How, or why, does hypnosis work?
But what about the unconscious mind?
How do stage hypnotists control their subjects?
What’s the difference between a hypnotist and a hypnotherapist?
My son/daughter needs to stop smoking (or get better grades, overcome a fear, etc.). Can you help?
I don’t know if I can be hypnotized.
I don’t know what I want. Can hypnosis help me discover what I want?
Can hypnosis make me forget a person or event?
What happens inside hypnosis?
Can I bring a friend or family member?
How many sessions will I need?
How long have you been in business?
What is your success rate?
Where can I learn more about hypnosis?
Q: How, or why, does hypnosis work?
Hypnosis is a relaxed, inwardly focused state of mind that makes it easier to accept new ideas. The hypnotist’s role is to help you enter that state, and then to suggest perspectives that will help you in your situation. Normally, these would be perspectives that are held by somebody who doesn’t have your problem, or perspectives that are truthful and reassuring, or truthful and empowering.
This means that hypnosis can probably help with any issue that’s affected by the way you think about it, and it probably can’t help with any issue that remains unchanged regardless of how you think about it.
Long-term change happens when you’ve fully internalized new ways of thinking. We believe that a good hypnotist must be a good philosopher, since the quality of the ideas that are communicated matters even more than the depth of hypnosis that you are in (after all, it won’t help you to internalize ideas that give you the wrong idea about the world).
Q: But what about the unconscious mind?
In recent years, we’ve come to prefer explanations of hypnosis that don’t include terms like “unconscious” and “subconscious.” However, for historical purposes, we’ve left the following explanation below:
Our mind is made up of two parts: a conscious mind and a subconscious (or unconscious) mind. Milton Erickson, a psychiatrist who became famous for his work with hypnosis, described the relationship between the conscious and the subconscious as a horse and rider.
The rider thinks that he’s in control because he’s sitting in the saddle and holding the reins. And that’s true—as long as the horse follows his directions. But what happens when the horse becomes startled and bolts off in a different direction? At that point, it’s the rider who’s going along for the ride.
If your thoughts, feelings or habits are out of control, it’s because your subconscious mind is “bolting off” in a direction that is different from where you consciously want to go. The way to “tame” your subconscious mind is through hypnosis.
Q: How do stage hypnotists control their subjects?
Like stage magic, stage hypnosis relies largely on illusion. There are several factors at work during a stage show:
The subjects who end up on stage at a hypnotism show are the most responsive individuals in the entire audience. That’s because the hypnotist first asks for volunteers—effectively selecting only the subjects who want to entertain the audience—and then performs a suggestibility test to narrow the selection.
What’s more, the context of the stage show enables subjects to act in ways that they normally wouldn’t. Not only can they place responsibility on the hypnotist for their actions, but they also feel tremendous peer pressure to perform.
The powerful responses you see on stage (e.g. positive and negative hallucinations) are hypnotic skills demonstrated by the subjects. If the power were in the hypnotist rather than the subject, the initial selection process would not be necessary.
Outside the context of a stage show, the “control” a hypnotist has over subjects becomes apparent as an illusion.
Q: What’s the difference between a hypnotist and a hypnotherapist?
While some practitioners make a distinction between the two titles, we use them interchangeably, and in many cases we prefer the term “hypnotist” because it encompasses a broader scope of practice. Even though we may sometimes use the term “hypnotherapist,” we do not claim to practise psychotherapy, which is an entirely different profession. The title “Consulting Hypnotist” has become popular in recent years, especially among hypnotists who want to differentiate themselves from psychotherapists.
In Ontario, there are no protected titles for hypnosis practitioners, although there are some members of other professions who include hypnosis as part of their practice.
Q: My son/daughter needs to stop smoking (or get better grades, overcome a fear, etc.). Can you help?
As a rule, we require adult clients (anybody aged over 18) to make their own bookings, even if they are your child (or spouse, for that matter).
If your child is a minor and you are booking on their behalf, you should know that we are not in the business of coercing people to do things against their will. If they are not completely onboard with changing a problem through hypnosis, you would be wasting your money. Typically, we will see adolescent clients but not younger children.
Q: I don’t know if I can be hypnotized.
If you are capable of listening, imagining and temporarily suspending disbelief, you can almost certainly be hypnotized. During your initial consultation, we will do our best to categorize your suggestibility as high, normal or low.
If we find you to be low in suggestibility, it does not necessarily mean that you can’t be hypnotized, but it usually means that hypnosis would be the long way around compared to a method that does not require you to suspend your normal ways of thinking.
Q: I don’t know what I want. Can hypnosis help me discover what I want?
We have yet to develop a method that lets you discover your life purpose. Unfortunately, both times we took such cases, we ended up refunding the client’s money (we were happy to do it, but that outcome didn’t help the client). Hypnotherapy is much more effective when you know exactly what you want, and you need help attaining it. There are other approaches that might be more effective for discovering your life purpose.
Q: Can hypnosis make me forget a person or event?
In theory, it’s possible to induce amnesia during hypnosis. In practice, it’s not a helpful response to a real part of your life. Instead of making you forget a memory, we will help you change your present-day perspective on the memory so that you can learn and grow from it, without necessarily forgetting it.
Q: What happens during hypnosis?
If you’ve ever been absorbed in a good book or lecture, then you’ve experienced a light state of hypnosis. It feels relaxed, inwardly focused and positive. If it feels like you’re a kid who’s listening to his or her favourite storyteller, that’s the right feeling. You should be aware of everything that happens, remember everything (except in rare cases, or if you fall asleep) and be able to accept or reject any suggestions offered by the hypnotist. Most likely, you’ll emerge from hypnosis feeling like you’ve had a good night’s rest.
Q: Can I bring a friend or family member?
If you feel more comfortable with a friend or family member attending your session, we encourage you to bring somebody for support. However, please keep in mind that the session might no longer be confidential with somebody else in the room. If you are reticent, you might have an easier time expressing your thoughts one-on-one with your hypnotherapist.
Q: How many sessions will I need?
For the average person, and for most issues, hypnosis will make a significant difference in three to five sessions. If complete our consultation and request for a treatment plan, we can provide a better estimate of how many sessions we think you’ll need for your case.
Q: How long have you been in business?
We have been operating at the same physical address and under the same name since September 1, 2006.
Q: What is your success rate?
We can get almost all of our clients (98%+) into hypnosis; in fact, if we can’t hypnotize you, we don’t charge you for the session. When you hear hypnotists claiming an extremely high success rate, this is usually what they’re talking about.
It’s trickier to measure results a month, a year or a decade after the sessions are over, mainly because clients only provide feedback when they’re extremely pleased (resulting in a testimonial or referrals) or extremely unhappy (resulting in a refund under our guarantee policy).
The most straightforward answer is that we don’t know, because our clients are not signing up to be systematically followed in a rigorously controlled, long-term scientific study. However, we do track client dissatisfaction through our refund policy, and our refund rate is less than 1% as of 2022. We believe that this speaks volumes about the results that the vast majority of our clients achieve.
Q: Where can I learn more about hypnosis?
On the Internet, there are several directories covering hypnotherapy. This Wikpedia article on hypnosis is very comprehensive, and we have a YouTube channel where we post a lot of free content. (Links open in a new window.)
If you have any specific questions we haven’t answered here, please contact us and we’ll be happy to answer them.