Hypnotherapy is one of those practices that have been around for a long time but is suddenly resurfacing into the mainstream as a new trend in the wellness world. So what is it exactly? Like mindful meditation, hypnotherapy induces a beneficial, deeply relaxing and calming state of mind that can help you get through your day in a positive, calm and stress-free way.
While both disciplines are similar there are crucial differences between them.
"The real purpose of mindfulness is to train the skills of noticing and letting go," Hazel Gale, a Master Practitioner of Cognitive Hypnotherapy and author of The Mind Monster Solution, tells Organic Authority. "This is achieved by turning one’s awareness inwards, giving the mind a simple task like counting breaths, and then practising the ability to notice the thoughts that distract from that task before returning to it by letting those thoughts go."
Whereas with hypnotherapy, says Gale, there's "a much broader consideration than mindfulness — it’s a form of talking therapy involving two people, rather than an individual practice, and it can be used in many different ways in order to achieve the desired result."
If you've tried meditation and didn't like it, but still wanting that peaceful, zen-like way of living, hypnotherapy might be for you. Here's what you need to know.
You Won't Lose Control
As with mindfulness, there are myths to bust when it comes to hypnotherapy.
According to Gale, who provides the voice of the Clementine App, which gives short guided hypnotherapy sessions to boost confidence, reduce stress and improve sleep, the most common fear that people hold when they come for their first session (or download a hypnotherapy app) is about the loss of control.
"New clients often worry that they’ll not be in command of what they say or do in the session. Perhaps they’re worried they might start clucking like a chicken as they’ve seen on TV," she says. "If they have this fear, then they’re likely to assume that any changes they make will also be beyond their conscious control."
Gale says this fear is misplaced because the goal of hypnotherapy is "to empower the client with self-awareness and put them back in charge of their own behaviour, rather than to perform some kind of miracle. In this sense, it’s not all that different to the goal of mindfulness. Having said that, the way in which this goal is achieved will usually differ considerably."
Understanding What 'Trance' Means
No doubt when you think of hypnosis you think of someone being in a deep trance. However, according to Gale, being in a "trance" is not a special, otherworldly state into which we must be “put” by someone else. Rather, she says, it is a natural, everyday occurrence and a standard function of the human mind.
"We’re moving between different levels of trance all the time. In fact, 100% consciousness is the rarity (if, indeed, it is possible at all). Any 'auto-drive' moment can be considered a hypnotic state. It’s when the subconscious rather than conscious mind is calling the shots."
An example of an effective trance would be the state of mind an experienced chef goes into while making a beautiful dinner. They can keep multiple pots boiling at once, they stir, add salt, and stick effortlessly to the correct timings because these behaviours are automated and handled by the subconscious mind, which has a far greater capacity than the conscious.
From the Organic Authority Files
If they were to try and control the process consciously, something would almost certainly get burned.
Other forms of the hypnotic state, however, will be undesirable. "Imagine someone with a terrible habit of procrastination," says Gale. "Every time they try to sit down at their desk to do some work, they find themselves mindlessly tidying up, turning on the TV or playing Solitaire on the computer. These avoidant behaviours are not conscious choices. They’re in a 'procrastination trance.'"
How Hypnotherapy Helps
The focus of the hypnotherapist, says Gale, is to interrupt and disempower the problematic trance states that get in the way of someone being who they really want to be.
"But because the trance behaviours are the problem, the goal is not to hypnotise the client in order to make things better. Rather, it is to help them de-hypnotise themselves and take control."
This is accomplished through many different techniques from a trained therapist, including talking therapy. Talking hypnotherapy, says Gale, uses elements of counselling and cognitive behaviorial therapy to address problematic or traumatic memories and/or catastrophic images of the future in order to work with the client to construct different ways in which they can take control in the moment.
Recordings and apps, like Clementine, also take different approaches, which might include guided visualization, adaptations of the types of process used in the therapy room, affirmations, and mindfulness techniques.
Why Try Hypnotherapy Over Meditation?
According to Gale because the conscious mind deals in rationalization and logic, and the subconscious mind responds more readily to imagery, metaphor, and emotion, hypnotherapy tends to work more with creative visualizations, narrative and playful imagery than mindfulness will do.
"Also, because of the number of different tools that can be used in hypnotherapy recordings, you could argue that they’re more varied than guided mindfulness meditation."
However both techniques are effective, she says.
"There is no doubt that mindfulness can be transformative for many. It wouldn’t be so widely practised if this weren’t the case. But there are many different ways to achieve self-awareness, self-acceptance, and self-command. My preference is for hypnotherapy over mindfulness because of the breadth of techniques it can involve; because of its potential creativity and wonder-inspiring imagery; and because of its ability to speak directly to the subconscious mind as well as the conscious."
Related on Organic Authority