hypnotherapists can work with trauma, phobias, and deeper level distorted belief systems.

What problems can be solved with hypnosis?

Perhaps the best-known therapeutic uses are for stopping smoking and losing weight. However, there are countless other applications where it can be of very great benefit.

These include:

  • Improved self-esteem
  • Stress reduction
  • Dealing with Fears, Apprehensions and Phobias
  • Pain relief
  • Speeding up the healing process
  • Confidence in public speaking
  • Improving memory
  • Sports performance enhancement
  • Body image
  • Sleep disorders
  • Grief and Loss Process
  • Eating management
  • Releasing anxiety
  • Study and Test anxiety
  • Stage Fright
  • Creating Personal Change
  • Focused Attention
  • Skin Picking
  • Obsessive Thought Patterns

Choosing a Provider

Hypnosis is not regulated in most states. Lay hypnotists are people trained in hypnosis but lacking medical, psychological, or other professional health care training. For a licensed professional, hypnosis training is in addition to their professional degrees and training.

Check to see if the hypnotherapist is a licensed health care provider.

Good candidates for hypnosis

 Hypnotherapy is very effective for people from about the age of 4 and up.  This is based largely on a client’s ability to understand, accept, and trust the suggestions and the process. Hypnotherapy works provided it is within your core beliefs and principles.  In other words, hypnotherapy cannot make you do something you really don’t want to do.  So, the following checklist will help determine if you’re indeed a good candidate.

  • Are you motivated to make a change for yourself not for others?
  • Do you have unnecessary habitual behaviors or negative belief systems that are causing you harm?
  • Can you recognize and let go of secondary gains that your negative behaviors or belief systems may be providing you?
  • Are you open to trying new things?
  • Do you believe hypnosis can work?

It’s that easy!

**Hypnosis is not recommended for a person who has psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations and delusions or for someone who is using drugs or alcohol. It should be used for pain control only after a doctor has evaluated the person for any physical disorder.

What does a typical hypnosis session consist of?

Screening and Assessment – identify the problem and assess for an individualized approach

Induction – leads you into hypnosis

Deepening – leading further into a relaxed state and deeper level of hypnosis

Safe Space – create safe space around you to begin addressing the issue/problem

Suggestions – therapist directing with suggestions, visualizations, imagery

Future pacing – Visualizing yourself now that the issue is resolved and moving into the future without the issue present

Return to Consciousness and full awareness

What clients have said after hypnosis…

I kept trying to think about it (the problem) but I just couldn’t hold it in my head.

I have more energy and I can focus

I felt like I actually got to say goodbye (grief processing)

I haven’t really thought about smoking since our session

My creativity just opened up, I’ve been painting and writing all week

I no longer head directly for the kitchen when I’m upset

I hope the above has been of help to you to understand a little bit more about hypnotherapy and its benefits.  Please call or email me with any questions or to schedule a hypnosis session.

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