Should I try Hypnosis?

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By John Plester, Tutor

This blog follows up on the BBC programme this week 'Trust Me I'm a Doctor" where Dr Michael Mosley asked the question and searched for the evidence to support "Should I try hypnosis?"

In the programme Michael witnessed the power of hypnosis first hand which involved a hypnotic induction followed by twelve suggestions of various levels from imagining ones hands being forced together to experiencing amnesia. He proved very responsive in 11 of the 12 suggestions which placed him in the top 10% of the population in terms of suggestibility. The population average would be 5.6 irrespective of gender.

Michael described the experience as being 'very relaxing' and felt free to resist suggestions should he chose to do so, therefore feeling in control. this is typical of the feedback I get from clients week in week out.

Michael also looked at the evidence in terms of what goes on in the brain using a MRI scanner to see if any differences in the patterns of brain activity could be detected. He looked at an experiment with participants pretending to write in hypnosis versus automatic writing under hypnosis and there was a clear difference in brain activity proving hypnosis is a real phenomenon!

The programme also stated that hypnosis is recommended for Irritable Bowel Syndrome, weight loss and childbirth as there is evidence to support the success in all these areas. However it suggested there isn't enough clinical trials as yet for other areas including existing psychological treatment therapies.

The programme was very positive about hypnosis and the science behind it, however didn't explore in much detail the therapeutic side of this. However there is no doubt given the NHS investment in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and other psychological therapies that therapy works in it's own right.

In hypnotherapy, hypnosis is used as a tool to support visualisation and the focus on positive suggestion within other therapy models. The programme is correct that only a small portion of the population (10%) are highly suggestable, so if we were reliant on this alone then hypnotherapy would only be able to help a small number of people. The good news is that we are not!

When I am training hypnotherapists, they are learning a range of therapies including psychotherapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Neuro-Linguistic Programming (the preferred therapy intervention model of Paul McKenna), Thought Field Therapy, coaching and counselling skills. These are all the most effective therapy interventions to help deal with problems, the hypnosis part of the treatment supports these.

This means that a well trained hypnotherapist has the skill set to not only help the 10% that are highly suggestible but also the 90% who are not. It is no coincidence that all the sports psychologists for elite athletes in all sports utilise hypnotic altered states and visualisation as a tool to achieve peak performance as this forms part of the mental conditioning to succeed. In hypnotherapy, we are doing the same but the focus is on conditioning the  mind to move forward in life.

Great documentary - check it out on BBC iplayer at the following link whilst available:


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