Why does hypnosis work?

Hypnosis is transformative

As a hypnotherapist, I have seen clients undergo some quite dramatic transformations using hypnosis. People enter with fears, anxieties, habits they want to change, or just feeling stuck and unable to move on (for instance after a break up or a job loss), and leave more able to cope, with changed habits, or having experienced a shift in focus that helps them move on.

Sometimes the transformation is immediate, and someone who has been feeling trapped, depressed or overwhelmed, is able to start making plans for the future. Their mood lifts, and they feel it right away.

Other times the person does not notice the shift until they are in the trigger situation again and find they respond differently. For instance, someone with a phobia may not feel differently at first, but when they encounter the previously feared situation, they realise their fear response is not nearly as strong and they can tolerate the situation much better than before.

Hypnosis lets you experience change

People have written extensively about hypnotic phenomena, the power of suggestion, and the many ways in which hypnotherapy can help individuals change. In large part, I believe the power of hypnosis lies in its ability to help people learn through the hypnotic experience.

For example, in a counselling session you can tell someone, ‘It is possible to do X’. You can offer them a reframe to help shift their perspective. You can help them come up with solutions to problems; teach them tools and life skills.

Under hypnosis, that same person can experience that it is possible to do X, experience their situation from a new perspective, experience solving problems and using new tools and skills. It is the difference between telling a reader a story, and showing them: the story comes to life and the reader experiences being in the moment. Using hypnosis, a person does not just think they might be able to change, they know change is possible, because they have experienced it.

Hypnosis helps you learn

Even if you do not recall the experience consciously, your unconscious mind has learnt the new response, and so you can change without conscious awareness. Old habits and negative self-talk no longer get in the way. Hypnotherapy shows you how you can change. For instance:

  • ‘I know I don’t have to be afraid of flying because under hypnosis I experienced being able to control my fear.’
  • ‘I don’t need to reach for a cigarette because under hypnosis I discovered I no longer feel the same way about smoking, and learnt what I could do instead.’
  • ‘My anxious thoughts need not overwhelm me, because under hypnosis I discovered ways to manage them.’
  • ‘Under hypnosis, I learnt I can tolerate intense feelings, and I can choose how to respond.’
  • ‘I am able to move forward and live in the present because under hypnosis I experienced letting go, and focusing on what I want for myself, rather than my fears and loss.’

These are just a few examples of how hypnotherapy works by providing experiential learning. It can be a very powerful tool for change once you give it a go.

Christine Priestly is a clinical hypnotherapist and mindfulness coach based in Byron Bay. Christine works with people to make positive changes that last. Learn more.