How Hypnotherapy Works

How does hypnotherapy work?

There are a few theories about how and why hypnotherapy works, but I think the most accurate one is Erickson and Rossi’s theory discussed in their books Hypnotic Realities and Hypnotherapy. Their theory is constructivist in nature: people learn most ways to be (behave, believe, and feel) in the world and change involves learning new ways to be.

During any learning process, you may learn ways to do things that are helpful or ways that are not so helpful (or kind of helpful or meaningless or waste time to avoid doing the thing, etc.) to accomplishing certain goals. These learnings create/are sets or schemas in our minds through which we interpret things and act in the world. This happens on many levels from language to gender norms to politics to religion to specific anxieties or fears to personality disorders. Problems can arise when people learn things that are not so helpful to or hinder accomplishing certain goals–especially if they learn them quickly in a strong emotional state.

For instance, while there is some debate on this topic, there is good evidence to suggest that many phobias are learned from children seeing adults have phobic responses. If a small child sees their mom being terrified by a spider, a spider must be really terrifying; therefore, spiders become something very scary in the child’s mind. Many other issues are created in similar ways: smokers learn to rely on cigarettes (speeding up their death) to calm themselves down or really enjoy life; people with anxiety learn to have anxiety about something and find elaborate new ways to live to avoid their fears (e.g. someone who drives an extra block up and takes three right turns to avoid making a left turn); and some people learn to associate love or comfort or relaxation or self-loathing with eating and have weight issues.

(Now, I don’t mean this to over-simplify human behavior or to say that these are the only reasons people have phobias, smoke, are anxious, or over-eat. Obviously, people have many reasons for their behavior–but exactly because it depends on what they learned when and why and how that fit(s) into their map(s) of the world then and now and their relation, etc. These are just examples someone might have in a simple world.)

In short, people’s lives are created not by their choices, but by their learning. What you learn creates how you are and thus who you are and what you do.

So, what does this have to do with hypnotherapy?

Hypnotherapy can help this by allowing a client to enter a specific state that is highly prone to learning and relearning: trance. Trance creates a situation in which someone can focus deeply enough inside to not only (re)consider their beliefs and feelings, but also allows one to temporarily bypass the “critical factor” or what Freud calls the reality principle. Bypassing this means that whatever is focused on can seem real or at least true for the person–the more real or true this seems/feels/is, the more powerful the experience.

This experience is analogous to getting incredibly wrapped up in a TV show, movie, book, or conversation and to take the feelings or ideas into your life later on. Many people have had experiences of a book or schooling or something changing their life through helping them to have “reality” (or a specific interpretation) put aside long enough to (re)think (many) things.

Though, the experience with a hypnotherapist one-on-one should obviously be more tailored to you specifically and more powerful. For instance, for smokers, I will often help them through their specific issues with smoking, their triggers, and finding new ways to relax, how to avoid snacking too much, and how to drink with friends (if they do so) or hang out with friends who smoke.

In short, this is to say that hypnotherapy helps people enter a state in which they can (re)learn behavior, feelings, and beliefs around an issue by helping them to focus inside so deeply that their conscious faculties slide away long enough to rethink their position in life. Hypnotherapy creates a meta-state in which someone can more easily alter their learned “programming”. Altering this can help people to make major movement in their lives.

What would you like to (re)learn? Explore hypnotherapy Denver style: (720) 432-1806 (free consultation)