What is Hypnotherapy?



Hypnosis - word cloud illustration

Hypnosis issues and concepts word cloud illustration. Word collage concept.

Hypnotherapy is a complementary therapy, that has been used to effect positive change for centuries. Essentially, hypnosis is a means to achieving a deeply relaxed state. Many people use hypnosis purely as a tool for relaxation. Your therapist can teach you how to practice self-hypnosis so that this pleasant state can be achieved at home as and when you choose.


Once this relaxed ‘trance’ state has been achieved, clients then have access to the part of the brain responsible for maintaining habitual behaviours and ingrained thought patterns (often referred to as the subconscious mind). Should you wish to modify an unhelpful behaviour for example, an addiction or phobia, the process of ‘reprogramming’ via the subconscious is all the more easier, and effective, making long-term changes easy!


It can be helpful to think of the brain as a computer, a vast storage space for memories, learnt emotional responses and behavioural patterns. Like any computer, faulty wiring can lead to a system’s failure, sometimes wiping away any new information that may have been added to the system to improve usability (such as reasons for quitting smoking). The brain is much the same; over time, learnt behaviours, thoughts and physical sensations are ‘encrypted’ forming strong neural pathways that can be difficult to update, consciously at least. To reboot the brain’s capacity to learn new more adaptive behaviours and psychological responses, we need to access the hard drive (the subconscious mind), to be sure that any changes made will be successful and last the test of time.

All psychological therapies aim to alleviate emotional and psychological pain, they just go about it in different ways. By far the quickest route to our brain’s control centre is via hypnosis. In fact, it is the state of deep relaxation that is the key to quietening the opposition from old habits and self-defeating thoughts.


There are many misconceptions surrounding the practice and techniques used in clinical hypnotherapy. Understandably, clients need to be fully informed of what to expect during and after hypnosis so as to make an informed decision before committing to therapy. Below are some of the myths often represented in the media and stage hypnosis shows:

Hypnosis is Sleep!

If hypnosis was used to induce sleep then no changes could be made as quite frankly, the client would probably be off snoring away for the rest of the session far away from the task in hand! During a treatment session, your brain needs to be highly alert so that they you follow the therapist’s voice throughout. The ‘trance’ state is quite simply a state of mental and physical relaxation and you can terminate a session at any point; it is in fact the pleasantness of this state that means most clients can’t be bothered to!

The Hypnotherapist has the power to change my thoughts!

Only you can change your perceptions, beliefs and ultimately, your behaviour. Hypnotherapy does involve the therapist making positive suggestions whilst the client is in trance. However, these suggestions are entirely your own and unique to you. A full assessment before treatment takes place is vital for the therapist to understand what you are looking to change, be it weight loss, anxiety, or avoidance due to a specific phobia. Behavioual change can only take place if you are willing to alter your thoughts about the problem. Therefore, the unhelpful and self-defeating thoughts maintaining the problem need to be overridden by more effective and productive thoughts. Coming to therapy, you are seeking change and therefore already have your positive thoughts about what this will mean for you. The hypnotherapist will repeat these positive affirmations to you whilst in trance to embed them firmly in your subconscious, making it almost impossible for the unhelpful thoughts to undermine your progress.  It is a scientific fact that our subconscious brain will not accept suggestions made to us in trance, if they are negative and/or go against our individual principles and values. Any such suggestions would most likely lead you to leaving trance and no doubt losing faith in your hypnotherapist.

I can’t be hypnotised!

Nearly everyone can be hypnotised, largely because clients looking to make changes are motivated to enter trance and have clear goals in sight. This is essential, as in order to make these positive changes there must be motivation and an open-mindedness towards this therapeutic approach. If someone is motivated to stop smoking but purely because their partner is asking them to do so, it may be more challenging for the therapist to help. Where there is a will there is a way!

Hypnotherapy is a form of magic!

Hypnotherapy has been discounted by many as a stage show of sorts largely because of the media’s insistence on glamourising the practice and leading us to believe that we all have the capacity to run around like ‘headless chickens’ if the order is given! In fact, hypnotherapist’s have been practicing long before the dawn of television and work in an entirely different fashion. What is shown on screen is in part a magic trick; stage hypnotists carefully select audience members who are already motivated to step up on the stage and are happy and willing to behave in any manner of ways. For the large part, most of us are motivated to do exactly the opposite and are therefore discounted at shows as willing participants. Again, individuals will not under any circumstances follow suggestions that go against their personal boundaries and values.