Chickens, Elvis and other worries about hypnosis
- Will I cluck like a chicken?
- Or dance like Elvis?
- I don't like the idea of losing control
Although the image on this page buys into the hypnotic stereotype (that's not my eye, by the way, and I've never yet swung a watch!) these are issues which genuinely worry people.
Quite right too. I'd be worried if I thought I was going to be asked to hand over control of all my thoughts and actions or forced to suspend my judgement in favour of someone else's. But hypnotherapy is not 'mind control'. If it was, all I'd have to do is click my fingers and say 'stop it' and all your problems would magically disappear! Now that may sound easy, even desirable, but does it sound realistic? Of course not.
Worries about mind control often come from what people have seen or read in fictional accounts of hypnosis or seen in stage shows. But in fiction moving the plot along is usually more important than accuracy. On stage, everything is done for the entertainment of the audience and not for the benefit of the person being hypnotised. Hypnosis may be combined with slight of hand, magic tricks, and misdirection. And, of course, no one volunteers for a hypnosis act if they're not prepared to go along with a few daft suggestions.
But the biggest difference is that the stage hypnotist's suggestions only last while you are in the theatre and in trance. No-one goes home still believing they are Elvis or eating onions instead of apples. Work you do with a hypnotherapist is not a ten-minute trick. It should improve and change your life long-term and outside the therapy room, which means it involves your agreement and co-operation.
Therapy can sometimes be challenging because you are dealing with important issues and emotions. But a reputable Hypnotherapist will never ask you to do anything that makes you feel silly or ridiculous, or that is against your moral, ethical or religious values.
Is hypnotherapy safe?
Hypnosis is a very safe procedure if properly and responsibly used. Like many other things in life (including cars, fire, and the Internet) if used inappropriately it may cause problems. A few basic safeguards will help you avoid this.
- Do not undergo hypnosis when you are under the influence of alcohol or 'recreational drugs'.
- If you take medication, have any on-going physical or emotional problems, or you have been treated for mental health issues in the past, make sure your Hypnotherapist knows about it.
- Don't choose your therapist only by price or geography. Make sure you're seeing the right person by meeting them or chatting on the phone before booking.
- Always see a member of a recognised hypnotherapy association, like the General Hypnotherapy Register or the British Institute of Hypnotherapy. You can double check someone's membership is up to date and genuine as most professional bodies list their practitioner level members online.
- Hypnotherapy training is only subject to voluntary regulations, so the standard can be patchy. Check what training your therapist had. Don't see anyone who only trained for a weekend or even over two or three months, or who has only completed a distance learning course.
- Your therapist should undertake supervision and ongoing training (called CPD). Ask what they do in this regard.
- Check that your therapist's certificates and insurance documents are up to date and that their membership of any professional body is at Practitioner level.
- Most hypnotherapists are not doctors or psychologists. Make sure your therapist would be willing to refer you on to someone more appropriate if the occasion arises.
- Hypnosis can be an excellent way to reduce pain and control other long-term symptoms without side effects. However, as pain is the body's warning system, it is very important to have the underlying problem properly diagnosed. You should be asked to obtain your doctor's permission before starting hypnotherapy for pain relief or other medical problems, and you should continue with medication unless your doctor tells you otherwise.
- Make sure your therapist abides by a clearly stated code of ethics, and that there is a complaints procedure you can use if you feel the code has been breached.
Can everyone use hypnotherapy?
Most people can use hypnotherapy safely if they follow the guidelines given here and if they see a hypnotherapist who is trained to work with the issue they want to address. However, there are a few 'contraindications', which basically means that some people either shouldn't use hypnosis or should use it with a few extra safeguards.
I might not be able to work with you if:
- you have epilepsy and/or have experienced seizures within the last year
- you have a recent history of hospitalisation for eating disorders
- you have a diagnosis of a psychotic illness and/or experience psychotic episodes
- you have a recent history of suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts
- you are addicted to 'hard' drugs
You might need to use hypnotherapy with care if:
- you are prescribed certain medications
- you are currently suffering from severe depression
- you have diabetes which is treated with medication
- you have other issues with your mental health
- you are dependent on or addicted to alcohol
If you're not sure if this applies to you, or you want more information about why I am publishing these restrictions, or whether I can work with you, please contact me in confidence and ask.
Information on this page is a guideline and is not intended to replace medical advice. If you have symptoms which might indicate any condition needing a medical diagnosis or care you should visit your GP.