The title of this blog does not include the term “hypnotherapist” because that word implies that the main tool used by certain therapists is hypnosis. If such therapists exist, they are not very good, since hypnosis by itself is not a therapy. When a therapist utilizes hypnosis as part of the treatment plan the hypnotic state of the mind allows for increasing the effectiveness of the therapeutic instructions, suggestions, and observations that are offered.
Cognitive behavioral therapy, talk therapy, insight therapy, medical therapy, and other kinds of therapies can be enhanced through use of hypnosis. Thus, a good therapist using hypnosis should be an expert in both using hypnosis and at least one other specific therapy. Further, the therapist should know how to treat the condition you are seeking to improve without use of hypnosis. For example, if you are dealing with a medical condition, it is essential to work under supervision of a physician who is an expert in treating that condition. In this example, the physician can either provide the hypnosis therapy or act as a consultant to a therapist who is working with a patient to treat a medical condition.
There is no licensure requirement for hypnosis in the United States. However, the therapist should have a professional government-issued license that credentials their use of the additional specific therapy they are providing, such as psychology, counseling, or medicine.
Here are some examples of how hypnosis can help with other therapies:
A hypnotic state can be used to imagine how to remain calm following repeated exposure to a trigger of a phobia or obsessive-compulsive disorder, as a form of cognitive behavioral therapy.
While using hypnosis techniques to remain calm, patients may be able to better verbalize their thoughts, as part of talk therapy.
Interactions with the subconscious, facilitated through hypnosis, can inform discussions as part of insight therapy. (Anbar, 2021).
Metaphorical suggestions given to a patient in hypnosis can help alleviate many medical conditions (Anbar, 2014).
Professional Training for Hypnosis
There are many organizations that train providers in use of hypnosis. However, only a handful of these organizations provide training specific for professionals who treat medical and psychological conditions. If you are dealing with mental or physical health issues, you should ensure that your therapist has been trained by a professional organization such as the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis, Society of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, the National Pediatric Hypnosis Training Institute, the International Hypnosis Society, the British Society of Clinical and Academic Hypnosis, the European Society of Hypnosis, or through training workshops that have been accredited by any of the aforementioned organizations.
Some Characteristics of a Good Therapist
A good therapist will:
Listen carefully to you. A good therapist will want to understand your motivations and the reasons that brought you to therapy. A therapist who spends a lot of time talking so that there is no time for you to speak is likely not going to be effective.
Set goals for your treatment at the onset of therapy. The goals for the therapy should be set with your input. It is helpful for the goals to be specific, measurable, and time bound so that your progress can be assessed by you and your therapist. Lack of such planning can lead to long-term ineffective counseling.
Increase your hope and positive expectations. A patient’s positive expectations are key to successful therapy. A good therapist will present information that will help improve your understanding and buy-in with the proposed therapy.
Adjust your therapy to your specific needs. Experienced therapists will not use hypnosis scripts or provide you with pre-made recordings to be used as the mainstay of your hypnosis therapy, as these do not permit adjustment. One of the reasons for success in therapy is the rapport established between the therapist and the patient/client. Individualizing therapy is one aspect of such rapport building. Also, like in all therapies one size does not fit all.
Seek to treat the root cause of your symptoms. A good therapist will avoid deciding on therapy based exclusively on your diagnosis, or initially focusing on alleviating your symptoms. For example, oftentimes a diagnosis fails to fully account for patients’ specific issues. In cases wherein the “symptom is the solution” attempts to alleviate the symptom without addressing its underlying cause can be ineffective or cause increased psychological distress.
Remain calm and non-judgmental. When a therapist appears to become upset with what you have disclosed it can inhibit further interactions that may be essential for successful therapy.
Use personal stories appropriately. Some therapists use personal stories as a way of conveying helpful indirect suggestions as part of their counseling. However, therapists who reveal inappropriate personal anecdotes should be avoided.
Take Home Message
In the hands of a qualified, good therapist, hypnosis can help facilitate achievement of therapeutic success.
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Note: This article was first published on Psychology Today and can be found here: 7 Factors for Finding a Good Therapist for Hypnosis | Psychology Today
Anbar, Ran D. (ed). 2014. “Functional Symptoms in Pediatric Disease: A Clinical Guide.” New York, NY: Springer.
Anbar, Ran D. 2021. “Changing Children’s Lives with Hypnosis: A Journey to the Center.” Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
www.bscah.com – British Society of Clinical and Academic Hypnosis
www.grupocem.edu.mx and www.hipnosis.com