What is hypnosis?
Leliana Valentina Parvulescu, Psychologist,
Joc Responsabil program within Joc Responsabil Association
There is a lot of talk about hypnosis, I often read all sorts of false statements or practices that have nothing to do with hypnosis. On some occasions I talked to people who were scared of hypnosis, because they associated it with what they saw in various TV or online broadcasts or who had the experience of interacting with people who have no real training in the field. That’s why I think it’s useful to present some information here. It is a clinical method for the treatment of certain conditions, for the development of performance or for behavioral optimization. Most importantly, the person using it is a specialist, otherwise it can have long-term negative consequences.
Therefore, hypnosis is a procedure in which changes in a person’s sensations, perceptions, thoughts, and behavior are experienced. It is a psychological phenomenon whose history dates back to ancient times. A hypnosis session begins with one of the many induction procedures available. This initial phase includes suggestions for relaxation, well-being and calm. Hypnotic psychotherapy, however, is not just a simple administration of suggestions, but a real re-education of the patient’s adaptation to life and the integration of his personality in it. During hypnosis, the hypnotized person is conscious, communicates with the psychotherapist, is more open in solving the problem he has, because the barriers of resistance to change, specific to the human species are practically removed. For this reason, the duration of solving a problem is shorter with the help of hypnosis. Most people can get into a hypnotic trance, some more easily, but it also depends a lot on the psychotherapist. Using this technique in a psychotherapeutic process, it is possible to treat anxiety, panic, depression, eating disorders, obsessions, phobias, etc. However, there are also contraindications. Patients with certain problems, for example, those suffering from acute major depression, psychosis, pregnant women and those using certain types of medication cannot be treated. That is why it is extremely important for the psychotherapist to make a detailed history before starting the procedure.
The hypnotic procedure can be used in a variety of ways. Regressive hypnosis, for example, is an experimental technique that allows introspection into the past. Thus, the patient is given the opportunity to go back in time, where he can look for the symbolic roots of his current conflicts. Not all people can benefit from regressive hypnosis, as about 20% of patients fail to get into that condition. The purpose of regressive hypnosis, in addition to resolving dysfunctional conflicts and beliefs, is also to recover the biological and spiritual resources that allow the subject to evolve. Psychotherapy with regressive hypnosis involves a deep psychological and spiritual commitment for the patient and hypnotherapist.
According to Milton Erickson, the famous psychologist and psychiatrist and founder of modern or Ericksonian hypnosis, hypnosis is a process that can often occur spontaneously at various times in our daily lives. Erickson came to use hypnosis creatively and outlined the process in three steps:
Preparation – The phase of knowledge between the patient and the psychotherapist. The main goal is to build a strong relationship between the two, which is based on trust, mutual respect and understanding. In this first phase, the psychotherapist collects information about the patient’s experiences and knowledge, investigates the mental reference structures and belief systems. The patient’s expectation of solving the problem is fundamental, in fact the positive expectations lead to a suspension and an easier change of the reference structures that forces him to a situation of self-limitation.
Therapeutic trance – The period in which the patient’s patterns are temporarily altered in order to increase his receptivity to other patterns of mental functioning, which contribute to solving problems. The main physiological indicators that indicate trance are catalepsy, immobility of the body, change in voice quality, closing of the eyes, relaxed facial features, lack or delay of reflexes, slowing of respiratory and cardiac rhythms and others. In this sense, Erickson identifies a trance induction paradigm consisting of five stages: 1 – Attention fixation; 2 – Undermining the usual frames of reference and beliefs; 3 – Research of the unconscious; 4 – The process of communication with the unconscious; 5 – Hypnotic response.
Assessment and ratification of the therapeutic change obtained – It is the moment when the therapist communicates to the patient what are the changes in sensory and perceptual functioning. The patient thus becomes aware of the changes that hypnosis has brought.
In order to induce hypnosis, it is necessary for the psychotherapist to know and be able to choose from the various techniques the one that best suits the needs of his patient. Each person has their own mental functioning, so the specialist, conscious and endowed with his knowledge, will look for the best and most personalized way to induce the hypnotic state of the person in front of him. In order to induce a hypnotic state, it is first necessary to explain to the patient what awaits him, denying any prejudices or fears. In this way the patient will be able to approach this psychotherapeutic technique with a greater freedom of thought and confidence towards the therapist. He will feel at ease and will have great confidence in his ability to go into a trance. It will be necessary to maintain the trance until the procedure is completed. The different hypnosis techniques available to therapists are chosen depending on the nature of the problem and the hypnotic capacity of the subject. A good hypnotist stands out because he is able to exploit the characteristics of the person in front of him, which is why it is very important to know a large number of hypnosis techniques.
As I wrote earlier, hypnotic psychotherapy is not a simple administration of suggestions, but a real re-education of the patient’s adaptation to life and the integration of his personality in it. There are many prejudices about hypnosis, but fortunately scientific research sheds light on the qualities of this technique and documents its scientific results. It can be applied to a patient only by a specialized psychotherapist, who attended the faculty of psychology or medicine and who then did a training of at least three years in the specialization of hypnotherapy.