What is Clinical Hypnosis?
Clinical hypnosis can be defined as an altered state of consciousness, awareness, or perception, a highly relaxed state in which the person's conscious and subconscious mind is focused and receptive to therapeutic suggestion. Hypnosis is a state of focused attention, a state of absorption in which a person can readily convert suggested ideas into responses and suggested perceptions into skills. Simply put, hypnosis is the science and art of building frames of the mind that help a person accomplish his or her goal.
Almost everyone has experienced an altered state at some time in his or her life. Think of those times when you were driving and you got to your destination but you have no memory of stopping at a stop light or passing by a certain landmark or remembering a section of the trip, or when you or your children were so engrossed in a TV program that you were unaware that someone else had entered the room. In fact, hypnosis is a natural state of mind that we go in and out of quite naturally. When used professionally, hypnosis is a safe procedure and the relaxation you experience is pleasant and refreshing.
In recent years hypnosis has emerged as a serious area of scientific study and practice and is being researched and applied by some of the world's most brilliant academicians and clinicians. Modern clinical hypnosis is usually dated from about 1773. The term hypnosis was coined in 1841 and the American Medical Association approved the use of hypnosis as an appropriate therapeutic technique in 1958.
What Training is Involved?
In many states, the use of hypnosis for psychotherapeutic purposes is restricted to physicians, dentists, psychologists, social workers and other health professionals licensed in their state. These professionals are permitted to use this technique in conformance with their own individual training and licensing laws. Sheldon is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker permitted to use hypnosis under his licensing. Professionals using hypnosis usually take postgraduate courses in hypnosis, along with appropriate supervision in the use of this technique. Many professionals receive additional training through continuing education workshops. The major professional hypnosis organizations require a minimum of 60 hours of instruction and appropriate supervised training. Sheldon has completed over 100 hours of training with supervision and has 18 years experience using hypnosis.
How is Hypnosis Used in Therapy?
Hypnosis can influence physical responses such as reducing pain, alter thought processes such as instilling new ways of thinking about one's problem, enhance or diminish the influences of previous experience such as abuse on current choices, extinguish negative emotional responses and amplify positive emotional responses and mood states that are consistent with personal goals as well as assist in generating new behavioral options that are more productive and satisfying.
As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who uses hypnosis on a regular basis, I have seen hypnosis eliminate the emotional pain from memories of abuse, eliminate panic attacks and flashbacks from trauma, alter negative attitudes and negative expectations that were causing problems in interpersonal relationships, eliminate destructive and self-defeating beliefs and judgments affecting self image, reduce food cravings, assist in eliminating fear of heights, fear of needles, and other phobias, reduce chronic pain, alter sleep patterns, eliminate anger, fear, and self-doubt and increase one's overall sense of emotional well-being and personal mastery. That said, not everyone responds to hypnosis in the same way. Results very. Some people have a greater positive response to hypnosis that others, but most people can get some benefit from hypnosis if nothing more than an increased capacity to relax.
Each person must be evaluated individually for the appropriate use of hypnosis. An individual plan is then established for how hypnosis will be used or not used. Hypnosis is just a tool to be used as part of a complete therapeutic process, a tool that can enhance and facilitate movement toward therapeutic goals.
How Long does Hypnotic Treatment Take?
The length of hypnotic treatment is like most other treatment procedures. It will very depending on the nature and severity of the problem. Treatment may be as short as one session to several sessions. Hypnosis if often used in conjunction with other forms of psychotherapy or energy work. Sheldon often uses hypnosis in conjunction with shamanic and energy healing methods. See Shamanism and Energy Healing.
How Much Does Hypnosis/Hypnotherapy Cost?
A one hour hypnosis session costs $110.00.
Will My Health Insurance Cover the Cost?
I use hypnosis/hypnotherapy in combination with other forms of treatment and is therefore considered as adjunctive to individual psychotherapy which is covered by most health insurance programs.
Can I Learn to Hypnosis Myself?
All hypnosis is self-hypnosis. The professional acts as a facilitator/teacher to help you achieve this relaxed, trance state. I make a CD of each hypnosis session for the client which at times can be used between sessions for reinforcement.
Misconceptions About Hypnosis.
Loss of consciousness. One of the major myths about hypnosis is that you will lose consciousness. Hypnosis is an altered level of consciousness, but you are not rendered unconscious. You will be aware of everything in the environment and hear everything that the professional is saying.
Weakening of your will. Your will is not weakened or changed in any way. You are in control and, if you wised for any reason to terminate the hypnotic state, you may do so simply by opening your eyes. You cannot be made to do anything against your will.
Spontaneous talking. Clients do not spontaneously begin talking or revealing information they wish to keep secret. You can talk while under hypnosis and you and your professional may wish to use some talking procedure in order to Assis you with your problem.
Sleep. Hypnosis is not sleep. It is very rare that someone falls asleep during hypnosis. I have had on an occasion or two when someone very tired did fall asleep and start snoring but that is very rare. During hypnosis it is important that you hear what I am saying and that you be able to talk to me.
An Example of How Hypnosis Can Be Used.
One of the ways that I use hypnosis is to help clients extinguish anxiety and panic. Let's say that a client is suffering from panic attacks. Once the client has gone into a hypnotic trance (elicited by eye-fixation, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation and other sensory suggestions), I invite the client to go to a recent time he or she had a panic attack. The client remembers such a time. I then invite the client to describe the setting (e.g., what is happening, who is there, what happened right before he or she begins to feel anxiety and panic, etc.). I invite the client to express all feelings and thoughts associated with this memory, venting the feelings, saying what he/she needs to say in this situation, perhaps things the client couldn't say at the time. The goal is to identify the thoughts, judgments, beliefs and feelings that are fueling the anxiety and panic attacks and to express them.
Once we have worked through this memory, I invite the client to access the underlying feeling or belief and invite him other to go to another time--perhaps the first time the client ever felt these feelings. This emotion is the bridge that connects the client to earlier events that may be contributing to his/her current problems. We call this the sensitizing event or events--those life experiences that set the client up to respond with anxiety and panic. The client will usually go back to an earlier time, often to childhood and will remember an event(s) where he/she felt similar feelings. I then have the client choose a memory and go through the process again. The goal is to have the client reconnect to the split-off feelings and own them--expressing them with the goal of releasing them. We examine decisions or judgments the client may have made about him/herself or the world (i.e., it's my fault, I'm stupid, you can't trust people, etc.). At this point the client decides whether this is a decision or judgment he/she wants to keep, if not, we work to make a different decision or judgment (i.e., it wasn't my fault, I was just a kid, parents are supposed to protect children, not abuse them, I'm not stupid, etc.).
I then have the client re-parent this part of themselves. Perhaps by holding this part of themselves and saying they are OK or it wasn't their fault, they are loved, etc. This brings down the anxiety that the child inside the adult is holding. I then invite the client to free this child part that has been trapped in this memory by either inviting the adult self or another trusted person into the memory and freeing the child, bringing the child into present time, to a relaxed safe and protected place. I invite the client to find a way to heal, love, accept, play with, etc., this previously wounded, scared and trapped part of themselves and allow the context to dissolve and fade away while holding, nurturing, loving and repairing the child inside that had been trapped in a state of fear and panic. Once we identify and work through the various sensitizing events, the client's anxiety and panic decreases and is eliminated.