A hypnotic "trance" is not something that is foreign to us--we've all been so absorbed in thought while reading a book or watching a movie that we fail to notice what is happening around us. These focused states of attention are similar to hypnosis. Simply put, when our minds are concentrated and focused, we are able to use them more powerfully. In this condition, we can tap into normally unused mental powers to create new possibilities of experience.
People typically experience both mental tranquility and physical relaxation under hypnosis. Various changes in perception are also common under hypnosis. Some people feel great heaviness coming over their bodies, others feel very light or numb. Subjective feelings of floating, sinking, spinning, and tingling sensations are also reported.
Contrary to a popular belief, people under hypnosis are neither captive nor spellbound. For the most part, a subject can resist direct instructions that he or she feels will undermine their wishes or compromise his or her moral standards. Still, there are rare cases of misconduct in which hypnosis is deliberately misused by a skilled hypnotist. This is one of several good reasons to seek a reputable professional when it comes to choosing a hypnotherapist. A good guideline for finding a qualified clinical professional is this fact---the only people qualified to treat your mental or physical problems with hypnosis, are those who are also qualified to treat the same problems without hypnosis.
Psychiatrists use hypnosis in treating patients to overcome negative habits, anxiety, phobias and other fears, and depression. They use hypnosis for exploration of the unconscious, to better understand underlying motivations or identify whether or not past events or experiences are associated with causing a problem. Psychiatrists have also had positive results in helping patients control appetite and reduce the levels of drugs necessary in the treatment of chronic illnesses.
Hypnosis, while effective, may not be for everyone. It appears to be of the greatest benefit when a patient is highly motivated to overcome a problem and when the hypnotherapist is well trained in both hypnosis and in general considerations relating to the treatment of the particular problem. Also, some patients seem to have higher native hypnotic "talent" (increased suggestibility) and capacity which may allow them to benefit more readily from hypnosis.
Hypnosis can be a powerful tool for healing-so powerful that it can completely remove or distract people from feeling pain. For this reason it is important that a physician or other state-licensed medical or psychological specialist assess the underlying medical or psychological condition prior to hypnosis. Also, because there is no medical degree required for the practice of hypnotherapy, persons wishing to undergo hypnosis should make certain that the therapist is well trained. This bears repeating: it is safest to look for a hypnotherapist who is a licensed professional in a field where hypnotherapy is part of their normal practice, such as psychiatrists (MD's) and psychologists. It is essential to check credentials and background when choosing a hypnotherapist.
Finally, it is important to keep in mind that hypnosis is like any other therapeutic treatment: it is of major benefit to some patients with certain problems, and it is helpful with many other patients, but it can fail, just like any other clinical method. For this reason, trained clinical hypnotherapists emphasize that they are not "hypnotists,", but instead health care professionals who use hypnosis along with the other tools of their professions.
Debra S. Gorin, M.D. received her medical degree from the University of Miami School of Medicine. She is a Diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. She has been in private practice as a Psychiatrist for the past sixteen years in the Fort Lauderdale area. Dr. Gorin treats all types of stress-related, emotional and psychiatric problems of children, adolescents, and adults. She is also a trained hypnotherapist. Visit her website (http://www.doctorgorin.com) to view her growing library of psychiatric and health-related articles. Dr. Gorin's weblog can be viewed at http://debragorinmd.blogspot.com She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org