Clinical Hypnotherapy: Myth vs. Fact

Clinical Hypnotherapy: Myth vs. Fact

This week Risa Bos, Orlando Clinical Hypnotherapist at Life Skills Resource Group demystifies the process of hypnotherapy and shares how it can be helpful in bringing lasting changes to her clients lives.

Risa Bos, MA, LMHC
Licensed Mental Health Counselor
Clinical Hypnotherapist

 Follow the pocket watch as it swings back and forth…just your eyes now.  You’re getting sleepy…very sleepy…your eyes are becoming heavy…so very heavy…  For the next few minutes, you will listen to the sound of my voice, and follow some simple commands…you are now a dog.  When you hear the sound of a bell, you will bark…in five, four, three, two, one…

“But I don’t want to be a dog!”  Don’t worry, you won’t be tricked into believing that, or any other ridiculous thing.  What people often imagine regarding clinical hypnosis is something comical, like what we see depicted in stage hypnosis experiments: the hypnotist plants a subliminal message that makes his subjects believe they are naked when then awaken, or that they are an animal who will bark or crow when they hear a certain word or sound.  Fearing loss of control, you might avoid hypnotherapy when, in fact, it could be just the approach you need in order to address emotional and behavioral concerns, whether on the conscious or subconscious level.

Hypnosis is really just a heightened state of relaxation, achieved through a deliberate and gradual process of induction : helping the client achieve a trance state through use of imagery and systematic relaxation.  The hypnotic state of trance is experienced along a continuum with some clients feeling  fully awake and aware of what’s being said,  and others feeling like they were asleep throughout the experience.  However a person experiences the trance state, the subconscious mind is accessible within that heightened state of relaxation.  A skilled hypnotherapist then uses that opportunity to access the subconscious mind and make positive suggestions, or negative associations for change in the client’s life.  For instance, if a client is struggling with addiction, the therapist might suggest that inhaling cigarette smoke burns the client’s throat like acid, or that alcohol tastes like vinegar.  Conversely, positive suggestions are made through the use of imagery, such as having the client imagine a field of flowers representing choices—all beautiful in their own way.  Or envision a ship sailing across the sea, carrying with it a troubling or traumatic memory or some distressing aspect of the client’s current life.  The suggestions are made using a soothing and calming vocal tone, which encourages and deepens the person’s state of relaxation, or trance.

Some people worry that the hypnotherapist will force them to address and re-experience something painful, and that they will not be able to escape the discomfort.  A good hypnotherapist always lets the client be in control of what he or she is ready to face.  A hand signal, for instance, can be established  before induction into hypnotic trance, that will alert the therapist to any extreme discomfort or adverse reaction the client is experiencing.  The therapist can then redirect the imagery to reduce the distress, or gently bring the client out of trance for further processing of the reaction.

Imagine that you feel a wave of calm beginning to travel through your body, beginning at your toes.  It flows through your feet, your ankles, your shins and calves…carrying with it as it travels ALL the tension and stress we often carry in our bodies. You feel the calming, gentle current over your thighs and hips, your stomach, your chest, your shoulders…and as it travels, it leaves behind lightness and peace, beginning to give you the feeling that you’re floating…

A hypnotic experience can be a lot like a spa treatment, in that the client often comes out of hypnotic trance feeling rested and calm, reporting that this feeling extends throughout their day or even several days.  What the client experiences while under hypnosis is quite pleasant; the therapist uses imagery and metaphors that the client has identified as pleasing, and usually the client comes out of the trance feeling refreshed and empowered.  In my practice, I typically use the initial hypnosis session to instill a calm, peaceful place using a setting the client has indicated as pleasant and relaxing.  Many clients, for instance, select the beach as their happy place.  With that imagery, I will help the client envision being at the beach, and experiencing all the sensory elements of being  there: what they hear, what they see, what they smell, even the taste of the salt air.  This peaceful image can then be stored within the client’s memory and later accessed when the client feels stressed or angry.

In my practice, I have used hypnosis to help clients who struggle with substance abuse, cigarette smoking, weight and fitness, traumatic memories, phobias and general anxiety.   Hypnotherapy can be incorporated into our regular course of treatment, or it may be used to supplement ongoing counseling you are undergoing with another therapist.

At Life Skills Resource Group, we have a team of skilled therapists who can address most any emotional or behavioral concern you may have.  If you are interested in hypnotherapy and would like a free phone consultation, feel free to call our office at (407)355-7378.  Read more about Risa Bos’s background and therapeutic approach.