Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Can anybody be hypnotised?
A. Pretty much. The exceptions are those with severe learning difficulties or suffering from senility, very young children (under about five), or anybody under the influence of large amounts of alcohol.
Q. How do you hypnotise somebody?
A. Usually by a voice induction, though there are various other methods such as strobe lights, rotating spirals and so on. Usually the voice is used as well though. There is no special way of speaking, no 'incantations' or magical words, and the accent is quite often on producing a very relaxed state of mind. Mostly, the client will close their eyes fairly soon into the induction, but an individual can quite easily be hypnotised with their eyes open. After hypnosis is induced (usually in a matter of a few minutes) a deepener might be used to deepen the state. Many therapists work from scripts, especially when they are new to the profession, but most soon build up a store of suitable scripts and stories in memory to recall as needed.
Q. I've heard about rapid inductions - what are they and do they work?
A. Rapid inductions usually rely on shock or surprise and more often than not involve a jolt or jerk to the physical body - usually to the arm or hand. It is not dangerous, but its intrusive nature probably creates a situation where the hypnotist is dominant for a few fractions of a second. Since there is then no further reason for resistance, if the hypnotised individual wishes to be hypnotised (and s/he would not be if s/he did not want to be), the state tends to persist. Many therapists are uncomfortable with rapid or instantaneous inductions, while others scarcely use anything else.
Q. Is it good for performance enhancement?
Hypnosis, with the right sort of adjunct work, is marvellous at performance enhancement of all types! Here are just a few of the things with which it can make profound improvement:
    •    Sporting performance
    •    Career matters
    •    Memory and Concentration
    •    Stage performance
    •    Study
    •    Exams and tests
    •    Presentation/speaking skills
Q. Is there anybody who should not be hypnotised?
A. To a large extent, it depends on the sort of therapy being employed. Some say that anybody suffering from epilepsy should never be hypnotised, but I have never heard of an epileptic seizure being triggered by hypnosis. Where psychotic individuals are concerned, care needs to be exercised and regression/analytical therapy should most definitely not be employed.  This type of therapy is also best avoided with pregnant women. I also will not use regression or analysis with heart attack/stroke victims.
Q. How does it work?
A. Although there has been much speculation and theory over the years, all that is truly known about the phenomenon of hypnosis is that it allows the conscious critical faculty to be bypassed, allowing a 'gateway' to the unconscious mind. The conscious mind can then be allowed to wander where it wishes whilst the skilled therapist talks to the unconscious mind.
Q. What does it feel like to be hypnotised?
A. Actually, it doesn't. For the vast majority of people there is actually no such thing as a 'hypnotised feeling' - the majority of people would insist afterwards that they had not 'gone under'. After a few sessions, though, most people start to become aware of how the state feels to them. It may be that they feel excessively heavy or light. Their arms and legs may feel rigid, as if they have been moved into a different position, or even absent. They can sometimes feel other strange phenomena, too - sensations of floating, whirling and/or spinning are not unusual, or of some part of the body being distorted in some way or as if they have become very small/big.  Most people suffer some form of time distortion, usually in the ratio of around 2.5:1, so that after the session there is a feeling that it was much shorter than it actually was. Typically, a 50 minute session would feel like 20 minutes.
Q. Can you make anybody do things they don't want to?
A. Flying in the face of the perceived wisdom amongst my colleagues, my answer is “Yes, I’m sure you can”, but there is considerable conjecture about this. It is often said that hypnosis cannot breach the moral code, but of course, we cannot truly know what another person's moral code/values consists of. People will frequently do things they would not normally do, though this does not mean it is something they do not want to do. Hypnosis lowers inhibition, so it could be just something that the individual was too inhibited to do in the normal way, even though he/she was not averse to it.
Q. Can it be used to control people?
A. See above answer.
Q. Can you get 'stuck' in hypnosis?
A. No, you definitely cannot! If you were hypnotised and the hypnotist just walked away and left you, you would simply bring yourself out of the state whenever you wanted to.
Q. Is it dangerous in any way?
A. Not at all, in the hands of a properly trained individual. There are some circumstances that would be undesirable with a non-trained or poorly-trained hypnotist, but nothing serious could happen, in any case.
Q. How does hypnotherapy differ from stage hypnosis?
A. The hypnosis is similar, though many believe it is not. But it is the 'therapy' part that is different - the stage hypnotist’s mission is to entertain others. The hypnotherapist’s objective is to make life better for their patient.  The stage hypnotist has an audience of willing participants, many of whom are probably very keen to go on stage and join in.  The skilled stage hypnotist will quickly sort them out and choose the handful of highly hypnotisable subjects for the entertainment of an audience.
Q. What's the difference between hypnotherapy and psychotherapy?
A. I look at it this way - Hypnotherapy is a ‘branch’ of psychotherapy, and all hypnotherapy is therefore a type of psychotherapy. Usually, psychotherapy makes changes to the unconscious by using the understanding and imagery of the conscious mind. Hypnotherapy attempts to bypass the conscious mind to a large extent, working directly with the unconscious. For this reason, hypnotherapy is often quicker. But it's 'horses for courses' - there are some clients who will respond better to psychotherapy alone, and, for them, this would probably be a better form of treatment. Usually, these individuals are very analytical and guarded.
