Hypnosis can be defined as a procedure during which changes in sensations, perceptions, thoughts, feelings or behaviour are suggested. Hypnosis can be used to amplify whatever it is about therapy that makes it therapeutic. It permits a wide range of choices regarding where and how to intervene in the patient's problems. In this paper, we set out to examine the rationale of using hypnotherapy to manage various types of sleep disorders, and to explore the techniques, strategies and hypnotic scripts employed by various hypnotherapists. We also examine the research data available on the efficacy of hypnosis in the treatment of sleep disorders. Acute and chronic insomnia often respond to relaxation and hypnotherapy approaches, along with sleep hygiene instructions. Hypnotherapy has also helped with nightmares and sleep terrors. There are several reports of successful use of hypnotherapy for parasomnias, specifically for head and body rocking, bedwetting and sleepwalking. Hypnosis is a specialised technique, not a therapy itself, and should be used as an adjunctive intervention within a complete psychological and medical treatment package. Most of the literature is limited to case reports or studies with such a small sample that at times it is very difficult to interpret the results. There is a major placebo effect, so uncontrolled trials are of limited value. It is hard to perform a randomised, double-blind, controlled trial to evaluate hypnotherapy given that cooperation and rapport between patient and therapist is needed to achieve a receptive trance state.
In person, this looks strange enough. “There are a lot of ways to go into this state, but one way is to count to three,” Spiegel explains. “On one, you do one thing — look up. Two, two things — slowly close your eyes and take a deep breath. And three, three things — let the breath out, keep your eyes relaxed, and keep them closed. Let your body float. And then let one hand or the other float up in the air like a balloon.” When in this state, the hypnotized person’s hand will rise up into the air, as if on its own accord; Spiegel can reach over and gently pull the hand down, but it will float right back up again, as if it’s filled with helium.
“Learning hypnotherapy does not commit you to drastically changing your therapy practice,” says hypnotherapist Catherine Reiss. “The training will allow you to more quickly and effectively get to the cause of your clients’ unwanted behaviors and the feelings they present with it, but it also facilitates the use of trance in more traditional formats.”
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Research on the effectiveness of hypnotherapy on a variety of medical conditions is extensive. In one study, the use of hypnotherapy did not seem to alter the core symptoms in the treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); however, it did seem to be useful in managing the associated symptoms including sleep disturbances and tics.
Hypnosis is a wellness technique that works by promoting positive behavioral or cognitive changes. During successful hypnosis, the client should be eased into a state of deep relaxation in which the conscious mind takes a back seat and the subconscious mind becomes more active. The client is often able to let go of critical thoughts and become receptive to the therapist’s suggestions. In this state of hypnosis, motivating suggestions can bypass your usual mental resistance and internal defense mechanisms. For example, even if you want to quit overeating cupcakes, you may have some level of resistance that your rational mind can’t overcome. During hypnosis, the positive suggestions made by the hypnotherapist can bypass your usual blocks, helping you to achieve the formerly unachievable: stopping overeating, quitting smoking, mastering public speaking, or losing your fear of heights. The goal of hypnosis is to strengthen and empower the client’s motivation, commitment and focus. Consider working with someone who is not just trained in hypnosis but also is a licensed therapist or psychotherapist who can bring their academic background into your session.
There is a huge range of societies in England who train individuals in hypnosis; however, one of the longest-standing organisations is the British Society of Clinical and Academic Hypnosis (BSCAH). It origins date back to 1952 when a group of dentists set up the ‘British Society of Dental Hypnosis’. Shortly after, a group of sympathetic medical practitioners merged with this fast-evolving organisation to form ‘The Dental and Medical Society for the Study of Hypnosis’; and, in 1968, after various statutory amendments had taken place, the ‘British Society of Medical and Dental Hypnosis’ (BSMDH) was formed. This society always had close links with the Royal Society of Medicine and many of its members were involved in setting up a hypnosis section at this centre of medical research in London. And, in 1978, under the presidency of David Waxman, the Section of Medical and Dental Hypnosis was formed. A second society, the British Society of Experimental and Clinical Hypnosis (BSECH), was also set up a year before, in 1977, and this consisted of psychologists, doctors and dentists with an interest in hypnosis theory and practice. In 2007, the two societies merged to form the ‘British Society of Clinical and Academic Hypnosis’ (BSCAH). This society only trains health professionals and is interested in furthering research into clinical hypnosis.
One obvious risk to patients is the insufficiently trained therapist. The inadequately trained therapist can cause harm and distort the normally pleasant experience of hypnotherapy. A second risk for patients is the unscrupulous practitioner who may be both inadequately trained and may have some hidden agenda. These rare individuals are capable of causing great harm to the patient and to the profession. As mentioned above, the patient should carefully scrutinize their chosen therapist before submitting themselves to this dynamic form of therapy.
The science behind hypnotherapy is just now beginning to catch up to reports of its beneficial nature. The scientific community is beginning to rave about the potential benefits of hypnosis and what it could do for patients who are looking for a new treatment option. Hypnosis could prove to be a valuable weapon in fighting a multitude of psychological, physical, or behavioral issues.
Since hypnotherapy is an adjunct form of therapy, used along with other forms of psychological or medical treatment, there are many applications. Hypnotherapy can be used to treat anxiety, phobias, substance abuse including tobacco, sexual dysfunction, undesirable spontaneous behaviors, and bad habits. It can be used to help improve sleep, learning disorders, communication, and relationship issues. Hypnotherapy can aid in pain management and help resolve medical conditions such as digestive disorders, skin issues, and gastrointestinal side effects of pregnancy and chemotherapy. It can also be used by dentists to help patients control their fears or to treat teeth grinding and other oral conditions.