What Does a Hypnotherapist Do?

A hypnotherapist might be consulted for help with quitting smoking.
Hypnotherapists work with patients of all ages, classes and races.
Hypnotherapy is considered complementary medicine and should rarely be the sole treatment for a condition.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 24 November 2014
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A hypnotherapist uses the discipline of hypnosis to treat clients for a range of conditions. Depending on the region in which the hypnotherapist practices, there may be a prevailing laws about certification to ensure that clients are served by qualified professionals. Typically, hypnotherapy is considered complementary medicine, meaning that while it may be a valid and useful method of treatment, it is not the only technique used to treat a patient.

The study of hypnosis is quite old. Many ancient cultures believed that trance like states promoted healing and divine communion, and as a result some people developed techniques for entering these states of altered consciousness. In the 1700s, Franz Mesmer started hypnotizing patients and using the trance as a therapeutic tool. His technique came to be known as mesmerism; most hypnotherapists differentiate between hypnotherapy and mesmerism, arguing that hypnotherapy has been tested in controlled environments and that it is a valid medical treatment technique.

Clients seek out a hypnotherapist for all sorts of conditions. Many hypnotherapists work on behavior modification, dealing with issues like anxiety, anger management, attitude problems, weight management, and smoking cessation. Others focus on pain management and the treatment of stress related illnesses. Some psychologists may use hypnosis as part of their patient treatment, and some doctors encourage hypnotherapy treatment to deal with fears which may be associated with upcoming surgeries or other major medical procedures.

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When a client approaches a hypnotherapist to request a session, the hypnotherapist starts by talking about hypnosis and what to expect from the session. A professional hypnotherapist will review the techniques which will be used during the session while talking with the patient about the issue that has brought him or her to the office. Hypnotherapists must tailor their treatment to their individual patients, as each person thinks and operates slightly differently. During a preliminary interview, a hypnotherapist can think about which techniques would be most effective, and how to address the client's needs.

When the hypnosis part of the session begins, the client is asked to relax and the therapist uses the techniques that he or she has trained in. Ideally, the client will enter a form of trance in which the subconscious is brought to the surface. People are very suggestible while they are under hypnosis, so a hypnotherapist can bring up issues and deal with them. Because of this suggestibility, a hypnotherapist must also have impeccable professional and personal ethics, since clients are very vulnerable while under hypnosis.

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Discuss this Article

nony
Post 14

@everetra - I am not a fan of hypnosis because it puts people in an altered state of consciousness, notwithstanding assurances about how safe this may be. It’s not that I am convinced the person “put under” will do anything immoral or embarrassing.

It’s that the hypnotherapist has access to regions of the patient’s subconscious that may yield personal details, things that the patient would not divulge in real life.

It’s almost like an invasion of privacy, like you’re giving someone the key to the most intimate chambers of your heart. I’d never give that key away.

everetra
Post 13

I think that one of the biggest misconceptions people have about hypnosis is that hypnotists can put you under even if you don’t want to be. This myth is propagated in movies, where a hypnotist suddenly yanks out a pendulum watch and tells an unsuspecting person, “You see feel very sleepy…”

Within minutes the person is out, cold. That actually never happens, from what I understand. We attended a demonstration by a hypnotist and he said that if you don’t want to be hypnotized, you can’t. You have to be very open to suggestion.

He also dispelled the myth that the hypnotist could get the patient to engage in unethical behavior; again, this is another idea propagated by movies. Basically he said that the hypnotized patient would never do anything in the hypnotic state that they wouldn’t do while awake. In other words, their ethical faculties remain intact.

julies
Post 12

I find it very interesting that the term 'mesmerized' and hypnotherapy are very similar.

When I think of someone being mesmerized I am reminded of kids that are totally engrossed in a television program or video game. Many times they are completely oblivious to what is going on around them.

It makes me wonder if something like this controls your mind and actions like someone being hypnotized would?

I also wonder what type of training someone needs to go through to get a hypnotherapist certification?

If you were going to pursue something like this, you would definitely want to make sure they were qualified and trained in what they were doing.

SarahSon
Post 11

I really have a hard time understanding how hypnotherapy works, but have a friend who swears by it.

She has been overweight most of her life and has tried every kind of diet and weight loss program that has come along.

When she told me she was going to see a certified hypnotherapist to help her lose weight, I was pretty skeptical.

I guess I am still skeptical because I have a hard time understanding how something like this can help someone lose weight. I always thought it was just a matter of making up your mind to do it, but apparently there is a lot more involved than that.

She did lose about 30 pounds, but the real test will be to see if she manages to keep it off.

Eviemae
Post 10

I live in a very small community, and we have a very active religious section. Many of the different mini-groups that make up the whole of this community are firmly against hypnotherapy.

At first, I thought they were just plain nuts to have a problem with such a thing. Then, one day, I actually listened to what they were saying and realized that they could be right.

Well, rather, if a person believes in a spirit world seriously, their arguments made some sense. I personally do believe in this ‘other’ world, so I got it.

Basically, what they were saying was that hypnosis in and of itself was not necessarily a bad thing. However, when used inappropriately it could be very bad.

In the event that this channel to a person’s mind was left open rather than closed appropriately, they could be led by bad spirits to do harmful things to themselves or others.

Since I do believe that we all have a soul and other good and bad spirits, I could see what they meant. We should protect that vulnerable part of ourselves.

