1. 1.       How did you become qualified to be a hypnotist?

After my 6 years of training to become a registered psychologist I trained at the Australian Academy of Hypnosis and I have also had advanced hypnotherapy training with the Californian based psychotherapist and hypnotherapist Cal Banyan. His 5 Path process is widely acclaimed as being one of the best approaches to hypnotherapy.

  1. 2.       What is the difference between hypnotism and hypnotherapy?

The induction process is the same. In other words hypnotising a person means ultimately facilitating a state of dissociation (a split in attention, where a focus is directed at something particular while another part of that person’s awareness is attentive to a set of instructions that he or she is not consciously aware of).  Up to this point one can say this is the state of ‘hypnosis’.  Therapy starts as soon as instructions are given aimed at changing undesired thoughts, feelings and consequent behaviours while in the state of hypnosis – hence the term ‘hypnotherapy’.

  1. 3.       What sort of conditions do you deal with?

I must say that I deal mostly with people that come as a consequence of them feeling high levels of stress, anxiety, depression and many who come for weightloss (emotional eating). There are many other conditions I deal with but interestingly most are simply symptoms of the conditions I have outlined above. For instance, depression is a consequence of persistent anxiety and so is obsessive compulsive disorder.  If a person is stressed at work he or she is actually saying that she is worried (anxious) and the natural adrenal response provokes a fight or flight response (i.e. the adrenal response).

Persistent anxiety eventually leads to all sorts of physiological problems. Hypnotherapy can help through implementing cognitive strategies designed to deal with the perception of the anxiety provoking stimulus. Most people feel that they have lost control over part of themselves and this very much eats away on their self-confidence. They desperately want back that control. As there is much evidence that perception is also a matter of personality I always use a personality assessment with my clients first. This will determine a number of things. For instance if someone has a more introverted disposition (and there is absolutely nothing wrong with this) he or she will most definitely not feel over the moon when dealing with large crowds of people they don’t know, or people they don’t know asking them personal questions.

In fact, it causes them stress. The stress is massively increased if they now start their internal negative self-talk, thinking that they ‘should’ be able to do this ‘like everyone else seems to be able to’. Well the answer is ‘an apple is an apple and an orange is an orange’, and if an apple tries to become an orange then that will be a pretty difficult thing to accomplish. Knowing what makes one ‘tick’ and accepting ones personality preferences can be a healing thing. All one then needs to do is bringing up the courage (courage =being afraid and doing it anyway) to get out there and tackle the obstacle without berating oneself because it is perfectly ‘normal’ for an introverted person to feel uneasy in those situations! They have strengths that others haven’t but there is a way to alter that perception and get a handle on things. Shutting down the negative self-talk through understanding the mechanisms of one’s internal dialogue frees up an enormous amount of energy.

Once we have worked out what it is that holds the person prisoner we can truly move into the direction they want. Although in some instances escapism and avoidance is a valid way to dealing with issues, in the long term it is never the right answer if one wants to truly change unwanted thoughts and feelings for good.

  1. 4.       How does hypnotherapy compare to ‘traditional’ treatment? i.e. vs pills for anxiety?

Pills for anxiety work with the physiological aspect of anxiety. What is the physiological aspect of anxiety? If anxiety caused the system to get into a fight or flight the body produces a number of responses which we usually come to notice as increased heart rate and butterflies in the stomach (but there are many more – see table below *Physiological responses).

Thinking Style and Stress Perception.(Table by Jorg Thonnissen, 2011)

Thinking Style Stress Perception Cognitive Dissonance *Physiological responses
rational perceiving a stimulus as stressful when there is danger low high
perceiving a stimulus as NOT stressful when there is no danger low
irrational perceiving a stimulus as stressful when there is no danger high high
perceiving a stimulus as NOT stressful when there is danger low


* Physiological responses: i.e. fight or flight responses that could include the production of catecholamine hormones, such as adrenaline or noradrenaline, facilitate immediate physical reactions associated with a preparation for violent muscular action. These MAY include the following: Acceleration of heart and lung action, paling or flushing, or alternating between both, inhibition of stomach and upper-intestinal action to the point where digestion slows down or stops, general effect on the sphincters of the body, constriction of blood vessels in many parts of the body, liberation of nutrients (particularly fat and glucose) for muscular action, dilation of blood vessels for muscles, inhibition of the lacrimal gland (responsible for tear production) and salivation, dilation of pupil (mydriasis), relaxation of bladder, inhibition of erection, auditory exclusion (loss of hearing), tunnel vision (loss of peripheral vision), disinhibition of spinal reflexes, shaking. 

