What is hypnosis?
Hypnosis is an altered state of consciousness. Being in hypnosis is like having a direct link to the subconscious mind. The subconscious mind is responsible for controlling the autonomic nervous system i.e. our breathing, heartbeat, hormones, digestion etc. It is also the area of the brain responsible for imagination and creativity. Being in a state of hypnosis happens to each and every one of us, naturally and on a daily basis, whether we realise it or not. You are in a state of hypnosis when, for example, you are reading a book, watching television, driving a car or daydreaming. We are in and out of hypnosis all the time.

Conscious v’s Subconscious Mind
The conscious mind is the logical part of the mind. It is responsible for rational thinking, reasoning and analysing incoming data and information. It is only capable of processing up to 7 (+/– 2) things at any one time. The conscious mind is responsible for the initial learning process, for example; when we first learn to drive a car. At first the experience is somewhat alien to us and there are a lot of things to think about, remember and be aware of. Once this process has been practiced over and over again, it quickly becomes a subconscious behaviour and you may not even remember how you got from A to B. The process becomes autonomic.

The subconscious mind is responsible for all autonomic behaviours within the body. Much like a department store which has different departments for homeware, ladies clothing, children’s clothing, shoes etc, the subconscious mind has different parts that are responsible for different actions and reactions within the body. For example, there is the part that regulates your heart rate, the part that regulates your breathing, your hormones, your immune system etc. Then there are parts that respond to certain situations, experiences and stimulai, for example if someone is aggressive the subconscious mind will have a way of managing how to respond to that through past experience the individual may or may not have had. The subconscious mind has many roles and is much like a tape recorder, in that is sores every experience you have from conception.  It is not concerned with logic, only with keeping you safe and alive at all costs. This is often why our behaviour may at times seem compleatly incomprehendable. The majority of our reactions are based upon experiences we have had as small children. When we then come to have a similar experience, our subconscuous mind will apply the relevant strategy that it has developed for managing that specific type of situation, these rules or coping stratigies are then applied throughout our lives and can often be inappropriate; applying a coping strategy created by a 3yr old in your 30's may not have the desired outcomes. The subconscious mind isn't concerned with appropriate, it's only concern is to protect you. Through hypnosis it is possible to update these coping stratiges and create new more appropriate reactions and responses to challenging or difficult sutuations. It is also possible to create new, more appropriate, ways of seeing ourselves and the world around us. The capacity of the subconscious mind is immeasurable.

What does hypnosis feel like?
Hypnosis is like a very deep state of relaxation. It’s like a deep meditative state, a similar to the feeling before you fall asleep at night or just before you are fully awake. You are completely in control during this state and should you wish to come out of hypnosis at any point you can open your eyes and be fully conscious. Another way to think about it is like when you are driving in the car and can not remember some of the route as your conscious mind was elsewhere. You are at that point in a state of hypnosis, your subconscious mind has taken over control of driving the car and keeping you safe.

What if I can’t be hypnotised?
The only people who can’t be hypnotised are those who are unwilling to allow themselves to be. Some people will experience deeper levels of relaxation than others, this will differ from person to person and may also differ from session to session for each individual.

Will I loose control of my mind?
Absolutely not. You will be in complete control at all times. Your subconscious mind is protected by your values and beliefs, if a suggestion were made that did not fit into your perceived identity of yourself, the suggestion would not work and no changes will take place. The therapists job is to create the right conditions at the request of the client to inspire the subconscious mind to create the desired change according to the values and beliefs of the client.

What’s the difference between ‘Stage Hypnosis’ and ‘Hypnotherapy’?
Stage hypnosis is purely for entertainment purposes. The participant will have been specifically selected through an elimination process in the search for the most suitable candidate. A suitable candidate is someone who is open to the suggestion, has a vivid imagination and a willingness to participate and work with the hypnotist. If the participant is not comfortable with what is being asked of them they will not fully participate and therefore they are not as suitable as someone who is in agreement with the whatever the hypnotist is asking them to do.

Hypnotherapy, however, is using hypnosis in a therapeutic way to create desired changes and outcomes determined by the client. The hypnotherapist, like the hypnotist, needs to build rapport with their client and the client needs to be willing to participate and trust the therapist to assist them in a professional and empathic way. The client must also be willing to create the desired change for the process to be successful.  It is not possible to make someone do something they are not prepared to do just because they are in hypnosis; they are always in control and choose to participate.

The only thing a hypnotist and hypnotherapist have in common is the use of hypnosis as a tool; the purpose of their work is completely different. Much like any other tool it is used in very different ways for entirely different purposes, for example, in the same way, a hairdresser or a dressmaker may use a pair of scissors or a graphic designer or a writer might use a computer. The tool is the same but the use of the tool is for an entirely different purpose.

