Next time you decide to go to work by public transport, visit your local shopping centre, workout at your fitness studio or even sip coffee as you're talking with your friend, you'll notice downward turning heads hypnotized by a myriad of digital paraphernalia. The stream of souls silently gazing at their screens are what clinical hypnotherapists would note as the initial stages of trance. These trance states can be induced through any point of focus such as a visual object (and yes the iPhone is far more effective than a swinging pendulum) or sound. It basically enables the brain to elicit lower brainwave signals (alpha and theta) and these are the states of suggestibility and learning.
Maybe you're thinking that this can't be so since you're focused on so many things every single day. While it's understandable that your mind is trying to analyse your various states of trance during the course of the day, perhaps you can consider this to be a good thing since you're open to learning. In these deeply relaxed states a qualified (and I adamantly stress this point) hypnotherapist can offer specific suggestions to help you. It might be interesting to notice that anything that is not fully understood can generate fear. In order to dispel the fears, we can discuss the growing evidence of the use of hypnosis in a clinical setting for the relief of chronic pain, the treatment of phobias, anxiety or other unhelpful behaviours.
The more that I delved into the history of hypnosis, the more I realised how beneficial it can me as an adjunct therapy in a treatment plan. Various key elements of hypnosis such as the trance state has been part of diverse religious ceremonies for eons. Consider the regular timing of drum beats (activating alpha brain wave patterns), clapping, closing your eyes whilst praying, repetitive chants and so on.
Hypnosis in the clinical setting however, has only evolved over the last few hundred years and is still morphing into a modality that is being increasingly scrutinized. In Europe and in the US, it is an acceptable practice in numerous clinical settings such as anaesthetizing dental patients who cannot tolerate various drugs.
In the west, the use of hypnosis began in the late 1700s with Dr Franz Mesmer; an Austrian doctor who used its principles to heal many of his patients through his concept of 'animal magnetism.' Later, in the mid 1800s, a Scottish neurosurgeon named James Braid coined the word 'hypnosis' and stated that it was a form of prolonged attention that induced a trance state.
In the late 1800s its used passed from surgeons to mental health professionals and was rediscovered in the early 1900s for its ability to provide pain relief to severely injured soldiers during WWII. In 1955 the British Medical Association recommended that it be taught in medical schools and in 1958 it was approved by the American Medical Association. So why are we lagging behind in Australia?
The reasons are simply this; it's been linked with stage hypnosis which is an exaggerated view of hypnosis for entertainment purposes. In this setting the hypnotist is viewed as having magical powers to sway a captivated audience. Nothing could be further away from the truth with respect to clinical hypnosis, which incidentally, is not a quick fix. The participants are not 'zapped' but much like the placebo effect, if a person expects to be controlled by an external power, then this individual is willingly letting go of her responsibility and succumbing to someone else's suggestions.
The misconception is that the hypnotist is doing all the work.
In contrast to the perceived mind control effects of stage hypnosis, hypnotherapy aims to show the client that she has control over her own mind for the purpose of alleviating pain or other unhelpful behaviours. If you're considering this type of service, I urge you to check the therapist's qualifications, currency and whether they are affiliated with governing bodies that keep standards in place.
Depending on the type of treatment sought, only particular professionals can administer the treatment. For example, a client seeking help for irritable bowel syndrome can only be seen by a FODMAP trained individual in addition to their hypnotherapy training. Other clients with a history of mental illness such as severe depressive disorder need to be referred to a clinical psychologist. As evidence grows for its use, clinical hypnotherapy may become as common as acupuncture which, interestingly, was also viewed with suspicion when introduced to the west many years ago.
Milton Erikson, a prominent American psychotherapist during the turn of the 20th century and on whom the permissive approach to hypnotherapy was based, used his own disability; polio, colour blindness and tone deafness, to improve outcomes. This style of hypnosis is conversational, that of developing a relationship and fostering trust. Anyone can download any type of script online these days. What people crave and need, is someone who can really listen to them and address their needs in a strategic manner to get them to their goals.
Statistics form the site 'Professional Hypnotherapists of Australia Inc,' state that hypnotherapy has an approximate 80% success rate for the cessation of smoking, is 90% more effective than cognitive behavioural therapy for keeping weight off, reduces the frequency of migraines, speeds up recovery from surgery, is a compelling tool for pain management as well as a tool for raising confidence and performance. With an alarming yearly increase in anxiety in Australia; one in four people experience this condition and one in five children experience learning difficulties in school, we can keep an open mind (no pun intended) about its emergence as a viable and drug-free option for our and our loved-ones wellbeing.
3. The Australian ‘One in five children has a disability: confidential data,’ March 12, 2016
4. Bourke, Emily ‘Medical mistakes; a silent epidemic in Australian hospitals, abc.net.au,’ June, 2013
5. Yapko, Michael D. ‘Essentials of Hypnosis,’ 2nd Edition, 2015