Is the therapy guaranteed to work?
It will work if you do your part by doing any homework tasks which we have agreed in the session. Basically you have a “comfort zone” where you’re right away from the subject of your phobia, and you also have a “horror zone” where it’s just unbearable and you have to get away no matter what. In between these zones are the situations where you’re not comfortable but you can stand it. The purpose of therapy is to enlarge your comfort zone by gradually pushing out into the “in-between” zone. The goal of therapy is for the “horror zone” to disappear completely. So for instance, if you were afraid needles, it is not necessary for you to enjoy having blood tests or injections. Our goal would rather be that you can tolerate the needle without being anxious beforehand or upset during the procedure, just seeing it as something that needs doing. Pushing out into the middle zone requires leaving your comfort zone, and hypnosis will make this much easier by helping you control your emotional reactions, thoughts, and imagination. So it does require some effort on your part.
There is probably more scientific evidence available on the effectiveness of hypnotherapy than for any other alternative therapy. Scientists have been studying hypnosis for more than two hundred years. The most comprehensive scientific textbook of hypnosis is published by the University of Oxford, and contains hundreds of references to studies in peer-reviewed scientific journals. You can read more about this publication HERE
The British Society for Clinical and Academic Hypnosis, to which I belong, includes professors and other researchers, doctors (bother general practitioners and hospital consultants) , dentists, and psychologists.
Can everyone be hypnotised?
Almost everyone, so long as they cooperate and don’t deliberately fight it. I see many clients who have previously seen other hypnotherapists and not been hypnotised even after several sessions. Generally this is either due to poor technique by the previous hypnotists, or else the client was resisting hypnosis due to being afraid of it. If you have any fears about hypnosis we can discuss these first and set your mind at rest.
Could I get stuck in hypnosis and be unable to come out?
No this cannot happen. If you were just left in trance, you would either come out after a short while, or else pass into normal sleep and then awake. If an emergency occurred you would be able to come out of trance immediately.
Can anything go wrong in hypnosis?
A competent and experienced hypnotherapist will know how to guide you through any powerful experience, such as a release of emotion known as an abreaction, which may occasionally occur. This means you can expect to leave each session feeling better than when you arrived.
If a therapist attempts to discover buried memories using regression hypnosis, there is a danger of the client’s imagination creating memories of things which did not happen, or of distorting the memory, for instance by remembering one person as doing something when it was actually someone else. Hypnotic memory is more vivid and therefore more convincing than normal memory, but it is just as unreliable. For this reason it is never safe to use hypnosis to discover hidden memories.
If a person is hypnotised and told something negative about their self, or something they would normally find unacceptable, this could create serious distress in some people. No ethical hypnotherapist would ever do this, but unfortunately this is sometimes done by stage hypnotists for cheap amusement. This is a very unpleasant and irresponsible practice.
There are very rare cases of hypnotherapists taking advantage of their clients. Most people will reject unacceptable suggestions even in deep trance, but a few people are prone to being excessively trusting and obedient. These people could be taken advantage of in any situation, not just hypnosis. I have for instance seen cases of an audiologist (hearing specialist) and a podiatrist (foot specialist) being prosecuted for this behaviour. Neither of them had used hypnosis.
Most people know instinctively whether they can trust a person once they’ve met them face to face. For this reason I often arrange an informal meeting with a client before we start therapy so the client can decide whether they wish to proceed.
Actually, by far the most common danger of hypnotherapy is the danger of paying out lots of money for ineffective therapy from an incompetent practitioner! At present there are far too many training schools turning out far too many hypnotherapists, most of whom will never gain enough experience to be really competent.
What problems do you not work with?
I do not generally work with clients who simply wish to lose weight. This is because being overweight or obese is often a complex problems involving the body as well as the mind. A really effective weight-loss therapist needs a deep understanding of nutrition, the composition of modern foods (which may be artificially altered to stimulate appetite), and the different types of healthy bacteria which should be present in the gut (this is a new area of scientific study and is very important). There is so much to learn about these topics that I think it’s generally best left to those who take a special interest in it.
