How to choose a hypnotherapist

There are several things to consider when choosing a hypnotherapist.  Hypnosis is a powerful tool to make changes in your life.  As such, you want a professional who specializes in using hypnosis and has experience working with your particular goals.  A hypnotherapist’s experience is the most important factor to consider when choosing someone to work with, and you should ask them about what training they have received, and what experience they have working with your issue.  There are several reputable training programs that offer certification in the United States, but not every certifying organization offers a solid foundation on which to begin a practice.  The  National Guild of Hypnotists is one of the largest and most reputable certifying organizations in the United States, but there are certainly others.  If you are looking for a diagnosis and treatment of a mental health disorder, it is best to see a licensed medical doctor.  Some doctors use hypnosis, but rarely do they specialize in it, and they are likely to evaluate you bases on a set of predetermined diagnostic criteria, and recommend a treatment plan, which may or may not include medications.  Hypnosis is not a substitute for medical treatment.  Hypnotherapists work outside of the diagnostic paradigm and offer specialization in hypnosis techniques designed to help you make changes and accomplish your goals for a wide range of topics.  Perhaps the most important aspect of choosing a hypnotherapist is whether you resonate with them personally, and whether their approach and philosophy meet your needs.  Guiding Hand Hypnosis offers hypnosis services from a certified hypnotherapist with over a decade of experience.   Schedule a free consult to see how hypnosis can make the change you’re looking for.

Brain Changes

I found this article interesting in the context of hypnosis:

Psychology Today

The brain-body connection (#6) is intriguing to me, and not at all surprising.  All hypnotists know that there is a strong mind body connection, and it is usually under utilized, and under appreciated.  Many people choose hypnosis because they understand this and are frustrated that main-stream industrial medical practices ignore it completely.  Hypnosis has been around in some form for thousands or years, and Science is only beginning to understand it.

It is my opinion that hypnosis works to utilize the brain’s natural processes at changing and healing, but much more quickly than would naturally happen.  Particularly this quote, “Just as physical wounds and bruises heal, just as we can regain our muscle tone, we can recover function in under-connected areas of the brain. The brain and body are never static; they are always in the process of becoming and changing.”  Hypnosis is change work, plain and simple, and it uses the brain’s phenomenal ability to reshape itself toward productive outcomes and desired states.

 

The Future Begins In Your Mind

The future begins in your mind is a philosophy that forms the basis for the work done at Guiding Hand Hypnosis. But what exactly does this mean? In short it means that people are imaginative creatures. Storytelling has been around since we drew pictures on cave walls, and likely even longer. Humans use that imagination as a basis for interpreting our realities. What we believe, what we perceive, what we think, what we expect, what we desire. All of these things influence our decisions and our behavior. All of these things lead us toward exactly what we imagine we will get.

Hypnosis is a tool that helps you to shape your realities to what you want them to be. We all have self-limiting beliefs and thoughts that prevent us from doing the things that we think we want. The truth is, we always have an excuse or a reason for what we do. The truth is, our minds have set us up to be in precisely the situation that we think we are most comfortable in. If you want to move forward in your life, toward your ideal goals, making positive changes to shape your life into an amazing representation of your limitless potential, you need to first create that future in your mind. You need to first lay the foundations for success. If you can conceive of something, it is logically possible, and you can accomplish it by taking the right steps. The problem that most people have is that their mind is stuck in an endless loop of false reports that keep them stuck. Hypnosis can strategically correct that self-report, paving the way for profound insight and change.

Madison Weight Loss Program

Losing weight should be easy, right?  It is just a matter of taking in fewer calories than you use in a day.  Yet such a simple formula becomes so complex and most people struggle to control their weight.  Diets do not work because it deprives the body of what it needs, and exercise programs do not work because the amount of exercise needed to maintain your desired weight is not sustainable.  Also the body changes to any adjustment you make to your lifestyle making the journey even more difficult.

