Frequently Asked Questions

Is hypnosis real?

There is mounting evidence that hypnosis is both a psychological and a neurophysiological phenomenon:  

  • Electroencephalograph (EEG) studies have shown that for highly hypnotizable subjects, a hypnotic induction procedure produces reliable alterations in brain activity that are associated with responsiveness to suggestions.
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) studies have shown that when highly hypnotizable subjects respond to a suggestion to add color to black-and-white image, their subjective experience was reliably associated with changes in brain activity in areas of the brain that process information about color.
  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies have shown that, in trance, context-specific suggestions can differentially modulate activity in specific brain sites.

The Neuroscience of Hypnosis (John E. Alexander PhD, American Society of Clinical Hypnosis, 2017) 

How does treatment with hypnotherapy work?

Although hypnotherapy  sessions may differ depending on a particular client’s needs ,they typically follow a general progression Initially your therapist will take a brief history of the condition you are seeking treatment for. To introduce you to hypnosis, you will then experience a brief hypnotic induction and an assessment of your capacity for utilizing hypnosis to augment a psychotherapeutic treatment strategy . (Although individuals differ with respect to their hypnotic capacity, most people have enough hypnotic talent to benefit significantly from a hypnotically augmented treatment.) Your therapist will then use the findings from your assessment to design an individualized hypnotically augmented treatment strategy to address your issues and concerns. Once you’ve experienced hypnosis with the guidance of your therapist you will be introduced to a method of self-hypnosis so that you’ll be able to reinforce your treatment strategy on your own.

Presentation by David Spiegel MD of Stanford University: a NIH videocast; Tranceformation: Hypnosis in Brain and Body

What does hypnosis feel like?

Most people describe hypnosis as a pleasant experience during which they feel focused and absorbed in the hypnotic experience. Depending on how you and your therapist agree to structure your hypnosis sessions, hypnosis  may help you to feel more alert, more relaxed, more comfortable, and more peaceful.

Is hypnosis a form of sleep?

Once you’ve experienced hypnosis you’ll see that it’s clearly not sleep. This  is a common misconception about hypnosis. Brain wave studies of individuals in trance show patterns of activity similar to being in a relaxed mental state, but not in a state of sleep.

Is hypnosis simply relaxation?

When you enter hypnosis the way we teach it, you may immediately experience a feeling of  relaxation and a light floating sensation. That’s because hypnosis triggers the body’s relaxation response, our  rest and recovery mechanism-- which opposes  the stress response. But as you will discover, hypnosis is more than relaxation.

Is hypnosis the same as meditation?

Hypnosis is fundamentally a state of focused attention, receptive concentration and mental absorption. In that sense it is like an advanced state of meditation. But unlike other forms of meditation, hypnosis rapidly activates brain pathways that increase your capacity to control your attention and reduce distractions-- like a zoom lens shifts a camera  from a wide-angle focus to a more narrow and concentrated focus. Or the way a laser intensifies light so you can use it more precisely and powerfully.

Can hypnosis improve learning?

Hypnosis increases what neuroscientists refer to as attention density, which makes learning more effective and efficient. You might  think of hypnosis as a way of rapidly relaxing mentally and physically, calming and clearing your mind to optimize your capacity to learn and remember what you set your mind to-- to achieve the goals you wish to attain.

What is self-hypnosis?

Self-hypnosis involves the independent use of hypnosis to reinforce therapeutic strategies. Self-hypnosis is a valuable skill to master since it can also be used to relax mentally and physically to rapidly reduce the symptoms of stress. Once you’ve experienced hypnosis with a skilled therapist, you can readily learn to produce the hypnotic experience on your own. Patients and clients are also encouraged to make a brief  audio recording during their guided hypnotic session to aid in learning to use self-hypnosis most effectively to reinforce their treatment objectives.

Will I be in control in hypnosis?

Yes. Just as if you were in a movie theater, if you didn’t want to be there you would simply get up and walk out. When you are in hypnosis you can open your eyes, respond to questions and express yourself as you wish, while remaining in a trance state until the session is over.

Will I reveal any personal secrets during hypnosis?

In hypnosis you retain full control over what you say or do. That means that you would reveal nothing that you would not otherwise reveal to your therapist.

Who should perform hypnosis and hypnotherapy?

Clinical hypnosis should be conducted only by properly trained and credentialed health care professionals (e.g., licensed psychologists, physicians, licensed clinical social workers and professional counselors) who have been specifically trained in the use of hypnosis, and who are working within the scope of their training and  professional practice.

( A word of caution is important when seeking hypnotherapy. Be careful to choose a practitioner with the proper professional credentials and experience to treat the condition you are seeking help with. There are many so-called “hypnotherapists” who lack the appropriate training and licensure to provide the treatments they advertise to the public. Credentials obtained from recognized professional training societies such as the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH), the Society of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis(SECH) the American Psychological Association (APA) and the International Hypnosis Society (IHS) can assure the public that a therapist has been properly prepared to treat you in a professional and ethical manner.)