What can Hypnotherapy be used for?
Hypnotherapy can be used to treat a wide range of issues from smoking cessation, weight management and stress through to psychosomatic disorders whereby the emotional and psychological distress has actually manifested as a physical symptom in the body. Basically any area that is becoming a struggle and difficult to handle alone can likely be helped with hypnotherapy. Some of the most common issues that are dealt with through hypnotherapy are:

MS (Multiple Sclerosis)
Anger Management
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Pain Control
Breast Enlargement    
Panic Attacks
Childbirth ('Hypnobirthing')    
Phobias (fear of flying, spiders, etc)
Drug Addiction    
Sexual Abuse
Eating Disorders    
Sports/Work Performance
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Smoking Cessation
ME (Myalgic Encephalopathy)    
Weight Management
Sleep Dissorders
Childhood Issues
Regression Therapy

Stress is one of the biggest contributing factors to many of the above issues and triggers the Fight, Flight or Freeze response in the body.

What is Fight, Flight or Freeze?
FFF is a physical reaction to a stimulus that is perceived to be life threatening. The purpose of the subconscious mind is to keep you alive. If something is perceived by the subconscious mind to be life threatening the subconscious mind will go into FFF, which can leave the individual feeling completely out of conscious control. The reason for this is that the body is preparing to Fight, Run or Freeze in its tracks, depending on the perceived threat. This would have come in handy when there was a chance of being chased by a woolly mammoth or saber–toothed tiger but in modern society it can be triggered by so many things unnecessarily, such as how we think people will react to us, concerns over what other people think or high levels of stress. It is often an irrational reaction in the eyes of someone else but to the person experiencing the reaction it is a very real threat and therefore an appropriate response, even if at the time it doesn't seem logical, the subconsious mind goes into action to keep you safe at all costs. This is a subconscious reaction in the body. It happens automatically and once the associated chemicals and hormones have been released into the system it is only once they have worn off that the individual can calm down, which is why it is hard to calm someone down if they are experiencing an anxiety attack, they need to be made to feel safe as quickly as possible so the body can stop releasing the chemicals into the system.

Symptoms of FFF may include shallow breathing, clouded thinking, rise in body temperature, nausea or vomiting, the feeling of needing to go to the bathroom amongst others. The body shuts down and the blood rushed to the muscles in case the individual needs to run away, they may feel sick or like they need the toilet, this is to empty the stomach as the digestive system shuts down and may also be to make the individual smell unpleasant so the perceived attacker will be less likely to want to eat them (not so useful in this day and age, in fact it can be somewhat debilitating). The blood is also rushing to the muscles to enable the individual to run away from the situation and they may even freeze in the hope that the predator is unable to see them.

In todays society a certain amount of stress can be extremely healthy, encouraging someone to meet a deadline or strive to achieve a goal but when it gets to the point that the person is distressed, the overall implication on someone’s health both physical and/or mental can be debilitating and frightening, often with no obvious way out of it.

Hypnotherapy can be used to enable the individual to see things from a new perspective, managed any difficult situations with more confidence and self belief, recognise triggers and manage them more effectively and generally limit the amount of stress in their lives by taking responsibility for the things they can change and accepting the things they can’t; opening up a whole new way of viewing the world around them and the way they choose to live in it.

How does hypnotherapy work?
Hypnotherapy is a solution focused strategic therapy. Its aim is to find out what the underlying issue is, where it has come from - if appropriate, (this is not always necessary nor do you need to dig into someone’s past to create the necessary change) and the desired change to be created. A session may last between 45-90 minutes, during which time the therapist will discuss the situation with the client and create a personalised session for that individual to create positive changes with regards to the issue(s) they are presenting. The language, tonality and guidance of the hypnotherapist is then used to created the desired change through analogy, visualisation and various techniques, specifically designed to communicate directly with the subconscious mind; the part of the mind that is responsible for autonomic behaviours and reactions within the body. It can help release trapped emotion or trauma which may be holding you back or help you to see something from a new perspective giving you more power over your emotions, actions and behaviours.

What to expect from a hypnotherapy session
The session should last between 45-90 minutes. The hypnotherapist will ask you about your reasons for coming and discuss the relevant/desired changes to be created in the session. The hypnotherapist will then invite you to relax in a comfortable chair or couch and get you into a state of deep relaxation/hypnosis. The hypnotherapist will then guide you throughout the session communicating with the subconscious part of your mind to create the desired changes and form new outcomes/ways of being/behaving moving forwards.  

Are results guaranteed?
As with most things in life nothing is guaranteed but to maximise results it’s important to choose a well trained profession hypnotherapist who is registered with an industry professional body to ensure they have undergone the relevant training and are therefore well equipped to help you address the problem at hand.

How do I know if the therapist is right for me?
The most important thing is to have rapport with your therapist. You need to trust in their ability to assist you and also feel comfortable discussing sensitive, personal information with them. A good therapist will always make you feel safe and secure and abide by their industry professional body’s Code of Conduct.