What is hypnotherapy

6 June 2017

What Is Hypnos’s? The term “hypnosis” (from the Greek “hypnos”, meaning “sleep”) was coined circa 1840 by Dr James Braid. It is not quite an accurate description of the experience, as when someone is hypnotised they are not sleeping. Hypnosis is a state of mind, brought about by thorough mental and physical relaxation. During which, a persons subconscious mind is responsive to suggestions that can then influence their behaviour. It is believed that the use of hypnosis in the form of inducing trance states stretches back as far as ancient Egypt (Waterfleld 2004 pg43).

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It has also been used by cultures such as North American Indians for thousands of years. In the 1700s Franz Anton Mesmer, a doctor schooled In Vienna, developed a way of healing people using magnets. He believed that they released blockages of the patients ‘fluid flow’. As time went by he started to use electrodes and then Just his hands. He called it ‘animal magnetism’. Although his practices were discredited officially, people continued to use his methods. In 1814 Abbe Faria concluded that the success of Mesmer’s animal magnetism was down to his Influence through suggestion.

In the late 1700s the Marquis de Puysegur refined Mesmer’s techniques, also rejecting the idea of magnetising the patient. His practice focused more on listening to the patient in sessions of regular frequency and duration. The patient did not need to have convulsions to experience change as words were effective on their own. After Mesmer, various doctors employed hypnotherapy, including Sigmund Freud. But it was Milton Erickson who pioneered the technique of modern hypnosis as we recognise it today.

Hypnotherapy uses relaxation to bring a person into a state of consciousness that llows them to be influenced with suggestions to change the way they behave. The subconscious stores Information as necessary and directs our non-voluntary actions. This allows our conscious mind to operate on daily tasks we want to undertake. Hypnotherapy works by leading a person to the required mental state and accessing the subconscious. In his book ‘Hypnotherapy: A handbook’ (2012 pgl Michael Heap describes the hypnotic session in 5 stages: Stage One: This is the preparation stage.

The hypnotherapist will discuss with the client, what the client Is hoping to gain from the session and any misgivings they may have about hypnotherapy. Stage Two: The hypnotherapist will proceed with the hypnosis. Starting by relaxing the client and the ‘deepening’ the hypnosis by asking them to focus internally. Stage Three: The client will be fully hypnotised and In a state that is will make them more receptive to suggestions. The hypnotherapist will make suggestions related to the subject that he has discussed with the client.

Stage Four: The hypnotherapist brings the client back from the hypnotic state. They would that the client is becoming more alert and aware of their surroundings. Stage Five: Discussing the session and any emotions or concerns that may have arisen as a esult of the session. Hypnosis has various beneficial functions (Hadley and Staudacher 1996). It can improve sleep, reduce stress and painful symptoms. It can produce anaesthesia and organic functions such as slowing bleeding and heart rate. It can improve a persons memory and recall of information, plus increase the capacity to learn and retain information.

It can also assist in age regression, allowing the person to relive an experience they went through in the past. Hypnosis has various uses such as weight loss. It can motivate a person to lose weight, help them reprogram their eating habits and help them maintain their weight loss. It can help someone quit smoking. Helping the person break the pattern of smoking and give up permanently. It can help improve self esteem and motivation. It can assist in improving self projection, reprogram negative behaviour increase confidence and self acceptance and change the way a person regards success.

To understand the role of relaxation in hypnotherapy we must understand the states of consciousness that are conducive to hypnotherapy and the physical and psychological aspects as well. To do this, a good place to start, is to look at the different levels of consciousness that can be measured in waves and the number of ycles per second that the brain is experiencing. Beta waves (15-40 cycles per second) occur when a person is engaged, alert, and focusing on an activity. A person would experiencing these waves could, for example, be having a conversation.

Alpha waves (9 to 14 cycles per second) are slower and in this state people are more relaxed than when their brains are producing beta waves. This is a resting state which you might experience after completing a task. They are present when a person is engaged in a creative or contemplative mode. These waves also occur in meditation and light hypnosis. Theta waves (4-8 cycles per second) ccur during light sleep when someone is dreaming and some meditative states. When a person is experiencing medium to deep hypnosis they will be producing theta waves.

Another example of theta state is when a person is engaged in a task such as driving along a familiar road, their conscious mind relaxes allowing their mind to wander. It is in the theta state that suppressed memories are more likely to come to the surface- which can be useful for healing difficult past emotions. Delta waves (1 to 4 cycles per second) are the slowest, produced when a person is deeply relaxed- such as sleeping. Dreamless sleep involves waves of 2 or 3 cycles per econd. Delta waves can indicate very deep hypnosis as well.

