The following information is provided by the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH). It is the largest U.S. organization for health and mental health care professionals using clinical hypnosis and is unique among other organizations in that members must be licensed healthcare workers and, at a minimum, have obtained a master’s degree. At this present time, I am earning my clinical hours and training to obtain certification as a hypnotherapist under ASCH.
Definition of Hypnosis
Hypnosis is a state of inner absorption, concentration and focused attention. It is like using a magnifying glass to focus the rays of the sun and make them more powerful. Similarly, when our minds are concentrated and focused, we are able to use our minds more powerfully. Because hypnosis allows people to use more of their potential, learning self-hypnosis is the ultimate act of self-control.
While there is general agreement that certain effects of hypnosis exist, there are differences of opinion within the research and clinical communities about how hypnosis works. Some researchers believe that hypnosis can be used by individuals to the degree they possess a hypnotic trait, much as they have traits associated with height, body size, hair color, etc. Other professionals who study and use hypnosis believe there are strong cognitive and interpersonal components that affect an individual’s response to hypnotic environments and suggestions.
Practitioners use clinical hypnosis in three main ways. First, 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 it is only symbolic, to assist us in bringing about the things we are imagining.
A second basic hypnotic method is to present ideas or suggestions to the patient. In a state of concentrated attention, ideas and suggestions that are compatible with what the patient wants seem to have a more powerful impact on the mind.
Finally, hypnosis may be used for unconscious exploration, to better understand underlying motivations or identify whether past events or experiences are associated with causing a problem. Hypnosis avoids the critical censor of the conscious mind, which often defeats what we know to be in our best interests. The effectiveness of hypnosis appears to lie in the way in which it bypasses the critical observation and interference of the conscious mind, allowing the client’s intentions for change to take effect. That being said, under no circumstance will a client behave or do something that they wouldn’t already be comfortable doing in a fully alert state. This is a collaborative relationship whereby the client is alert at all times.