Hypnosis is a state of consciousness during which people are more suggestible. The suggestions can be given by a therapist or doctor and can also be given by people to themselves.
Counseling occurs when someone is given assistance or guidance regarding how to resolve a personal or psychological issue.
When people seek therapy with hypnosis, usually hypnosis and counseling are combined. However, this is not always necessary. For example, let us discuss a case in which a child reports that she wakes up several times a night, and says she does not know why.
How would this situation be treated with hypnosis alone? The child could be taught to calm herself using imagery of being in her favorite place – perhaps building sandcastles on the beach. The child would be instructed to use this hypnotic state at bedtime and given the suggestion that hypnosis will help her fall asleep faster and stay asleep through the night.
How would this be situation be treated with counseling alone? The doctor might question the child about use of electronics in bed and find out that she stays up until midnight to text her friends, and then each time she wakes up at night she checks to see if there were any text responses. If there were, then she responds immediately. It is obvious in this case why the child’s sleep becomes disrupted. The child would be provided with counseling to turn off the phone at 10 pm and leave it in a different room.
A combination of hypnosis and counseling is often the most effective. In the case of a child I treated, who said she did not know why she wakes up at night, hypnosis was used to gain insight into the problem. I asked to use hypnosis to imagine herself sleeping, and to note what thoughts are in her mind just before she awakens. In hypnosis, she said she saw that just before she awoke her cat came into her room and awakened her. She then threw her cat off the bed and went back to sleep. This pattern recurred throughout the night. When she came out of hypnosis, I asked her if she knew her cat was waking her up. She said she had forgotten that. So, I counseled her to close her bedroom door at night. Problem solved!
Increasing the Breadth of Counseling
Hypnosis can also be used to help people learn how to counsel themselves. With hypnosis, many people can learn to connect with and learn from their subconscious. In my experience, the patients’ subconscious is often smarter and wiser than the patients, and therefore can be an important source of guidance.
As a physician, I often ally myself with my patient’s subconscious and we act as co-therapists. For example, before asking the patient a potentially sensitive question, I might ask the subconscious regarding whether the patient is ready to answer such a question. Or I might ask the subconscious for solutions to a patient’s problem, and often find the patients report remarkable perspectives that help prompt their rapid healing.
Take Home Message
In dealing with an issue, patients often benefit from therapy that involves both suggestions for improvement through use of hypnosis, and externally or internally derived advice regarding how to best cope.
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