Many people believe that all hypnosis is self-hypnosis — that is, by trusting in the hypnotist you essentially brainwash yourself. So even if you go to a hypnotherapist, you can’t regard her as anything more than a facilitator who helps you hypnotize yourself.
But according to a formal school of hypnosis, you can put your mind into a high state of concentration without a facilitator. Most people have found themselves in this place naturally — by daydreaming, losing themselves in a novel, or spacing out as they drive. The idea is to get yourself into an altered state during which your whole attention is focused in a single place.
Can these altered states affect your behavior in any way? Well, experiencing these altered states probably can’t cure your stage fright or stop your smoking as effectively as formal sessions with a hypnotherapist might. But you can certainly try self-hypnosis to work toward these kinds of goals — as well as to relax and/or distract your mind from pain or cravings.
If you want to use self-hypnosis most effectively, you’re best off starting with directions from a trained therapist — who will help you make sure that you’re doing it right. You’ll discover how to relax yourself (whether that means swinging a pendant in front of your eyes or meditating) and use your thoughts to contact your unconscious mind. When your unconscious takes over and tells your body what to do (such as lifting an arm), you’re in an hypnotic state and ready to respond to suggestion.
Watch out for books and audiotapes promising to target your subliminal mind to help you stop smoking, improve your personality, or whatever — especially if they promise to make these changes overnight. Effective hypnosis of any sort often needs to be tailored to your particular mind (by a teacher or yourself) and almost always requires weeks or months of practice.
Finding a Hypnotherapist
Use our Therapist Directory to find an experienced hypnotherapist in your community.
If your hypnotherapist also happens to be a licensed health care professional, you may be able to get reimbursement from your health insurer. Using a licensed health care practitioner is a good idea anyway. Because no states license hypnotherapists per se, this license — plus certification by the American Board of Hypnosis or the American Council of Hypnotist Examiners — is a good clue to competence.
A good therapist will: