Here are the answers to the most frequently asked questions about hypnosis and hypnotherapy.

What is hypnotherapy?

Hypnotherapy is the process of using hypnosis to interact with the subconscious mind in an open-reflective process to create positive change in your life. There are many techniques and many styles and many applications of hypnotherapy. They all have several things in common: (1) a strong desire to change, (2) a state of deeply relaxed focus, and (3) language and visualization in relationship to emotions.

Is hypnosis safe?

Hypnosis is not in itself a dangerous procedure, but there are concerns that if it is not used properly then it could lead to negative reactions. The risks associated with hypnosis (for example, participants very occasionally experience a mild headache) have been shown not to differ from those associated with attending a university lecture (Lynn, 2000). Complications may occur due to faulty technique on the part of the hypnotist or because of misconceptions on the part of the subject regarding hypnosis. It is important to work with a suitably qualified and experienced Hypnotherapist with which you can build a trust relationship in order to get the best results.

Is hypnosis the same as sleep?

The short answer is no. Although the word hypnosis is derived from the Greek god of sleep, Hypnos, studies have shown that hypnosis and sleep differ. Studies of brain activity have shown that although there are characteristic patterns of brain activity associated with sleep, the same has not been demonstrated of hypnosis. To observers hypnosis might appear to be asleep, because suggestions of relaxation are commonly given as part of a hypnotic routine, but hypnotised people are in a state more similar to wakefulness. Perhaps it is best described as being a state somewhere between being awake and asleep.

What are the risks?

Hypnosis conducted by a trained therapist or health care professional is considered a safe, complementary and alternative therapy. However, hypnosis may not be appropriate in people with severe mental illness. Adverse reactions to hypnosis are rare, but may include: Headache, drowsiness, dizziness, anxiety or distress, or creation of false memories. Be cautious when hypnosis is proposed as a method to work through stressful events from earlier in life. This practice may cause strong emotions and can risk the creation of false memories. Always speak with your hypnotherapist if you experience any of these effects.

Can anyone be hypnotised?

Yes, everybody is hypnotisable to some extent – some more than others. Susceptibility to hypnosis can be measured with a hypnotic susceptibility scale. Researchers tend to classify people as ‘highs’, ‘mediums’, or ‘lows’. About 80% of people are in the ‘medium’ band – meaning that they can experience many of the effects of hypnotic suggestion, and are likely to benefit from its clinical use if necessary. Approximately 10% of the population are considered highly hypnotisable – meaning that they can readily experience quite dramatic changes in sensation and perception with hypnosis. Roughly 10% are classified as ‘low’ – meaning that they have not responded strongly to hypnosis (although there are some skills programmes which aim to increase susceptibility to hypnosis).

Some clinicians, notably Milton Erickson, have felt that everybody can be hypnotised but that the hypnotist must modify the style or content of what they do. However, since the only way we have of measuring suggestibility is to look at how people respond to suggestions, and since suggestibility is not often measured in clinical settings, it is difficult to bring any evidence to bear upon this argument. People who are mentally challenged cannot understand what you are saying and will be unable to concentrate for long and will therefore most likely not benefit from hypnosis.

Will you learn my deepest secrets?

Your secrets are safe with you. You only need to share as much or as little as you want to. Sometimes during the hypnotic process there may be something that you may not want to share, and that is perfectly okay. The Hypnotherapist does not need all the information in order to guide you through a process of change. Sometimes they might only need you to move a finger or nod your head so that they know that you are busy with a process or have completed it. Sometimes they can guide you without knowing exactly what you are experiencing. As long as you know what is happening and are using the suggestions given to you during the trance state, you can resolve the issue that may be bothering you. Don’t worry, I won’t ask you your bank pin number! And even if I did, you don’t have to give it to me 🙂

Will I open my self to demons?

Very religious people are patently against hypnosis, as they think they will “open” their minds and create opportunity for demons to possess them. Hypnosis is like any tool, it can be used for good or bad. However, when coming to a well-trained hypnotherapist, their aim is solely to help you to solve your issues or problems. If every client they see ends up demonically possessed, their business would not last very long! And how many people have you met or read about who have actually been possessed by demons while doing hypnosis to for instance stop smoking? Christians should do well to heed Roams 12: 2 which says “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will”. Hypnosis is a perfectly natural method with which to “renew your thinking” by helping you overcome negative beliefs about yourself and establish positive thinking, as well as to rid you of the “demons” of smoking, alcohol and other destructive forces in your life.

