Hypnotherapy is a talking therapy. It uses words to help the client to change their behaviour. A first session will start with the taking of a detailed client record to enable the therapist to understand the client and their problem. Sessions may vary in length between one hour and 1 1/2 hours. Smoking is normally dealt with in two sessions.

Other problems might be dealt with in a single session but more commonly take several, depending on their complexity. However, hypnotherapists expect to help their clients (assuming that it is a problem which can be helped with hypnotherapy) in relatively few sessions compared, say, to traditional psychotherapy where it may be usual to have weekly sessions for a long period of time. A hypnotherapist will normally expect to see some beneficial change in the client after three sessions.

If you have not been in hypnosis before, the hypnotherapist will want to explain hypnosis to you, and answer any questions you may have, to ensure that you are entirely comfortable about the process. Sometimes people who have seen stage hypnosis shows do not realise how pleasurable, in fact how ordinary, a hypnotic trance can be.

Everybody is different, but most people feel a pleasant heaviness in their arms and legs; a feeling that while they could move them they would rather not bother. Your eyes will be closed and there may be a similar feeling in the eyelids. You can hear everything that is going on around you and, in particular, the voice of the therapist, but other sounds will start to seem less relevant, your mind may drift a little and you may not be sure whether you have heard everything that has been said. It is your conscious mind that is having this doubt; your unconscious mind will have absorbed it all. For more information on hypnosis see Frequently Asked Questions.

There are a number of hypnotic trance phenomena but the most relevant one for the client to understand is the posthypnotic suggestion. This is a suggestion made to the client while in trance but which will continue to affect the client and influence his or her behaviour when out of trance.

At a first session, hypnosis may be used to start giving suggestions for change, or it may just be used for relaxation and to prepare the client’s subconscious mind for change at the next session. Either way, the hypnotherapist is likely to take you into a hypnotic trance during your first session. Most people find that the immediate effect — the feeling that you have while in trance — becomes stronger each time you go into trance.


There are a large number of ways of inducing a hypnotic trance, some fast and some slow, some just using words and some physical actions. Once a person has gone into trance the therapist will often use a further script to deepen the trance. This may be done with visual imagery, encouraging the client to imagine a garden, a beach or a mountain walk; or it may use an awakening of early memories; or it may be by confusing the conscious mind in some way so that it becomes preoccupied or, alternatively, chooses to go off duty.

Whichever way is chosen, the effect is to create a deeper relaxation of both body and mind, giving easier access to the subconscious mind. At this point the therapist will start to give suggestions, which may be direct or indirect, knowing that they will be taken on board by the subconscious mind, without interference from the logical, rational, conscious mind.

The hypnotherapist may well teach you self-hypnosis. This is a simple technique which you can use to relax in your own home. While relaxing you can reinforce the suggestions you have been given, you can review your goals and give yourself more motivation, or you can simply relax (very helpful for insomnia).

Your therapist may ask you to do certain tasks between sessions, such as keeping an eating diary if you want to reduce weight, or doing something which you previously had a reluctance to do if you have a phobia. In some cases the therapist may give you a CD containing the suggestions which you have already been given in trance.

The reason for the repetition, whether in self hypnosis, or listening to a CD, is that the subconscious mind is affected by compounding and will give more weight or importance to a suggestion received many times. The advertising industry knows all about this!

Because hypnotherapy works by offering ideas for change to the subconscious mind it can be helpful with any behaviour or disorders caused by, or affected in some way by, the state of the client’s mind. This turns out to be quite a long list of psychosomatic or psychogenic conditions, some of which are listed below. However, if you have some problem which is not specifically listed, and you wonder whether hypnotherapy can help you you only have to ask, see Contact.
Although hypnotherapy can be a very effective way to help you, the client, you must remember that it should not be thought of as a magic wand! Neither you nor the therapist will know everything that is in your subconscious mind; every client is unique and, while the therapy will be tailored to you as an individual, the therapist is not omnipotent.

Many of us are creatures of habit, and when it is a good habit that can be very helpful by ensuring that we do things which are necessary or beneficial. But when it is a bad habit, or one which we no longer think is good although we may have thought so at one time, then we seem to be a prisoner of our past. Despite all our good intentions to change we find that will power is not enough. Our logical minds know that we should change our behaviour but somehow it is just too difficult, and each time we try to change, but fail, this reinforces in us a feeling that we cannot change.
Both hypnotherapy and NLP provide excellent ways of breaking the cycle of failure and so can help you to make the change that you want to make. This is an important point — you must want to make the change — and it is not sufficient for somebody else (e.g. a parent or spouse) to think that you should make the change. If your heart is not in it the change is unlikely to happen.

Examples of behavioural change:

Smoking cessation
Over eating and weight reduction
Alcohol (and see http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/Features/Focus/article78573.ece)


Often if we look at people who are more successful in life we realise that it is not because they are more intelligent, rather it is because they are more confident and better motivated to achieve their objective. In their own mind they have convinced themselves that they can succeed and, as a result, they do succeed. Achieving a more positive attitude of mind is a normal part of any hypnotherapy session. Of course, the goals that we set ourselves must be reasonable bearing in mind the skills that we have and the effort that we are prepared to put in.

Failure to achieve our goals, or a conflict between work pressures, life pressures and the time available, can lead to stress. The more stressed we feel, the worse we perform and a vicious circle develops. Hypnosis, with its emphasis on relaxation, can be a potent force for change when allied with better goal and priority setting, leading to management and reduction of stress.

