You are getting very sleepy.... While hypnosis is often associated with sideshow performances, it's not a magical act. Rather, it’s a technique for putting someone into a state of heightened concentration where they are more suggestible. Therapists use hypnosis (also referred to as hypnotherapy or hypnotic suggestion) to help patients break bad habits, such as smoking, or achieve some other positive change, like losing weight. They accomplish this with the help of mental imagery and soothing verbal repetition that eases the patient into a trance-like state; once relaxed, patients’ minds are more open to transformative messages. Hypnosis can also help people cope with negative emotional states, like stress and anxiety, as well as pain, fatigue, insomnia, mood disorders, and more. In rare cases where patients are resistant to hypnoses, alternative therapies may be used.
Some therapists use hypnotherapy to recover repressed memories they believe are linked to the person’s mental disorder. However, it also poses a risk of creating false memories—usually as a result of unintended suggestions by the therapist. For this reason, using hypnotherapy for certain mental disorders, such as dissociative disorders, remains controversial.
Many of the clucking chicken images are the result of hypnosis’s forefather, Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815). Mesmer believed that there was an invisible force, a cosmic energy, that could be harnessed by one person to influence another person’s behavior. While his theory was wrong, the techniques he used were effective. These techniques were picked up on and developed over the coming years for therapeutic and medical purposes. Sigmund Freud, for instance, used hypnosis techniques. In the mid-1900s, hypnotherapy as we know it evolved. Milton Erickson (1901-1980) pioneered “indirect hypnosis,” during which therapists work with individual patients to shift their perceptions of themselves and their issues.
In 2011, a Russian "evil hypnotist" was suspected of tricking customers in banks around Stavropol into giving away thousands of pounds worth of money. According to the local police, he would approach them and make them withdraw all of the money from their bank accounts, which they would then freely give to the man. A similar incident was reported in London in 2014, where a video seemingly showed a robber hypnotizing a shopkeeper before robbing him. The victim did nothing to stop the robber from looting his pockets and taking his cash, only calling out the thief when he was already getting away.
Look for a hypnotherapist who is a member of the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH) or the Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis. To be a member of either of these organizations, a hypnotherapist must have a doctorate level degree in medicine, dentistry, or psychology, or a master’s degree in nursing, social work, psychology, or marital/family therapy plus a specific number of hours of approved training in hypnotherapy. In some cases, accredited, doctoral-level practitioners of alternative health care, such traditional Chinese medicine, may also be approved for membership. Of course, in addition to looking at qualifications, you should also find a hypnotherapist with whom you feel confident and comfortable in a therapeutic relationship.