What Is Hypnotherapy and How Does It Work?

Hypnotherapy and Hypnosis are well known, but rarely explained beyond a surface level. When many people hear the word ‘hypnosis’ they think of a performer snapping his finger and the participant flapping their arms like wings and making rooster noises. As entertaining as this may be, this form of hypnosis is drastically different from hypnotherapy, which is an incredibly effective therapy form to help individuals overcome behaviours and habits that are holding them back.

Woman in hypnotherapy session

All of us do self-hypnosis on ourselves during the day. It commonly occurs when we daydream or even when we ‘zone-out’ while driving. During this time, although we may not consciously realize, we engage in negative self talk. Since our brains naturally go into self-hypnosis every 1.5 hours, my job as a hypnotherapist put simply is to teach my clients to turn their negative self talk into positive.

Throughout the course of this blog post you will learn about what hypnotherapy is, as well as the stages and process of it. I’ll unpack what we call “unconscious programming”, how hypnotherapy helps you change it, and how these techniques are used in a modern clinical practice.

Use this table of contents to navigate through this guide:

    1. What is Hypnotherapy
    2. How Hypnotherapy Works
    3. What A Session Looks Like
    4. What Is Unconscious Programming
    5. How Hypnotherapy Helps
    6. How Hypnotherapy Changes Unconscious Programming
    7. Using Hypnotherapy With Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

What Is Hypnotherapy

Hypnotherapy is a form of therapy that empowers an individual to change behaviours or habits that are causing emotional, mental, or physical suffering. It addresses the unconscious programming in your mind that has been developed throughout your life (and often from childhood) that other methods of therapies do not address.  

[Book an appointment with Nicklas to discuss how Hypnotherapy can help you overcome negative behaviours and habits]

From childhood until today, your brain has constantly been taking in information from your environment, and using that information to inform your decisions. For instance, a person who experiences anxiety symptoms when they speak in large groups, often has years of programming in their mind that reinforces those anxious feelings and emotions. Even though they may consciously tell themselves that they have nothing to be anxious about, and prepare in advance – they may still experience those anxiety symptoms. In order for them to re-program that unconscious behaviour of feeling anxious in public speaking situations, they can use hypnotherapy to delete that negative program, and replace it with a positive one.

“I was looking for a way to have more energy, be a lot more efficient and productive, and to find a way to feel optimistic, passionate, and more driven. I had spent twenty years of life raising kids and sacrificing myself for family. I had suffered from a lot of stress over those years and was looking launch myself into a rewarding career. I set to overhaul my mind, body, and spirit. I started with hypnotherapy, and moved into neurofeedback. I have noticed changes in my visual recall, self-organization, optimism, and resilience. I am no longer overwhelmed by everything that happens in my daily life, and am able to remain centred and focused on the goals I have begun to lay out for myself.” – G. Farnsworth

How It Works

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The first step of hypnosis begins with extreme relaxation. This may start with you sitting, reclining, or laying down on the couch, taking a few deep breaths, and feeling the tenseness in your body release. There are two stages of hypnosis, the first is induction, and the second is suggestion.

1. Induction

Once you have achieved a relaxed state, the hypnotist will ask you to do a form of visualization or meditation. This is where the mind begins to split into two states: the hypnotized unconscious mind, and the conscious mind. This stage eventually creates disassociation. Disassociation is when you begin to feel the hypnotized mind taking over, as you become less aware of your surroundings and start to feel like you’re in a daydream. Similar to when you “zone-out” while driving and upon arrival at your destination you have little recollection of the trip that got you there. Disassociation works to prepare us to take the next stage of our hypnosis without interruption from our conscious thoughts.

2. Suggestion

Suggestion given during hypnosis is to direct you to focus on a single idea. This suggestion will aid you in overcoming the unconscious programming and therefore allow you to explore beyond your programmed thoughts.

Man reflecting while looking out window

What A Session Looks Like

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You will either sit in a comfortable chair, recline, or lie down in a quiet setting. You then focus on a spot in the room or close your eyes while taking deep relaxing breaths. Once your environment is set the hypnotherapist will begin.

Hypnotherapists have a variety of suggestions to quiet the mind and body, such as doing progressive relaxation or breathing techniques.  Different suggestions are given as people learn and experience in different ways such as visual, kinaesthetic, or auditory. This is why there is constant communication between you and the hypnotherapist to assess if the suggestion being used is the best fit for your experience.

I have you connect to a part of yourself that feels resilient and safe

Moving forward, some hypnotherapists have you go into situations or histories that are the root of your concerns, but I find that doing this directly can cause more connections to the issue. This is why I have you connect to a part of yourself that feels resilient and safe where you can more effectively deal with the issue without having to relive something that may re-traumatize you. From here, your issues can be reframed in a positive way as the unconscious mind (more about your unconscious mind and programming below!) does not know the difference between real or imagined. You will come back from your unconscious feeling refreshed, relaxed, and optimistic as you have now experienced the change that is possible in your life with the help of hypnosis.

