WHAT IS HYPOSIS – FACTS, MYTHS AND MISCONCEPTIONS
Hypnosis is a natural altered state of conscious awareness that can facilitate therapeutic changes in perception, mood or behaviour. Clinical hypnosis can enable patients or clients to amplify their strengths and resources enabling them to overcome difficulties, handle challenges, and be the best that they can be in their daily lives.
Some of the areas that are commonly targeted using the focusing techniques of hypnosis include: the management of pain and the alleviation of debilitating psychological symptoms such as, anxiety, phobia, stress-related disorders and depression. Hypnosis is also often successfully used in the treatment of addictions. Empirical studies have demonstrated that hypnosis can safely enhance the efficacy of many of the therapeutic interventions used by health care practitioners.
Myths and Misconceptions about Hypnosis
Part of the Society’s mission is promoting knowledge and dispelling myths and misconceptions that are frequently associated with hypnosis.
Myth #1 – Hypnosis is about the control of one person by another
This myth is often derived from the setting of stage hypnosis where the hypnotist selects participants on the basis of their willingness to do what they’re told, their response to rapid hypnotisability and suggestibility testing in the context of entertainment. In a healing context, control is fully maintained by the patient or client who chooses when and what he or she is willing to consider.
Myth #2 – Hypnosis is caused by the power of the hypnotist
Hypnosis is a frame of mind that patients or clients allow themselves to be guided into by the therapist. All hypnosis is effectively self hypnosis and cannot be achieved without a therapeutic relationship of mutual responsiveness. Entering hypnosis is a personal choice. where the client / patient is empowered to assist with resolving the health problem being treated. Responses will vary between individuals and can be dependent on the engagement and rapport the practitioner has with their patients or clients.
Myth #3 – Only certain kinds of people can be hypnotised
Individuals vary widely in their hypnotic capacity which tends to be a stable trait over time. However, most people have experiences of hypnotic phenomena routinely in their everyday life. Have you ever had the experience of being engrossed in a task, for example, and only upon its completion noticing that you have injured (e.g. cut, bruised) yourself slightly: “I’m bleeding! How did that happen?” That’s an everyday event, yet highlights the fact that where your attention is focused determines what you do- and do not- experience.
Myth #4 – Anyone who can be hypnotised must be weak-minded
This particular misconception refers to the all-powerful image of the stage hypnotist. In reality, the healing therapist will use his or her skills to develop whatever capacity the client offers as the basis for positive outcomes. Children between the ages of 4 and 10 and pregnant women are patient groups that are particularly responsive to utilising hypnosis in a therapeutic way.
Myth #5 – Once one has been hypnotised, one can no longer resist it
Fact: When hypnosis is used for healing the therapist and client may establish a “short cut” together to make future hypnotic inductions easier. Without the process being mutually agreeable, hypnosis doesn’t happen.
Myth #6 – One can be hypnotised to say or do something against one’s will
Fact: As emphasised throughout, a person in hypnosis is focused, relaxed but fully aware. A therapist can suggest possibilities, but the client chooses what he or she will take in and use.
Myth #7 – Being hypnotised can be hazardous to your health
Fact: The process of hypnosis is generally soothing and a gentle process of guiding and teaching. The experience of hypnosis in itself is not harmful, but an insensitive comment or a piece of bad advice may do damage. Thus, the value of a well trained, well qualified clinician is important, just as it is in any healing. The client is encouraged to choose a therapist with reputable training and experience relevant to his/her needs.
Myth #8 – One can become “stuck” in hypnosis
Fact: Hypnosis involves focused attention. It is literally impossible to become “stuck” in a state of concentration. One can shift one’s attention any time one wishes. Can you imagine getting “stuck” in reading an absorbing book?
Myth #9 – One is asleep or unconscious in hypnosis
Fact: Hypnosis is not sleep! Ever-present is some level of awareness of current goings-on. The goal is to use your mind in new and focused ways, not put it to sleep!
Myth #10 – Hypnosis always involves a ritual of induction
Fact: When we consider that hypnosis occurs spontaneously in everyday life, it should be apparent that it does not have to be formally induced.
Myth #11 – Hypnosis is simply relaxation
Fact: Relaxation feels good but it is simply a step on the path towards more complex experiences in hypnosis. People can be mentally and/or physically active in hypnosis, such as the “peak performance” experiences people often have when they’re focused and striving to achieve something important to them.
Myth #12 – Clinical hypnosis is a specific type of therapy
Fact: Hypnosis is a tool used to focus and absorb people in new possibilities. Thus, it’s a complement to specific forms of treatment in other therapeutic styles, such as cognitive behaviour therapy, mindfulness and psychodynamic approaches. You will find as many ways of doing hypnosis as there are therapists.
Myth #13 – Hypnosis may be used to accurately recall everything that has happened to you
Fact: Memory is no more reliable because it was obtained through hypnosis. Hypnosis cannot be used to uncover the truth of what actually happened in someone’s past. Memory as a process is far more complicated than the computer metaphor sometimes used in popular thinking.
Adapted from Trancework 3rd Edition by Michael D. Yapko, Ph.D. (2003) (pp. 25-55. New York, NY: Brunner-Routledge.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I find someone who practises hypnosis?
Please check the referral list on this website. Our members are tertiary-qualified health care professionals who have undertaken additional studies in the area of hypnosis and have passed the requirements for full membership of the Australian Society of Hypnosis.
How do I know if a therapist is any good?
It is important to locate a therapist who has undergone formal preparation through training and examination. Your doctor may be able to recommend someone. S/he may have a friend or colleague who has been helped through hypnosis.
How much will I have to pay?
You need to discuss this with the professional you choose.
Are there any rebates for hypnosis?
Private Health Funds may offer rebates for services from dentists or psychologists. Medicare may offer rebates for services from doctors, psychologists and social workers.
How many sessions will I need?
The number of sessions you need depends on the issues that you wish to deal with. You need to discuss the matter with the professional you see.
Are members of the Australian Society of Hypnosis WA bound by a code of ethics?
The Members of ASH WA are bound by the ethics of their respective professions, as well as the Code of Ethics of the Australian Society of Hypnosis (ASH) with which we are affiliated. Broadly, these state that a member of ASH shall always place first the welfare of the patient/client when using hypnosis or a hypnotic technique in clinical practice.
ASH WA requires its members to abide by the ethical standards laid down by the recognized national professional association to which they are eligible to belong. Each member of ASH WA must limit their use of hypnosis to their own professional area of competence, and a member of ASH WA shall not offer services for the purposes of public entertainment.
What can I do if I am dissatisfied with the service I receive?
Anyone has the right to complain about the conduct, competence or capacity of a practitioner who uses hypnosis/hypnotherapy. Please contact ASH WA, if you are concerned about treatment you have received.