As you can see there are different situations in which determine what activity our brain undertakes, plus physical signs that indicate the state of consciousness. In their book ‘Hypnosis for Change’ (1996 pgl 2,13) Josie Hadley and Carol Staudacher outline the mental and physical characteristics of levels of consciousness. They use game of tennis they will be in an alert state. They will have normal intellectual function, reflexive and motor response. During daydreaming (light trance) a person might be thinking of playing game of tennis. They will experience physical relaxation- slowed breathing and heart rate.

Their mind will be wandering, contemplating the possible or impossible and they will be withdrawn. In a moderate trance a person will lose awareness of their surroundings- they will be imagining themselves on a court playing tennis. Their eyes will be closed and awareness of their heartbeat and breathing may increase. Their senses will be more receptive and they will interpret anything you say to them literally. If a person was in a deep trance they would be able to feel as if they were actually playing tennis. They would reduce their energy and activity.

Their limbs would possibly stiffen or become limp. Their attention would narrow and they would lose auditory reception and environmental awareness. They may become more creative in their thinking and senses may become illusory. If a person dreams of being in a tennis match they are asleep. In this state there is a suspension of voluntary exercise and a reduction or absence of conscious thought. So it is the states of light moderate and deep trance that the hypnotherapist works with. As these are the states in which a person will be open to hypnotic suggestion.

To work on a person, the hypnotherapist will need to relax them both physically and entally. The hypnotherapist will talk a person through a series of steps to guide them in the process of relaxation. Hypnotherapists use a hypnotic screed to hypnotise someone. It is a set of instructions to guide a person into the state of hypnosis. The screed will start with the Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) to achieve physical relaxation. This involves gradually relaxing all the muscle in the body and slowing the breathing, which should in turn, slow the persons heart rate.

These physical changes will affect the persons mental state, slowing their brain activity and inducing trance states. The use of this technique, was developed by Edmond Jacobson in the 1920s. This technique involves relaxing groups of muscle in the body – starting either at the head or the toes. When Jacobson originally developed the technique it involved tensing and then relaxing the muscles. This tensing and relaxing was designed to trigger parasympathetic nervous system activity, which not only relaxed the muscles but also improved mental and emotional state of his patients.

In modern hypnosis the same effect can be achieved with suggestion that the person relax their muscle groups in various ways. Then the hypnotherapist takes he person deeper into relaxation, which could involve asking the person to picture themselves in a place that is special to them, and that they find relaxing. To encourage the person to feel fully immersed in their special place they will ask the person to engage all their senses. Once they are in their special place and in a relaxed trance the therapeutic suggestions will take effect.

The hypnotherapist will communicate the behavioural changes they will make, in accordance with what they have agreed to beforehand. Heap (2012 pg2) describes suggestion as ‘a communication, conveyed verbally by the hypnotist, that directs the subject’s magination in such a way as to elicit intended alterations in sensations, perceptions, feelings, thoughts and behaviour’. The responses the person has to suggestion during hypnosis as something they feel is happening to them. Rather than being the suggestion stage they will re-orientate the person.

This involves bringing the person back to full awareness. During the induction the hypnotherapist may have made suggestions that the person ignore any external surrounding noises, as an aid to relaxation. It is important, at this stage, to reverse any suggestions they made at he start. In ‘Hypnotherapy, A Practical Handbook’ (Karle and Boys 1987 pg10) the authors put forward the idea of Barber (1969), that the role of hypnosis is minimal and is no more effective than encouraging someone to change, with suggestions delivered with conviction.

However they conclude that ‘since hypnosis occurs spontaneously in therapy as well as in ordinary life, it seems inefficient if not actually negligent to ignore the part played by hypnosis in therapy, and to fail to take deliberate and purposeful control of these phenomena in the service of the patient'(1987 pg21). Heap (2012 pg7,8) argues, that tests have shown, relaxation is not a critical factor in the hypnotic induction. As studies conducted have shown little difference in brain activity between inductions involving relaxation and inductions that involve more active behaviour.

He defines different styles of induction, such as ‘passive relaxed’, ‘task-motivational instructions’ (encouraging the person to engage with the suggestions), ‘alert-passive’ (suggesting increasing awareness and alertness), ‘alert- active’ (suggesting alertness while the person exercises), ‘placebo’ (for example, suggesting the person has swallowed a ‘hypnosis pill’). He advises that the most important factor in the success of the hypnotherapy is whether or not it is suitable for the client, and their suggestibility, or ‘hypnotic susceptibility’ (2012 pgl 1).

But he does admit that passive-relaxed inductions are the most popular. Hypnosis is a therapeutic tool that can be used alongside conventional therapy to produce long- lasting or permanent positive changes in a persons behaviour. The role of relaxation is integral to the process of hypnotising someone. As it brings about physiological changes in the body that lead to trance states. Trance states are the states of onsciousness in which a person is most open to suggestions that will change their behaviour for the better.

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