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Hypnosis: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is hypnosis and how does it work?

A. Hypnosis is a state of inner absorption, concentration and focused attention. It is like using a magnifying glass to focus the rays of the sun and make them more powerful. Similarly, when our minds are concentrated and focused, you generally become more receptive and responsive to the suggestions that are given.

Q. What are the advantages of hypnosis?

A. Hypnosis is a very useful therapeutic technique in that it usually enables you to relax more deeply, imagine things more vividly, remember things better, experience things more fully, and think of things with less distractions, free from critical judgement. These effects usually speed up the process of understanding and learning and facilitate more rapid change of thoughts, attitudes, emotions, and behaviors.

Q. What does it feel like to be hypnotized?

A. Most people describe hypnosis as a very pleasant experience.  You will probably feel the most relaxed you have felt in a very long time.  The things you think about and imagine are likely to seem very vivid and realistic.  Another common experience is that the suggested effects seem rather effortless.  That is, you will feel as if things are happening almost automatically without your trying to make them happen.  This is because you will be using your imagination rather than your will power.

Q. How do I know if I can be hypnotized?

A. Most people of normal and above average  intelligence can receive some benefit from training in the use of hypnosis.  Among the factors that can affect your response to hypnosis are your motivation, your ability to relax and concentrate and your level of trust with your therapist.  It is important to keep in mind that hypnosis is like any other therapeutic modality: it is of major benefit to some patients with some problems, and it is helpful with many other patients, but it can fail, just like any other clinical method. For this reason, we emphasize that we are not “hypnotists”, but health care professionals who use hypnosis along with other tools of our professions.

Q. Are you asleep or unconscious when you are hypnotized?

A. In hypnosis you are neither asleep nor unconscious.  Most of the time you feel very relaxed but you can be aware of the things going on around you if you care to.  You must be conscious and awake to be able to follow the suggestions given to you.

Q. Is hypnosis dangerous?

A.When a qualified person hypnotizes you or teaches you self-hypnosis, it is very safe. A qualified person is one who has received professional training in treating your probblem even without hypnosis and has had adequate supervised instruction in utilizing hypnotic techniques.

Q. Can you get stuck in hypnosis and have trouble coming out?

A. No. To continue to experience hypnosis, you must maintain your focus of attention on the suggestions. To terminate hypnosis you simply stop concentrating or focus your attention on something else.

Q. Can I be made to do or say something against my will in hypnosis?

A.  The basic hypnotic method is to present ideas or suggestions to the patient. In a state of concentrated attention, ideas and suggestions that are compatible with what the patient wants seem to have a more powerful impact on the mind.  In hypnosis, you are not under the control of the therapist. Hypnosis is not something imposed on people, but something they do for themselves.  The therapist simply serves as a facilitator to guide them.

Q. How can hypnosis be used  in psychotherapy?

A.  Hypnosis may be used to treat a number of problems that are addressed in psychotherapy and behavioral medicineincluding:

  • Trauma (incest, rape, physical and emotional abuse, cult abuse);
  • Anxiety and stress management;
  • Depression;
  • Bed-wetting (enuresis);
  • Sports and athletic performance;
  • Smoking cessation;
  • Obesity and weight control;
  • Sexual dysfunctions;
  • Sleep disorders;
  • Concentration difficulties, test anxiety and learning disorders

Of course, some individuals seem to have higher native hypnotic talent and capacity that may allow them to benefit more readily from hypnosis. It is important to keep in mind that hypnosis is like any other therapeutic modality; it is of major benefit to some patients with some problems, and it is helpful with many other patients, but individual responses vary.

 Q.  How do I find a qualified professional?

A. Many practitioners claim to offer hypnosis to the public for a variety of purposes; losing weight, managing pain, or stopping smoking, etc. Frequently, extravagant statements and guarantees are presented in a sensationalistic way, and it can be confusing for those wishing to learn hypnosis to know where to turn. One way to reduce that confusion is to ask yourself “Is this practitioner able to help me without using hypnosis. Or to say it another way, ‘How do I know I can trust this person to solve my problem safely?’ 

Dr. Aja works with individuals, couples and families.  She is an AASECT certified sex therapist and is certified in clincal hypnosis by the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis