By Jody Wood
The history of hypnosis is a bit like a history of breathing. Like breathing, hypnosis is an inherent and universal trait, shared and experienced by all human beings since the dawn of time. It’s only in the last few decades that we’ve come to realise that hypnosis itself hasn’t changed for millennia, but our understanding of it and our ability to control it has changed quite profoundly. The history of hypnosis, then, is really the history of this change in perception (History of Hypnosis, 2012). Although through the ages many rituals and practises from all over the world resemble modern day hypnosis, hypnosis from a western medical point of view started in 18th Century with Franz Mesmer’s work. Mesmer was the first to propose a rational basis for the effects of hypnosis. He was also the first to develop a consistent method for hypnosis, which was passed on to and developed by his followers (History of Hypnosis, 2012). Hypnosis has been defined in many ways. Encarta World English dictionary (1999, p. 927) defines hypnosis as: “ A sleep like condition that can be artificially induced in people, in which they can respond to questions and are very susceptible to suggestion from the hypnotist”. Your Free Dictionary.com (2012, pg 927) describes hypnosis as: “a calm state of altered-consciousness that allows a person to recall memories or be guided to change behaviour”.
So what is Hypnotherapy? Encarta World English dictionary (1999, p. 927) defines Hypnotherapy as “the use of hypnosis in treating illness e.g. in dealing with physical pain or psychological problems”. While I believe both of the above definitions to be true, in my experience of hypnosis and hypnotherapy, neither are completely accurate. I would define Hypnosis as an altered state of consciousness or purposely induced altered state of consciousness. Although it is true that people can respond to questions and are very susceptible to suggestion, according to definition Hypnosis is just the state, what you do or don’t do is irrelevant to the definition. With that in mind, I would describe Hypnotherapy as being the use of therapeutic models by a therapist while a client is in a hypnotic state. Although there are many therapeutic modalities that can be used under the umbrella of hypnosis, I will only be describing four: Directive; Gestalt; NLP and Ego State. In the following paragraphs, I use practise examples to illustrate how each of these four therapies can be used effectively when working with clients. In each situation, the client has already been guided into a hypnotic state with a relaxation induction technique and deepened with the use of noise and surrounding stimuli.
Directive hypnotherapy is best known for its use in Stage Hypnosis and is also sometimes referred to as “guided imagery”. Directive hypnotherapy is just what it’s name implies, directive. The hypnotist or hypnotherapist will use very direct language during the induction e.g. "you will feel yourself relaxing”, “you are getting sleepy”. This directive narrative also continues during the guided imagery or therapy e.g. “you will see a lake”, “you are a confident competent hypnotherapist” (Newman,Evolve, 2012). Directive Therapy has many beneficial uses in hypnotherapy and is very effective for building self-confidence as it uses phrases such as, “you will leave here feeling confident”.
I had a client that complained that she had very itchy skin and the resultant scratching had led to unsightly lesions on her arms and hands. She was very distressed by the itching as it caused interrupted sleep and considerable discomfort during the day. The itching distracted her at work and was making her feel self conscious because of the marks on her skin. She had been to the doctor and he did a multitude of tests that showed no abnormalities. Her GP eventually advised her that he believed the itching was a psychosomatic...