There’s a misunderstanding about hypnotists, primarily because of negative depictions of hypnosis in older movies and other works of fiction. These hypnotists showed up as overpowering characters, forcing people to do things against their will.

There’s often another misunderstanding due to how some would perceive the entertainment side of our history with “stage hypnosis.” While most professional performers now understand the value of a clean, ethical program, a few have given the industry a negative perception. Because of this, people often misunderstand the practice of hypnotherapy and the role of those who practice it.

However, it is a genuine psychological coaching and therapeutic process gaining acceptance in mainstream healthcare. Accredited hypnotherapists help clients overcome personal challenges such as anxiety or chronic pain and stop harmful habits. Here are some more in-depth answers to popular questions about hypnosis:

What Is Hypnosis?

Trained and certified hypnotists don’t hold a swaying necklace or watch in front of your face, making you cluck like a chicken on stage. They will guide you into a deep state of relaxation and intensified focus.

While in this state, you are more susceptible to suggestions to help you make a change or therapeutic improvement. The state you would be in is similar to the mental states you encounter daily; have you ever pulled into your driveway at home after work and been surprised to be there already? Or have you been caught daydreaming when you were supposed to be listening to a school lecture? You have already been in a trance-like state that hypnotism elicits.

How Does It Work?

Everyone has their personal degree of susceptibility to hypnotism. The more open you are to it, typically, the more easily you will respond to being hypnotized. You will be guided into your relaxed state of focused attention using strategies such as repetition, verbal cues, or mental images. You may feel similar to when you sleep, or you will experience a feeling like being swept into a good story. However, you will be fully aware of what is going on. You will not be able to be taken advantage of or used for some mindless world domination scheme despite what pop culture would have you believe.

While in your heightened state of focus, the hypnotist can place seeds of thoughts in your mind to take root and grow in your daily life. These proposals may be things you would typically brush off or ignore. Once the session is over, it’s a simple suggestion to transition from the hypnotic state into the normal everyday waking reality. There is no such thing as becoming “stuck” in hypnosis.

Is It As Simple As Mind Over Matter?

Our brains are powerful tools that we use to control our bodies daily. Hypnotism is another tool to help our brain control our bodies, showing our ability to heal medical or psychiatric conditions with our minds. Medical research identifies three changes in the brain during hypnosis:

  • Less activity in your salience network
  • Increased brain-body connection
  • Decreased functional connection between your actions and awareness

These findings show that you are fully absorbed in the present while hypnotized and not worrying about anything else. Your brain is also more engaged and in control of what is going on in your body. Lastly, you will act without wasting mental energy on being self-conscious while you act.

What Can Hypnosis Improve?

  1. Pain: Hypnosis has produced up to a 42% reduction in pain, meaning that hypnosis interventions can deliver meaningful pain relief for patients. It may be a safe and effective alternative to medications.
  2. Medical Interventions During Birth: HypnoBirthing may be the trendy name right now, but research shows hypnosis has helped reduce the need for Pitocin, episiotomies, epidurals, and caesarian deliveries and allowed for more comfortable labor and birthing positions.
  3. Hot Flashes: Studies show hypnosis can significantly reduce hot flashes in postmenopausal women.
  4. Sleep Problems: Hypnosis has been shown to be effective in helping insomnia, parasomnias, night terrors, and other sleep-related problems.
  5. Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Hypnosis provided long-term symptom relief for patients with IBS that wasn’t responding to conventional treatment.
  6. Smoking: While research is conflicting, hypnosis paired with nicotine patches has been shown to be most successful in generating quit rates in the long term.
  7. Weight Loss: Like smoking, the results vary between studies. Hypnosis may not be the magic diet pill we would want. Still, it’s associated with greater satiety, quality of life, and less inflammation, which can contribute to weight loss over time and positive lifestyle modifications.
  8. Anxiety: Research is still ongoing, but hypnosis has successfully treated anxiety-related conditions. It effectively reduces anxiety due to surgery, cancer, burns, and various medical or dental procedures. It’s also helped with anxiety-induced tension headaches, migraines, and digestive problems.

The applications for hypnosis are nearly endless. It’s been a treatment option for hundreds of years, but professional misconceptions have caused it to be underutilized and under-researched.

As a society, we are starting to recognize the value of alternative and complementary medicine. We have seen how effective it can be and the limitations of conventional medicine. We have also seen that complementary therapies like hypnosis often get to the true source of the problem (vs. simply treating the symptoms), produce longer-lasting results, cost less in the long run, and don’t come with the harmful side effects of prescription medications.

We are beyond deciding whether hypnosis works or not. We need to keep the forward momentum going, researching all the areas hypnosis can improve. Hypnosis is the treatment of the future, improving choices, outcomes, and quality of life.