Hypnosis a Misunderstood Treatment Option
> 6/26/2008 2:37:00 PM


Hypnosis has been parodied and pilloried across many media, but the popular image of the practice does not do justice to its many legitimate uses. Mental health professionals across a wide range of practices use hypnotherapy, and most of its contemporary forms do not consist of dangling a pocketwatch in front of a subject before commanding him or her to walk into walls and bark like a dog.

The practice is almost always performed by licensed therapists, doctors or nurses, and it is similar to disciplines like meditation, acupuncture, deep relaxation, and intensive yoga or tai chi on the therapeutic spectrum. Hypnotherapy also conforms to some of the standards defining cognitive behavioral therapy wherein a practitioner brings a client into a hypnotic state in order to heighten his or her suggestibility regarding specific behavioral changes. Hypnosis often compliments medication and regular therapy for those suffering from any number of mental illnesses. It does not diminish a client’s free will and may, in fact, heighten one’s own self-awareness as the body relaxes and the mind gains a greater sense of focus.

In a majority of hypnotherapy situations repeated mantra-like refrains, spoken in a soothing voice and backed by a reassuring touch and environmental sounds or smells, gradually draw clients into a hypnotic state. The techniques that follow run almost exclusively on the belief that hypnotized clients have fewer mental and emotional blockades, leaving them more susceptible to both the power of suggestion and the possibility of personal insight. Sessions will run approximately one hour, and therapists usually discuss the experience with clients after they emerge from hypnosis, noting significant thoughts and emotional cues that occurred during the brief trance period.

The physical effects of the practice are very real. A state of relaxation created by hypnosis lowers heart rate and blood pressure readings, and relieves the tension that often troubles interested parties. Frequently included in a hypnotherapy program are exercises like sequential muscle relaxation in which a client subsequently flexes and releases various muscle groups with the ultimate goal of freeing them from an underlying emotional tension that extends to all parts of the body.

Final results vary from client to client but many see benefits from a typical treatment course approximately ten sessions in length, and most therapists also teach self-hypnosis for practice in the home. Because of these short-term schedules and high turnover rates, the field is highly competitive, rendering professional qualifications all the more important.

Hypnosis is utilized in the treatment of a wide variety of complaints. Severe pain and chronic anxiety are perhaps the most common, but the list also includes insomnia, PTSD, smoking and substance abuse, labor pains, disordered eating, problematic childhood habits, various phobias and, yes, even bowel disorders. Research has proven the generally efficiency of hypnosis in treating each of these conditions. Its ability to help individuals deal with repressed memories such as those common to the victims of PTSD and chronic anxiety disorders is well known.

Hypnosis has been plagued by a long history of misinformation and perception problems. Many insurance plans still offer no form of coverage for hypnotherapy, and a large portion of the public associates its practice with basement palm readers and phone book ads touting the miraculous loss of “30 lbs. in 3 wks!” Research, however, continues to affirm its validity. As recently as 1995, studies conducted by the National Institute of Health found strong evidence of significant pain relief among cancer patients treated with hypnotherapy. For those open to its potential, it can serve as a beneficial compliment to more traditional forms of mental health treatment. Even if it continues to serve as eternal fodder for cartoons and sketch comedy, the art of hypnosis may provide a missing link for therapy clients looking for another way to achieve the results they seek.

Drug Abuse
Sexual Addiction
Eating Disorders
Alzheimer's Disease

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