They encouraged folks who firmly thought they needed to undergo hypnosis to at least take someone with them who could make sure the therapists handled things appropriately.

Agni3
Post 9

I have a friend who went to a hypnotherapist to help him quit smoking, and it actually worked. I didn’t think that it would, but he laid cigarettes down completely.

He said, though, that in some ways he thought that it was at least a little bit psychological and not at all a part of the actual hypnosis. In other words, he had convinced himself that he had gotten the help he needed to finally quit smoking after decades and so he did quit.

I suppose what he meant was that he tricked himself into stopping. He said he never again had another craving.

whiteplane
Post 8

Does anyone know how to do hypnosis relationally? I have always heard of it being used in therapeutic applications but I would just like to hypnotize my friends and conversely be hypnotized by them?

It seems like this could lead to a lot of laughs and maybe some great pranks. At the very least it is interesting to explore the unconscious in the way that hypnosis allows. I realize that there are both practical and ethical concerns related to doing this relationally but surely there must be a safe and easy way. Any tips you guys have would be most appreciated.

candyquilt
Post 7

OeKc05-- That's horrible! I've heard something similar from a hypnotherapist on TV. He wasn't talking about hypnotherapists taking advantage of hypnosis methods, but he did say that it is a dangerous method to use.

I remember him specifically saying that things might not always go as the hypnotherapist plans and it is possible for the therapy to have bad effects on a patient rather than good. He even said that a patient under hypnosis could possibly not wake up as well.

I don't know if he was being completely honest or exaggerated a little bit, but I've been scared about hypnotherapy ever since. I suffer from anxiety and had thought about finding a hypnotherapist for sessions before, but I can't get myself to take the risk.

lighth0se33
Post 6

My mother went to a hypnotherapist so that she could stop overeating. She knew that she had mental issues, but she wasn't exactly sure why she felt the need to comfort herself with food.

While she was under, the hypnotherapist made her feel secure and comfortable enough to open up. He found that she had a lot of uncertainty and unpredictability in her life, and food was the one thing she could always depend on to make her feel good.

She was able to start working on her issues. When she got a craving, she would write her feelings down in a journal and work through them, rather than grabbing a bag of chips and drowning out her thoughts with the television.

ysmina
Post 5

@simrin-- That's an interesting thought but I think that even hypnotherapy requires more than one session to help people.

And I'm not so sure that everything ends with the mind. A hypnotherapist might be able to reach an individual's subconscious and affect their thoughts and behaviors that way, but addictions also cause physical changes in the person which will take time to overcome.

I agree that a hypnotherapist can be very beneficial for addicts, but I'm sure that it also depends on the individual, their addiction and how the therapy sessions go.

If I was a therapist, I would definitely want to receive hypnotherapist training because I find the technique really interesting. I believe that most of our emotional and psychological problems stem from our subconscious. Hypnotherapy is probably the only area of therapy that has such a direct access to the subconscious.

kylee07drg
Post 4

@simrin – The reason hypnosis doesn't work for everyone addicted to something is that their minds aren't the only thing addicted. If it were a psychological addiction only, I'm sure hypnosis would work wonders.

However, our bodies get used to certain substances, and they need them in order to function. Getting off of major drugs causes terrible withdrawal symptoms, and these are truly physical. Heavy sweating, vomiting, shaking, and extreme pain are not something that mental manipulation can stave off.

My husband was addicted to cigarettes for ten years. His body craved the nicotine, and if he deprived it of that, it let him know it wasn't happy. The only way he was able to quit was to take the step-down nicotine patches, which delivered a little of the drug to him each day in slowly decreasing doses. Hypnosis would not have worked for this.

OeKc05
Post 3

@cloudel – It could be used as a tool for evil. I heard about one hypnotherapist who raped his patients while they were under his influence. He had them so under his control that they did whatever he said, and they woke up not knowing what they had done.

However, several of them started having nightmares and anxiety. One of them visited a different hypnotherapist for help, and that one was able to bring out the patient's memories of what had happened.

Once he went public, several more of his patients underwent hypnosis by another therapist and discovered they had similar memories. The guy got convicted, and he will never be able to get his license back.

SteamLouis
Post 2

I first heard about hypnotherapy while working as a server during a wedding reception. I know it's kind of random and weird, but it's true. I was going around and asking the guests if they would like some coffee. One of the gentlemen I had been serving said that he used to be addicted to coffee and had several pots of it daily until his visit to a hypnotherapist.

After a hypnosis session with the therapist, he was able to quit coffee entirely and hasn't had a drop since.

It was very interesting to hear him talking about this. I realized then that hypnotherapy could be really helpful for any kind of addiction. I know that drug and alcohol addicts go through months of rehab to overcome their addiction.

Why can't they just find a hypnotherapist and achieve this in a day?

cloudel
Post 1

I have often seen hypnosis used on sitcoms and movies. On television, the patient being hypnotized generally doesn't remember a thing from the session, yet he remains under the influence of whatever the hypnotherapist suggested to him while he was under.

I remember one sitcom in which a guy had been hypnotized to respond to the sound of a bell. His personality would totally change every time a doorbell rang, and it would change back when the phone rang. He wasn't even aware that he was doing this.

Do people really not remember what happened while they were under hypnosis? It seems that this could be a dangerous thing, because the hypnotherapist could do just about anything to them without their knowledge.

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