Meeting a hypnotherapist for an interview can be unnerving. At the back of my mind, I wondered if I would be hypnotised to spill my deepest secrets or do embarrassing things such as spill the small change from my pockets.
Such worries are not uncommon, as hypnotism has been given the wrong image by Hollywood for a long time, says Sheila Menon, a Behavioural Psychologist by training and Principal for the London College of Clinical Hypnosis (LCCH) based in Petaling Jaya.
The truth is that one can only be hypnotised if they want to be, says Sheila, who became committed to hypnotherapy in 1990 after she found relief from long-term back pain with the techniques she learnt at a hypnotism workshop.
According to Sheila, hypnosis is an altered state of consciousness, where one can make contact with their inner or unconscious self.
As it enables one to form a communication between his desires and unconscious mind, it allows him to correct a wide range of problems, from unwanted habits (smoking, bed wetting, over-eating) to emotional disorders (depression, phobias, stress, sleep problems, low self confidence) to medical problems (pain management, skin problems, sexual disorders, premenstrual tension, high blood pressure).
In other words, hypnosis can be clinically applied as treatment for a variety of medical and psychological problems. Studies show that 85% of people respond well to clinical hypnotherapy, and it may succeed where many conventional methods of treatment have failed to work when carried out by a professionally trained hypnotherapist.
It is a safe, non-invasive way of healing with no harmful side effects, says Sheila. Correctly applied, the effects can be long-lasting and permanent. But it will only work if the person involved is willing to be hypnotised.
How does it work?
The subconscious mind is the source of many of our problems and self-images, where our beliefs, habits and bahaviours are stored. As such, it is a deep reservoir of our unrecognised strengths and knowledge, explains Sheila.
Before the treatment, the hypnotherapist will first discuss with the patient what he wants to achieve with the treatment. Trust and rapport needs to be built prior to treatment to ensure higher rates of success.
The patient will be put into a pleasant state of relaxation to allow him to enter a trance or subconscious state. When the conscious, rational part of the brain is temporarily bypassed, the subconscious becomes receptive to therapy as there is heightened concentration for maximizing potential, changing self-limiting beliefs and gaining insight and wisdom.
Although hypnosis may be light, medium or deep, a medium trance is usually used, as this is the state at which metabolism, breathing and heartbeat slows down and the brain produces alpha waves as it slowly relaxes.
Once the patient has achieved the alpha state, the hypnotherapist will use different therapeutic methods ranging from simple suggestions to psychoanalysis. Bearing in mind the patient’s aim of treatment, the hypnotherapist will first inquire about the patient’s past, present or future to establish the reasons for the problem before suggesting solutions.
Ignite your senses!
Sheila explains how a patient who wants to stop smoking would be ‘persuaded’ during therapy to remember how he started smoking in the first place and how different it would be not to smoke. To achieve this, the patient would be asked to focus on all his five senses to make the experience as complete as possible.
For instance, he may be asked to think of how his fingers stink after having a puff, how the smoke smarts as it swirls around his face and into his nostrils, how it tastes as he draws in his breath.
Following that, he’ll be asked to remember the smell of freshly baked bread or any of his favourite foods, or how it feels to have fresh breath again. Just remembering how it felt NOT to smoke again is a good motivator for him to drop the habit, Sheila explains.
Many people are now learning self-hypnosis to become more successful in their daily lives, whether for personal, business or sport. Others learn to become therapists so that they can have a rewarding career in helping others on the road to recovery. Health-care professionals, teachers, counsellers and social workers may find hypnosis particularly useful to be inculcated into the work they already do.
Mind Over Matter
Pain is a constant companion to many chronic diseases. It incapacitates, making one feel helpless and hopeless. But you can change your perception if you can change your experience, says Peter Mabbutt, a clinical hypnotherapist and author of ‘Hypnotherapy For Dummies’.
The oldest use of clinical hypnosis is in dentistry and during war when no anesthesia is available. Through clinical hypnosis, the mind can be powerful enough to push the body beyond its limitations.
“In pain management, we study the psychology of pain and change the perception of pain in the brain. It is especially useful when conventional methods of pain relief are not working. When the perception of pain is changed, the pain threshold or tolerance of pain is increased, therefore the patient feels more comfortable and less pain,” explains Peter.
It’s all about giving the patient a sense of self-control. “When a patient is given medication, it is a passive act. Hypnotherapy is interactive, where the patient is empowered to believe that he can do something about his condition, starting with pain control.”
The patient will need to put in effort and time to achieve success; it’s not a magical process where the pain disappears when the hypnotherapist clicks his fingers. Most importantly, the patient starts to feel positive about his condition and will make concerted efforts for his own good, such as being compliant to his medication, exercising regularly and partaking in a social network.
TRY THIS AT HOME!
1) As you take your medication, tell yourself it is helping you. Imagine your medication disintegrating in your body and working on your disease to make you well.
2) Stroke one hand slowly with the other and imagine it to be a ‘magic glove’. As you feel the hand going numb, place it on the body part that hurts, like a hot pad.
3) Hold up the body part that hurts (such as hands and legs) and imagine the pain dripping down onto the floor.
4) For painful body parts such as the shoulders, neck or back, stand under a warm shower or waterfall and imagine your pain being washed away by the water.
5) Remove negative words from your psyche. For instance, instead of telling yourself ‘I don’t want to feel pain, I don’t want to suffer’, say to yourself ‘I feel more comfortable, I am in control.’
6) Stay away from negative people or environments.
Treatment is available for anxiety, depression, eating problems, phobias, stress, insomnia, panic disorders, low self esteem and lack of confidence, smoking cessation and nail biting and others. Fees vary according to therapy required.