FAQ's About Hypnosis
There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about hypnosis, and I've addressed the main ones in my FAQ's About Hypnosis. If you have any other questions or concerns, please submit them here and I will update this post accordingly.
1. What is the difference between hypnosis and hypnotherapy?
Depending on the laws and regulations where you live, there may be certain requirements for a practitioner to call themselves either a hypnotist or hypnotherapist. In some places, the profession is not regulated at all. Generally speaking, a hypnotherapist has university or college level training in psychology, mental health and/or counselling in addition to hypnosis training, while a hypnotist typically does not. Depending where you live, this is not always true. Sometimes certified hypnotherapists prefer to call themselves hypnotists as the term is more recognizable.
Some people who call themselves certified hypnotists and hypnotherapists have as little as one day of training in hypnosis and/or were certified via an online course without any practical experience; and others have trained for hundreds of hours. Check credentials if this is important to you.
In terms of the services you receive from a hypnotherapist compared to a hypnotist, it depends on the challenge you are working on. For something like smoking cessation, there may not be any difference at all. If you are seeking help with a concern like anxiety, a practitioner with a mental health background may provide counselling and/or use other modalities such as cognitive behavioral therapy in combination with hypnosis.
An educated and ethical practitioner will refer you to another professional if they do not have adequate skills or training to help you with the challenge you are seeking services for. They will never work outside of their scope of practice, and they'll be honest with you about the limits of their professional expertise. This is especially important if you are seeking services to help you heal from trauma.
Barb Davies' credentials are outlined on the About page.
2. I've heard that hypnosis is mind control. Is this true?
Many people are afraid of experiencing hypnosis as they fear being placed under the control of their hypnosis practitioner. Actually, the state called hypnosis is a very natural state that we drift in and out of several times each day, including when we wake up and when we fall asleep. It's the state between awake and asleep, and the state we are in when we are daydreaming or when we “zone out” when performing actions on “auto-pilot” like highway driving. It's the same state one is in when they meditate. During a state of hypnosis, our conscious mind takes a break, our subconscious mind is more active, and we are able to concentrate, problem solve and make the changes we want more easily.
Your practitioner will guide you through an imagined and/or metaphorical experience, giving your subconscious mind several hypnotic suggestions to help you make the changes you desire. These hypnotic suggestions are provided by the client before the hypnosis session. If the hypnotic suggestions are contrary to the client's values, moral code or desires, or the client is resistant to the changes outlined by the hypnotherapist, the client's subconscious mind will reject the suggestions. Therefore, the client's motivation to change is the single most important factor which determines their success with hypnosis.
Some people fear being in the hypnotic state, thinking they will readily be coerced into revealing their secrets. You are in control during the entire session, and you will not blurt out anything you don't want your hypnotherapist to know. In fact, most people find they have greater control over their thoughts, emotions and behaviors when in the hypnotic state than they do when they are in their normal, everyday conscious state of awareness.
Some people have witnessed a hypnosis stage show, and are afraid that they will be made to do ridiculous things, such as clucking like a chicken or barking like a dog. Hypnosis stage shows are for entertainment purposes only. The people who volunteer to go up on stage during these shows are aware that they are expected to entertain the audience by acting silly, and by volunteering, they agree to do so. The stage hypnotist will perform a series of exercises to screen out volunteers who are resistant to “playing the game” and entertaining the audience by following his/her hypnotic commands. Only the most hypnotizable and agreeable volunteers will remain for the whole show. I volunteered at a stage hypnosis show once as part of my training. I was aware of everything the hypnotist said, and I chose whether I wanted to complete each action he instructed us to perform. It was a lot of fun, and I recommend you try it sometime!
Like any other profession in the world, there may be a small percentage of unethical people involved. For instance, there are a few male hypnotists teaching male clients how to use hypnosis to pick up women, which is highly unethical. Hollywood movies typically portray hypnosis as mind control for shock value, which perpetuates all kinds of myths and misconceptions about hypnosis. For several years starting back in the 1940's, the CIA performed some mind control experiments using hypnosis in combination with administering drugs such as LSD to subjects and and using various torture methods, such as sensory deprivation. This is where many of the myths about hypnosis and mind control originated.
When working with a professional hypnotist or hypnotherapist, it is highly unlikely that you would ever encounter an unethical person who wishes to do you harm. Choose your practitioner carefully and ensure you feel comfortable with them before allowing them to hypnotize you.
Hypnosis is not an unconscious sleep state. Most people who work with a professional hypnotist/hypnotherapist hear every word spoken during their session, and find they experience heightened awareness, focus and concentration. If you go into a deeper state of hypnosis, you may become more absorbed in your own thoughts and not always pay attention to what your practitioner is saying. However, your subconscious mind is aware of every word, then processes and integrates later while you sleep.
3. What should I expect during a hypnosis session?
Most people find a hypnosis or hypnotherapy session to be very relaxing and enjoyable, like a pleasant daydream.
There are many different styles of hypnosis and hypnotherapy, so it's impossible to describe the typical session. Usually you spend 15 to 30 minutes or more talking with your practitioner about your goals and challenges. When it comes to the hypnosis part, sometimes you will relax with your eyes closed, listen to your practitioner and follow along as they guide you through an imaginary experience. Other times, the session will be more interactive and your eyes could be open or closed.
If you are working on emotionally charged concerns and/or trauma during your session, you may experience a feeling of emotional release during and/or after your session. Otherwise, most people report emerging from the hypnotic state feeling very calm, centered and relaxed.
