At some time in their lives most people have watched a film or TV programme, or maybe read a book, which has featured hypnosis or hypnotherapy in some way. As a result people sometimes have unfounded fears about hypnosis and unrealistic expectations of hypnotherapy.
The following paragraphs answer some of the more common concerns and queries raised by Amanda’s clients over recent years. If you have a query that is not covered please feel free to ask Amanda.

What is a hypnotic induction?

The method or technique that a therapist uses to guide you into hypnosis is often referred to as an induction. It is not a specific formula or magic spell, and cannot generate hypnosis unless you, the client, wish to experience hypnosis. You are in control the whole time. You can choose to follow the instructions/suggestions given to lead you into hypnosis, or you can choose not to. If you do, you’ll take yourself into hypnosis. If you don’t you’ll be wasting your (and your therapist’s) time.
There are many different forms of induction. Some take longer than others; some are more active than others. The method chosen will be the one that the therapist believes will be best suited to the client and the presenting issue.

“Can everyone experience hypnosis – might I be too strong minded for it to work?” Or “I don’t believe I can by hypnotized”

Hypnosis is such a fundamental part of being human that anybody who wants to experience hypnosis can do so under the right circumstances, though anyone who actively resists hypnosis will not become hypnotised.
Hypnosis is a natural and common phenomenon which we all experience several times a day. Those occasions when you have experienced an intense focus, and been temporarily unaware of things going on around you, you have been experiencing hypnosis (maybe whilst watching TV, or at the cinema or theatre). Even daydreams are a form of hypnosis, and we pass through hypnosis each time we fall asleep and wake up.
To benefit from hypnotherapy you will deliberately enter hypnosis. To do this you will simple need to be willing and motivated and able to concentrate just enough to follow the instructions given and allow it to happen. Some imagination helps too. If you can describe what your front door looks like (when you aren’t looking at it) you have enough imagination.
The ability to experience hypnosis does not depend on IQ, or “strength of will”. To some extent it depends on practise – the more experience you have the easier it becomes.

“Aren’t hypnotised people under the will of the hypnotist?”

Not in the least. It is extremely difficult to get a hypnotised person to do anything that is against their principles. If someone in hypnosis is offered a suggestion to do something that they disapprove of, or find morally unacceptable, they will simply ignore it (or sometimes tell the hypnotist what they think of the idea!).
Remember that the purpose of hypnotherapy is to help you achieve your aims. Any suggestions that your therapist gives you will follow from what you have told them you want to achieve, and will be designed to help you to progress. If you hear a suggestion that you don’t agree with you will just ignore it.

Hypnosis is a type of sleep, so how can it work?

Hypnotherapy is a collaborative process; both the therapist and the person they are working with are both working hard throughout the procedure.
Often hypnotized people do look like they are asleep – that is why the term “hypnosis” was coined in the first place. Looks can be deceptive though. Whilst the body of a hypnotised person may be as relaxed as you can imagine with slowed breathing, closed eyes, relaxed muscles and minimal movement, they are aware of their surroundings and can respond appropriately (otherwise they would not be able to respond to suggestions). Whilst they are mentally relaxed they are at the same time experiencing a sharp sense of focus. Their attention is on the words of the therapist and the thoughts generated in response to those words. So they can think, talk and move if needed.
Everyone is unique and will experience hypnosis in their own unique way.

How many sessions will it take?

There may still be some hypnotherapists out there who will claim to be able to “cure” things in one session. Some people who have used hypnotherapy to help them stop smoking have found one session sufficient to change them into non-smokers. Other people find that one session is not enough, and that they need further support. Remember too, that some people manage to make the decision to become a non-smoker all by themselves, never needing to smoke again, and without any help from a hypnotherapist or any of the expensive nicotine replacement products. Everyone is different, and the ease and speed of change will depend on the individual and their circumstances.
It takes persistence and commitment to generate lasting and worthwhile behavioural changes. Some issues are more complex than others. Simple things can often be dealt with in 4 or so sessions. More complex scenarios involving changes in more than one behaviour can take several more. Often therapy starts with sessions spaced at weekly intervals, though the time between sessions is likely to increase as progress is made.

“Can I recover lost memories?”

Contrary to popular belief we don’t make a narrative memory of every event that happens in our lives. There is a school of thought that takes the practical view that if a memory can’t be accessed consciously there may be good reason for this to be so, (if the memory actually exists). In which case, it seems sensible to leave well alone.
The memories we do make are influenced by our age at the time of the event, and how we were feeling when the event happened. Think about the times when you’ve been reminiscing with friends or family about a recent event. Everyone remembers things just that little bit differently. Of course, we all believe that our version of events is the correct version …
Some hypnotherapists do use regression, a way of going back to old memories during the course of their work, but each time we access a memory we “re-make” it. Details can become altered and the memory adulterated over time. Even our most vivid memories are fragile, and can be changed dramatically, especially if someone inadvertently asks leading questions.
For these reasons Amanda does not advocate the use of hypnosis to recover lost memories.

“Hypnosis is like some sort of truth serum, I’ll spill all my darkest secrets – things that I don’t want to tell anyone –even to a hypnotherapist.”

There is no evidence to support this. As indicated in an earlier paragraph, hypnotized people still retain free will, and so will not do anything that they consider to be unacceptable behaviour (including answering questions they wouldn’t answer whilst not in hypnosis).

“I’ve heard stories about people getting stuck in hypnosis. Can this happen?”
Every now and then a story will appear in the press along the lines of that someone (usually a stage hypnotist) had induced hypnosis in someone and were then unable to return them to normal waking awareness. These stories undoubtedly generate interest in the stage shows, and increase the sense of adventure perceived by the willing participants. However, when you consider that hypnosis is something we all do every day (even if we don’t realise it) it becomes obvious that even if you enter hypnosis by following someone else’s instructions, you know how to return to normal awareness without any outside help.

There are three ways to exit hypnosis.

The first is to return to normal waking awareness in response to an external stimulus. In the therapy setting this will be the sound of the hypnotist / hypnotherapist telling you to. Outside of therapy things like hearing the telephone ring or someone calling your name, smelling something different, feeling a breeze etc. can do it.

The second is to drift into sleep – and wake up normally sometime later.

The third, which applies to people experienced in self-hypnosis, is to set yourself a time limit for your hypnotic experience– say half an hour. At the start of the process tell yourself that you will return to normal awareness after this length of time, and with practice, it will happen (though to begin with it is a good idea to set an alarm of some sort).

Was I really hypnotized? I remembered every word of the session
Whilst some people do exhibit spontaneous amnesia following a hypnotherapy session, others remain fully aware throughout. In fact, most hypnotherapists I know prefer it if their clients do remain aware and responsive. Remember that hypnosis is a state of focus, and as such is often associated with heightened awareness. So it really is common for people to remember a greater proportion of what went on during hypnosis than they would during a normal conversation.
Is hypnosis itself a form of therapy?
Hypnosis is simply a way of focusing the mind. This focus is used to enhance the effectiveness of therapeutic techniques that also work without hypnosis.
When hypnosis is induced in a relaxing way it can produce feelings of calm and peace, which itself can be beneficial, but this is not considered to be a targeted form of therapy.

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