Hearing the words “hypnotist” or “hypnotherapy” may spark images of mind-controlled individuals clucking like a chicken in front of a laughing audience. While the entertainment industry has leveraged the power of hypnosis to sell tickets, the scientific and mental health community explores the impact of certified hypnotherapy sessions for those struggling with a variety of mental disorders, undesirable habits, or restrictive subconscious beliefs.
Is Hypnotherapy Effective?
For people who are passionate about change and are motivated to stop their bad habits – hypnotherapy can be incredibly effective.
According to 2018 Time’s article, hypnotherapy shows immense promise in treating physical and mental pain. According to the director of the Program in Placebo Studies at Harvard Medical School, Irving Kirsch, “…hypnosis is a well-studied and legitimate form of adjunct treatment for conditions ranging from obesity and pain after surgery to anxiety and stress.”
The article continues to explain,
“In terms of weight loss, some of Kirsch’s research has found that, compared to people undergoing cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)—one of the most evidence-backed non-drug treatments for weight loss, depression and many other conditions—those who undergo cognitive behavior therapy coupled with hypnosis tend to lose significantly more weight. After four to six months, those undergoing CBT+hypnosis dropped more than 20 pounds, while those who just did CBT lost about half that amount. The hypnosis group also maintained that weight loss during an 18-month follow-up period, while the CBT-only group tended to regain some weight.”
Clinical psychologist and MedCircle Certified Educator, Dr. Ramani Durvasula reveals the benefits of hypnotherapy for certain goals. Ramani says, “The research on hypnotherapy and smoking is incontrovertible. And that is the recommendation I will always make to a client who is struggling with quitting smoking. Hypnotherapy first. That’s where the evidence is.”
Certified hypnotherapist Grace Smith, calls hypnotherapy “meditation with a goal” and has experienced the power of this 18th-century method first hand. She holds hypnotherapy responsible for her ability to quit smoking and alleviate her fear of public speaking. As the founder of Grace Space Hypnotherapy School – Smith and graduated instructors help people around the world make significant steps toward healthier lives.
Hypnotherapy has been known to help the following:
- weight loss/weight gain
- hot flashes associated with menopause
- substance use
- sleep issues
- pain control/management
- bad habits (nail-biting, smoking, etc)
While there is plenty of evidence supporting the efficacy of hypnotherapy and many people across the globe have sworn to its’ effectiveness, it is important to remember that hypnotherapy is not regulated. Many so-called “hypnotherapists” have little or no formal training and may promise unlikely or even impossible results. Furthermore, as with any treatment – results can vary and individuals may need to try multiple types of treatment before finding the one that works.
How Does Hypnotherapy Work?
In short, hypnotherapy puts the patient into a state of deep relaxation called the theta state. During this state – patients are typically more open to new ideas and are able to create new neurological links in the brain more quickly. The theta state is three of four states to understand.
During the beta state, you are awake, alert, and are experiencing “normal” consciousness. Grace Smith says that during times of intense stress, it can be difficult to implement lasting change.
During the alpha state, you feel relaxed and calm and are not stressing. You may be in the alpha state when you are daydreaming.
During the theta state, you are in a deeper state of relaxation. This state often occurs during meditation and hypnosis.
During the delta state, you are in a deep sleep.
For those looking to make significant and lasting changes, uncovering your limiting beliefs is often a good first step.
What is a Limiting Belief?
According to Dr. Ramani, a limiting belief is a thought that a person holds about themselves or the world that restricts their range of behavior. Smith adds that many of us are not aware of our own limiting beliefs and hypnotherapy can help us uncover these restrictive beliefs.
Three common limiting beliefs are:
- Lack of self-love
- Lack of self-worth
- Lack of self-confidence
Hypnotherapy can bring you to a place where you may be more likely to identify these limiting beliefs and create a new game plan for your life.
Hypnosis isn’t the only way to identify your limiting beliefs. Acceptance and commitment therapy combines evidenced based therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy with eastern philosophies such as mindfulness.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) combines elements of cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness, and existential therapy. ACT is used to treat a variety of mental health conditions.
You can learn more about ACT here and in this clip:
While there are many components to ACT, Dr. Ramani explains that two big questions that are examined during this type of therapy are:
- What are you moving away from?
- What are you moving towards?
Ramani tells us that we typically spend too much time moving away from pain instead of integrating with our core philosophies and values. Once we can accept the reality of our past and implement a solid mindfulness practice allows real change to occur.
Language Can Imprison Us
One core element in ACT is removing self-identity from thoughts.
For example, if you have the thought,
“I am a disorganized person” there is in inherent belief in that thought.
Now, reframe the thought like this,
“I am having the thought that I am disorganized.”
Reframing this thought gives you your power back. It allows you to examine your thoughts more unbiasedly. It allows you to experience the separation between thought and self.
Watch the full series with clinical psychologist Dr. Ramani Durvasula and hypnotherapist Grace Smith.