“Is what you do real hypnosis, or is it just hypnotherapy?”
“Do you do hypnotherapy, or just hypnosis?”
“Do you actually hypnotise people, or do you just do hypnotherapy?”
“I want to try hypnotherapy first, and if that doesn’t work I’ll try hypnosis.”
“I have seen a powerful hypnotist work, so I know what it’s like when someone can really do it.”
I have heard all of these questions and statements in the last week, so I figured it was time to write something about one of the most common misconceptions we come up against in our work – this idea that there’s a difference between “hypnotherapy” and “hypnosis”.
The misconception that there’s a difference arises out of a false impression given by entertainment hypnosis – the theatrics involved in entertainment lead us to believe that to be in hypnosis is like being asleep, and if you don’t experience a sleep-like state this means that it:
a) isn’t hypnosis; and
b) you weren’t hypnotised.
There’s also the misconception that hypnotherapy is the same thing as relaxation therapy, and it isn’t. We talk about that in more detail on this blog post.
For our purposes, there’s no difference between hypnosis and hypnotherapy – and I want to keep this simple, because it really is simple. There are two things you need to know:
- Hypnotherapy is the use of hypnosis to achieve therapeutic goals;
- We (and most people in our profession) use the terms interchangeably.
To elaborate briefly on the first point – a therapeutic goal is any change that you seek that will make your life more comfortable. It can be physical (like pain relief, or help with a gastrointestinal issue), habitual (for example, smoking or nail biting) or emotional (like getting help with grief, or stress, or anxiousness). It can also be all these things at once. Hypnosis can be used for these kinds of issues because hypnosis allows us to influence the part of our mind where those issues originate. When we use hypnosis for these ends, we usually call it hypnotherapy.
The second point acknowledges that while all hypnotherapists are hypnotists (and therefore we use both words to describe what we do), not all hypnotists are hypnotherapists. Most entertainment hypnotists are not hypnotherapists (although there are exceptions to this – Martin St James, for example, was famous for his stage shows, but also ran a busy therapy practice for many years).
What’s really important is that the practitioner you are working with takes the time to understand your expectations and help you clear up any worries or questions you have about hypnosis.
Sometimes people joke about the “magic” of the outcomes that can be achieved using hypnotherapy, but it’s really important to remember that the magic comes from within you. Hypnosis helps us to connect with our inner intelligence, and to bring that to the fore.
You have the power.