Clinical hypnosis refers to a specific state of awareness used to assist clients in reaching their goals or alleviating distress. It is not its own type of therapy, but rather one technique among many that can be helpful to some clients at certain times during the therapy relationship.
Many have heard of people using clinical hypnosis to stop smoking or deal with a phobia; however, it is also used to treat things like anxiety and stress. In other environments, such as medical practices or hospitals, it is used by doctors to treat things like headaches and as an alternative to chemical anesthesia. A position statement issued by the American Psychiatric Association in 2009 notes that randomized clinical trials have shown the effectiveness of clinical hypnosis in treating a variety of medical and mental health issues.
In clinical hypnosis, the therapist helps the client achieve a state of trance. Trance states are also commonly referred to as being “in the zone” or “flow.” A good example is highway hypnosis, when at the end of a long road trip we feel like barely any time has passed. Another example is when we become engrossed in watching a favorite series. Everyone experiences trance sometimes, and it is a normal part of human experience.
In clinical hypnosis, you don’t do or say things contrary to your personal values. You’re also not under the control of the therapist. In actuality, the therapist is there to help guide you in focusing your thinking and attention so that healing can take place.
OTHER MYTHS ABOUT HYPNOSIS
- You don’t go to sleep during clinical hypnosis
- You cannot become stuck in a trance state, or unable to move or speak
- Healthcare practitioners using clinical hypnosis in therapy do not use it for past-life regression
- Hypnosis does not recover repressed memories, or let you remember events that happened before the ages of two to four
- Things you might remember while in trance are as likely to be inaccurate as any other memory
- Like all therapy techniques, clinical hypnosis cannot resolve an issue in a single visit — including stopping smoking or losing weight
CLINICAL HYPNOSIS VS. STAGE HYPNOTISM
We have all seen films or stage shows where a performer appears to make someone engage in unusual behavior in front of an audience. When most people think of hypnosis, they think of a swinging pocket watch and becoming “very sleepy.” While these scenarios can make entertaining fiction, they are very different from clinical hypnosis.
Therapists ethically practicing clinical hypnosis must have completed an appropriate graduate program; be licensed to practice by their state board; and have received specialized training in clinical hypnosis from a professionally accredited organization. My training was completed through the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH). ASCH is North America’s largest organization for training healthcare providers in the use of clinical hypnosis.
I’m always happy to discuss how clinical hypnosis might be useful for both current and future clients. Please feel free to get in touch if you’d like to schedule some time to chat.