As I see it, there are a number of common misunderstandings about hypnotherapy – and I always like people to know my views and approaches from the outset to avoid ongoing confusion! In practical terms I describe my view of hypnotherapy as being:
A therapeutic change-work process takes place, which is facilitated by hypnotic means. For me, “hypnotic means” involves guiding the client to use their own resources for resolution and change. This does involve certain shifts in our “state of mind” from what is a cognitive and conscious control of our powers of attention to a much more directed use of imagination. For instance, the idea of a client accessing their own resources for change – embodied in the metaphorical sense of their having an “inner coach” – is quite a powerful one. Our inner resources are still an integral part of our persona, although they are not always noticeable to our everyday conscious mind that is dealing with a wide variety of attention-grabbing thoughts and activities.
I work with people through many change-work processes – some therapeutic and some generative – each facilitated by a range and variety of means, one of which is hypnosis. The main theme that runs through all my work is that all the change, the learning, the therapy, belongs to and is also the responsibility of the client. This is vital for clients to understand, especially with regard to hypnotherapy – since for some there is the idea that they just need to sit in a chair, and “the magic” will happen to them! What may seem like magic sometimes does happen, yet it is because the client has been open-minded enough to move in that “magical” direction.
There are certain habitual processes (mental programs) that we run, where we have become particularly good at doing them; so good in fact that we have installed them at the level of unconscious competence – we do them without thinking almost and we seem to be unable to overcome them logically or by using that well-worn word, “willpower”! And it is when we want to change processes that are embedded at an unconscious level, that hypnosis is such a useful means of opening the door to that change. The thing to remember about the hypnotic process is this – it is a partnership between us.
Because we are all different, and everything we experience in life is totally unique to us, it goes without saying that each and every one of us will have a different subjective experience about hypnosis and everything within the hypnotic domain. Some may pre-frame it from a perspective of fear, or of scepticism – and for these people “traditional” hypnosis is unlikely to be a totally useful means of facilitation since they are reluctant to enter into that partnership in the first place. Remaining “in control” will be an over-riding factor. For most people, however, hypnosis lies somewhere in the spectrum between unfamiliarity and curiosity.
For the open-minded and imaginative individuals that make up the general populace, hypnosis is a calming, relaxing and pleasant experience, where they remain in a closely focused state of attentive consciousness, where their eyes can be either open or closed (through invitation or direction), and where they can communicate on some level with their ‘guide’ – the therapist – again depending on his invitation or direction.