Hypnotherapy is not a new form of therapy – it has been around for years. The technique of hypnosis is usually attributed to Franz Anton Mesmer who, in the nineteenth century, experimented with what he called animal magnetism. He describes a state which today we call a hypnotic state. This is commonly known as a trance or a state of altered consciousness in which the conscious mind is more or less bypassed and the therapist addresses the subconscious mind directly. The subject is not really sleep in hypnosis as most people think. A trance is more or less like an intense state of relaxation and awareness. A trance is not difficult to induce. A therapist may have the subject stare at a spot on a wall or wave a pendulum or stopwatch back and forth in front of him and have him concentrate on it while talking to him in a monotone.

The therapist will be saying things like “you are getting sleepier and sleepier, you are more and more relaxed, you can feel the tension draining from your body,” etc. as the subject goes into a trance. Once the subject is in the trance, the therapist will delivery the suggestions in the same monotone voice. The suggestions are designed to modify certain kinds of behavior the subject exhibits in the waking state, like smoking, diet, anxiety, etc. When the therapist finishes giving the suggestion he brings the subject out of the trance by telling him, in the same monotonic voice, that he is becoming aware of noises in the surroundings, he will “wake up” feeling relaxed and refreshed and then will tell him to open his eyes when he is ready.

The therapist will also usually tell the subject beforehand that he will remember everything that happens when he is “under” and will spend time talking to the subject to discuss any anxieties or fears he has about hypnotherapy. Hypnotherapy done in this fashion with a therapist directing the session is referred to as hetero-suggestion. Auto-suggestion is known as self-hypnosis.

The effects of hypnotherapy are not immediate. The intention is to alter some undesirable aspect of behavior and this usually does not happen in one session. Hypnotherapy sessions must be reinforced. The patient will usually have to schedule four or five or more sessions depending on the problem. It is best to find a therapist that you can trust and to follow his instructions.