Another issue I don’t work with is extreme jealousy. I sometime have people calling me about their partners who are extremely jealous and controlling, asking if I can hypnotise the partner to remove this problem. Well for one thing it’s very unlikely that the partner would even see me, because these people (usually men, though not always) generally believe that they are in the right and that it’s their partner’s job to reassure them by submitting totally to their wishes. These people simply cannot have normal satisfactory relationships in our modern world where people expect a reasonable amount of freedom. A relationship with an extremely jealous and controlling partner will always end badly, so it’s better that it ends sooner when less damage has been done.
Twenty years ago most hypnotherapists (myself included) saw a lot of people to help them to stop smoking. These days I don’t often work with this issue. Scientific studies show that if clients are followed up after one year to see if they have permanently stopped smoking, about one third have stopped and the other two-thirds have gone back to smoking. This success rate is much less than what most clients would be hoping for. If anyone claims a significantly better success rate I suggest you ask them for the evidence of long term follow up. Having said this, a well-designed programme of hypnotherapy does have a better success rate than other treatments for stopping smoking, so by all means go for it if you can find an experienced practitioner who specialises in this issue. You are more likely to succeed if you take some time to plan ahead and consider the possible temptations, withdrawal symptoms, and how you will get past them.
Many scientific studies show that hypnosis can be very effective in enhancing sports performance, and there are therapists who specialise in this field. I don’t deal with it because although I’m keen on physical fitness I have absolutely no interest in competitive sports, so I’m just not the right therapist for people to whom this is really important.
Finally I don’t generally deal with women who want help in preparing to give birth. Hypnotherapy can be very effective in this area, but I believe it’s best left to female specialists who concentrate on this area and have a detailed knowledge of the physical side of giving birth. There are many “hypnobirthing” practitioners, many of whom are also midwives and have experienced giving birth themselves.
What about stage hypnosis? Is it for real or are they just acting?
Bit of both. The stage hypnotist carefully selects his subjects after testing the whole audience for hypnotic suggestibility. And the ones who come up on stage are volunteers who know what is expected of them, so to some extent they may be acting, participating in an entertainment. Where stage hypnotists have caused harm it’s usually by touching on some underlying worry which the subject has not revealed.
Is any physical contact involved in hypnosis?
Some techniques involve my lifting your arm, by gently holding your wrist. No other physical contact is necessary. If you had a fear of being touched there’s plenty of other methods I can use.
My phobia is very embarrassing and I’m afraid you’d laugh at me.
Having had a phobia myself when younger, I never make fun of anyone who has this problem. The experience of phobia feels totally real to the person who has it, however strange it may seem to somebody else. It is no laughing matter.
What if my phobia is very unusual?
All phobias work in much the same way and the same therapy methods can be adapted to them by a competent therapist. That’s why you need to see a therapist who understands the underlying factors, rather than someone who will just recite a script which they have memorised out of a book. Even in the case of common phobias no two clients are alike. For instance, some people with emetophobia cannot bear the sound of someone being sick, but have no problem cleaning up that person afterwards. For others it would be the other way around. So every client needs a therapy programme tailored to their individual needs.
My child has a phobia but is reluctant to have therapy, shall I make them come to see you?
All therapy requires the client’s cooperation so it cannot work if they are forced to come. In fact this could make matters much worse by giving them a phobia for therapy, so they’d never want to have it in future! However, you could bring them for an initial chat, without therapy, and without charge, so I could explain to them exactly what therapy involves. Peoples’ fears are usually due to mistaken ideas about what therapy involves. No one will be forced to do anything.
How young a child can you work with?
I work a lot with teenagers down to about fifteen years old. All clients under eighteen must have a parent or guardian accompany them, who must also sign a consent form on the first session.
I have another question which is not covered in the above list.
You can contact me via the contact form on the first page of this site and I will answer your question by return email.