Contrary to popular notion, hypnosis is not an obscure practice customarily carried out only by charlatans or mediums. Hypnosis is a legitimate therapeutic tool utilised by some in the medical community. In the field of psychiatry, hypnosis is known as hypnotherapy, a very helpful aid in the practice of psychotherapy.
The Hypnotic Spell
Hypnosis or hypnotherapy employs guided relaxation and sustained concentration on something to bring about a trance. A trance is a state in which a person is so highly aware or focused on something specific that external stimuli is blocked out or ignored. A hypnotised person is so engrossed on his point of focus that he does not register anything going on around him for the time being.
For the skilled psychiatrist, hypnotherapy can be a very effective adjunctive treatment. Hypnosis can be a useful behaviour modification tool and as such can prove to be invaluable to the field of psychotherapy which seeks to change behaviours and mindsets in treating many mental disorders. Under the state of a hypnotic trance, patients can perceive and explore painful memories, thoughts, and feelings that may be present in their subconscious minds but hidden from their conscious ones.
What Hypnosis is Used For
Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis (a type of psychotherapy) criticised hypnotherapy and consequently only reinforced the negative perception hypnotism was getting over fifty years ago. However, after WWII, hypnotism gained favourable ground and is now an internationally acknowledged valid medical method to treat not only psychiatric conditions but also such physical
diseases as AIDS, asthma, eczema, and irritable bowel syndrome.
In psychiatry, hypnotism is basically used for:
- Removing symptoms of mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression
- Decreasing stress
- Treating psychological traumas
- Treat phobias
- Alleviate chronic pain such as arthritic pain
- Manage psychosomatic symptoms such as high blood pressure brought about by anxiety
- Control destructive behavioural impulses such as those typified by anorexia, gambling, and sexual addiction
Two Types of Hypnosis
As a therapeutic aid, hypnotism may be used as two different strategies:
- Analysis Therapy
Hypnosis is used to relax the patient and bring him to a point where he and the therapist may pinpoint the root cause of the mental problem. The cause is usually a painful memory hidden by the brain in its subconscious area. Once the original trauma has been uncovered, it can now be addressed with behavioural therapy, counselling, and other psychotherapy treatments.
- Suggestion Therapy
Destructive behaviour such as smoking, drinking, or hair pulling can be minimised or eliminated by the suggestive power of hypnotherapy. Hypnosis opens patients up to suggestions to change bad habits, alter their perceptions, and even adapt to sensations. As such, hypnosis has also proven to be very useful for pain management.
Does Hypnosis Work?
Yes it does, especially if the person undergoing hypnosis is highly suggestible. Research points to those who can become very engrossed in a daily task or activity (i.e. reading or painting) may be more hypnotically inclined than most.
Hypnosis is gradually brought on a willing individual through the verbal guidance of a hypnotherapist. The hypnotised person is neither asleep nor unconscious but is acutely aware and hyper responsive at a subconscious level. His subconscious mind is more open to suggestions and therefore has improved propensity to change unwanted behaviour when brought back to his normal mental state.
Hypnosis however is not an immediate cure. Several sessions may need to take place before some progress may be seen. Moreover, subjects must be willing patients to undergo this type of therapy for this to work because hypnosis cannot make one do what he does not want to do.
Is Hypnotherapy Safe?
Generally, hypnosis is safe but it must be performed by qualified hypnotist-physicians. Contrary to general belief, hypnosis cannot change your ethics or moral values. A person cannot be forced to do something he doesn’t want to do or change the way he thinks. The value of hypnotherapy lies with making wanted behavioural changes much easier.
As with almost anything, however, hypnotherapy can be abused. There is such a thing as regression-based hypnosis which takes the patient backwards through his life in order to recover repressed memories. This can be dangerous because the hypnotist can accidentally suggest memories that never occurred. Because hypnotism puts the person under a highly suggestive mode, little add-ons to already traumatic memories may lead to additional mental health problems. Patients with a history of psychosis must talk to their physicians first before putting themselves under hypnotherapy. Hypnosis can increase the risk of a psychotic episode happening.