What is it?

During hypnosis the patient enters a relaxed state, in which respiration, heart and metabolic rates slow down and the conscious mind is bypassed, leaving the unconscious or sub-conscious mind open to suggestion.

The use of trance states to facilitate healing dates back to ancient times. Modern hypnotherapy developed from Austrian physician Anton Mesmer’s work on animal magnetism in the 1800s and work by psychologists and neurobiologists in the 1900s.

Hypnotherapists usually encourage light- or medium-trance states, in which the patient remains fully aware of everything that’s going on. A small proportion of susceptible people can be placed in deep-trance states in which all conscious awareness is lost.

Two main types of hypnosis are used today. The most common is induction hypnosis, whereby the practitioner talks the patient into a deeply relaxed state and implants mental healing suggestions. Psychiatrist Milton Erickson (1901-80) developed a less authoritarian approach in which inductions and solutions aren’t imposed. Instead, impromptu suggestions are made during everyday trance states and the patient remains in control.

Erickson’s work has also been developed into self-hypnosis techniques. These typically involve self-induction using four stages: relaxation, deepening (mentally counting down from ten to one into an increasingly relaxed state), application of ‘suggestions’ and formal ending (mentally counting oneself back up into fully alert consciousness).

The ‘suggestions’ are positive statements about a desired behaviour or outcome that are used to programme the subconscious mind during the relaxed state. Try for yourself with our self-hypnosis exercise.
What’s it used for?

Hypnotherapy has been widely researched and proved successful in the treatment of many conditions including anxiety, phobias, addictions, weight problems, pain, insomniaand high blood pressure. In the hands of qualified, experienced and trustworthy practitioners, hypnotherapy is safe.
Further information

If you’d like to learn more about hypnotherapy and its uses, the following organisations and publications may help:

National Register of Hypnotherapists & Psychotherapists
Suite B, 12 Cross Street, Nelson, Lancashire BB9 7EN
Tel: 01282 716839
Website: www.nrhp.co.uk

The Hypnotherapy Association
14 Crown Street, Chorley, Lancashire PR7 1DX
Tel: 01257 262124
Website: www.thehypnotherapyassociation.co.uk

British Society of Clinical Hypnosis
Tel: 01262 403103
Website: www.bsch.org.uk

The National College of Hypnosis & Psychotherapy
12 Cross Street, Nelson, Lancashire BB9 7EN
Tel: 01282 699378
Website: www.hypnotherapyuk.net

British Society of Medical & Dental Hypnosis
28 Dale Park Gardens, Cookridge, Leeds LS16 7PT
Tel: 07000 560309
Website: www.bsmdh.org

Secrets of Hypnotherapy by Janet Fricker and John Butler
ISBN: 0751312037

Hypnotherapy: A Handbook by Michael Heap and Windy Dryden
ISBN: 0335098878

This article was last medically reviewed by Dr Stephen Hopwood in April 2009.