You are getting very sleepy.... While hypnosis is often associated with sideshow performances, it's not a magical act. Rather, it’s a technique for putting someone into a state of heightened concentration where they are more suggestible. Therapists use hypnosis (also referred to as hypnotherapy or hypnotic suggestion) to help patients break bad habits, such as smoking, or achieve some other positive change, like losing weight. They accomplish this with the help of mental imagery and soothing verbal repetition that eases the patient into a trance-like state; once relaxed, patients’ minds are more open to transformative messages. Hypnosis can also help people cope with negative emotional states, like stress and anxiety, as well as pain, fatigue, insomnia, mood disorders, and more. In rare cases where patients are resistant to hypnoses, alternative therapies may be used.
Psychiatric nurses in most medical facilities are allowed to administer hypnosis to patients in order to relieve symptoms such as anxiety, arousal, negative behaviours, uncontrollable behaviour, and to improve self-esteem and confidence. This is permitted only when they have been completely trained about their clinical side effects and while under supervision when administering it.
Evidence from randomized controlled trials indicates that hypnosis, relaxation, and meditation techniques can reduce anxiety, particularly that related to stressful situations, such as receiving chemotherapy (see box). They are also effective for insomnia, particularly when the techniques are integrated into a package of cognitive therapy (including, for example, sleep hygiene). A systematic review showed that hypnosis enhances the effects of cognitive behavioral therapy for conditions such as phobia, obesity, and anxiety.
Although there are different techniques, clinical hypnotherapy is generally performed in a calm, therapeutic environment. The therapist will guide you into a relaxed, focused state and ask you to think about experiences and situations in positive ways that can help you change the way you think and behave. Unlike some dramatic portrayals of hypnosis in movies, books, or on stage, you will not be unconscious, asleep, or in any way out of control of yourself. You will hear the therapist’s suggestions, but it is up to you to decide whether or not to act on them.