What Is Hypnotherapy and How Does It Work?

Updated: Mar 15

The American Psychological Association defines hypnosis as

"a state of consciousness involving focused attention and reduced peripheral awareness characterized by an enhanced capacity for response to suggestion."

(Div. 30, 2014)

Hypnosis is a state of consciousness involving intense inward focus. It is characterized by heightened creativity, heightened imagination and heightened receptivity to suggestions.

How does hypnosis work?

There are two steps to the hypnotic process:

  1. Bypass the critical faculty of the conscious mind, and

  2. Establish acceptable selective thinking.

(Elman, 1964)

The critical faculty of the conscious mind judges, analyzes, and evaluates external stimuli. It rationalizes and makes up our sense of logic. Although conscious processes are vital, our judgements can be faulty. This is because we rationalize based on fundamental belief systems, not universal facts.

Our beliefs are the reason why we do what we do. And not all beliefs are created equal. Most of our beliefs form during childhood between the ages 3-7. This is when the brain undergoes intense cognitive development and the mind is highly impressionable. Most of our childhood beliefs benefit us in positive ways for a lifetime. But some don't always end up reflecting the understanding we reach as adults.

Certain beliefs form during childhood as a result of self-protection or fear. Others form due to conventional yet stifling cultural/societal conditioning. And of course, there are also beliefs learnt from the traumas and pain of our caregivers.

These beliefs make up the logic in the conscious mind. This is why you feel mental resistance whenever you try to consciously change habits. Because the new desirable habit is incongruent with what you have been led to believe is right as a child.

This resistance is what psychiatrists call "cognitive dissonance" and what NLP practitioners call "incongruence". It prevents us from considering new thoughts, possibilities and/or courses of action. And it also prevents us from absorbing information truthfully and without bias.

To change your habit, you have to move past conscious resistance and change the belief system underlying the habit. This is exactly what we do in hypnotherapy.

The hypnotherapist give you an induction that takes you past the conscious critical faculty, into the state of hypnosis where you are more creative, imaginative and receptive to suggestions. From this place, you are able to access the same information from a non-judgemental, honest and fully experiential manner.

The hypnotherapist then helps you establish selective thinking. Which is to say, accept a new way of thinking. We give you a solution to your problem and engrain it deeply in your subconscious.

Our work is always about uncovering the old belief system and replacing it with a new belief system that supports the desired change. This can most definitely be considering a different way of thinking and a different course of action than the one you are accustomed to.

What is it like to be under Hypnosis?

In a hypnosis session, you may experience hypnotic phenomena. This includes heightened memory, intensified physical sensations, altered perceptions, time distortion and much more.

During hypnosis, you hear and remember as you normally do from any normal conversation. Rather than being a loss of control, hypnosis is about helping you to take back control. Some feel a heavy feeling of relaxation, some observe a light floating sensation and some also observe something in between.

There are moments where you may be deeply interested in every word the hypnotherapist says and other times your mind may wonder off. If you are familiar with meditation, the state of hypnosis is similar to the state of deep meditation, in terms of sensations.

To learn more

If you are interested in learning about why hypnosis works, read here and discover how neuroscience is redefining the way we understand hypnotherapy. Hypnotherapy can help with various types of mental blocks that range from stress, anxiety, mild depression, social anxiety, peak performance, phobias, fears, insomnia, sleep regulation, weight loss, values + goal setting, empowerment and motivation. To find out if it is right for you, learn more about my offering here.