Hypnotherapy is the application of hypnosis as a form of medical therapy, usually for relieving pain or conditions related to one’s state of mind. Practitioners believe that when a client enters, or believes he has entered, a state of trance , the patient is more receptive to suggestion and other therapy.
The most common use of hypnotherapy is to remedy maladies like obesity , smoking , pain , ego , anxiety , stress , amnesia , phobias , and performance but many others are also treated by hypnosis.
The roots of medicine by therapy lie in ancient societies even earlier than the Egyptians. Religious rituals were characterized by dancing , music , and masked peoples assuming new identities.
In the nineteenth century, practitioners like Franz Anton Mesmer (after whom the verb “to mesmerize ” was coined), James Braid , and Jean-Martin Charcot met resistance from society and the medical community for their novel ideas on using hypnosis to treat illness.
Sigmund Freud tried utilizing hypnosis for psychological treatment in the late 1930s but he was not successful in treating any ailment with it and gave up on it in favor of his newly developed free association technique.
Milton Erickson was one of the most successful modern hypnotherapists. He wrote many books on the subject and is a defining figure of modern hypnotherapy.
The Hypnotist-Subject relationship has been feared by some due to the practice of stage performers. In a book by Erica Fromm , it has been referred to as “archaic involvement”, listing these responses in the “patient”:
- Feeling like a child in relation to the hypnotist.
- Wanting to please the hypnotist.
- Feeling guilty at not doing what the hypnotist wants.
- Worrying the hypnotist will not like you.
- Wanting to bask in the “power and glory” of the hypnotist.
- Everything the hypnotist says and does deeply matters.
Hypnotherapy, however, usually takes place in a clinical setting, within the framework of an individual course of therapy.
- Age Regression – by returning to an earlier ego-state the patient can regain qualities they one had, but have lost. Remembering an earlier, healthier, ego-state can increase the patients strength and confidence.
- Revivification – remembering past experiences can contribute to therapy. For example; the hypnotist may ask “have you ever been in trance?” and then find it easier to revive the previous experience than attempt inducing a new state.
- Guided Imagery – a method by which the subject is given a new relaxing and beneficial experience.
- Confusion – a method developed by Milton Erickson in which the subject becomes receptive to ideas because confused.
- Repetition – the more an idea is repeated the more likely it is to be accepted and acted upon by the patient.
- Direct Suggestion – suggesting directly. “You feel safe and secure”.
- Indirect Suggestion – using “interspersal” technique and other means to cause effect.
- Mental State – people are more receptive while relaxed, sleeping, or in a trance .
- Hypnoanalysis – the client recalls moments from his past, confronting them and releasing associated emotions, similar to psychoanalysis .
- Post Hypnotic Suggestion – this is a suggestion that will be carried out after the trance has ended “When you re-awaken you will feel refreshed.”
- Binds – tension on a bind causes trance. This is like “the centipede who when asked which comes first, the left foot or the right, lost his concentration, stumbled, then rolled into the ditch”.