There are many different definitions of hypnosis and hypnotherapy. The following extract is taken from Dr Hilary Jones' book 'Dr, What's the Alternative?', which describes and assesses different types of alternative therapies. Dr Jones is a GP who has become well known through his TV appearances and many books on the subject of family health.
Contrary to popular belief, hypnosis is not a state of deep sleep. It does involve the induction of a trance-like condition, but when in it, the patient is actually in an enhanced state of awareness, concentrating entirely on the hypnotist's voice. In this state, the conscious mind is suppressed and the subconscious mind is revealed. The therapist is able to suggest ideas, concepts and lifestyle adaptations to the patient, the seeds of which become firmly planted.
The practice of promoting healing or positive development in any way is known as hypnotherapy. As such, hypnotherapy is a kind of psychotherapy...hypnotherapy aims to re-programme patterns of behaviour within the mind, enabling irrational fears, phobias, negative thoughts and suppressed emotions to be overcome. As the body is released from conscious control during the relaxed trance-like state of hypnosis, breathing becomes slower and deeper, the pulse rate drops and the metabolic rate falls. Similar changes along nervous pathways and hormonal channels enable the sensation of pain to become less acute, and the awareness of unpleasant symptoms, such as nausea or indigestion, to be alleviated.
The chapter continues by attempting to answer the most difficult question of all and the one which is the most debated within scientific research into hypnosis.
Hypnosis is thought to work by altering our state of consciousness in such a way that the analytical left-hand side of the brain is turned off, while the non-analytical right-hand side is made more alert. The conscious control of the mind is inhibited, and the subconscious mind awoken. Since the subconscious mind is a deeper-seated, more instinctive force than the conscious mind, this is the part which has to change for the patient's behaviour and physical state to alter. For example, a patient who consciously wants to overcome their fear of spiders may try everything they consciously can to do it, but will still fail as long as their subconscious mind retains this terror and prevents the patient from succeeding. Progress can only be made be reprogramming the subconscious so that deep-seated instincts and beliefs are abolished or altered.
Dr Hilary Jones (1998) Doctor, What's the Alternative?
Hodder and Stoughton: London
If you want to read more about hypnotherapy compared to other forms of alternative and complementary therapy, you can purchase this book or others by Dr Jones either online or at your local bookstore.