Good Spa Guide talks to Dr Heli Goode, experienced clinical Hypnotherapist at Ragdale Hall, to discuss the ins and outs of hypnotherapy.
What is hypnotherapy?
Hypnotherapy involves a trained practitioner guiding you through a form of deep relaxation known as hypnosis. Not to be confused with stage hypnotism, therapeutic hypnosis is designed to increase your susceptibility to suggestion in order to alter your behaviour patterns and increase motivation relating to specific life issues.
“Some experts look at hypnotic relaxation as the artificial activation of the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep, characterized by eye movements, increased brain activity and rate of respiration. It is also known as paradoxical sleep, where brain the becomes activated but the musculoskeletal system remains inactive.
“Hypnotic sleep is therefore a form of direct communication with the activated subconscious mind, helping to reprogram it with subtle repetitive suggestions using soothing voice and tone. This is aided by pleasant surroundings and a friendly, trustworthy therapist.”
What is hypnotherapy good for?
“In the safe hands of a qualified and well experienced hypnotherapist, hypnosis can be an exceptionally powerful tool.” It is considered by many people to be effective in dealing with issues including:
Irritable bowel syndrome and other chronic disorders
Depression, anxiety, and panic attacks
Chronic nail biters
Pain relief, e.g. for childbirth
“Lots of people can benefit: anyone petrified of driving on motorway, young people taking exams, pregnant mothers worried about childbirth, young future fathers concerned about becoming parents and so on. It helps to relax the mind and body in stressful times and situations, allowing the conscious mind to become more effective and focused in problem-resolving and decision making.”
Before you go
Before you embark on any form of hypnotherapy it's recommended that you talk to your GP. You'll also want to spend some time researching and ensuring that your chosen therapist is properly trained.
You should also prepare yourself mentally. “No one can be put under the spell against their own will, therefore a person must want to be relaxed and hypnotized for whatever reason it might be. He or she must be motivated to be open minded, focus on listening and want the important change in habits or attitudes to happen.”
Hypnotherapy is not deemed suitable for:
People with epilepsy
Very young children
Women in the early stages of pregnancy
People with severe mental health issues, in particular bi-polar disorder
People suffering from chronic depression
People suffering from dementia
People with an addiction to illegal drugs
People taking tranquilisers and some anti-psychotic medications
“It is also hard to relax and hypnotize those who are unwilling to open their minds to it, or those who suffer from a severe form of depression or other serious mental conditions where a specialised approach is needed and more appropriate. Otherwise – hypnotic sleep is easily achieved and in most cases – enormously enjoyed!”
What to expect from hypnotherapy
Your therapist will want to talk at length with you before undergoing any sort of hypnosis. It's important that they get a full and complete understanding of the issues you want to tackle during your session(s). You'll also need to undergo some "suggestibility" tests. There's no right or wrong answers to these little tests; they're designed to help your therapist find the most effective ways of guiding you into hypnosis.
During a hypnotherapy session you'll be aware of what's going on and be in control of your faculties at all times. Hypnosis is not a form of control in a therapeutic setting; it is essentially a form of guided meditation.
Your therapist will ensure you are comfortable, and may dim the lights or play some soothing music quietly to "set the mood". Your therapist will then guide you into the meditative state of hypnosis. Different practitioners achieve this in different ways; some may give you clear commands, others may approach your hypnosis in a more subtle manner. You'll be encouraged to close your eyes and relax, perhaps focusing on a particular object or an image in your mind.
During your hypnotherapy session, your therapist will use a range of techniques to encourage you to deal with any underlying issues that are affecting your ability to make lifestyle changes. The aim is to allow you to achieve your set goals by increasing your motivation and altering your current behaviour patterns.
Dr Heli explains: “There are some common responses which are seen in most subjects under hypnosis. First of all, a very pleasant state of relaxation involving the mind and whole body often similar to a spell of daydreaming where the time concept disappears and it feels as if the body does not exist at all anymore. Some patients report back very heavy feeling in all extremities, muscles and bones making it almost impossible to move at all, or not wanting to move.
“There is also a change in the brainwaves of a hypnotic subject supported by the measurements of EEG (electroencephalographs), such as increase in the activity of the right side of the brain regarded as the artistic, creative and non-judgemental part of the brain. Under hypnotic spell, the patient gradually allows the logical left side of the brain to become de-activated, and as a result, accepts the hypnotist’s suggestions without any conscious analysis and criticism.”
Try to relax, ask lots of questions at the beginning if there's anything you're unsure of, and remember that your therapist will be used to dealing with people who are a little nervous. If in doubt, ask.
You'll hopefully feel very relaxed by the end of the session. Take some time to reacclimatise to your surroundings and don't dash off out the door before you're ready. Many people claim to feel the positive effects of hypnotherapy from the very first session, although more complicated issues can take up to five sessions to reach a resolution.
“Results of a professional hypnotic intervention can be seen immediately or over the period of a certain time; it all depends on the need of the patient, willingness to change and the power struggle between the conscious and subconscious mind. They will often see the change happening without noticing it and only when someone else mentions the positive development; then it all becomes clear how wonderfully powerful hypnotherapy can be!”