Hypnosis is an altered state of consciousness that is sometimes used in hypnotherapy to treat people with addictions. Although hypnotherapy is usually not the first line of treatment for people with addiction, there are many people who have successfully used it to quit smoking without other interventions. One study found that hypnotherapy was even more effective than nicotine replacement therapy for smoking cessation...
Hypnotherapy can also help with other addictions, either alone or in combination with other psychotherapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy. While there is no extensive research into its effectiveness for addiction problems, there are some studies to support its use. If you’ve tried other treatments and haven’t successfully overcome your addiction, hypnotherapy may be worth considering.
What is hypnosis
Like other states of consciousness – such as normal wakefulness, sleep, dreaming, and drug intoxication – the experience of hypnosis is unique to the person who is experiencing it. Although there are features of the hypnotic state that are common in hypnotized people, it is never exactly the same from person to person, nor is it the same every time the same person is hypnotized.
Like all other states, a hypnotic trance is strongly influenced by set and setting. Set and setting relate to the mindset and environment a person has during the experience.
Many people are discouraged from trying hypnotherapy because they have seen stage hypnosis or the like on television and fear that if they are hypnotized they will lose control, do something embarrassing, or find the experience uncomfortable. Most of the time, the opposite is true.
Hypnotherapeutic hypnosis is different from stage hypnosis, which is induced to entertain an audience.
There are some common feelings and thought processes that people experience when they are hypnotized for therapeutic purposes. However, this description will not always be an exact fit for every hypnotic subject. Thinking about hypnotherapy can give you an idea of what to expect.
Relaxation is a central aspect of hypnosis and includes both mental and physical relaxation. Hypnosis does not actually cause relaxation per seRather, the process of hypnotic induction involves following the hypnotherapist’s suggestions to relax your mind and body.
For example, the hypnotherapist might suggest a feeling of heaviness in one or more parts of your body. Since hypnosis is a collaborative process between the hypnotherapist and the client, you may be apt to notice a sense of heaviness in the suggested body parts. However, it is actually up to you to induce relaxation, not the therapist...
Unlike the portrayal of hypnosis, in which a hypnotic subject carries out the instructions of a hypnotist, the hypnotherapist’s suggestions are usually sent as an invitation rather than an order. When you think about the suggestions the hypnotherapist makes, you might think, “In fact, it would be really nice to relax now.” Then it will be easy for you to let go of the tension and relax. There is no such thing as a “must”.
Another characteristic of hypnosis is a special type of intense mental focus. As with relaxation, this is completely under the control of the hypnotized person, not the therapist.
Because hypnotherapy usually takes place in a private, quiet room, it is usually natural and straightforward to focus on the therapist’s words. Most people find it easy to let go of distractions and focus their attention on the topic the hypnotherapist is talking about.
The therapist is trained to direct your thought processes in a specific way that is known to be beneficial in overcoming addictive behaviors, controlling pain, or assisting with a variety of other psychological, emotional, and behavioral problems. People under hypnosis naturally focus on what the therapist is saying.
Before starting hypnotherapy, the therapist will discuss with clients what will happen. You have already decided with the hypnotherapist why you are looking for treatment and what your goals are for the therapy.
The therapist will guide the process so that you can specifically reflect on your addiction and the problems it poses. However, because care is taken to keep you relaxed and calm, it usually isn’t overwhelming, as it can be when you have a lot of conflicting information to deal with.
A key aspect of hypnosis is the attempt to create a state of heightened suggestibility. When people counseling about addictive behaviors, they usually think of many reasons why the counselor’s helpful suggestions do not work. It can be a long series of “Yes, but …”.
When people are under hypnosis, they are often more open to possibilities than in their normal, wide-awake state..This open-mindedness can lead to an heightened sense of personal power in some people, where the person realizes that they are capable of much more than they previously thought possible.
This openness, too, should not be confused with a lack of control. Although people under hypnosis may consider things they normally wouldn’t, they usually don’t do anything that would violate their value system. Instead, there is a sense of possibility that wasn’t obvious before, coupled with a willingness to see things differently.
Sometimes people find that their addiction problems are made worse by inflexible mindsets that go away under hypnosis.
Hypnosis is known for its ability to evoke unusual sensory experiences, especially to allow people to experience sensations such as pain differently than usual. This effect is so profound that some people have even been operated on without anesthetic..It can also create differences in the way visual and auditory sensations are perceived.
As with other aspects of hypnosis, these changes are controlled by the person under hypnosis, not by the hypnotherapist who is merely suggesting. For example, the perception of pain is greatly influenced by the fear that the person experiences with pain. In a state of deep relaxation, many people find that without the fear they are in a better position to release themselves from the pain, which leads to another aspect of hypnosis – detachment.
Under hypnosis, some people feel a sense of detachment or dissociation, as if they are slightly removed from what they are experiencing..Some people describe this as looking at themselves from the outside or as if they were a character on a television screen. However, people under hypnosis still know where they are and what they are doing.
This sense of detachment can range from feeling involved in the hypnotic process but simultaneously observing it from the outside, to switching back and forth between observing from the outside and being involved in the experience. Some people don’t get this observer effect at all, while for others it is very obvious.
People sometimes find that this sense of detachment can help them see situations more objectively without being embroiled in their usual feelings.
A word from Verywell
The way people usually describe the feeling of being hypnotized during hypnotherapy is to be in a calm, relaxed state, both physically and mentally. In this state, you can concentrate deeply on what you are thinking about. They usually feel open-minded and ready to think and experience life differently, often more distant than usual.
That said, there is no right way to feel when you are undergoing hypnosis. If you are curious to try hypnotherapy for treating addiction, make sure the person you are working with is qualified for the treatment.
For example, your state psychology licensing agency should be able to refer you to psychologists who are qualified in hypnotherapy. A number of health professionals can be trained in hypnotherapy, including doctors, nurses, and dentists, although this is usually not part of their standard training.