Does hypnotherapy work?

Following on from my last topic of frequently asked questions I thought I’d answer another common question today. When people talk to me initially about hypnotherapy, they often ask if hypnotherapy works for insomnia, or anxiety, or confidence, or indeed many other issues.

This seems to presuppose that hypnotherapy is “done to you”… that hypnotherapy is something you receive while in a passive state, and can either “fix you” or not, as the case may be. Unfortunately this is a common misconception, so let me explain.

Part of my role as a hypnotherapist is to educate my clients about what hypnotherapy is and what to expect

This also includes talking about what hypnotherapy isn’t. Unfortunately due to the way that hypnosis and hypnotherapy has been represented in the media, there are a lot of myths and misconceptions; it’s important to unravel these and create the correct expectation before therapy begins.

So first of all, hypnotherapy is not something that’s “done to you”, and you’re certainly not expected to be a passive recipient.

Hypnotherapy is a collaborative partnership between therapist and client in which we work together to achieve the results you’re aiming for. During a hypnotherapy session it’s important that you actively engage your imagination, as well as your cognitive thought processes, with the different things the hypnotherapist describes – rather than waiting for “something to happen to you”. It’s also important that you’re aware that therapy is not just about what happens in the session. I teach all my clients self hypnosis as I think it’s such a valuable skill to have, and practising self hypnosis at home enhances the work done in sessions. Hypnosis is a skill and just like any other skill, for example learning to play the violin or baking cakes, the more you practise the better you get at it. So if you’re practising self hypnosis regularly at home you’ll benefit even more from your one-to-one hypnotherapy sessions. So hypnotherapy is an active process – strictly speaking it’s something you “do”, not something you’re “in”. Generally I give my clients other therapeutic tasks to carry out at home as well to help you achieve your goals. Obviously I have no control over how committed or motivated you’ll be with your self hypnosis practice and other therapeutic tasks. I don’t know how enthusiastically and wholeheartedly you’ll embrace these, and in this sense it’s often difficult for me to predict outcomes at the beginning of therapy.

It’s important you approach hypnotherapy with an open and positive frame of mind.

The belief that change is possible, together with the belief that hypnotherapy can help is vital. It’s also important you really want to change and are committed and motivated to fully participating and engaging with the whole therapeutic process. Positive expectation is another key factor – that you expect hypnotherapy to be beneficial and for changes to occur.

To illustrate this, I recently worked with a lady in her 70s who had experienced anxiety and insomnia her entire adult life. She said at her initial assessment that she wasn’t expecting a quick fix – she realised this was unrealistic given the length of time she’d had this problem. When I asked what she hoped to gain she replied that she would like to learn some new skills and techniques to help her sleep better – and as she had been recommended to me, she had belief that change was possible with hypnotherapy. From day one she fully committed herself to working with me in a participative way. She embraced all the tasks I suggested for her to do at home, despite a very busy social and home life, and practised them with real motivation, commitment and enthusiasm.

Another client who came to see me for sleep problems had a different set of expectations from the outset. Despite my emphasising the importance of participating in every session, and practising at home, he was still hoping for a magic wand. He wasn’t prepared to practice the techniques taught him, or make changes to his routine. He wasn’t sure if change was really possible after 25 years of sleeping problems, and despite positive signs of change – he continued to focus on all the negative aspects of the issue. The first client did exceptionally well, overcoming not just her insomnia, but her anxiety as well, in just six sessions. The second client found his sleep improved a little, but not to the extent he’d hoped.

Engagement and Commitment

So as you can see, it’s not as simple as whether hypnotherapy “works”. Unfortunately I don’t have a magic wand! It’s not a case of just turning up, expecting to be “fixed”. However hypnotherapy can be very effective in helping you to overcome a range of issues including anxiety, stress, phobias and low confidence/self-esteem; but your commitment and full engagement with the process is essential.

Any questions, please feel free to ask – I’m happy to help. Read more frequently asked questions here.

Read more about me and my hypnotherapy work here. I’m based in East Devon with therapy rooms in Seaton and Axminster, approximately 25 miles from Exeter.

I’m a hypnotherapist providing a friendly, professional service in Devon with therapy rooms in Buckfastleigh and Axminster. You’ll find lots more self-help information elsewhere in my posts, so please have a look around.

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