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What Hypnotherapy Is and Isn't

Not Entertainment

There are a lot of misconceptions about hypnotherapy out there, and this can mean that some people may be wary of considering it as an option to improve their life. The image of hypnosis is often that of people up on stage, eating onions or barking like a dog. All good fun, but as far removed from hypnotherapy as you can imagine. Everyone on that stage has volunteered, and have decided for themselves to participate fully in the show. Hypnotherapy, on the other hand, is a process of self-improvement, not entertainment.

Who’s in control here?

However, there can be a fear that somehow the hypnotherapist will be able to control your mind… but we can’t, nor would we want to do so. What we do instead is provide plenty of positive suggestions while the client is in trance, enabling therapeutic change to happen via the subconscious mind. And there’s nothing scary about trance. We all go into trance at least twice every day; just before falling asleep at night, and upon waking up every morning. Most people easily enter a form of trance when being totally absorbed in a good TV show, getting lost in a good book or while driving. It’s that feeling you get when you focus on one thing, and the rest of the world fades away.

Hypnosis occasionally makes an appearance on television. It’s usually part of a storyline in which the hypnotized person has lost all control and becomes a “puppet.” In reality, people in a relaxed state of hypnosis remain completely in control.  They should be able to hear, comprehend, and later remember what the hypnotist suggests. There should be no concerns about being made to cluck like a chicken or sent on a murder spree while hypnotized. On television, hypnotized people never seem to remember what happened during their hypnosis. However, hypnotized people remain awake and aware throughout the session. 

I often hear people say something like “Well, you wouldn’t be able to hypnotize me!” Again, this is based on the misconception that hypnosis is something the therapist imposes on the client. Hypnotherapy is not a battle for control. If you’re capable of breathing a little slower, and relaxing a little bit while lying down, then the therapy works. You don’t have to “go under”. And we’re all susceptible to suggestion – that’s why the advertising industry exists! It is important here to emphasize that any suggestion that the client does not feel is in their best interests will be rejected.

The idea that one can become stuck in a hypnotized trance is a common misconception. In truth, hypnotized people never lose control of their mind or body, and are able to come out of the hypnotized state as easily as opening their eyes.

What does it feel like?

People who have undergone hypnosis report different feelings whilst “under.” Some describe their experience like falling asleep with the television on, while others report feeling heavy. Still others use words like “light” or “floating.” Since we all internalize experiences differently, it makes sense that the feeling of hypnosis is different for each person.


There is often a belief that hypnotherapy is “mumbo jumbo”, but there is a wealth of scientific research behind its effectiveness. Psychologists such as Freud and Jung used it, and more recently Dr. Milton Erikson and others have moved the field forward. A recent study at Stanford University identified the neural changes associated with hypnosis, and hypnosis has been used medically to perform operations without general anesthetic. The Pain Clinic at Liege University Hospital in Belgium has performed over 9000 operations in this way, demonstrating how powerful a tool it can be.


People seek out hypnotherapists for a variety of reasons. These include getting help overcoming fears and phobias, weight loss, negative and traumatizing memories, insomnia, and smoking. Hypnotherapy has even been found to assist laboring mothers by reducing pain during childbirth. More parents of children with ADHD are finding that hypnotherapy has a positive and drug-free effect on their children. According to Britain’s Pediatrics Child Health, “Hypnotherapy allows the child to gain a sense of control, increase self-esteem and competence, and reduce stress.”


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