By Linda G. Ritchie, Ph.D.
The word “hypnosis” is derived from the Greek word for sleep. However, it is a misnomer. Hypnosis is not the same as sleep. Hypnosis is a state of inner absorption, concentration and focused attention. It is like using a magnifying glass to focus the rays of the sun and make them more powerful. When your mind is concentrated and focused, you are able to use it more powerfully.
Clinical hypnosis refers to the therapeutic utilization of many naturally occurring phenomena – such as relaxation, improved recall of information, regression, accessing forgotten inner resources, and dreaming. Hypnosis allows people to use more of their potential.
All hypnosis is actually self-hypnosis; a trained health professional merely assists a client in learning to use these inner processes that may not have been recognized before. Professional health care providers use hypnosis in three main ways. First, they encourage the use of imagination. Mental imagery is very powerful in a focused state of attention. The mind is capable of using imagery, even if it is only symbolic, to assist us in bringing about the things we are imagining.
The second basic hypnotic method is to present ideas or suggestions to a client when he or she is in a concentrated state of attention. Ideals and suggestions that are compatible with what a person wants has a very powerful impact on the mind.
Finally, hypnosis may be used for unconscious exploration, to better understand underlying motivations or identify whether past events or experiences are associated with causing a problem. Hypnosis avoids the critical censor of the conscious mind, which often defeats what we know to be in our own best interest. The effectiveness of hypnosis appears to lie in the way in which it bypasses the critical observation and interference of the conscious mind, allowing a person’s intention for change to take effect.
Hypnosis can be used to help an individual tap into his or her natural abilities and facilitate changing dysfunctional beliefs and behaviors at the most basic levels. Hypnosis can be used for relief of depression and anxiety-related disorders and has been successfully used for pain management, habit changes, building self-esteem, and ego strengthening. It is important to keep in mind that hypnosis is like any other therapeutic modality. It is of major benefit to some individuals but individual responses do vary.
Health care professionals who practice hypnosis are not “hypnotists”, per se, they are highly trained and licensed professionals who use hypnosis along with other tools of their profession. As in choosing any health care professional, care should be exercised in selecting a provider. Hypnosis and the use of hypnotic therapies are not regulated in most states. If you are interested in hypnosis, look for a licensed health care professional who practices clinical hypnosis. Licensed health care professionals typically have six to nine years of university coursework, plus supervised training through internship and residency programs. On the other hand, lay hypnotists may be certified by lay hypnosis credentialing bodies and usually have less training.
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