What if I don’t want to be hypnotised?

A lady came to me for a stop smoking session and was amazed at the results. She was so impressed that she convinced her father, who was a heavy smoker, to come and see me. She enthusiastically brought him to my practice and told me she was very eager for him to stop smoking too. Of course, he had no intention of stopping, as it was his only “pleasure” in life. He told me so before the session and informed me that he had no desire to be hypnotised at all. Suffice to say that I didn’t even attempt to hypnotise him, as I did not have his permission to do so. Instead, we had a cup of coffee and we spoke about many things. So if you don’t want to be hypnotised, that is your choice. Nobody can hypnotise you against your will. If you don’t want to be hypnotised, rather go to a spa and treat yourself to a massage!

How many sessions will I need?

The answer to this will depend a lot on what the problem is. You should prepare yourself for at last three sessions. For some problems, such as weight, up to eight sessions may be required. It all depends on the problem and how quickly you implement the changes. Addicts may need two years or more of regular sessions. Whatever your issue, keep in mind that there may be several aspects to address to solve your problem, so keep and open mind and come back if required. Don’t just do one session and then say that it didn’t work! The first session is really only an introduction and helps to set up techniques that may be used during future sessions. You may need a week or two between sessions so as to give time for the suggestions to integrate into your subconscious mind.

How soon will I experience results?

While some changes may be immediate, others may take a few days or even weeks to start integrating. It is always advisable to be gentle with yourself after a hypnosis session. Take some time out for yourself. Change sometimes takes time and you should be realistic about your expectations. Sometimes change happens slowly and imperceptibly, so you may think nothing has happend, only to realise one day that you are thinking in a completely different way or reacting differently to a situation than you did before. Always give a week or two between sessions so as to give some time for integration to occur.

Do you do Past Life Regression?

Some people ask me to facilitate a Past Life Regression (PLR) and I am always willing to do so. It does take a few sessions to train a client how to navigate the process, so be prepared to invest some time in order to get the best results. Most people ask me if these are real memories and the honest answer is that we simply do not know. It may be real, it may be a way for your subconscious to teach or show you something about yourself, you may be tapping into your DNA to experience experiences one of your ancestors may have had, we simply have no way of knowing. I have however sen how powerful a PLR can be, for instance the client who felt persecuted, only to experience a spontaneous PLR where she visualised herself as being persecuted as witch during the Middle Ages. The session was so powerful that she instantly felt the change and reported later that her persecution complex had completely disappeared!

Can I bring someone with me?

You are most welcome to bring a trusted friend or family member with you to a session. Some people feel they need support or that they want somebody else present to ensure that the session is conducted ethically. While they may find the process a little boring, they are most welcome during the session.

Why did my friend not stop smoking with hypnosis?

There is more to changing a serious habit like smoking than just a few hypnotic suggestions, I’m afraid. In the simplest terms, the person must want the change, and they must have a replacement for smoking. Hypnosis can be used to find a healthy, effective replacement, and then it can be used to help flip the subconscious over to the new, healthy habits. While sitting in a room with 50 other people in a seminar, or listening to a stop-smoking CD can work, it is usually much more effective to have a personalised session with a hypnotherapist, who can customise the approach, language and replacement suggestions to match your lifestyle and circumstances. And quote simply, some people are successful for a few months or a year or two, and then decide to start again, whatever the reason. Yes, you always have freedom of choice, so choose carefully!

What is hypnosis?

Hypnosis is simply a state of relaxed focus. It is a natural state. In fact, each of us enters such a state – sometimes called a trance state – at least twice a day: once when we are falling asleep, and once when we are waking up. That kind of fuzzy, timeless state between dreaming and awake is a trance state. There are many different such “altered states of consciousness,” and all are various levels of trance. Trance is normal, natural and common.

Is hypnosis real?