Q. How long does a ‘cure’ produced by hypnosis actually last?
A. It depends on how much unconscious change was brought about in the first place. If a change has been made to a flawed fundamental belief system, then the cure will be permanent and last for a life-time. If only superficial changes have been made, then it might be only a few days or weeks. This is why direct suggestion therapy sometimes fails miserably. The best therapy is where an underlying cause has been resolved before any suggestion work is carried out at all.
Q. Is it successful with real phobias?
A. Usually immensely so, if the right sort of therapy is employed. I use a very effective method known as the ‘rewind technique’ and I’ve helped people who have had extreme phobias for many years to quickly and easily overcome that phobia.
Q. Does it always work?
A. No, no more than any other form of medicine, complimentary OR orthodox. A responsible therapist will soon detect when it is not going to happen, and discharge that patient so that they may seek the help they need elsewhere. Another hypnotherapist might produce the desired result where the first one could not, because of the different client/therapist 'mix'.
Q. How long does it take to produce a result?
A. It depends on far too many factors to make a bald statement about this. It can be as few as one session for a simple problem, to as many as... well, that depends on the ethics and skills of the therapist involved. A responsible, properly trained, therapist will not keep a client in therapy longer than necessary.
Q. Do you really go into a trance? If so, how deep? Are you in any way unconscious?
A. No, you’re not unconscious and ‘yes, you do go into a trance, although everybody may have a different perception of exactly what a trance means to them. The depth of trance varies from one individual to another and it is often considered to be relatively unimportant from a therapy point of view.
Q. Can somebody's mind be too strong?
A. No. The stronger the mind the better the ability to focus and concentrate, which makes the hypnotised state easier to achieve. The statement 'My mind is too strong to be hypnotised' is usually based on fear, and the individuals who say this are often the best subjects of all. It is not difficult to resist being hypnotised and needs no specific strength of mind at all. It is getting into hypnosis that takes the mental work.
Q. Can anybody learn to be a hypnotist, or is it a 'gift'?
A. Forget those stories or articles where it’s said that somebody has the 'gift' of hypnosis - it is not the least bit like Mystic Meg!  It is really to do with having the ability to communicate clearly and to be sensitive to the needs of the patient at the time. It takes hardly any time at all to learn how to hypnotise another person, though some people are better at it than others, just as in any other skill. It is learning what to do with someone once they are hypnotised that takes the time and training; learning how to deal with different personality types, learning how to discover what really ails an individual (very often different entirely to what they say or believe is their problem), learning how to decide on the right sort of therapy, and learning how to terminate therapy responsibly when it becomes obvious that in any one case it is not going to produce the desired result.
Q. Can you learn it from books?
A. No - don’t even try.  Have a go at reading up how to fly a Boeing 747. You’ll have a very clear knowledge of all sorts of things, and you may have enough knowledge to coax it into the air.  Trying to land it, or more importantly, figuring out what to do when the engines quit is rather more difficult, and it takes many years of training and experience to fly a Boeing, or to be a really effective hypnotherapist.
Q. Where can I find out more?
A. There is much information available on this site and throughout the Internet. A search on any search engine with the key words hypnosis, hypnotherapy, hypnotism, etc. will give you enough reading material to keep you busy for weeks. Much of it, however, is of poor quality; the links on this site point to some useful pages.
Q. I've heard about biofeedback meters. What are they are and what do they do?
A. A biofeedback meter is a way of keeping an eye on the internal states of an individual - anxiety, for instance - that we may not otherwise be aware of. The modern biofeedback meters have an electronic display and operate via lightweight electrodes connected to two adjacent finger tips. There is little or no awareness of these after a few minutes. You can use it on yourself, to measure your own ability to relax, or on a patient to monitor their levels of relaxation during the hypnotic induction, as well as their stress levels during regression work. These meters work on the same principle as a lie detector, by measuring the activity of the central nervous system. I rarely use one.
Q. Can you hypnotise someone without them knowing it?
A. You can, if you have the skills to do so. The use of 'hypnotic language patterns' and pacing and leading body language will do it. Hypnosis merely overcomes inhibition and the 'conscious critical faculty' - the part of our thought processes which tends to limit our behaviour or belief system.
Q. What ethical, legal and moral issues are involved in the use of hypnosis?
A. From a professional point of view, hypnosis should be used ONLY for the benefit of patients and clients - and not for any other reason at all. That pretty much sums up the basis of most Codes of Ethics.
Q. Is it worthwhile using 'props' to aid the hypnotic process?
A. If you want to. Background music helps, sometimes, and some therapists like to use a rotating 'hypno-spiral' or other focussing device, such as a strobe light(s) - I don’t.
Q. What exactly is 'Past Life Regression'?
A. Theoretically, a look back to a lifetime experienced earlier in history - this can be thousands of years earlier, or maybe only a short while back, just before the current life span began. It is claimed that there is a therapeutic value in such experiences, in that they may account for certain psychological difficulties in current life. Numerous attempts have been made to prove the validity of various PLRs, but this has never been achieved - there has always been the possibility of the experience being nothing more than the recall of a long-forgotten memory from childhood in THIS life. Many experimenters are at pains to point out that they DO NOT CLAIM that a PLR is evidence of a previous existence for the individual concerned, only an awareness of a set of circumstances that occurred before that individual was born.
Q. Can hypnosis be used to create/trigger dreams?
A. Sometimes, though this tends to be somewhat unreliable. There has been much experiment with the use of hypnosis to create 'lucid dream states' (in which the dreamer KNOWS s/he is dreaming) but there has been no conclusive evidence that it works.  It can be used to good effect in overcoming the ‘night terrors’.