Under the wide heading of personal development we can list:

Building self confidence and self-esteem
Encouraging relaxation
Stress management
Emotional difficulties
Relationship problems
Reduction of anxiety
Exam preparation
Driving test preparation
Life coaching and goalsetting
Sports or artistic performance enhancement

Phobias are common: one in nine people have a phobia of some sort. A phobia is an extreme reaction to fear triggered by a stimulus. We can also say that a phobia is a fear of a fear, as the unwanted feelings can often be created by simply thinking about the unwanted situation. Some people may be quite happy to live with their phobia as it does not disturb their daily lives. However, if it leads to unreasonable or disabling behaviour their lives will be happier if the phobia can be removed.

Phobias may be acquired as a result of a single trauma (possibly when a child), or by a gradual learned response (possibly influenced by parental behaviour), or by avoidance following a traumatic event (e.g. refusal to get back on the horse), but in every case it is the subconscious mind which provides the response and which needs to learn a new, and less troublesome, pattern of behaviour.

The most common phobias that I see are:

Flying (and see http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/91f968ee-cfe0-11de-a36d-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2UDjcYC9g)
Motorway driving

…but the list of potential phobias is very long.

Panic attacks can give sufferers severe physical symptoms when an irrational fear triggers the “fight or flight” response. The symptoms can include sweating, shortness of breath, raised heartbeat, feeling shaky, faint or nauseous, together with sensations of unreality or fear of losing control. There are a number of possible causes of panic attacks, including phobias (particularly agoraphobia), a traumatic event in the past, and drug and alcohol abuse.

Hypnotherapy can assist in finding the underlying causes which are triggering fear in the subconscious mind, and also in teaching coping mechanisms which enable the sufferer to deal with any symptoms which may arise in the future. The knowledge that they can overcome a panic attack means that an attack is less likely to escalate.

People with clinical depression, needing treatment with antidepressant drugs, will need to see a doctor or psychiatrist for treatment. However, once that has been done, hypnotherapy may offer a complementary approach by encouraging the client to change their outlook, set themselves goals, focus on positive thoughts and move forward.

Both anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa can be extremely dangerous conditions. People with anorexia have a body weight more than 25% below their ideal weight, together with an intense desire to be thin. This is a compulsion which is stronger than the individual. It will often have an emotional cause, and age regression under hypnosis may reveal a cause of which the conscious mind is no longer aware. Anorexia can lead to premature death, often due to heart attack.

People with bulimia nervosa usually have a normal weight but feel a compulsion to overeat (bingeing) but with self induced vomiting sometimes several times a day. This can have severe medical consequences. Again, the best results are likely to come from exploring the likely cause of the behaviour.

At first sight it may seem surprising that hypnotherapy can help sufferers with skin problems. However, because both the skin and the autonomic nervous system have a common origin in the ectoderm apparently physical problems can have a psychological aspect and therefore, potentially, a psychological solution.

Examples are:

Some disorders, depending upon their origin, may be susceptible to hypnotherapy. In some cases it may be possible to relieve the symptoms.
Examples include:

Irritable bowel syndrome
Inflammatory bowel disease
Peptic ulcers

One of the hypnotic trance phenomena is analgesia and anaesthesia. Because pain can be an important indicator for the medical profession a hypnotherapist would not remove or reduce acute pain without prior consultation with the client’s medical adviser.
Uses include:
* Childbirth
* Preparation for surgery and post-surgery recovery
* Dentistry, both removing the fear beforehand and reducing the pain during treatment.
* Migraine


People with cancer often find that, in addition to the conventional treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy, they can be helped by complementary therapies, eg hypnotherapy, which work with the mind as well as the body. While more clinical studies are needed there is some, limited evidence that hypnotherapy (and other forms of psychosocial intervention) can improve the prognosis, and it can certainly improve the quality of life, of a person with cancer.
Hypnotherapy can help in several ways. Firstly, it is good at improving relaxation and so reducing stress. This is a stand alone benefit for everybody, but it also assists the immune system to work better. Secondly, using visualisation and suitable imagery the client can encourage his or her immune system to be more effective. This is the basis of psychoneuroimmunology, a relatively new area of research into the relationship between the mind and the immune system. Thirdly, hypnotherapy can help to alleviate some of the side effects of treatment, such as nausea in the case of chemotherapy.

These are repetitive thoughts or actions which a person feels compelled to carry out even though a rational bystander would regard them as quite unnecessary. They can include repetitive washing of hands (to remove germs), collecting of rubbish or unwanted items, and counting, organising or checking procedures (for example, before leaving the house).
Disorders such as these can make it impossible for a person (and sometimes other members of the household) to lead a normal life. OCDs can affect one in 40 of the population and they are difficult to treat by any method. However, hypnotherapy may produce some improvement in the condition.

Once organic causes for sexual problems have been eliminated, any psychological causes can be addressed by hypnotherapy. Examples include:

Erectile dysfunction
Premature ejaculation
Orgasmic dysfunction



PTSD can be a very debilitating condition. A person who has suffered some form of severe trauma, and then does not process it in their mind in a natural way, will find the emotional impact will continue to effect them, possibly on a daily basis. Hypnotherapy can help them to process it, possibly using a form known as Ego State Therapy. Another form of treatment is called Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR).