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Hypnosis is said to help people give up smoking, lose weight or get over phobias
Most people think of hypnotism as a form of showbusiness. However, thousands of people are finding that hypnotherapy, while not as dramatic as a half an hour with Paul McKenna, can be an invaluable aid to giving up smoking, losing weight or getting over a fear of flying.
In fact, there are lots of fears and phobias that can easily be resolved by hypnosis, according to clinical hypnotherapist Leila Hart.
"Hypnosis can be used to make positive and healing changes in a person's life. For hypnosis to work, the person has to want to do it. If they are being persuaded against their own judgment, or because someone close to them wants it, then it is unlikely to work, as you can't force anyone to do something they don't want to do."
When the word hypnosis is introduced into conversation, a picture comes to mind of being put to sleep, and perhaps even being made to do strange things that make you look foolish. This is the wrong impression, says Hart. "In reality, hypnosis is a state of mind where the body is relaxed, but the mind stays awake. The person remains in complete control throughout so they cannot be forced to do, accept or say anything that they don't want to," he says.
There is no one specific formula, and methods vary depending on who is conducting the therapy as well as on the client's needs. There are no statutory regulations or one main body, although there is an accreditation system. The best way to find someone is through recommendation or by contacting the National Council for Hypnotherapists or The British Society of Clinical Hypnosis.
During hypnosis, the body is relaxed but the mind stays awake
So what actually happens? This may differ from one skilled person to another, but usually follows a similar format. In Hart's case, she takes a client's history and explains exactly what is going to happen and why. She also teaches a self-hypnosis technique so that the client can take control, and speed up the process by working on themselves between sessions.
The environment in which the session is held is also important. Soft music, gentle lighting and a relaxed atmosphere create a positive setting to encourage relaxation. "Accessing the subconscious is a natural state that we all dip in and out of during the day, by daydreaming, watching the television or reading a book," she says
In a therapy session, when the door to the subconscious is opened, the root cause of the problem can be found, healed and released, she maintains. By giving empowering suggestions, new programmes can be created within a person's mind, which result in new positive responses.
The client remains in control throughout and has the choice to accept or reject anything that is said to them. One of the ways that Hart helps her clients to help themselves is by setting up a positive, physical trigger with the appropriate words, and a deep breath that the person can use on their own. This trigger is linked to relaxation, and a feeling of safety and wellbeing. When used, it brings back those feelings, allowing the individual to take back control in that moment.
The number of times you may need hypnotherapy varies as to the problem and its root cause. For smoking, people who come to her have two sessions. However, there are practitioners who only feel they require one session, although the length may also vary. The number of times a client attends will depend on how deeply ingrained the problem is, how long they have had it, and how well they respond.
Tom Connelly, secretary of the British Society of Clinical Hypnosis, feels that it is very important to understand a person's mindset. This he feels is more likely to happen if the practitioner has had many years of experience. Once a person is in a hypnotic state, he tailors suggestions using vocabulary which is appropriate to that individual. While he too emphasises that different techniques are used, depending on the needs of the client, one of the most important is through the use of imagery. He achieves this by asking the client to visualise images which contain important messages about his or her condition.
It is also important to feel comfortable with whoever is carrying out the treatment. An initial phone call will give you an idea of the therapist's personality, and whether you will feel comfortable about being treated by them. Do not be scared to talk to a number of hypnotherapists before you feel confident that you have found someone who can help you.