So why is hypnosis so successful?  Why is weight loss so easy with hypnosis?  For one, hypnosis does not simply address your diet and exercise regimens, and in fact these are the least important parts of the equation (though they are important).  What hypnosis does is allows you to choose to become the person that you want to be.  It does this through a program of self-awareness.  Self-awareness of your emotional reactions to the world, self-awareness of your cravings, and self-awareness of your eating behaviors.  By becoming aware, we gain control.  By gaining control we can accomplish our goals and become who we want to be.  To be thin, you have to take on the attitudes and perceptions of a thin person, and hypnosis helps you to do this.  Often what we interpret as hunger is simply our body’s way of dealing with stress, and hypnosis allows you to deal with this more productively.

As a result, you eat healthier, and you eat less.  Your cravings disappear and you become more active.  And as the weight melts off your body, you begin to feel better for yourself in an upward spiraling loop.  Its not magic, but it sure feels like it sometimes.

Can Connectionist Models Be Applied to Hypnosis

Can Connectionist Models Be Applied to Hypnosis

 

I would not be writing this article if I thought the answer was ‘no’. Connectionist models of the mind explain how language gives rise to consciousness. It shows how external stimulus can activate certain brain patterns, somewhat randomly, which are then given meaning in a linguistical output. The nodes which are activated are dependent upon both the input, and subsequent feedback given regarding the linguistical output. For example, if I see an animal with wings, two legs, and a beak, a series of neural networks are activated until and my output will be “bird”. This is either confirmed or contradicted by my experience, or feedback from others. If it is confirmed, the networks that were stimulated to achieve the output of “bird” are strengthened, and that network continues to grow until it is associated with other qualities, such as the animal flies, has feathers, eats worms, etc. Because this network is developed, if I were to see a penguin, I would come to the conclusion that this animal with wings, two legs, and a beak is a bird, and therefore must fly. This would be incorrect, and the feedback I get that this bird does not fly, but instead swims, would adjust the weights of the nodes so that sometimes when I see a bird, I might have an output of “swims” rather than “flies”. I would also develop more specific ideas of birds, less prototypical, as I develop concepts of sparrows, penguins, canaries, etc.

 

So what does this have to do with hypnosis? As our realities are shaped by our language, and our language (and thus meanings) are shaped by the statistical activation of our neural networks, hypnosis must work within this system to accomplish change. I believe hypnosis comes into play in three ways. The first is through the feedback mechanism. When a client, say a smoker, has a trigger which activates a neural network for the need to smoke, that need is reaffirmed through the quenching of the craving and the physiological response which signifies that the smoking output was correct. Hypnosis needs to change that feedback to make it incorrect. It needs to tell the system that given the same inputs, it needs to find a different output to be correct. The weights in the system need to change so that a healthy output is achieved, and that healthy output needs the proper feedback to reinforce the network system. In a sense it turns our notion of “bird” into “penguin” with a strong feedback loop. With the proper methods, hypnosis can provide a strong enough feedback mechanism to drastically change the statistical weights of the nodal system.

The second way in which hypnosis works in a connectionist framework is that it reshapes the input to begin with. Instead of a certain reality activating a specific set of input nodes, it begins by activating a different set of initial nodes altogether, thereby altering the subsequent network of nodes which are activated. To use the example above, instead of activating the nodes of “animal, wings, two legs, beak” to get the output of “bird” hypnosis can change the focus to instead activate a different set of nodes, such as “small, tail feathers, sings” for example. This has two effects. The most important is that it activates an entirely different neural network, which is not well-entrenched and well-developed. It may or may not lead to the same output of “bird”, but being an infantile neural network it is malleable with feedback as opposed to the original well-established one in which feedback will play only a small role. Secondly, as mentioned, the output may or may not change. It is possible that with the new set of input nodes that the same output of “bird” could be achieved, but more likely the output itself will change to something such as “robin”. Both of these effects can have profound impacts to accomplish the goals you are trying to achieve. In smoking for example, the attention on the triggers which cause the smoking behavior can be altered so that the triggers themselves activate a different neural network which is malleable and could have a different output. Instead of focusing on needing to finish a meal with a cigarette, the client would instead notice how much energy the meal gave them, which will lead to the need to take a walk to complete the meal rather than a cigarette.   Should a cigarette still be the output, the network which gets there is weaker and open to feedback which can easily change it.

