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What is hypnosis?
The mind is a powerful thing - hypnosis aims to tap into the subconscious in order to help you make positive changes via suggestion and a greater awareness. By effectively side-stepping the conscious mind, hypnotherapy is often successful at finding the underlying cause of a problem, whether that problem results in physical symptoms or emotional trauma.
Advocates believe hypnosis may benefit patients with a wide range of issues, including addiction, eating disorders, self-confidence, stress and depression, sleep disorders and even physical health problems such as irritable bowel syndrome.
According to the Hypnotherapy Association, hypnosis feels rather like the moment between sleep and waking. Every patient will experience this trance-like state differently and there is no right or wrong way to feel but it generally creates a sense of deep relaxation and calm.
Contrary to popular belief, a hypnotherapist is not controlling your mind - hypnosis is merely a state of heightened relaxation and altered awareness whereby a therapist can 'guide' your subconscious, resulting in a positive change in the conscious mind.
During hypnosis, the patient will be fully aware of what is happening and remember details of the session afterwards.
While some problems may be solved in one session, other more deep-rooted issues may require more than one treatment.
Will it work?
Hypnosis as a therapy has been extensively researched and is widely regarded as a credible treatment for many problems. As well as helping patients to overcome fears, addiction, depression and stress, medical experts believe hypnotherapy can also relieve pain.
Earlier this year the Hypnosis and Psychosomatic Medicine Section of the Royal Society of Medicine urged the NHS to allow doctors to refer patients to properly trained hypnotherapists.
Jacky Owens, president of the RSM's Hypnosis Section, told the Daily Mail, "Conditions such as depression, pain and irritable bowel syndrome affect millions of people in the UK and at great cost to the NHS. But hypnosis can often work where other treatments have been unsuccessful."
At present, hypnotherapy is recognised by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) as an alternative treatment for irritable bowel syndrome but it is thought hypnosis may also be successful in treating health problems such as ME, migraines, sexual problems as well as pain control.
There are, however, no guarantees.
Finding a therapist?
Unfortunately, there is currently no legislation in the UK to ensure that hypnotherapists are properly trained, which means there are plenty that claim to offer the service with little or no experience.
However, both the British Society of Clinical Hypnosis (BSCH) and the National Council for Hypnotherapy provide an extensive list of registered hypnotherapists, each of whom has the necessary training, skills and experience. In many cases, a hypnotherapist will offer an initial consultation free of charge, allowing you to discuss your problems and the treatment available.