In the next few paragraphs I have outlined some of
the most frequently asked questions that I encounter in clinical
practice, and a brief overview of their answers. If after reading
this you have additional questions, or want more information, please
feel free to email me at chuck@Drburbridge.com.
What is a "hypnotic trance"?
Hypnosis is often described as a state of directed
or focused attention, accompanied by relaxation, and an openness
to suggestion. Many people in a light trance are reminded of the
special state between waking and sleeping, a "twilight" experience.
It is definitely not sleep, even though the word hypnosis comes
from the Greek word for sleep (hypnos). The brain waves occurring
during hypnosis are different from the brain waves occurring during
sleep. People respond to hypnosis in many different ways. Often,
a person in hypnosis simply feels relaxed, accompanied by changes
in their body, such as a "floating" feeling. Some people describe
what they experience as an altered state of consciousness. Others
refer to their experience as concentrated attention accompanied
by pleasant feelings. There are many variations on these themes.
Is "spontaneous hypnosis" a rare
Actually, it is thought that people are moving in
and out of "mini" trance states at various times during each day.
From this perspective, being lost in a daydream, or absorbed in
a beautiful sunset, are considered light hypnotic trances. One way
of thinking of this, is that natural trance states, occurring spontaneously,
are the body's way of using the mind to assist us in taking a step
back from the tensions of daily life. If one were to measure blood
pressure or heart rate during these experiences, it might provide
surprising evidence of the power of this spontaneous, periodic,
relaxation. Since these happen automatically, almost outside our
awareness, it is easy to see that we have inside us a built in stress-reducing
mechanism, attuned to our own unique life experiences. The challenge
for the hypnotic subject is to bring this process closer to conscious
I've heard of the term "hypnotic
induction." What is it?
A formal induction is really an experiential process
of purposefully entering into the hypnotic state with your therapist
acting as a guide. You see, even though people often find themselves
in spontaneous trances, and they may even know something about how
this assists them, they usually need to learn how to do it at the
times when they have a need. The induction behavior outlines for
a person the exact steps that they are to take in order to evoke
the trance response. In this manner, they can reproduce this state
when it is important to do so. | ^top
Are you saying that I can learn
to hypnotize myself?
I most certainly am! From my point of view, all hypnosis
is self-hypnosis. All I will do is to assist you as you learn to
achieve this relaxing and pleasant state of mind. As you might imagine,
this increased control can be extremely helpful. Other assistance
is also often helpful. For instance, in the case of managing chronic
pain, or in fear of a medical procedure, an audio tape could be
made to be used as the person needed it. They can even take the
tape with them and use it during the procedure. | ^top
Not everyone can achieve really deep levels of trance,
of the kind needed, for example, to undergo surgery without anesthesia.
However, since most hypnotic problem solving occurs at light to
medium levels of trance, most people can derive some benefit from
hypnosis. Some people are clearly more hypnotizable than others.
The key ingredients, in addition to innate hypnotic capacity, are
motivation, expectancy, and trust in the professional teaching the
hypnotic skills. For example, a person with only light to moderate
trance "capacity," but who was nevertheless motivated to do well
in reducing anxiety about flying because their job depended on frequent
flights, is likely to get a better result than might ordinarily
be expected. | ^top
Will I lose control in hypnosis?
Far from it! Since the purpose of hypnosis is to enhance
and develop your ability to control yourself, exactly the opposite
will happen. You will find yourself aware of who you are and where
you are while in trance. Though it may be easier to experience suggestions
that are in line with what you believe and want, by no means will
hypnosis force you to do distasteful things, or to have experiences
that are unlike you. Many people believe that hypnosis affects control
negatively because of what they have seen stage hypnotists perform.
The most frequent comment that I hear is, "You won't make me cluck
like a chicken, will you?" Unfortunately, these ideas keep people
from seeking legitimate hypnotic treatment. The truth is that while
in hypnosis, YOU are in control, since all hypnosis is essentially
self-hypnosis. The hypnotist functions as a guide and teacher of
the skills needed. | ^top
Is hypnosis a type of therapy?
There has been much debate about this. The American
Society of Clinical Hypnosis states that hypnosis is not a specific
kind of therapy, such as psychoanalysis or cognitive-behavior therapy.
It is really a way of assisting people in utilizing their minds
to facilitate therapy. In fact, many different therapeutic
approaches may be utilized within a given hypnotic experience. In
other words, hypnosis is not a treatment in itself; it is often
said that professionals do not treat patients with hypnosis,
but in hypnosis. In fact, this is exactly why training in
hypnosis, in and of itself, is not sufficient in order to conduct
therapy. The American Psychological Association and the American
Society of Clinical Hypnosis believe that clinical hypnosis should
only be used by properly licensed and credentialed health care professionals
who have been specially trained in the use of hypnosis, and who
are working on clinical problems within their areas of professional
expertise. | ^top
How long will treatments with clinical
Of course, as with other treatments, this depends
on the type of problem that you have, your motivation to change,
and the kind of outcome or results that you are seeking. Treatment
can be as brief as one to three sessions for something like public
speaking anxiety, fear of flying, or smoking cessation. If the problem
is more complicated, or if hypnosis is to be used together with
other forms of psychotherapy, treatment could take somewhat longer.
In most areas, insurance will cover a percentage of the cost of
individual psychotherapy, when provided by a licensed professional.
How do I select a professional
who is qualified to use hypnosis to help me?
It is important, first of all, to select a licensed
health care professional to provide services to you and your family,
no matter what the type of problem. Your medical doctor, and dentist,
for example, are licensed providers of health care. It is this license,
granted by the State, that protects you. Of course, you already
know this. In fact, it is so commonly accepted today that health
care providers will be licensed, that almost no one even thinks
of it any more. However, because hypnosis, and the use of hypnotic
techniques, is not regulated in New York State, unlicensed persons,
known as lay hypnotists, are plentiful.
When calling about treatment, always ask about State
Licensure in the person's particular field, for example psychology,
or medicine. If they are not licensed, they probably lack the education
required for licensure. Then ask about the professional organizations
to which they belong. Ask about whether they have achieved, in addition
to the license, a special Certification in Clinical Hypnosis. But
remember, certification, alone, is not enough. Would you go to an
unlicensed dentist or physician? Of course not!
Feel free to ask if the person is Licensed by
the state and Certified by the American Society of Clinical
Hypnosis, and a member of another professional society, such
as the American Psychological Association. This kind of careful
questioning can help to avoid entering into relationships with persons
who may engage in fraudulent or unethical practices. Once you are
comfortable that the person is qualified, you may wish to discuss
your problem briefly, and ask if hypnosis is an appropriate treatment
for it. If so, ask how would that be done. If not, ask what might
be a more appropriate approach to treatment. The person should be
able to make reasonable responses to this kind of inquiry. If they
do, the next step may be to sit down with them face-to-face, and
discuss things in more detail.
This series of questions and answers was designed
to satisfy an individual's initial curiosity about clinical hypnosis.
If these questions have stirred your interest, perhaps you'll want
to browse the other pages of this site. You can turn to the Case
Studies section for real-world, clinical examples demonstrating
how the technique is used in my psychotherapy practice. You may
also wish to look at testimonials from
patients who have benefited from hypnosis in resolving their problems.