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Hypnotherapy – magic or just an ancient mental super food

In Mind and Movement by Leon CowenLeave a Comment

Got problems – who hasn’t! There’s a new kid on the block that’s actually been there all along but is now being accepted more and more by medical practitioners, naturopaths, chiropractors, psychologists and other health professionals. It’s clinical hypnotherapy.


Recognition is happening in more ways than one. The recognition of clinical hypnotherapy has also seen the recognition of government accredited qualifications in clinical hypnotherapy. Government accredited diplomas and advanced diplomas are being earned, which acknowledges clinical hypnotherapists and clinical hypnotherapy as part of the Australian healthcare system.

The range of conditions clinical hypnotherapy is now recognised as helping is growing and growing. Medical research is showing that, apart from the area that everyone seems to know (smoking), clinical hypnotherapists are helping their clients overcome issues such as asthma, migraine headaches, dermatitis, obesity, sexual problems, study issues (such as end-of-year exam nerves), insomnia, fears such as spiders or flying, and many other issues. To some it looks like hypnotherapy is a magic wand – unfortunately not – but hypnotherapy is now being recognised as an under-utilised tool for use in a huge number of conditions. The interesting thing about hypnotherapy is that, if you can think about it, then hypnotherapy can usually affect it – pain, sports performance … you name it

Hypnosis is a natural state – a state that, unbeknown to us, we use every day, and rely on even though we are unaware. I don’t want to get all technical, but you have two minds: the conscious and subconscious. The part you know about is your conscious mind. The part you use every day but don’t realise you’re using is the subconscious. Have you seen a mother ‘kiss it better’ for a child? Or have you arrived at your destination unable to recall the details of your journey? Or found that some sound or smell suddenly triggers off a lost memory? All these are evidence of the subconscious mind at work, and hypnosis is simply our ability to access and direct this subconscious activity in a positive and helpful way.

Hypnosis is a very deep state of relaxation, coupled with active compliance. First and foremost, it is very, very pleasant – the sort of feeling you have when you’re almost asleep, and allowing the world to go by, but, as with the pleasant dreaminess of almost sleep, in hypnosis you are still the person in control. You are totally aware of all that is happening, and you allow it to happen in much the same way as you allow yourself to drift in a daydream. Nonetheless you are in control and this is important. It is your choice whether you accept or reject suggestions made to you, and it is your choice whether you continue in hypnosis. I can only say that most people allow themselves to continue.

How does hypnosis work? It is an age-old question, and perhaps we shall never know the answer completely. However, unlike in the days of voodoo and mystery, we do know now that hypnotic suggestion can produce physiological changes through the ability of the nervous system to control somatic functions. It can also allow the subject to reach back mentally and emotionally to deal at source with past trauma, and it can allow us to modify our behaviour, if we choose to, by ‘reprogramming’ the subconscious. So perhaps you can begin to see that the carefully structured suggestions of the therapist, together with the responses of the subject, can produce many and varied effects that are very powerful indeed. Our subconscious minds are our storehouse of memory and emotion, and the centre of spontaneous reaction and automatic response. When we give ourselves access to these resources, we access control of our own lives.

Hypnosis has been practised in various forms for thousands of years. The Magi of Persia and the Fakirs of India were able to put themselves into a very deep state (believed to be hypnosis), and use that state to convince people that they had magical supernatural powers. In Ancient Egypt, the priests were said to heal the sick by ‘putting them in sleep temples’ and suggesting that they would emerge fully recovered. These sleep temples spread throughout Greece and Asia Minor, and became well known as places of healing. Some people sought out teachers to teach them how to heal themselves, using what is now known to be self-hypnosis.

The use of self-hypnosis can be invaluable, and its uses are limited only by your own imagination. It can be used simply for relaxation, for ego-boosting and confidence, for waking up in the morning or sleeping at night. We hear more and more now of its use in weight control, sporting performance, study, concentration, and the control of habits such as smoking or nail biting. It can also be used for the things that are important to you personally, whatever they may be. Suggestions accepted by your subconscious become part of your automatic response system, and are acted upon automatically. Naturally, they become more effective each time they are reinforced, and with self-hypnosis, that reinforcement is available to you whenever you wish to use it. Self-hypnosis is self-help. It is a positive reinforcement of your goals at your fingertips, for your use in your specific interest.

To enter hypnosis is easy – once you have the knack! – and the methods of hypnotic induction are only limited by the limits of your own imagination. If you allow yourself to relax and to concentrate, the focus of that concentration can be anything from the flickering of strobe lights to the snoring of your spouse!

How do you find a clinical hypnotherapist who can help you? Things have changed from a number of years ago with information available from both Australia-wide and state-based associations. If you want to use clinical hypnotherapy, the main thing is to contact the clinical hypnotherapist and talk to them. Tell them what you want and ask if they can assist. It is not just what they say but how you feel about their answer which is important. If you like the way you feel about them then they could be the right professional to help you.

It is important to realise that hypnotherapy is not magic, but it can produce what seems like a miracle – the miracle of helping you overcome the issue in your life, letting you be happy and more content than you have for a long time, and all of this without having to take any medications.


Leon W Cowen is a clinical hypnotherapist and Executive Director of the Academy of Applied Hypnosis in Lindfield, NSW


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