However, it is important to note that in order to successfully change your unconscious programming through hypnotherapy, a certified hypnotherapist needs to be used. This means they should have a professional degree in a related field and belong to a Hypnotherapy Association that has ongoing education. Hypnotherapy associations are usually based on having a masters degree or higher. A certified hypnotherapist will also have essential experience in the guided-hypnosis process, which allows you to achieve the most progress and reach your individual goals through a structured plan tailored for you. If you’re interested in trying out Hypnotherapy for yourself, you can learn more about my  hypnotherapy packages or get started and book a consultation.

What Is Unconscious Programming

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Approximately 95% of our mental processes occur in our unconscious. Our unconscious is the location that hosts all that we have seen, heard, or felt starting from a very young age. It processes things at a much deeper level than our conscious mind. It is where all of our autonomic skills, memories, intuitions, attitudes, and beliefs are stored. Therefore 95% of mental processes, meaning what you think, feel, and do, is a direct result of your unconscious programming.

Your unconscious programming affects the decisions and things you do every day. It’s completely natural for this to occur, and without techniques like hypnotherapy it is out of control of your conscious mind. Hypnotherapy works to bring aspects of the unconscious programming into conscious awareness. This allows for reprogramming, and to start a transformation towards a more optimal life.

Woman starting her hypnotherapy session

Using Hypnotherapy

How Hypnotherapy Helps

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Hypnotherapy is used for a variety of reasons whether they be mental, emotional, or physical. The following list are some of the most common reasons my clients start their transformations with hypnotherapy:

  • Anxieties and fears
  • Depression
  • Changing negative thoughts and self-talk
  • Family issues
  • Dealing with stress
  • Life balance
  • Feeling stuck
  • Grief
  • Insomnia
  • Feelings of guilt and shame
  • Low self-esteem and confidence
  • Relationship patterns
  • PTSD

How It Changes Unconscious Programming

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All pain is processed in the brain – mental and physical. When a person experiencing pain undergoes hypnotherapy, they are given a suggestion to choose to feel pain that is a result of their unconscious programming as minor. When they choose to follow this suggestion it is common for them to immediately experience immediate relief from the pain. Approximately 80% of my clients experience a decrease in pain during hypnosis, and 50% experience a decrease that can last for hours following their hypnotherapy appointment. Through repeated sessions of hypnotherapy and practicing self-hypnosis at home, many people find that they can eventually lower pain without needing a hypnotherapy session to do so.

In addition, hypnotherapy is very effective in:

  1. Decreasing anxiety and depression symptoms
  2. Improving relaxation
  3. Increasing mindfulness

“Originally I started seeing Nicklas to help conquer my fear of public speaking. I didn’t understand why this fear had such control over me. Nicklas equipped me with tools to deal with my fear and helped me to uncover the hidden unconscious reasons that were behind my reaction. I began to see and feel immediate results in my daily life after our first meeting. I am now able to stand up and speak about my business concisely and with confidence.” – Kayla Ruddock

Using It With Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

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The impacts of Hypnotherapy can be greatly improved when you combine it with other therapy methods like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). CBT is a very effective psychotherapy. It is a form of talking therapy that is based on the idea that how we think, feel, and act all interact together as negative thoughts and feelings. It looks at a client’s current problems, rather than past traumas, and focuses on our ability to change how we think, feel, and behave in certain situations.

When you combine CBT and hypnotherapy it is called Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy (CBH). The combination of techniques from these two forms of therapy is extremely effective. It first identifies the root cause of individuals’ problems, and the current coping mechanisms they use to deal with them. After identification of these aspects, an integrated method of multiple theories is used to create a tailored and personalized approach. One of the first aspects I commonly have my clients participate in are CBT writing exercises. These exercises target the unconscious negative beliefs in an effort to prevent them from sabotaging the conscious positive intentions. Ultimately, CBH provides people with the tools to reprogram their unconscious mind in order to overcome negative behaviours and thought patterns.

Person practicing self hypnosis outdoors

Now That You Know

Hypnotherapy is a commonly overlooked form of therapy that is a topic of excess scrutiny and speculation. This unfortunately overshadows the positive and powerful impacts that it has been shown to have on people’s lives. By reading this blog post I hope you can take away the impactfulness and success that hypnotherapy can have. After all, as you have learned, it is never a one-size-fits-all approach, but rather a tailored and personalized one to your individual needs and preferences. If you would like to learn more about hypnotherapy and how it could help you or someone you care about, I invite you to book a consultation with me to learn more.  

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