What’s the difference between hypnotherapy in person and online hypnotherapy?

The main difference between in-person and online therapy are the techniques used. Some (such as techniques used in the treatment of trauma) are not suitable for working online.

Indeed, conditions such as psychosis or people with suicidal thoughts are best treated in person.

With in-person therapy the therapist can ‘read’ your body language much more easily compared to looking at you on a screen.

With in-person sessions, you and the therapist will more easily be able to use the therapeutic relationship and the ‘energy’ between you. This can often point to relationship dynamics you have with other people outside of the therapy room. This is not so easy to identify when working online.

That being said, good therapeutic outcomes online can be expected if you’ve developed good rapport with the therapist, feel safe, and have created a space where you won’t be disturbed (by family members, pets etc.).

A competent hypnotherapist will still use hypnotic techniques online (though may avoid using certain techniques with certain people for safeguarding reasons).

Read more about the differences between online and in-person hypnotherapy

What are your thoughts on AI therapy? Is it any good?

AI therapy has become increasingly popular over the last few years, especially among teens and young adults. It’s cheap (sometimes free) and it saves time having to visit a human therapist.

However there are limitations to the effectiveness of AI therapy. Indeed, even the programmes themselves say that the use of an AI app should not replace a real therapist.

Much of the problem with AI stems from the fact that a chatbot can’t read between the lines of your words. It can’t sense or feel what you’re feeling. It can’t ‘hold the space’ like an empathic therapist will. It can’t intuit what you need to start feeling better.

Abstraction from a computer’s database won’t ever replace human intuition, empathy and genuine care.

And an AI chatbot is a million years away from being able to do effective hypnotherapy.

The fact of the matter is that good therapy is underpinned by a therapeutic alliance between you and the therapist. With AI therapy there is no such alliance.

I say much more about the pros and cons of AI therapy here

What happens during a hypnotherapy session?

Many people have the misconception that hypnosis is some kind of magic wand. Unfortunately it isn’t. The therapist won’t swing a watch in front of your eyes, ask you to stare at a ‘hypno disc’ or tell you, “You’re under!”

These were all old-style ‘authoritarian’ hypnosis techniques. These days, things are different…

Think of hypnotherapy more like counselling, but with the added benefit of hypnosis.

A typical hypnotherapy session will include the more traditional counselling skills of good listening, rapport building, empathy, goal-setting etc. before any hypnosis takes place.

The thing is that hypnosis is unlikely to have any positive impact if a safe, therapeutic relationship hasn’t been established first. (If you don’t like your therapist, good outcomes are difficult to achieve).

So typically, a hypnotherapy session involves a mixture of psychotherapy/counselling but with the intentional use of hypnosis as this helps you tap into your most powerful learning state – the REM state.

A hypnotherapist might also teach you self-hypnosis techniques that you can practise between sessions and set agreed-upon ‘homework’ tasks  – things you can do to aid the changes you’re looking for.

Sometimes, I’ll suggest listening to a specific hypnosis recording at home as this can reinforce the work done in the hypnotherapy session.

RELATED CONTENT: Check out over 1200 hypnosis downloads

Is hypnotherapy suitable for children?

Quick answer – absolutely!

Think of it this way: most kids spend huge amounts of time in some kind of hypnotic state. They are entranced by their phones, YouTube, or video games. This is hypnosis.

Nearly all kids love listening to stories. Stories themselves have the power to hypnotise us (children and adults!).

RELATED CONTENT: the power of story – how personal myths set you free or hold you captive

And what about a visit to the theatre or cinema? Kids become engrossed by what they are watching up on stage or on screen.

So when it comes to hypnotherapy, a skilful therapist will quickly establish rapport with the child (making him or her feel safe) and then use the child’s natural hypnotic ability to generate new ideas for the child’s subconscious mind to absorb.

Over the 20+ years as a therapist I’ve used hypnosis to help kids…

What happens in hypnosis?

This depends on whether you’re visiting a stage show or a hypnotherapist.

Hypnosis stage shows are purely for entertainment and participants can end up doing the most ridiculous things. This is because the hypnotist is, by and large, directing the participants’ attention mechanism.

It takes only a couple of minutes (and sometimes much less time) to stimulate the REM state. The brain switches over to right-hemisphere dominance and it is as if the hypnotist directs a ‘waking dream’.

So when you see people doing crazy things on the stage, it’s no different to the crazy, non-sensical  dreams we all have every night. The same mental processes are in operation.

A hypnotherapist will use hypnosis for therapeutic ends, having identified with each client their goals of therapy.

And then, using a variety a techniques in trance, you might experience…

  • Age regression – like going back to an earlier time in your life
  • Age progression – going forward in time to mentally rehearse things going better in your life
  • Amnesia – to help you forget certain things and let go of the past
  • Dissociation – used in the right way, this can help you disconnect from troubling memories
  • Post hypnotic suggestions – given to you whilst in trance that have a positive effect later
  • Sensory distortion – sounds, physical sensations, feelings and emotions are often experienced differently in hypnosis: pleasurable emotions can be amplified whilst troubling emotions can be diminished
  • Time distortion – a common trance phenomenon

RELATED CONTENT: For more about what you might experience in hypnosis check out my page on trance phenomena

Could I get stuck in hypnosis?

This is a common misconception about hypnosis. It’s a bit like asking if anyone ever got stuck in a daydream.

Going into trance and then out again seems to be a natural ‘oscillation’ of human consciousness: we focus and become absorbed in something for a while (sometimes so deeply that the rest of the world disappears) then we de-focus and ‘come to’, like awakening from a daydream.

