Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy: They’re The Same Thing, Aren’t They?


Hypnos was the ancient Greek god of Sleep, and it’s his name which lends itself to the root of the term ‘Hypnosis’.

Hypnosis is a trance-like state, where the subject enters into a state of extremely deep relaxation. Once in this state, a hypnotist can make suggestions to the subject, designed to alter the state of the subject’s mind and change their way of thinking and behaving.

Hypnosis is often thought of in terms of entertainment, like that of the stage hypnotists. Because of this, many people believe that if they were to be hypnotised, they would be made to do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do, such as bark like a dog. Whilst this has been used by stage hypnotists for entertainment, and with the consent of the participant, this is not the general practice for hypnotists.

We all achieve a state of hypnosis at least once a day. It’s that deeply relaxed state into which we enter in the final few moments before we fall asleep. In those final few moments we are technically still awake and sentient, so that if we were to detect a sudden sound or movement in our immediate environment, we would be wide awake in a split second.

Similarly, when under hypnosis the subject is in that awake and sentient state, and can bring themselves out of hypnosis quickly without any detriment to themselves.

It is argued in some quarters that the suggestions made under hypnosis wear off very quickly afterwards and have no long-lasting effect. It has also been suggested that the subject is often ‘acting’ and will do as they’re told because they think they should.


Hypnotherapy is a type of cognitive therapy used to help a client overcome a fear or phobia, or a condition such as anxiety and depression, or an addiction. Using hypnosis it seeks to alter the client’s behaviour in order to help them achieve their desired outcome or goal.

As well as helping a client overcome a limiting condition or problem, hypnosis can also be used to improve self-confidence and self-esteem, and has been known to help people perform well in interviews and achieve their dream job, or pass an important examination.

During a hypnotherapy session, the client is induced into a state of very deep relaxation, and once in that state their subconscious mind is open and ready to receive very specific suggestions.

The nature of those suggestions will vary from client to client, and will be based very much on the information they give to the hypnotherapist. A good hypnotherapist will pay attention to the language used by the client and which dominant sense they use to perceive the world around them.

A good hypnotherapist will also listen out for what the client doesn’t tell them – reading between the lines, so to speak.

If a client is seeking to overcome an addiction to nicotine and wishes to quit smoking, this will usually be done in one session which will typically last around 2 hours and be very intensive. This is designed so that the client doesn’t have time to build any resistance to the suggestions made under hypnosis – as might be possible if the hypnotherapy were delivered in the more usual 2-3 session format.

But for other areas it is often proposed that at least 3 sessions be needed, in order to deeply embed and intensify the suggestions made under hypnosis.

In order to achieve a positive and long-lasting transformation, rather than merely focusing on helping the client overcome their problem – which I refer to as ‘the symptom’ – I find that  it always pays to explore deeper to discover the real origin of the problem.

If, for example, my client wished to lose 2-3 stones in weight, it would be a good idea to explore their previous history and relationship to food. Understanding this history is fundamental in deciding how to re-programme the client’s mind in order to establish a new and healthier relationship to food. Once this has been established, it is then easier to add further suggestion designed to overcome ‘the symptom’.

As previously mentioned, it is believed by a number of people that the effects of hypnosis are short-lived. If, however, the hypnotherapist implants an ‘anchor’ with the suggestions given to the client, this anchor then serves to further embed the suggestions. In doing this, the client is able to strengthen the suggestions and achieve a long-term transformation.

Argument has been made in previous years that suggestions made under hypnosis are in some way harmful and that hypnosis somehow fixes false memories in a subject’s mind.

Let me be clear on this. Hypnotherapy is a therapy; its whole ethos is the positive transformation and improvement of the client’s health and life. It is designed to overcome negative programming in the client’s mind, replacing it with purely positive programming which will better serve the client in the long-term.

And the one vital element in all of this, without which hypnotherapy would never work: the client themselves!

If a client isn’t willing to work with a hypnotherapist, doesn’t trust the hypnotherapist and doesn’t develop a rapport with the hypnotherapist, then no amount of hypnotic suggestion is going to have any effect, short or long-term.

The whole point of listening to the client is to help establish that rapport and trust, so that the client feels completely at ease and knows that they are 100% safe.

If a client wishes to make that positive transformation to their life, they are more likely to have success with hypnotherapy.

Hypnotherapy isn’t a miracle cure. Hypnotherapy offers no guarantees, purely because it relies as much on the client as it does on the hypnotherapist. Several factors – client willingness and understanding; hypnotherapist listening and understanding; effective, powerful and personal-based suggestion; the establishment of rapport and trust – should then combine to achieve the desired outcome.

It doesn’t work for everyone – but then, if it did, we wouldn’t need any other form of therapy or medication.

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