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  • Writer's pictureCécile Hemery

What is hypnotherapy, really?

Updated: Oct 2

You might have been to hypnosis entertainment show and are now wondering how hypnotherapy really works. If that guy on stage was made to behave like a chicken, what could your hypnotherapist make you do? The short answer is "nothing you don't want to do". Hypnotherapy cannot make you do anything you don't want to do First of all, there is little in common between stage hypnosis and hypnotherapy. Think of Stage Hypnosis as an illusionist's show, designed and engineered to surprise you and woo you. Hypnotherapy has nothing to do with entertainment. It is a therapeutic process during which you, the client, make the decision that you are going to change something in your life, in how you act (behavioural) or how you think (cognitive). It is about understanding how your thoughts, your actions and your feelings work together as a whole and learning ways to trigger the change you wish to see in your life and coping skills to help you with challenging situations. A large part of the session with your hypnotherapist is going to be talking about what you wish to change and assessing where you are and where you want to be. The actual "hypnosis" will come as a layer to help you with understanding your emotions and reactions, and practicing different coping scenarios in the safety of your mind. Hypnotherapy is a collaboration between client and therapist. Hypnotherapy is all about collaboration. The hypnotherapist isn't doing anything to you besides simply guiding you in a journey of self-discovery and growth: unlearning the beliefs that no longer help you and building new ones that will support you in reaching your goals. It is together that you figure out out ways of change that will work for you, in your specific context, test them out - in session or in real life and observe the results. What did it feel like? What else came up? Being hypnotised isn't like being in trance or being asleep, you remain fully in control. Hypnosis is defined as a state of focused attention and increased suggestibility during which positive suggestions and imagery exercices are prompted to the person being hypnotised in order to overcome a specific challenge or bring about a specific change. It works because you are making the choice to engage with the suggestions that are offered to you, to experience or practice the feelings and situations within the imagery. You remain in full control the whole time: you are not asleep, neither are you in trance, you are engaging with your imagination. If you wanted to, you could open your eyes at any point, stand up and leave. Hypnosis is not like magic either. One session is not likely to solve all your problems, especially if they have been rooted in you for a very long time. It is very common for hypnotherapists to give "homework" after each session - imagine it as the exercices that the physiotherapist is giving you to do at home, in order to loosen your muscles and get them back moving after a sprain, for example. This is the same mechanism with hypnotherapy and how it brings about change in your thoughts and behaviours. There is a lot of clinical research that has been done on hypnotherapy and we know that it is a helpful tool to create the change people are looking for in their lives. There are different styles and approaches to hypnotherapy. I practice what is called "Cognitive and Behavioural Hypnotherapy". CBH or Hypno-CBT takes its roots into Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) techniques, has been adapted to the practice of hypnotherapy and is evidenced-based. Going to see an hypnotherapist is a process, of making the decision to bring about change, engaging in a process of self-reflection on how to make it happen, and experimenting different solutions during sessions and in-between sessions. By changing how we think, we change how we act, and by changing how we act, we change how we think. Why not give a try?

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