So the simple answer is, no, you can’t get stuck in hypnosis whether that’s on stage with a hypnotist or in session with a hypnotherapist. You’ll emerge from the hypnotic state and get on with the rest of your day.

Having said that, it does seem that some people spend large amounts of time in some sort of trance. Depression is a trance state. Addictive behaviours are often carried out in a trance, driven by unconscious compulsions.

The fact of the matter is that although you can’t really get stuck in hypnosis, many people do spend a lot of time in varying degrees of trance, more in than out.

A good hypnotherapist will help you break free from unhelpful trances, perhaps by helping you develop your Observing Self – the ability to step back and see things from a wider perspective rather than the narrow lens of the hypnotic state.

RELATED CONTENT: Find out more in the excellent book Trances People Live

What is self-hypnosis?

Self hypnosis simply refers to hypnosis you do yourself. And trust me, you’re already doing it every day!

Think of your little habits and mindless, repetitive thought patterns and behaviours. Many of us operate on autopilot, in some kind of zombie-like trance.

Just sit down in a cafe and watch the people walk by, heads down, engrossed in their phones, locked in a world of their own. This is self-hypnosis.

But there is a more intentional use of self-hypnosis. Instead of the automatic trances that you experience, you can set aside some time each day and purposefully use hypnosis to program your subconscious mind.

You might like to write a script, including a hypnotic induction and deepener, followed by all the suggestions you want to program into your mind. Then you could record this onto your phone – using your best hypnotic voice – then sit back and listen to the recording.

Or to make it easier, you might like to use a professionally written hypnosis script or listen to one of the many hypnosis recordings I recommend

What is the difference between hypnotherapy and psychotherapy?

A good hypnotherapist will have been trained extensively in counselling and psychotherapy techniques, such as good listening skills, rapport building, empathy, and having ‘unconditional positive regard’ for all their clients.

However, unlike counselling, a hypnotherapist purposefully uses hypnosis as the main agent of change.

But here’s the thing…

Hypnosis will be occurring in every therapist’s office, whether they call themselves a counsellor, psychotherapist or mindfulness practitioner. What I’m saying is that hypnosis plays a part in all such interactions.

For example, if a counsellor were to ask you to explore an old memory you would have to go inwards to access the details. And going inwards is one of the definitions of hypnosis.

The intimacy (and safe space) created by the therapeutic setting and relationship often means strong emotions are expressed. Emotions focus your attention. And focus of attention is hypnotic.

A deep and meaningful conversation with a counsellor or psychotherapist – where your attention is held for 50 minutes or so – can be so intense that the rest of the world disappears. That’s also hypnotic.

Most counsellors don’t even know hypnosis is happening in their consulting rooms. That’s why I say all professionals who work with people in mental distress should be trained in the use of hypnosis.

Knowing how to use hypnosis therapeutically  – when it occurs naturally – could speed up recovery times. This would be beneficial for the client and alleviate waiting times, saving a huge amount of money for care providers.

RELATED CONTENT: If you’re a counsellor and are interested in learning about hypnosis check out these online training courses

What is a hypnotic deepener?

A hypnotic deepener is simply a means of deepening the client’s trance if it is deemed necessary. (Most change-work can be done in light trance states).

You might be asked to imagine going down a flight of steps and as the therapist counts down from 10 to 1 they might suggest that, “With each number you can relax deeper and deeper.”

Or they might suggest you visualise going down in a lift, watching the numbers on the control panel or simply walking down a path on a glorious carefree day…

“And as I count from 10 down to 1…you can leisurely stroll down that path…taking your time to unwind a little bit more…with every step you take…and with every number I say…letting go…relaxing…deeply…lightly…or somewhere in between…”

A skilled hypnotherapist can deepen a client’s hypnotic state simply by changing their tone of voice and by using gestures.

When the hypnotherapist’s body becomes still and their breathing slows down, this is often mirrored by the client (especially if good rapport has already been established).

And when the delivery of words is slowed down…and the tone of voice deepened…and the volume quietened…it feels rather like being a child again, listening to a bedtime story.

But the thing to remember is that deep trance is usually not required for change to take place. Lighter trances are enough for new ideas to seed themselves in the client’s subconscious mind.

RELATED CONTENT: Learn more about inductions, deepeners and other techniques in the online course Uncommon Hypnotherapy

What is a hypnosis induction?

A hypnosis induction is a method whereby the hypnotist or hypnotherapist prepares you to enter the hypnotic REM state.

As hypnosis occurs naturally, a good therapist will simply elicit the way you already experience it. They will ask you to talk about your own experiences of enjoyable hypnosis such as watching a movie, reading a book, relaxing on a beautiful beach, whatever.

The therapist will later use this to engage your memory and imagination with ‘hypnotic language’ that draws your attention into the imagined scene playing out in your mind’s eye.

Indeed, it takes just a minute or two of focused attention like this to access the REM state. It’s as if your brain hands over control to the right hemisphere for a period of inward attention, much like going into a dream at night.

There are other, more rapid hypnotic inductions. Indeed, Milton Erickson, probably the most famous hypnotherapist from the last century, would sometimes use a ‘handshake technique’ that could put his clients into a trance in seconds.

This technique relies, to a degree, on shock and surprise in an attempt to confuse or disorient the person’s conscious mind. With the conscious mind (and any resistance) bypassed, the subconscious takes over where powerful suggestions can be embedded quickly.