Hypnosis is the induction of a deeply relaxed state, with increased suggestibility and suspension of critical faculties. Once in this state, sometimes called a hypnotic trance, patients are given therapeutic suggestions to encourage changes in behavior or relief of symptoms. For example, in a treatment to stop smoking, a hypnosis practitioner might suggest that the patient will no longer find smoking pleasurable or necessary. Hypnosis for a patient with arthritis might include a suggestion that the pain can be turned down like the volume of a radio.
Hypnosis is a powerful tool to help clients overcome challenging issues such as anxiety, phobias, pain management, hot flashes and more. Hypnosis is also a way to help let go of addictions like smoking, overeating and gambling. In and of itself, hypnosis is not a therapy, but it can be used in conjunction with therapy to empower and encourage the person receiving it to make positive change. Some people are more susceptible to hypnosis and will benefit more from hypnotherapy than others.
Hypnotherapy is a therapy that spans hundreds of years and has many practitioners across the United States. Researchers have studied whether hypnosis can treat a variety of medical conditions, from irritable bowel syndrome to anxiety and depression. The goal for hypnotherapy is to help a patient learn to better control their state of awareness. In the case of depression, hypnotherapy sessions may be focused on helping a person achieve a state of relaxation. In this relaxed state, they can discuss their feelings and emotions without raising stress and anxiety levels.
Although Dave Elman (1900–1967) was a noted radio host, comedian, and songwriter, he also made a name as a hypnotist. He led many courses for physicians, and in 1964 wrote the book Findings in Hypnosis, later to be retitled Hypnotherapy (published by Westwood Publishing). Perhaps the most well-known aspect of Elman's legacy is his method of induction, which was originally fashioned for speed work and later adapted for the use of medical professionals.
Although there are different techniques, clinical hypnotherapy is generally performed in a calm, therapeutic environment. The therapist will guide you into a relaxed, focused state and ask you to think about experiences and situations in positive ways that can help you change the way you think and behave. Unlike some dramatic portrayals of hypnosis in movies, books, or on stage, you will not be unconscious, asleep, or in any way out of control of yourself. You will hear the therapist’s suggestions, but it is up to you to decide whether or not to act on them.