Short answer: yes! Hypnotic suggestions can alter people’s sensations and perceptions. For example, hypnotic suggestion can be used to generate vivid hallucinations, or alter your perception of pain. Studies which measure brain activity have shown that hypnosis and hypnotic suggestions alter the way that the brain processes information. Randomised controlled clinical trials have shown that hypnosis can be an effective treatment for pain, and an effective part of treatments for other conditions. People often doubt whether hypnosis is real because it would be very easy to ‘fake’ a hypnotic response, and while this is true, there are also real measurable effects.

Was I hypnotised?

Some people leave their first hypnotherapy session saying: “I don’t think I was hypnotised. I knew what was going on the whole time and heard everything you said!” Well of course you did! Hypnosis is not a state of amnesia or of no awareness, nor is it sleep. Just the opposite true, in fact: hypnosis is a state of very heightened awareness and focus. And in order to make the changes you require, you need to hear what I have to say. Some people also say they did not “feel” hypnotised. Hypnosis is not a feeling, it is a process. Rather judge the session on the results that you obtain in the days and weeks after the session.

Will I lose control?

This is one of those myth about hypnosis perpetuated by Hollywood movies. When you are in hypnosis, you always have control, and you can always hear what’s going on. Hypnosis is nothing but a state of relaxed deep focus. It is a natural state that you enter at least twice a day (while waking up and while falling asleep!), and probably much more often than that. If at any time you are in trance and you wish to be fully alert, you can just count to yourself “1 – 2- 3” and open your eyes. You are always in control and are a willing participant. Nobody van hypnotise you against your will or force you to do things you don’t want to do. I can only work with you when you want to make the changes you require.

Can I get stuck in hypnosis?

In the history of hypnotherapy, there’s no report that anyone has ever been stuck in hypnosis. People experience various cognitive states throughout the day. They may be in a day dreamy state, complete concentration at work, hyperactive state such as dancing or cheering on their school team. People often experience these changing physical and psychological states during the course of their day. The hypnotic trance left unmanaged will simply resolve into full conscious awareness or into sleep. If the individual drifts off to sleep they will just awaken afterwards feeling refreshed and alert as from a nap. 

What does it feel like?

Everybody experiences hypnosis differently. Many hypnotists (researchers & clinicians) use elements of relaxation procedures, so people commonly associate a feeling of relaxation with hypnosis. Different people have all sorts of bodily responses to relaxation instructions – some feel as though their body is very heavy, whereas some can feel very light, almost as if they were floating. Mentally, again people have all sorts of responses. People typically report feeling very focussed or absorbed, often effortlessly so. Since instructions for imagery are often used people can have very vivid imaginative experiences – many report feeling ‘as if they were there’. Erika Fromm wrote a great book on self-hypnosis, based up the results of extensive research, which contains a lot of interesting descriptions from participants in her studies.

Do I have to believe in it to work?

Belief in hypnosis is not required. It is not a religion. All you have to do is keep an open mind and be willing to trust the process. You might be a little sceptical about it or you may simply be afraid of it because you have never done it before. This is completely natural. Some people are very nervous before their first session. That’s why I take the time to explain the theory behind it in detail and tell them what to expect. The first session is some ways a “trial run”. It gives the client the opportunity to experience it first-hand and to ask questions afterwards. It is a skill you will learn and with any skill, the more you do it the better you will get at it.

Will I cluck like a chicken?

The short answer is: Only if you want to! ;-)) I’m sure you’ve seen a stage show where a hypnotist made people do all these crazy things. Or, perhaps you have ideas from Hollywood’s movies and TV. The stage hypnotist carefully selects his subjects (watch how many volunteers he has sit down), and he chooses people he knows WILL bark like a dog or cluck like a chicken, not because he forces them to, but because they want to! They will because somewhere inside them is a part that loves to entertain. And they will do it because, deep down inside, they don’t believe there is anything wrong with barking like a dog or dancing like Britney Spears. Hypnosis can not make you do something that is against your morals or ethics. In truth, all hypnosis is self-hypnosis, and no hypnotist can make you do something that you really don’t want to do. That’s why some people can be hypnotised to stop smoking and yet they still smoke. You have to want the change, agree with the change, and then hypnosis is an instrument for helping make that change better, faster, and permanent.