During your session, if at any time you feel uncomfortable, you should let your practitioner know immediately. You can speak and/or simply open your eyes (if they are closed) to alert them to your discomfort. They can then adjust accordingly or emerge you from the hypnotic state. It is extremely rare, but should you unexpectedly recall unpleasant memories during your session and become very upset, your practitioner is trained to support you by helping you to move away from that memory and/or emerge from hypnosis.
If you meet with your hypnotist/hypnotherapist at their office, they will have everything you need. Wear loose, comfortable clothing. It's very important to use the washroom before your session. Nothing disturbs a great hypnosis session like a full bladder!
If your session is virtual, it's important to find a quiet place where you won't be disturbed. Turn off your phone. You may sit or lie down. Ensure your head is supported, especially if you choose to sit during your session. Many of my clients like to use a memory foam travel pillow to support their neck if they sit during their session. Have a blanket within reach, as you may experience changes in body temperature. You may also wish to have a glass of water close at hand. If your session is online, using headphones is preferred. You can move around or adjust yourself for comfort at any time during the session without disrupting your hypnotic state. It's best not to cross your arms or legs during the session.
Everyone experiences hypnosis in their own unique way. Some people find their limbs get very heavy, while others notice their limbs feeling very light. You could become warm or cool. You might experience a tingling sensation in your hands or feet. You may feel little tingles or itches on your face or arms. Your breathing will slow down and your muscles will relax.
4. Is hypnosis related to voodoo, black magic, devil worship or witchcraft?
No. Hypnosis has been studied extensively and there are hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific studies which confirm its effectiveness for use with self-improvement, making changes and achieving goals. Hypnosis and/or hypnotherapy protocols are based on decades of clinical research by psychologists such as Dr. Sigmund Freud, Dr. Carl Jung, and Dr. Milton Erickson. In more recent years, many neuroscientists have started studying hypnosis as well.
If you hooked up an EEG machine to your brain, you would notice that you naturally cycle through the brain wave states associated with hypnosis numerous times each day and night. These are the same brain wave states associated with meditation.
5. What if I can't be hypnotized?
As mentioned above, everyone enters and exits the brain wave states we call hypnosis naturally, numerous times each day and night. Everyone can be hypnotized. Often people don't realize how natural a state it is and as a result, don't recognize when they've been in a state of hypnosis.
Hypnosis is a skill, and the more you practice it, the easier it becomes and the better you get at using it to make the changes you desire.
About 70 to 80% of the population is considered to be of average “hypnotizability”, about 10 to 15% are highly responsive to hypnosis, and 10 to 15% are minimally responsive to hypnosis, often because they are fearful and resistant.
If you don't want to be hypnotized, hypnosis will not work very well for you. If you are highly motivated and welcome the opportunity to be hypnotized, you will likely have a more enjoyable and successful experience.
6. Can I get “stuck” in hypnosis?
No. Without getting into a very scientific explanation of all the brainwave states and how we cycle through them naturally every day and night, the simple explanation is that you will either emerge to your normal awake state, or you will sink deeper and fall asleep. If you fall asleep, you'll awaken naturally with no difficulty.
Getting “stuck” in hypnosis may make for an interesting movie plot, but it's not rooted in reality.
7. Can I get the same results for free by using self-hypnosis instead of seeing a hypnotist/hypnotherapist?
No. The results you can achieve with self-hypnosis are limited, because once you enter a deeper state of hypnosis, it's as if your conscious mind is dormant, and you're unable to consciously give yourself hypnotic suggestions to make the changes you desire. Without proper self-hypnosis training, you may inadvertently reinforce negative thoughts, emotions, behaviors and habits instead of making the changes you want. In other words, if you don't know what you're doing, you could end up feeling worse instead of better. Your hypnotist/hypnotherapist can teach you effective self-hypnosis strategies.
8. Are hypnosis, self-hypnosis and/or guided meditation audios effective?
There is a wide range of quality out there in the audio world. Some audios are quite effective and helpful, and some are not. Popularity is not necessarily a good indicator of quality and effectiveness. I strongly recommend researching the credentials first of anyone whose audios you want to listen to. There are numerous audios out there created by people who do not have proper training (or any training at all) and who are not using effective hypnotic suggestions in their audios. Some of the affirmations and hypnotic suggestions in amateur audios can result in reinforcement of negative thoughts, emotions, behaviors and habits. If you're listening to random audios on YouTube or other websites created by unknown people, you could potentially be unwittingly exposing yourself to subliminal messages that you may not approve of. Personally, I won't allow anyone I don't know and trust to access or influence my subconscious mind, and I recommend you don't either.
9. How does online hypnosis work? Is it as effective as in person sessions?
Hypnosis is equally effective when delivered online and when meeting with a hypnotist/hypnotherapist in person. However, the methods to induce a hypnotic state may be different, as some protocols won't work online. For example, I can hypnotize someone in under a minute by shaking their hand, but obviously I can't use that method with clients I work with online. Clients are guided through a hypnotic experience by listening to the voice of their hypnotherapist and following along. It doesn't matter if you are hearing my voice virtually or in person.
These are the most frequent questions I receive from clients and/or potential clients in my clinical hypnotherapy practice. Please reach out to me if you have any other questions, and I will update this page with the answers. I hope this helped you to understand and learn a bit more about the exciting world of hypnosis and its potential!
To Your Success!
Barb Davies, Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist and Registered Social Worker