cropped shot of psychotherapist writing on clipboard and female patient sitting on couch

By: Rabbi Azriel Hauptman

Hypnotherapy is when one utilizes hypnosis for therapeutic purposes. The myths about hypnosis abound, as many people associate hypnosis with swinging pendulums and complete mind control of the one being hypnotized. Therefore, in this brief overview of hypnotherapy, we will try to describe what it is and how it works, and also to dispel some myths along the way.

Hypnosis is a trance-like state of focus or concentration that is generally facilitated by a trained clinical hypnotherapist. In a hypnotic trance, you will feel very relaxed and be in a sleep-like state. This does not mean that you will actually be sleeping. If you fall asleep, you cannot be hypnotized!

An everyday example of a hypnosis-like trance would be if you were driving your car on the highway, you lost track of time, and when you came back to your senses, you realized that you are ten miles past your exit. You were not asleep at the wheel. You were skillfully operating a motor vehicle. Nevertheless, the quiet hum of the engine, the line markers flying past you one-by-one, and your body comfortably relaxing in the driver’s seat combined to put you into a trance.

When you are in a trance-like state, you are more open to suggestions. We all have goals and values that we aspire to, but cannot seem to actualize. For example, if you are a smoker, you probably understand that your habit is slowly killing you and you really want to stop. The problem is that your subconscious mind views smoking as the elixir of life, since whenever you feel agitated, anxious, or simply bored, you reach for your cigarette and all of your problems melt away. How do you take what you know in your conscious mind and communicate it to your subconscious thoughts and feelings? This is where hypnosis can play a role.

When you are in a hypnotic trance, the facilitator will invoke mental imagery and soothing verbal suggestions that will be absorbed not only by your conscious mind, but also by your subconscious thoughts and feelings. Your facilitator is not controlling you. You are in control at all times and it is completely up to you to decide if you want to accept the suggestions of the facilitator or not. Nevertheless, your relaxed trance-like state provides you with an openness that helps you absorb desirable messages that would normally be hindered by mental blockages.

Not everyone is hypnotizable. Some people find it very difficult to reach that relaxed state and allow someone else to be in the driver’s seat. However, for people who are hypnotizable, hypnotherapy can be a powerful tool for accomplishing important behavioral or psychological changes. Hypnotherapy can be helpful for pain control, breaking bad habits, anxiety, phobias, and stress.

Some states in the U.S. require licensure to practice hypnotherapy and some do not. If you are seeking hypnotherapy to achieve goals that relate to mental health, it would be prudent to seek out a hypnotherapist who is also a licensed mental health professional whether your state requires it or not.

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