What can I expect from a session?

During your first session I will explain the process of hypnosis and review your treatment goals. Then I will typically talk in a gentle, soothing tone and describe images that create a sense of relaxation, security and well-being. When you’re in a receptive state, I will suggest ways for you to achieve your goals, such as reducing pain or eliminating cravings to smoke. I may also help you visualise vivid, meaningful mental images of yourself accomplishing your goals. When the session is over, either you are able to bring yourself out of hypnosis or I will help you end your state of relaxation. Contrary to how hypnosis is sometimes portrayed in movies or on television, you don’t lose control over your behaviour while under hypnosis. Also, you generally remain aware of and remember what happens during hypnosis. In follow-up session we will usually start be reviewing the progress you have made and identify areas that still need work. I may use a variety of techniques in the follow-up sessions, depending on te nature of the problem and how deep-seated it is. You may eventually be able to practice self-hypnosis, in which you induce a state of hypnosis in yourself. You can use this skill as needed — for instance, after a chemotherapy session.

What if I can’t “see” things in my mind?

Using the imagination is a very important part of hypnosis, as the imagination (and emotion) is the “language” of the subconscious mind. Everybody’s imagination works in its own unique way. Some people can “see” pictures in their mind’s eye, while there can only think about it. If you have problems visualising using your mind, talk to your hypnotherapist about it. They may use a different method, such as metaphor, rather than to make you picture yourself in a garden or on a beach. This is what the first session is about for me, an opportunity to get to know the clint, find out their goals, how thy perceive the world and how their internal lives work. The first session is then a way to gauge their level of hypnotisability and how they react to visualisation techniques. I usually have a discussion about the process at the end of the first session and will tailor future sessions based on what we both learned from the first session.

Is there research to prove it works?

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in hypnosis and many scientists and others are researching various aspects of hypnosis. These include how hypnosis affects brain wave patterns, pain management, hypnosis for children, the effects of hypnosis on sleep disorders, how hypnotisable people are, and many others. You can have a look here at just some of the published research papers regarding hypnosis.

Can I use CD’s or MP3’s instead of seeing a Hypnotherapist?

That depends on several factors, including the nature and depth of your problem. General self-hypnosis tapes will give you only general results, but most clients make better progress when they are treated as individuals. The competent hypnotherapist listens to you and endeavours to understand your needs and customise the session appropriately. You must also feel comfortable with your Hypnotherapist’s techniques, level of experience, and professionalism. You must also like the sound of his or her voice, otherwise that could be a distraction to successfully entering hypnosis.

Can I bring someone to confess to something they’ve done?

If you suspect your partner is being unfaithful to you or that an employee is being dishonest, then hypnotherapy is not the answer. A person can lie under hypnosis just as easily as in the waking state. In fact, as hypnosis gives you greater access to unconscious resources, you may even be able to tell more creative lies when in trance. Additionally, you are in complete control of what you choose to reveal or conceal. You may even imagine something to be true which isn’t and in the process create false memories. For this reason hypnosis is not accepted as evidence in a court of law. I will never accept a client who does not willingly come to me and who is forced by somebody else to do so for their own selfish reasons.

Can you give any guarantees?

Unfortunately I cannot guarantee what you will do with the suggestions I make. That is completely up to you. If you are ready for change and open to suggestion, then it is your responsibility to act on those changes. For instance, I can teach you how to change the bad smoking habit into good habits, and it is then up to you to follow my suggestions and implement those changes, however challenging you may find it. After a stop smoking you may decide that you rather want to continue smoking, that is completely up to you. The best results will always be obtained if you are a willing participant in the change process. After all, it it your change process. You cannot hand complete responsibility to the hypnotherapist to make those changes for you, they are only there to make the suggestions to guide you. You must still make the effort to implement the changes. What I can guarantee is that I am here to help and support you during your journey. There more you provide feedback, the more I am hone in on specific aspects that may accelerate your change process, and use specific techniques that I believe may benefit you the most.

Does medical aid pay for hypnotherapy?

No, medical aids do not pay for the services I provide. I am not a medical practitioner and I do not provide any medical services whatsoever, nor do I pretend to do so.

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