I remember the first time I heard about hypnotherapy. I’d been working with my psychologist for about four years when she mentioned that I should look into it to help to alleviate some of my anxiety. She said a client of hers had done it to quit smoking and had been blown away by the results. Despite it sounding incredibly woo-woo, I trusted my psychologist (I’ve written about that before here) and knew that if she was recommending something, it was at least worth exploring.
To cut a long story short, I ended up seeing two hypnotherapists that I didn’t click with, but I’m now working with a third, based in the US, that I fully trust. I’ve had five sessions with him via Zoom so far and while I’m yet to see the full results, I’m confident that I will.
I should add that my case is unique and is taking more sessions than usual because the hypnotherapist had trouble identifying the specific triggers for my anxiety. Because of that, four of the sessions were simply talking through situations in my life and my emotional reactions to them. Only in my last session did I then undergo hypnosis.
But let’s rewind for a minute — what exactly is hypnotherapy? Hypnotherapy has been around since as far back as the 18th century and is a mind-body intervention that accesses your subconscious mind. It’s said that the subconscious mind is responsible for up to 95% of our brain power, so accessing it, as you can imagine, can deliver some powerful results. Recent research has shown it to have a 93% success rate.
Hypnotherapy can be used to treat anxiety and depression, as well as help to regulate emotions. It can also assist with the management of chronic pain, bedwetting, weight loss, addictions like smoking, gambling, alcohol, and rid you of phobias, fears and bad habits, like teeth grinding or nail biting. It also increases energy and vitality, confidence, motivation, self-esteem, focus and your achieving of goals.
So, what happens during it?
“During hypnosis, the patient is induced into a trance or dream-like state,” says Mandy Merrifield, founder of Simply Well Hypnotherapy.
“Trance can be achieved a number of ways – I generally direct the client to focus on a point in the room, and then to concentrate on my voice as I guide them into a relaxing state.”
Merrifield explains that there are four levels of trance and that no matter which depth of trance you achieve, if you are willing to listen and relax as deeply as you can, you’ll experience the benefits.
As I mentioned, I’ve been doing my hypnotherapy sessions virtually and have only done one actual hypnosis so far, once my hypnotherapist was confident he knew what to do.
During it, he had me close my eyes and listen to his voice as he talked me through relaxing each part of my body. He then began to talk through a situation that would normally make me anxious, “suggesting” a new, calmer emotional response to it. The hypnosis ended with him describing me walking up stairs and slowly becoming more and more conscious until he instructed me to open my eyes. I felt incredibly relaxed after it.
While he said I could expect to see results immediately (I only did it this morning so, other than feeling generally relaxed, I can’t confirm if I have), he said I would likely have to do a few more sessions to really have a lasting result.
If you’re wondering if it’s for you, know that for it to be effective, you have to truly want to make a lasting change — like I did.
“If you come to saying that you want to quit smoking, but smoking is the band-aid for another trauma or negative emotion or situation that you are experiencing (eg. loneliness or boredom), if you’re not willing to address the underlying situation (eg. if you are holding onto a secondary gain), then the long-term sustained effect of the treatment will not be as effective as it perhaps could be,” says Merrifield.
“Ever heard the saying ‘you can lead a horse to water, but can’t make them drink?’,” she says. “Hypnosis is the same. If you truly want to make the change, your subconscious will allow the suggestions to work for you.”
Hypnosis works in line with your values, she continues. “If I suggest in hypnosis that you go and rob a bank, if it’s not something you would normally do, then that suggestion might not stick.”
Merrifield’s recent clients have included a mum-of-three who had been biting her nails for as long as she could remember and was able to stop after two hypnotherapy sessions, a nine-year-old girl who had wet the bed every night since being out of nappies and was able to stop after four weeks of consistent hypnotherapy and a woman in her 30s who’d found lockdown was getting to her and was feeling lazy and languid, making poor food choices and had lost her motivation to exercise.
“After a month of my hypnosis and coaching program, she is literally glowing,” says Merrifield. “She is active every day, getting ready to take on a new promotion at work, has increased confidence to have challenging conversations and holding her own with boundaries and expectations in her personal life.”
As for me, I’m excited to continue doing sessions and to seeing the results.