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What's the difference between hypnosis and hypnotherapy?

Put simply: hypnotherapy = hypnosis + therapy.

Hypnosis is a totally natural state of mind, the learning state that every human being enters, to one degree or another, on a regular basis.

Hypnotherapy is another thing altogether, which is why before you choose a hypnotherapist you need to check that they are trained as therapists and have sensible ideas about how to go about it. It's best to check both, as the first doesn't always guarantee the second.

When under hypnosis you will feel very relaxed, just like that wonderful feeling when you're tired lying in your bed and you're so overcome with comfort that you wish the moment could last forever. Through simple hypnotic relaxation techniques you can easily attain this state and with the help of a trained hypnotherapist it can become easy to visualize yourself becoming healthier, happier, more confident, a non-smoker, whatever it is that you want to achieve.

How to use hypnotherapy for yourself

Hypnotherapy, or self-hypnosis once you've learnt to use it yourself, can be a very effective tool for asking the right kind of 'internal' questions. For instance, have a think about the following:

1. What do you want your life to be like in a year's time? Make your answer as compelling as possible - what do you really want it to be like?

2. What changes will you need to make for this to happen? Don't just think logically. What changes will you have to make in the way that you think?

3. Could anything negative happen if you do make these changes? In other words, how much do you really want it?

How about committing to spending the rest of today thinking over these exciting questions but not actually being aware that you're doing so? Does this sound a bit strange? It shouldn't, because that's what people do when they are described by others as 'preoccupied' or 'stressed' or 'anxious'. This deeper level is the one at which hypnotherapy or self-hypnosis has its effects.

Many people claim that they have never been hypnotized, but they do admit to having drifted off whilst thinking about a loved one, forgetting large chunks of a car journey (commonly known as highway hypnosis), or 'going somewhere else' while reading a book. These are all examples of natural trance states. One of the great things about hypnosis is that in the hands of a reputable practitioner it is harmless and produces no damaging side effects, whilst providing positive therapeutic benefits.

What does hypnotherapy involve?

Hypnotherapy is a two way process between the therapist and the client, a professional partnership. A person cannot be hypnotized unless he or she agrees and co-operates - this cannot be stressed enough. Also, whilst hypnotized, nobody can make you do anything which you do not want to do. Even those people on television eating raw onions and pretending to be Madonna are doing it because they want to! They have chosen to participate.

It must be emphasized here that what hypnotherapists do is, by definition, therapeutic. Stage hypnosis is very different. It is a form of entertainment.

A hypnotherapist's job is to help people

The first stage of a hypnotherapy consultation will generally involve an informal chat and some questions from the therapist to ascertain the nature of the issue and the necessary route to overcoming or dealing with it. The next stage will involve hypnosis.

The following notes are taken from an information sheet published by the UK's National Council for Hypnotherapy.

"You are led, by means of the hypnotherapist's gently guiding voice, into a state where your body and mind are relaxed. To an onlooker it might seem as if you are asleep but in fact, though you will normally feel very relaxed, you will remain awake enough to be aware.

Also awake will be those parts of your mind which the therapist is working with to induce beneficial changes. This may mean that you will be picturing, as in a daydream, the things which are being spoken of and that you may experience the associated pleasant feelings.

Remember that if at any time you feel uncomfortable and want to terminate the session, then you will be perfectly capable of doing so."

Hopefully one day we'll do away with the strange and mystical stereotype of the hypnotherapist once and for all. The magic is all in the mind of the person receiving hypnotherapy. The hypnotist merely helps you to use that incredible hidden power to achieve things in your life such as stopping smoking, losing weight, cutting down on stress, gaining in confidence and happiness, even excelling at your chosen sport.

You can learn to hypnotize yourself with our free online course.