Hypnosis is further effective in connectionist frameworks in that it can alter the statitistical weights within the network through suggestion. So while the input nodes may be the same, they end up producing a different output than they normally would.

Is Hypnotherapy Ethical?

Is Hypnotherapy Ethical?

The generally accepted basis of an ethical approach is to respect beneficence, non-maleficence, justice, and autonomy of an individual.  Beneficence refers to simply acting in an individual’s best interest and offering them a benefit and along a similar vein, non-maleficence refers to doing no harm or not using hypnosis for evil.  To satisfy justice, one must use hypnosis in a non-discriminatory fashion, and spread the risks and benefits equally.  The autonomy of the individual is what allows a person to exercise free will and have their choices respected.  Hypnotherapy is an unique field, but I assert that it meets all of the criteria for an ethical practice.

Hypnosis is an effective means of producing desirable change through relaxation and focused attention to improve underlying mental scripts.  In this sense it is clear that hypnotherapy respects beneficence as the hypnotist and the client work together to produce desired changes that benefit the client, whether it be to achieve one’s highest potential or change habits that improve health.  It is clear that hypnosis meets the criteria of beneficence as it has been demonstrated to be an effective means of positive change.  There are cases where hypnosis has not been effective, such as in cases of an inexperienced practitioner, or a client who is resistant for various reasons.  But despite the efficacy in these rare cases, the intent of a hypnotherapist is to provide a benefit to the client and in this it exceeds expectations.

In terms of non-maleficence, hypnotherapy succeeds as well as there is little risk to hypnosis.  Generally, if a hypnotherapy session is unsuccessful, there are no repercussions and the client would simply fall asleep and wake up later.  While a session could be inefficacious, this does not in itself prove to be harmful.  It is possible that a suggestion could be made during hypnosis for which a client did not respond well and this could result in harm being done.  This is unlikely to happen with a trained hypnotherapist as hypnotists are well aware of the power of their suggestions.  Further, a client, even while in deep trance, will not respond to a suggestion that they do not agree with.  This is why hypnosis is a procedure in which both the hypnotherapist and the client work together to establish the goals of the session ahead of time.  It is not possible for the hypnotist to ‘take over’ and implement harms to a client.  That being said, hypnosis is not completely risk free.  The risks however are very low, and the benefits as noted above greatly outweigh the risks to provide an extremely positive risk/benefit ratio.  In this sense hypnotherapy satisfies the requirement of non-maleficence because it is practically impossible to cause harm even if that was the intent of a practitioner.

Justice is an odd concept for a private practice, but as long as the hypnotherapist respects all eligible clients and does not discriminate in his or her practice, justice is an easy standard to accomplish.  If hypnotherapy were more broadly accepted as a healthcare approach for the public, this principle would come into play more.  As it is, it is up to each practitioner to exercise justice within his or her own practice.

There is a misconception about hypnosis.  That is the idea that the client, while under hypnosis, looses control of his or her mind to the hypnotherapist, and that they succumb to the will of the hypnotherapist.  This misconception has been the most difficult for hypnosis to overcome, and if true, would compromise the principle of respect for autonomy.  Hypnosis however does not compromise autonomy and in fact helps to build one’s sense of self.  As noted above, the hypnotherapist does not impart his or her own will upon a client, but rather works with the client ahead of time to implement the changes that the client desires.  Clients are fully informed before, during, and after each session.  It is the client who is coming to the hypnotist with an agenda to be fulfilled and the hypnotherapist simply guides them through the process.  This in a sense helps one to build individual will power and make the positive changes they desire.  And since the client does not respond to suggestions that they find reprehensible, they maintain control throughout the hypnosis session.  In fact the client can wake up at any time they desire.  Given this, it appears the principle of autonomy is respected in the profession.

Hypnotherapy appears to meet the tenants of an ethical practice.  Subjects benefit from the sessions, no harm is done and the risk/benefit ratio is favorable, justice is easy to accomplish, and individuals’ autonomy is fully respected and strengthened.  Given that each principle is fully met with hypnosis, and the potential benefits of the art, it is important that hypnosis be respected as a viable tool in the well being of individuals seeking improvements in their lives.

