Is hypnosis real? Hypnosis is a genuine psychological therapy process. It’s often misunderstood and not widely used. However, medical research continues to clarify how and when hypnosis can be used as a therapy tool.
What exactly is hypnosis? Hypnosis is a treatment option that may help you cope with and treat different conditions. To do this, a certified hypnotist or hypnotherapist guides you into a deep state of relaxation (sometimes described as a trance-like state). While you’re in this state, they can make suggestions designed to help you become more open to change or therapeutic improvement. Trance-like experiences aren’t all that uncommon. If you’ve ever zoned out while watching a movie or daydreaming, you’ve been in a similar trance-like state. True hypnosis or hypnotherapy doesn’t involve swaying pocket watches, and it isn’t practiced on stage as part of an entertainment act.
Is hypnosis the same thing as hypnotherapy? Yes and no. Hypnosis is a tool that can be used for therapeutic treatment. Hypnotherapy is the use of that tool. To put it another way, hypnosis is to hypnotherapy what dogs are to animal therapy.
How does hypnosis work? During hypnosis, a trained hypnotist or hypnotherapist induces a state of intense concentration or focused attention. This is a guided process with verbal cues and repetition. The trance-like state you enter may appear similar to sleep in many ways, but you’re fully aware of what’s going on. While you’re in this trance-like state, your therapist will make guided suggestions designed to help you achieve your therapeutic goals. Because you’re in a heightened state of focus, you may be more open to proposals or advice that, in your normal mental state, you might ignore or brush off. When the session is complete, your therapist will wake you from the trance-like state, or you will exit it on your own. It’s unclear how this intense level of inner concentration and focused attention has the impact it does.
Hypnotherapy may place the seeds of different thoughts in your mind during the trance-like state, and soon, those changes take root and prosper.
Hypnotherapy may also clear the way for deeper processing and acceptance. In your regular mental state, if it’s “cluttered,” your mind may be unable to absorb suggestions and guidance,
What happens to the brain during hypnosis? Researchers at Harvard studied the brains of 57 people during guided hypnosis. They found that:
Two areas of the brain that are responsible for processing and controlling what’s going on in your body show greater activity during hypnosis.
Likewise, the area of your brain that’s responsible for your actions and the area that is aware of those actions appear to be disconnected during hypnosis.
TAKEAWAYDistinct sections of the brain are visibly altered during hypnosis. The areas that are most affected are those that play a role in action control and awareness.
Is it all just a placebo effect? It’s possible, but hypnosis shows marked differences in brain activity. This suggests the brain reacts to hypnosis in a unique way, one that’s stronger than a placebo effect. Like hypnosis, the placebo effect is driven by suggestion. Guided conversations or behavioral therapy of any type can have a powerful impact on behavior and feelings. Hypnosis is just one of those therapy tools.