When I tell people that I'm a hypnotherapist, you can almost see their mind kick into gear. What happens next typically goes one of two ways: the first is a slightly nervous chuckle and a line along the lines of, "Great! You'll be able to help me overcome my fear of flying" or similar. The other is that my new acquaintance will throw one of those clichéd hypnotherapy myths at me, to see if it's true. I think most smart people know that none of these are actually based on fact, but I'm happy to lay the top six to rest once and for all...
Myth 1: Hypnotherapy requires dozens of sessions
That's just nonsense: you can do nowadays in one session what historically took six sessions e.g. getting rid of a phobia. The techniques are now so good that any with most presenting problems - I'd say 80 per cent of clients - I can treat the client in two sessions - even with the likes of chronic anxiety.
In 2016 for example, stopping panic-attacks is a one-session treatment. If you were seeking treatment for that with behavioural therapy, by comparison, it would probably take six to twelve sessions.
Clearly, we are all individuals and some issues do take a little longer. To find a good, well-trained hypnotherapist, you can check out these three main registers. Either use http://www.general-hypnotherapy-register.com/hypnotherapist-search/, http://www.bsch.org.uk/hypnotherapist.html, http://www.anlp.org/
Myth 2: You have to be mentally feeble for hypnotherapy to work
That's just nonsense too! Many of my clients are pretty successful, high-performing individuals, whether that's board members of global companies, Olympic medal winner Kelly Holmes or top-selling musicians. I don't think you'd call any of them weak-minded.
We all are able to be in a hypnotised state - and in fact we all get hypnotised all the time. If you just substitute the word 'hypnosis' for 'trance' and look at what the meaning of trance is: it's a focused state of attention. So, whether that's watching TV or driving, they're all trance-like experiences. There are depths of hypnosis and yes, some people for sure are able to get to a deeper level of trance, but there's a debate about whether that's due to the skill of the therapist or the ability and willingness of the individual who's being hypnotised.
Myth 3: You'll be made to do something silly
People often say, "Are you going to make me act like a chicken?" and the answer is obviously no! This is clinical hypnotherapy, not stage hypnosis. The long and the short if it is that you can't make anyone do anything that they don't want to do.
Myth 4: You might get trapped in hypnosis forever
I don't know anyone who knows anyone who's never come out of a trance. Trance after-all, is not a coma state. If you say to someone, "open your eyes" they will open their eyes. One or two times when I've said that they haven't, so I've repeated it and they then opened their eyes. The one time that didn't work, I said, "If you don't open your eyes I will start billing you at £200 a minute" and they opened their eyes straight away. Hypnosis isn't anesthesia.
People often think that they won't hear what the hypnotherapist is saying to them, but bearing in mind that it's a form of communication, you have to hear what's being said to you - including the suggestion that you open your eyes and wake up. You don't get knocked-out, you're just in a very suggestible state with your eyes closed.
Myth 5: Your hypnotherapist will dangle a stop-watch before your eyes.
The only tools we use are our voice and words. The first stage of hypnosis is getting someone to close their eyes and in 2016 it doesn't involve watches or people wearing Victoriana or people standing over you.
To put someone in the deepest level of hypnosis should really take no longer than two to three minutes. When therapists spend 20 minutes doing what's called "progressive relaxation", it's just not necessary. A well-trained hypnotherapist can help their clients get into the deepest trance state within a couple of minutes. This is important because it means that you can spend more time helping the client overcome their issue.
Myth 6: You need to have your eyes closed.
Whilst some clients and some conditions involve you being sat down with your eyes closed in what is called 'formal trance', not all hypnosis needs to be this way. In fact, a huge amount of my work is done using conversational hypnosis. You can achieve just as much, if not more in some issues this way. A good hypnotherapist is able to use both and knows when to use both.