An Introduction to Clinical Hypnosis
The following is adapted from materials compiled by the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis, an academic and professional group widely regarded as a source of legitimate scientific and clinical information on the practice.
Hypnosis is a state of inner absorption, concentration and focused attention. Employing hypnosis is like using a magnifying glass to focus the rays of the sun. When our minds are concentrated and focused, we are able to use them more powerfully.
Everyone has experienced trances, but we don’t usually associate those events with hypnosis. All of us have been so absorbed in thought — while reading a book or riding the bus to work — that we fail to notice what is happening around us. While we were zoned out, another level of consciousness, our unconscious mind, took over. These very focused states of attention are similar to hypnosis.
Clinical hypnotists do essentially three things with hypnosis.
They encourage the use of imagination. Mental imagery is very powerful, especially in a focused state of attention. The mind seems capable of using imagery, even if only symbolic, to embody the things we imagine.
They present ideas or suggestions to the patient. In a state of concentrated attention, ideas and suggestions compatible with the patient’s desires seem to have a more powerful impact on the mind.
They facilitate unconscious exploration, to better understand underlying motivations or identify whether past experiences are associated with a problem. Hypnosis avoids the critical censor of the conscious mind.
Myths About Hypnosis People often fear that being hypnotized will make them lose control, surrender their will and result in their being dominated. Many people base these assumptions on stage acts but fail to take into account that stage hypnotists screen volunteers to select those who are cooperative and responsive to hypnosis. Stage acts can discourage people from seeking legitimate hypnotherapy.