People have been using hypnosis for over 2500 years. It’s fun and has no unpleasant side effects. The hypnoid state is a natural state, one that we go through at least twice a day on the way to falling asleep and on the way to walking up. Hypnotherapy simply creates this natural state at an unnatural time of day, plus which it maintains this pleasurable pre-sleep state for the purpose of accomplishing treatment goals instead of moving right through it to sleep. If you wonder if hypnosis can get you to do something you wouldn’t otherwise do, the answer is No. Your mind is always your mind, no hypnotist can take it over, whether you’re in an awake or pre-sleep state. The regrettable and, to me, undignified instances during stage shows when people sometimes cluck like chickens doesn’t mean that a hypnotist has taken over their minds. Instead, stage hypnotists learn to select someone who wants to perform this way in front of an audience, just as they deselect those who don’t. If you wonder if you could get stuck in hypnosis and never come out, the answer is No. If I left the room and went to lunch, you still would return naturally to full waking life, just as we awaken naturally from a nap. If you wonder if you can be hypnotized, the answer is easy: If you want to, you can. If you don’t want to, you can’t.
Hypnosis is not just suggestion. We might have evidence within our lifetimes for the neurological changes it makes. Promising neurological research suggests that during hypnosis, when brain wave functioning has been relaxed to the pre-sleep state of about 7.3 Hz, the “thinking” part of our brain is still switched “On,” but another part of our brain that orients us to time and space has turned “Off” in preparation for sleep. Loosely speaking, this means that hypnosis can mobilize the awake part of the mind to change a person’s inner version of “reality,” e.g., from feeling preoccupied with alcohol to being disinterested in alcohol. In other words, our mental versions of self and world can be changed.
Want to change your mind?
Here’s a simple example of making a change in your conscious mind: Right now as you read this, your conscious mind is not aware of the pressure of your chair on your lower back. But now as your conscious mind reads my words, you become conscious of it. You could think of hypnosis as doing the same thing in reverse. Before hypnosis, your conscious mind is aware of the urge to smoke, or drink, or overeat, or bite fingernails, but afterward your conscious mind is unaware of these urges. Nobody knows if we should say they went away, or they’re still there but your conscious mind can’t find them. Either way, you’re free of the urge.
Who needs hypnosis?
Hypnotherapy can focus on #1 curing a specific problem (called a “target symptom”) or #2 exploring the deeper mind because the problem isn’t clear. About 90% of patients belong to category #1 and want to cure a target symptom. In the order of frequency, target symptoms involve smoking, overeating, insomnia, fear of flying, nail biting, and pain management, followed in lesser frequencies by issues such as sex, work, infertility, child rearing, and so forth. A lesser 10% in category #2 call me because they don’t know what’s wrong. Sometimes they’ve been in psychotherapy for a while and decided they can’t make progress without trying a deeper path. Often they’ve experienced uncanny external or internal events that the rational mental health field can’t address. A patient felt that his deceased mother was trying to give him help from the grave, so he wanted to open a pathway to receive her guidance. Another patient with several Academy Awards had a vague interior vision of a new movie script and wanted to use hypnosis to crystalize her memory.
This saying’s true: All a hypnotist does is distract consciousness so that the patient’s unconscious mind can go to work on solving the problem.For this reason virtually all my treatments consist of a single session. This single session verifies the unconscious mind’s agreement with the conscious treatment goal, then the unconscious mind’s power is mobilized to create internal change. If the unconscious mind agrees with the conscious goal, the change is virtually instantaneous so nothing more than a single session is needed. If the unconscious mind does not agree, there are ways to help resolve this conflict, but unless it’s resolved no extra number of sessions will make any difference. That’s why treatments are single sessions. (Sometimes weight loss requires a second session 3-6 months later.) Not all hypnotists work this way. Some hold preliminary sessions and follow-up sessions. I don’t. Some treat the problem in segments. I don’t. There is no standardized approach. I will spend as much time over the phone as needed for both of us to be crystal clear as to the goal of our session. I will not schedule an appointment until we’re both clear, even if we need to speak 4 or 5 times before we meet.
You could think of it this way: I have a Genie in my office who’s going to come out of a bottle and grant you one wish, except that this Genie isn’t very smart. You’ll need to be able to tell the Genie exactly what you want without using complex ideas or vague wordings. You can’t say you want “a more meaningful relationship,” or “fulfillment in life” or “release from distress” because the Genie can’t decipher what this means. Differently explained, the phone consultation between you and me is free because I need to understand your goal so clearly that I can go to work, on my own time, formulating the approach I’m going to take in your personal case when you enter my office. I won’t schedule an appointment with you until I see clearly how I’m going to create your personal protocol. Clarifying exactly what help you need is your preparatory task before we meet. I don’t treat everyone because not everyone qualifies.
Sometimes pain is a friendly signal that something is wrong. A toothache is a friendly warning that your dentist needs to have a look. Hypnosis must not be used to take away this pain. Pain from a burn is useless because the mind already knows what happened and gains no benefit from feeling inflammation over and over. In this case hypnosis can and does relieve burn pain, speed healing, and limit scarring. The pain of losing a job because of poor performance is the mind’s friendly encouragement to look more closely at personal needs, problems, and motives. Hypnosis shouldn’t erase this or try to diminish the value of wrestling with these issues. Pain from losing a job because the company went bankrupt is useless. This pain can be resolved by hypnosis.
Beware of Short Cuts
Suppose my car belches smoke. I’d like to think I just needed gas, but it’s not true. I’m being wishful and simplistic. If your issues are complex, beware of thinking that hypnosis is the solution. I get lots of calls from people wanting to find their true career path, fix abusive relationships, or increase self-esteem, and they want the short cut of hypnosis instead of doing serious psychotherapy. Not possible. Life in civilized community is multi-dimensional, which means that hypnosis should not be used to try to resolve issues like generalized anxiety, depression, or problems in complicated relationships. Fear of flying? Yes. Fear of the opposite sex? No. Hypnosis will never replace psychotherapy or psychoanalysis because many issues are too complex for hypnosis and instead require detailed, painstaking psychotherapeutic exploration and struggle. I regret that some hypnotists claim to cure everything quickly. Beware. It’s not true. Beware of short cuts. I once observed a 60-minute demonstration in which, to my horror, a hypnotist claimed to cure a woman’s weight gain by invoking her memory of being raped. It was a false “cure” presented as easy and short. It was useless and simplistic because, when you think about it, the horrible experience of being raped is not one-dimensional, doesn’t involve a single dynamic (like overeating), and therefore doesn’t lend itself to cure in a mere 60 minutes. This woman’s issues involving aggression, sadism, self-image, anger, sex, self-care, shame, retaliation, present relationships, past relationships, and more can barely be named in 60 minutes, certainly not cured in 60 minutes. Please do not be offended if I decide I cannot treat you via hypnosis. I’m only looking out for your best interests and letting you know that some issues need alternate approaches, which I’ll be happy to discuss with you.
An Old Pro
I’ve worked successfully with patients for over 30 years. I’ve paid off my mortgage. My fees aren’t cheap, but I donate a lot of the money to charity. Because I’m licensed as a Psychologist and certified in Hypnotherapy, Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis, it’s fair to say that I’m qualified to assess the situation and recommend the best professional treatment approach. I might recommend hypnotherapy or I might recommend psychotherapy. Or maybe something else. The point is that I’m certified in these various fields. I don’t care if you don’t come to me, what matters is that any hypnotherapist you see must have independent credentials as a certified psychotherapist. Don’t ever hire a “hypnotist” for “psychotherapy.” That would be like asking an electrician to make you a car. State laws vary, so you must consult your state’s definitions and requirements as to who is merely a hypnotist vs who is a bona fide hypnotherapist and/or psychotherapistand/or psychoanalyst. Never hire a hypnotist to do a psychotherapist’s job. If you’re unclear about this, contact me.