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How does hypnotherapy work? Research answers the question
David Spiegel, from Stanford University, scanned the brains of volunteers who were told they were looking at coloured objects, when they were really black and white.
A scan showing areas of the brain that are used to register colour showed an increased blood flow, indicating that they truly ‘saw’ colours, as they had been told they would.
This is scientific evidence that something happens in the brain when people are hypnotised that doesn’t happen otherwise. This research shows that hypnotherapy does work, but how does hypnotherapy work?
So how does hypnotherapy work?
Hypnotherapy works by working with the subconscious parts of the mind.
The subconscious part of your mind stores an enormous amount of information but it also holds your beliefs and is responsible for your emotional responses, something over which you will probably have no conscious awareness or control.
Even though you have no conscious awareness of it, it is these beliefs and emotions that cause you to think and react in the way you do.
Sometimes, there are differences between the way your conscious and subconscious parts of the mind see reality, and this can give rise to problems.
The best way to answer the question, how does hypnotherapy work, is by using a simple example. If we take someone who has a fear of flying, at a conscious level they know that flying is incredibly safe because they have looked at all the evidence that says it is. However, at a subconscious level they believe that there is a ‘significant’ danger present in flying.
It is this inappropriate belief that then creates strong feelings of fear in the person in an effort to protect them.
Hypnotherapy works by changing the underlying beliefs in the subconscious mind that create the fear.
Basically it is the level of danger that is inappropriate. We all know that there is a level of danger in flying but consciously we know that the chances are very small that we will have a problem. So the way hypnotherapy works is to bring those levels held at a subconscious level more in line with the beliefs of the conscious mind.
The way hypnotherapy works
As the research above points out, by using hypnotherapy we can access parts of the brain that cannot be accessed in the ‘waking’ state. When this occurs we can give the subconscious mind beneficial ‘suggestions’, which aim to change the way it looks at events or situations and bring it more in line with the way the conscious mind thinks.
Paul Howard, Director of the Surrey Institute of Clinical Hypnotherapy, said “Clients often ask ‘How does hypnotherapy work?’ and it is quite difficult to explain it in a way that is easily understood. This type of research goes a long way to helping people understand the way hypnotherapy works.”
Howard continued “It is not just fear of flying or phobias where hypnotherapy works well. Virtually every type of anxiety condition can be helped by using hypnotherapy for anxiety, as well as things like insomnia, IBS, weight loss and other behavioural issues.”
When does hypnotherapy work?
To achieve this effect we need to get the client relaxed and this we call a hypnotic trance state.
This type of state is one that occurs in everyday normal life but we just generate it in a clinical environment.
The some of the hypnotic states that occur in normal life are:
- Reading a good book
- Playing a video game – ever tried to get through to someone playing a video game?
- When watching a television programme
- When you concentrate on something intently
Once this state is achieved the subconscious is open to accepting suggestions and it is this state that the subconscious is most likely to accept beneficial suggestions and make changes to the core beliefs.