by Sonya Rehrer, MSW, CCH
You are getting sleepy… very sleepy. When I snap my fingers, you will think you are a bunny rabbit, hopping in a garden. (Snap!) What? It didn’t work? Oh, I forgot to dangle my pocket watch in front of you. Shall we try again? This is the typical idea many of us have when we think about hypnosis or hypnotherapy. I have heard it said that “being hypnotized is like being put under a spell.” That is a myth.
“I’m afraid of hypnosis. I’ve heard that it is dangerous. I have heard that if you open your mind to a hypnotist, the devil will get in it.” No wonder some of us are skeptical and afraid! If the people we trust the most are telling us that hypnosis is bad, then our belief system accepts the suggestion that it is bad. Did I say suggestion? Yes, I sure did. Much of our every day communication is suggestive and persuasive. Think about it. If you trust the person giving the suggestion and you are willing to accept the suggestion, then you are on your way to being hypnotized. That’s right. I bet you didn’t know you experience hypnosis almost every day. Does that mean you are under someone else’s’ control? Hmmm? Lets’ check it out: For example, I am reading a magazine. An ad suggests I buy a certain brand of paper towels. The lady in the picture looks as if she is trustworthy. In fact, she reminds me of my grandma. Am I willing to believe what the ad states? (This is where my critical conscious mind comes into play.) I am able to discern between my emotions about my grandma and the differences between the various brands of paper towels. Will I be persuaded to choose this brand because my feelings are aroused by the stimulus of the picture representing love and trust? No, I won’t because I am leery of ads. But I will pay attention to it more than an ad without a picture of grandma. Advertisers know this. Are they controlling me? When I look through a magazine, I am giving permission for my focus to be on whatever catches my eye. I do have control over whether or not I look at the magazine. I do have control over the time I spend looking at any particular aspect of the magazine or ad. What I do with the information is up to me. I will compare the information from the ad with what I have in my memory about paper towels. Which towel really is the quicker picker upper? Ultimately whether or not I choose this brand is up to me. The same is true of hypnotherapy. The choice is always yours.
“Is Hypnotherapy mind control?” No. The therapist gives suggestions based on what you tell the therapist you want. You decide your goal and together with your therapist you map out a detailed plan for the right suggestions for your individualized program. If there is any mind control going on, it is you learning how to control your body with the power and thoughts of your own mind.
“Am I under a spell?” No. There is no magic. No hocus-pocus or mind games. Hypnotherapy is straightforward and pragmatic. Nobody goes “under” anything. The phrase “going under” or “put under” are more myths. When you are relaxing to music or watching a movie, do you go under anything? Of course not. You are simply focused on the experience and your conscious mind is distracted from doing its critical job of judging information. The mind simply accepts what it is experiencing.
“Is it like brainwashing?” No. Hypnotherapy is not brainwashing. In cults and certain training seminars and groups, tactics like sleep deprivation and food deprivation are used to persuade members into their ways of thinking. When someone needs help and looks to hypnotherapy, there is no mind control, brain-washing or casting spells. No one is forced into hypnosis. It is a willing process. In fact, willingness is one of the three necessary ingredients for any therapy to be successful. The other two ingredients are rapport (good communication between client and therapist) and trust. Hypnotherapists are therapists. We are bound by a Code of Ethics and have standards and regulations to abide by. We are not charlatans out to get a quick buck, although I have questioned the ethics of some of the out-of-towners who fly in for a group session or weekend seminar, then they are never seen or heard from again.
“How do I find an ethical therapist?” Talk to a local therapist and check their credentials. Most belong to an accrediting organization that keeps records of certification and conduct. Check with the Better Business Bureau for membership or complaints. Ask lots of questions. You should get a free consultation first. Education about hypnotherapy should be a standard for your first session. Go online and research websites. Ask your doctor, chiropractor, or massage therapist who they would recommend as a therapist. Don’t hesitate any longer out of fear, misunderstanding or misinformation. Hypnotherapy works and it works quickly, efficiently, effectively and elegantly.
Sonya Naulta Rehrer, MSW is a graduate of East Carolina University in Greenville, NC. She has worked extensively in the fields of recovery/substance abuse, Adult Children of Alcoholics, Codependency, and inner child healing. She began studying hypnosis and neuro-linguistic programming in 1987, applying techniques to her own life and healing. Upon moving to Chattanooga in 1998, Sonya began working for Cumberland Hall Psychiatric Services -Inhome, a program that helps teens and children in their homes by working with the family system as a whole. Sonya also works as needed for Adventa Hospice.