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Hypnosis is not new to psychotherapy. It has been in use in medicine and psychology since the 18th century. In recent decades, it has made a come-back, integrating with modern therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy.

Cognitive hypnotherapy combines two therapies: clinical hypnosis and cognitive behavioural therapy.

Hypnotherapy used in psychotherapy taps into a state of consciousness called the subconscious where your attention is focused and absorbed in order to facilitate change in perception, mood, and behaviour. I have used it to treat a broad range of concerns such as anxiety, stress, mood, chronic pain, trauma, sleep problems, cravings and addictions, motivation and even menopause symptoms.

It is gentle and safe, allowing your subconscious mind to process new ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving at its own speed.

Here is how a session of clinical or cognitive hypnotherapy would unfold:

1) First, an explanation: hypnosis is like that state between wakefulness and sleep, just before you nod off. You are very relaxed yet awake.

2) Next, I explain that we all experience hypnotic states such as when you drive home from work and say, ‘Hey, I don’t remember my trip home!’ That is because you were on autopilot; your procedural memory had kicked in.

3) Then we discuss the myths, what hypnosis is and is not. It is not sleep. It’s not mind control. The hypnotherapist is a facilitator, not a director, whose role it is to assist your mind to process via therapeutic questions and suggestions.

4) Next is the therapy part of hypno-therapy. We start with what is called an “induction” to induce a hypnotic state, allowing the active conscious mind to settle into the inner (subconscious) world to bring a sharp internal focus. This is often done with a relaxation induction to let the body relax deeply and a ‘deepener’, to go even deeper into the subconscious such as walking down steps of a staircase of relaxation.

5) Then we allow the person to find a safe place or healing place either real, imagined, or both. Having a safe/healing place is very important for those who have not had safety in their lives. The safe place, once imagined, is brought into the body so the person always has a place of safety and security whenever and wherever they are.

6) Next is the treatment stage of clinical hypnosis. For example, a client tells me they have been anxious “all her life”. In other words, anxiety has been a part of her life for many years, not a recent occurrence. This is where hypnotherapy is very helpful in that the anxiety has a set of thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, often at an unconscious level and tapping in the subconscious to access the thoughts driving the anxiety allows them to come into awareness. So, when I use cognitive hypnotherapy, I am aiming to access those thoughts which are causing the anxiety via the subconscious.

7) The last part of the hypnotherapy is post-hypnosis suggestion where I make suggestions for the person to continue using the positive (realistic, reassuring, calming, etc) thoughts now and into the future.

8) Finally positive self-hypnosis (PSH) is a critical part of the session so the mind can continue its work after the session. I do this by having the client audiotape the session from their mobile phone and listen to the recording regularly between sessions.

Some common questions people have about hypnotherapy

Will I remember what is said during hypnosis?”

Well, you might consciously remember everything, you might remember bits and pieces, or you might remember nothing. And there’s a chance you might start remembering later on and/or feel differently (for example, calmer, fewer cravings, etc). In other words, we don’t know what the subconscious will connect with. We tell clients to keep noticing the process with curiosity, and take note of any positive changes and positive self-hypnosis.

“How many sessions do you need?”

That will depend on the condition. Clinical hypnosis can be quite a fast therapy for addictions like smoking. However, for conditions like PTSD or long-standing depression, the therapy is longer. Clinical hypnosis is a therapy, not a magic bullet, so the client’s best outcome is when the client starts using PSH to rewrite the brain.

If you are curious about hypnotherapy and how it might be able to assist you, book a session with me here and let’s talk!

Blog post written by Barbara Fretz, Registered Clinical Counsellor and Hypnotherapist at The Wellbeing Psychologist