Many people have misconceptions about what hypnosis does, or doesn’t do, often based on what they see in comedy clubs or other stages. Clinical hypnosis is a very helpful type of treatment which has good utility for problems such as pain management, anxiety, childbirth, phobias, medical problems such as dermatitis or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Depending on a client’s readiness to change, hypnosis can also be a helpful part of treatment for what we call habit control problems such as smoking cessation or weight management. Generally, hypnosis is only a PART of the treatment for habit control and it works best if clients are also changing their behaviors and understanding what motivates and triggers their habits as well.
So, what is clinical hypnosis if it doesn’t make you cluck like a chicken or say and do silly things that embarass you in front of large groups of people? Essentially, clinical hypnosis is a guided trance. Trance, although it might sound scary, is a natural state and virtually everyone experiences it at different points in time. Think about if you have ever been driving and don’t really remember going from point A to point B, or you missed an exit, because you were lost in thought. That’s what we call naturalistic trance. Think about if you’ve ever been reading a book, got really absorbed and lost track of how long you’d been reading. That’s naturalistic trance. Daydreaming? Same thing. Clinical hypnosis simply uses a person’s ability at “spacing out” in a guided manner to help them resolve problems. Essentially, it’s “getting under the radar” of the conscious mind to unlock a vast array of tools people generally have but don’t know about or don’t know how to use effectively, and which are in what we call the unconscious mind.
There are basically two schools of thought, which really overlap quite a bit, for training in hypnosis. The first is a more traditional form of hypnosis that often is more directive and straight forward. That traditional type is what is taught at most training programs. The American Society of Clinical Hypnosis is one of the most respected organizations providing the more traditional type of hypnosis. The second type is what we call “Ericksonian” hypnosis after a psychiatrist named Milton Erickson. He taught ways of using indirect or more subtle methods, often including stories or metaphors, although he certainly could also be very directive. There are a number of training programs associated with Erickson, the original being the Milton H. Erickson Foundation located in Phoenix, AZ. I have received training from, and taught other professionals at, both ASCH and the Erickson Foundation. You can learn more about either organization online.