First of all, if you’re considering seeing a hypnotherapist then give yourself a pat on the back. That’s because recognising that there’s something you want to change, and then doing something about it, are two steps that lots of other people don’t take.
As a practising hypnotherapist I never lose sight of how big a step it can be for people to contact me. Whether that’s by phone or by email it quite often means talking about feelings and fears that people haven’t felt able to share even with friends. So, given that it’s a big decision how do you choose the right hypnotherapist? You could always bear in mind what I call the “the three Rs”:
The first thing that you need to know is that in the UK hypnotherapy isn’t a regulated profession. So unlike clinical psychologists there is no restriction on anyone using the title ‘Clinical Hypnotherapist’. That means that you have to take care when looking for a hypnotherapist, but fortunately there are organisations and websites that can help.
Any hypnotherapist registered with the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CHNC) will be a member of a professional body, with recognised professional standards. Searching on a reputable website, such as welldoing.org, also means that you can be sure that you’ll be contacting a recognised professional.
Secondly, look at their areas of expertise before contacting a hypnotherapist to make sure that they have relevant experience. These areas might be based on their style of hypnotherapy, such as solution-focused hypnotherapy, or on an area of interest, such as weight loss or pain.
If you’re looking for help with a comparatively less common issue look a little more widely at the hypnotherapist’s specialties. For instance, if you wanted hypnotherapy for hyperhidrosis you could look at hypnotherapists who had tackled other unconscious responses, such as tinnitus.
Rapport is the key to getting the best outcome from hypnotherapy. Poor rapport can cancel out the effect of therapy, whilst good rapport can increase its effectiveness. When you do telephone or visit a prospective hypnotherapist listen to your gut response about them. You’ll instinctively know when rapport is there and you’ll find yourself responding to it.
Now you’ve chosen your hypnotherapist what should you expect when you go?
Presumably your hypnotherapist will have outlined some of what to expect, but we’ll cover
- The length and number of sessions
- The content of sessions
- What is hypnosis like?
Length and number of sessions
Most hypnotherapists’ sessions are in hour-long slots, apart from smoking cessation which is normally nearer two hours. Do ask the hypnotherapist how long the session will be, but don’t be surprised if the answer is 45-50 minutes. Many therapists use the last 10 minutes of each slot as time to write up their notes before the next client.
Other hypnotherapists, such as myself, are happier to leave the session time more open ended. This means that when progress is being made it doesn’t have to be stopped because of the clock. Obviously, these different approaches suit different clients’ circumstances.
As to how many sessions that is partly based on the issue that you want to work on and the methods that your hypnotherapist uses. What they should always be able to give you is an indication of how many sessions they think it will take, and your outline treatment plan.
The beginning of every subsequent session should also see a review of how things have gone, in order to make sure that the treatment is making progress. If your progress isn’t checked, or if you’re asked to sign up to an open-ended number of hypnotherapy sessions, these should give you pause to stop and think.
Content of sessions
The content of hypnotherapy sessions will vary according to the type of therapy that the hypnotherapy is based on. It isn’t enough on its own to be hypnotised, and the therapist should tailor the content to your individual circumstances and goals. This means that the first part of every session should be spent talking about the issue at hand, your progress to date, and the next step in your treatment plan.
Once you and the hypnotherapist have discussed the areas or concerns you want to work on the hypnotherapy can begin. The hypnotherapist will normally use guided visualisation to help you enter a hypnotic state, where they can address your subconscious directly. Following this they will bring you back to full wakefulness – you shouldn’t have any concerns about your fitness to drive following a hypnotherapy session.
What is hypnosis like?
The ‘feel’ of hypnosis varies for different people. For some it’s a state of focused concentration where they hear everything that is said. For others it’s a state where their mind wanders but their subconscious is freed to listen to the suggestions of the hypnotherapist. Physically it varies as well, from feelings of heaviness to lightness, or from warmth to coolness.
People often have a degree of self-talk during their first hypnosis session over whether they are responding ‘properly’. The second and subsequent times see people become more easily and deeply hypnotised. That’s another reason why many hypnotherapists, such as myself, provide people with recordings of their hypnotherapy.