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A real Hypnotherapist’s view

March 28th was the launch date for the new film ’Trance’, so I took the opportunity to see it. Having seen it, I realised that a film like this can give Hypnotherapy a bad press and so I am taking the time to put the record straight, hopefully. However, I can accept that the film has a certain entertainment value, where reality can be distorted to maximise the effect; but I have a strong concern that it might give a totally false impression of what Hypnotherapy is really all about.

. Firstly, I know hundreds of practising Hypnotherapists and have never met one who is as calculating and money-grabbing as Elizabeth, the star in the film, is portayed. By nature of what we do, Hypnotherapists are caring, warm individuals who get a reward from helping others. They are trained to provide an informal, non-judgemental and empathetic approach, when dealing with clients.

My immediate colleagues, Cognitive Hypnotherapists in The Quest Institute, are affiliated to the National Council for Hypnotherapy (NCH) and are bound by its code of practice and ethics. We would be hung, drawn and quartered if we behaved like the Elizabeth. One of the main provisions is in the subject of confidentiality. The code would prevent the client’s details being discussed openly with third parties, as happened in the film. It also would prevent any unlawful actions being undertaken in the name of Hypnotherapy. It is very rare for clients to forget what has gone on during trance. Most have almost total recall; especially when remembering a severely traumatic event, as occurred in the film. Therapists are trained to deal with such situations and would minimize the discomfort felt, to prevent potentially serious physical reactions and harm.

The Therapist also uses an approach which can prove to be ineffective. Elizabeth states, (if my memory serves me correctly) ’home is a place where you feel at home’ For many, this simply would not be the case, so the client might be asked ’ where do you feel most relaxed?’ She takes what we call a direct approach, which can be identified with phrases including the words ’ you will.... or will not’. So for example, if a client is told ’ home is a place where you will feel relaxed ’, many might have had bad experiences at home and this could be part of the problem, so the induction may well not work. Contrary to public belief, clients can resist suggestions made and will often test the Therapist when faced with direct instructions.

Cognitive hypnotherapists would mostly use the indirect approach; along the lines’ if you could think of a place where you have felt as relaxed as you can remember being, where would that place be? ’ This might then be followed by ’if you were to imagine going to that place, you might find yourself starting to relax deeply ’. In other words the change from will to might softens the instruction and therefore is more likely to bypass any resistance.

With regards to the concept of transference, I have seen over 700 clients and not one, except my wife, has declared undying love following treatment; let alone tried to throttle me.

For those of you who may be concerned about Hypnotherapy, let me explain how it works, or at least for clients of Cognitive Hypnotherapists. The first session is predominantly about building rapport and then finding out as much about the client’s problem state as is possible. Following this, the client is asked to describe how he/she wants to be after treatment has been successfully completed; i.e. the solution state. The therapist acts as a catalyst and prepares a treatment plan based on getting the client from the existing problem state to the desired solution state, using several of a multitude of techniques available. The clever part of treatment is in the words used to help the client bring about changes in mindset. To this end, Cognitive Hypnotherapists use what is called ’Word-weaving’ a language concept designed specifically to make this happen.

Apart from a few cases where no progress appeared to have been made at all, in my experience changes occur rapidly and usually carry on between sessions. Treatment only continues until the client feels that she is where she wants to be. For the vast majority of clients, this will result in only a handful of sessions. There is no long term need for therapy, as the client will invariably be provided with self-help skills to complement treatment, but only if needed.