Hypnosis & Hypnotherapy Miscellany: Limitations, Motivations, Change

As excited as I get about the broad applications of this practice and its amazing results that I have witnessed, hypnotherapy is not a magic cure-all for every human ill or challenge.  It is not a simple “snap your fingers and you’re all better now” approach to whatever ails mankind.  In these next sections, we will look at some of the basic misconceptions and limitations of this practice.

Hypnotherapy does not offer a cure for mental illness.  It cannot end schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or personality disorders.  Some symptoms of depression can be alleviated with hypnotherapy, but because serious clinical depression may have a chemical or organic cause or may indicate a more serious mental illness, therapists proceed cautiously.  If you suffer with depression, certainly consult with a hypnotherapist about your symptoms, however.

One of the early problems with the use of hypnosis as therapy resulted from its use with mental illness.  When hypnosis failed to work, its effectiveness was questioned.  Only when researchers determined that the most appropriate candidates for hypnotherapy were sane, stable persons of reasonable intelligence that the amazing breadth of hypnotherapy began to be truly understood.

Others with whom hypnosis is not particularly effective include people of extremely low intelligence.  Their lack of cognizance makes understanding and following suggestions difficult. Since the foundation of hypnosis is communication, those challenged in hearing and comprehending language are at an extreme disadvantage, as well.

Besides communication, another key trait for a person undergoing hypnotherapy is the ability to trust.  A client’s initial step in undergoing hypnosis is to relax, and in order to relax, he must trust the therapist.  People with paranoia or people who have trouble trusting even trustworthy people are not good candidates for hypnosis-based therapy.

Some of the best candidates for hypnotherapy are those who have experienced coaching in one form or another, such as in athletics, drama, music, or in organizations such as the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts.  The success of hypnotherapy requires motivation and commitment.  People who have already made such commitments through coaching understand the concept of suggestions and behavioral change.

As much as I would love to be in a position to simply give away the benefits of hypnosis (I am not, by the way), free hypnotherapy would likely fail.  As I heard Dr. Crow once say, the client needs to have “skin in the game.”  Payment for service reinforces a client’s sense of obligation and commitment to succeed.  The higher the motivation for change at the beginning translates into greater success throughout the whole process for the client, much like the goal of winning does for those who have undergone coaching.  Making a large payment to undergo therapy was a large motivation for me to follow through, and, in retrospect, the success I experienced helped make my cost a real bargain!

Motivation needs to be matched with a certain level of discipline.  Success in hypnotherapy is not achieved and measured within a session.  It is within real life where the change is tested and experienced daily.  Principles addressed in sessions need to be applied regularly.  Throughout the process, a therapist will assign “homework,” or steps to follow to achieve the goals that are set during the sessions.  These steps are necessary to success and permanency of the change.

Some people are hindered in their progress by counter-motivations, which in the worst case may sabotage the entire process.  Sometimes the therapist will recognize this resistance during the hypnotherapy and can deal with it.  At other times, a client may cling to the resistance too tightly, destroying efforts to change.  Remember, a therapist never controls the client.  The client cannot be made to do anything he does not want to do.  A man seeking to lose weight who simply refuses to drop his two beers a night (and the calories that go with them) is destined to fail because his unreasonable stubbornness controls the entire process.

This control that a client exercises, on the other hand, should comfort a person considering hypnotherapy.  One can trust the therapist to an even greater degree if the therapist is no threat.  As we will see in the chapter ahead, a hypnotherapist cannot make a person do anything against his or her will.  No one can be led to act contrary to his or her existing morals or nature.  A hypnotherapist lacks authority to make a saint into a sinner or a sinner into a saint.

When a client makes changes to his behavior, how “locked in” or permanent are those changes?  Will a client regress in his progress?

Since the client has learned this problematic behavior over time, there is always a future risk that the client may experience of some type of re-emergence of that behavior.  Some changes are more permanent than others.  Some behavioral changes are as near to permanent as they can be, but others, not so much.  Let me illustrate the differences.

One behavior I had to address and change was my aversion to foods that are good for me, such as foods lower in calories, particularly vegetables.  I accomplished that goal, and rather quickly too, I might add.  Before my attitude change, even the appearance of broccoli coming near my plate filled me with revulsion.  Afterwards, I eagerly anticipated broccoli, as well as other vegetables.  Those changes are clearly permanent and unchangeable.  I cannot imagine not enjoying these tasty, low-calorie foods the rest of my life.

The change in my behavior that led to my love of broccoli was a new adventure in my behavior and diet.  I developed an active desire to try new, healthy foods.  These new tastes rewarded my attempts and reinforced my experimentation with healthy nutrition.  Like my newfound love for broccoli, I do not see myself losing this new behavior of experiencing new “eats.”

The greatest challenge proved to be creating aversions to unhealthy and high calorie foods.  Since childhood, I have formed desires for burgers, friend chicken, sweets of all kinds, and pizza.  Pre-hypnotherapy, I consumed far too many diet sodas (that actually inhibit weight loss and are full of ingredients hazardous to our health).  I have systematically dealt with these behaviors during my therapy, and I have made significant changes.  However, all of those years of consuming those unhealthy foods still fill my memory banks, and they always will.  They will never completely disappear, I suppose.  In many cases, those memories are tied to pleasant events.  Repeating similar events may tend to trigger occasions for relapses.  I continue with a wariness about consuming those unhealthy foods.  The positive news is that the aversions that I created do prevail and the challenges never appear too great.  I am confident of life-long success in these behavioral changes, as well.

One final point that needs to be highlighted is that many changes may occur other than just behaviors.  I remember hearing an interview with the late, great Pat Sumerall.  Pat was the voice of the National Football League on CBS for years.  He also covered the Masters Invitational Golf Tournaments, as well as other great sporting events after his years with the NFL.  He also drank too much, ultimately entering rehabilitation for his alcoholism.  Blessedly, he had success in overcoming his addiction, or at least in controlling it.  In his interview, he addressed the changes he had to make in his lifestyle.  He said the one thing that he learned is that he had to change his playground and his playmates.  He could no longer frequent some places (bars) and hang out with his drinking buddies.

As part of the hypnotherapy success, you may experience changes two ways.  One change may be the new practices adopted as part of the active consultation with your therapist.  The other changes may occur as more of a side effect of the positive changes brought about by the hypnotherapy.  In either case, you should not resist these changes, but embrace them.  If your ultimate goal is sound and your motivations right, your success will be filled with many positives changes.