Hypnosis Is The Viable Alternative

There are many techniques available to solve your problems or accomplish your goals.  Often times these techniques are marketed as a quick fix, whether it be for weight loss, or smoking cessation, or earning more money.  The truth is that while some of these techniques work, most of them do not, and are a waste of your time, money, and attention.  Hypnosis is often a technique that is used as a last resort because of misconceptions about the art and practice of the technique.  This may be attributable to the fact that as William N. Upshaw, M.D. writes in Hypnosis: Medicine’s Dirty Word, “the therapeutic effects of hypnosis have rarely been refuted. However, supernatural or religious characterizations, unscientific explanations, scientifically viable alternative treatments, negative media, and most recently a 1985 AMA report about the forensic use of the technique, have collectively caused hypnosis to be shunned by many in the medical profession.”  This misrepresentation is unfortunate and spreads beyond the medical profession.  But unlike many of the other methods of change which are often accepted by the mainstream, hypnosis has been proven to be a safe and effective means of accomplishing goals time and time and time again.  Given its success rate, it is time that hypnosis is recognized as the viable alternative that it is and given the credibility it has earned.

What Are Mental Scripts?

What are mental scripts?  I’ve received questions asking for more clarification about what a mental script is.  I recently complimented a friend of mine on his positive outlook for the year.  He mentioned that success is all about positive thought and that thought influences your attitude, attitude influences your actions, and your actions influence your character.  This is all true and easy to agree with.  He wanted to start at the core of success by shaping his thoughts to be positive and optimistic.  While he didn’t realize it at the time, my friend was using mental scripts to lead to a new reality for himself.

Humans process reality through language.  We take information from the world which we acquire through our senses, and through learning, and we encode this information in the form of language.  All of our conscious thoughts occur through language, and once those thoughts and beliefs are encoded, they are played over and over to ourselves in a constant unconscious loop until new information is incorporated to change them.  When people ask, “What is a mental script?”, this is what they are referring to.  It is the linguistic representations of reality that we have encoded in our minds.

Another way to describe mental scripts is to consider them our internal dialog, both conscious and unconscious.  Everything we do has language associated with it.  Even as I pick up this coffee cup, I think, “I want some coffee, I am going to reach out and bring this cup up to my mouth” before I actually drink.  I may not exactly say this, but the thoughts are running through my head.  Beyond our everyday actions however, we have ingrained representations of ourselves and the way the world is.  Some of these are positive, such as “life is great” and some are negative such as “nobody likes me”.  All of our thoughts, beliefs and opinions are reflected in our mental scripts, and thus our realities are shaped by these scripts.

Knowing that these scripts vastly influence reality and your life, it is worthwhile to understand how to control these scripts.  They are built up over time and reinforced through repetition, and are shaped by many different sources.  They usually take time to change.  For example, as a young person you might have the mental script of “I am a boy”.  This is repeated and reinforced for most of your life and is a strong script that runs unconsciously through your mind.  As you get older, that script begins to change with some realizations that you are changing, and you receive inputs of “I am a man”.  The man script competes with the boy script, but the boy script remains dominant.  Eventually, enough inputs of “I am a man” are experienced so that it becomes the dominant script, though “I am a boy” still lingers as a small percentage of your beliefs (which is partially why even as adults we sometimes feel like children).  As enough time passes, the boy script fades and you are left with the belief/reality that you are a man, and act accordingly.  While this change is usually gradual, there are some things that may accelerate the change, such as a right of passage ceremony, or the death of a parent.

These scripts exist for everything from what you think is healthy, what your values are, who you like/dislike, your politics, your religion, and everything else.  I will continue to write more about mental scripts, but for now I leave you with this exercise:

Write down all of your beliefs that comes to mind about yourself, and be completely honest.  Seriously, take 5 minutes to do this and you will be amazed.  Write down what you think you are good at, what you are bad at, what your self image is, what you like, dont like, etc.  Some of this will be true, and some will not, but you have begun a vital exercise of identifying your own mental scripts.  The next step is change them or erase them and construct new ones based on your own will and intentions.