This means that we have consciously or unconsciously (i.e. cognitively) recognised a stimulus that causes us angst. We may not be aware what exactly produces the worry we are experiencing and so we may have a consistent feeling of being under attack somehow for some reason (i.e. feeling uncomfortable, stressed etc.) and that could eventually even lead to panic attacks which may come as a total surprise to us. Once we are experiencing an unexplained panic attack it could also happen that we start associating the environment where we had the panic attack as being ‘dangerous’ (in psychology we call this Pavlovian conditioning). This means that next time we are entering into a similar environment another panic attack could be triggered, thus reinforcing the perception that this environment is indeed something to be avoided. In order to get a handle on the anxiety provoking stimulus we are then aiming to more and more control the world around us therefore reinforcing the stimulus even more (the more we try to shut something out, the more we generally start enforcing it). This is the path to generalised anxiety which is often accompanied by obsessive compulsive behaviours.

As becomes clear from the example there are two things at work here, physiology and psychology. For the increased heart rate, pulse, etc., medication can reduce the effect of the physiological response and in a way one hopes that this also then reduces the psychological symptoms. However this is often not the case and so it appears to be always best to also train a person in the application of cognitive strategies in order to change ones perception of the anxiety provoking situation. In many instances changing the person’s perception through cognitive behavioural therapy or hypnotherapy can bring that change without having to necessarily resort to medication.

Medication is useful but it is better to get a handle on the stimulus that has caused the undesired thoughts and feelings in the first place. Moreover, being dependent only on medication to get through the day could erode self-confidence, i.e. thinking thoughts like ‘am I really happier, or is it the medication?’  Whereas knowing that you found the power there within yourself to overcome the obstacles you are facing increases feelings of internal control confidence and self-belief. There is a place for both, no doubt, however it is my opinion that the cognitive aspect is of the greatest importance.

  1. 5.       What are some common misperceptions about hypnotherapy?

People often think that they are somewhat unconscious when they are getting hypnotised, or lose control in some way i.e. made clack like a chicken, etc. This is not true. Generally the client stays in control and hears everything the hypnotist says. I do have ways of showing the client that a split in attention has taken place though. I often use it during a session to make the person realise that their awareness has somewhat shifted.

  1. 6.       How many sessions are recommended? Is it dependent on the person and their response to treatment?

It really depends on the person and the issue. My sessions are quite intensive and long as I have a specific way of addressing the issues in clients. Thus, most have between 2-3 sessions and then some maintenance schedule (if required) in which the client can decide if s/he wants to have a monthly or 6 weekly session thereafter. Many clients like to have a maintenance schedule as this means they have to be accountable. However, this doesn’t mean that they actually need it. Mind you, I give most of my clients a CD that I have recorded in preparation of the session to take home with them. This is worth a session each time they are listening to it. It enables them to stay on track with the identified aims of the session. They will also get a little homework which basically consists of them listening once a day to the CD for a period of time and then filling in a short questionnaire asking them to identify what changes they have noticed taking place.

  1. 7.       Does hypnotherapy work on everyone? Are some people more difficult to hypnotise than others?

There are differences between people but if a good rapport has been established between hypnotist and client most let go enough to get into a hypnotic state. It is very much based on trust. There are also many different techniques that get even the most skeptical person into trance, a skilled hypnotist knows what they are. Basically the conscious mind can only hold about 5-7 of pieces of information in focus at the same time. If it is overloaded it will have no choice but to drop attention. This is the time when the defence mechanisms are lowered thus creating greater openness to suggestions which are then likely to have increased effects.

  1. 8.       Who would you recommend would benefit from this kind of therapy?

Anybody really who feels uneasy or notices that their issues are taking on a life of their own. Some people believe it is somewhat shameful to have to admit that they need some assistance with getting their perspective sorted out and some more control back into their lives.  But let me assure you no one is an island, we all need to get feedback and reassurance from others to know where we stand. People that come to see me are typically, but not exclusively highly trained professionals with stressful jobs or interpersonal relationships that don’t quite work the way they anticipated. They are normal people (although they may not think that about themselves) who feel somewhat out of control (eating, anxiety, procrastination, depression, relationship issues, etc.) and need to get a second unbiased opinion with the aim of getting a deeper insight into the causes and consequences of their action. Once we have come to a sensible understanding of the causes of their issues and it is absolutely clear to the person of how they got where they are right now, we look at where we need to go from here to change undesired thoughts and feelings in future. This is where hypnotherapy comes in as an excellent cognitive goal reinforcement technique. The goal of therapy is that of achieving the fastest possible independence for the client so that s/he can take back control over his/her life and live with true self confidence.

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