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Copyright 2018 Anthony Vertino, PsyD

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What Is Hypnotherapy?

Hypnotherapy is guided hypnosis, or a trance-like state of focus and concentration achieved with the help of a clinical hypnotherapist. This trance-like state is similar to being completely absorbed in a book, movie, music, or even one's own thoughts or meditations. In this state, clients can turn their attention completely inward to find and utilize the natural resources deep within themselves that can help them make changes or regain control in certain areas of their life.

 

When It's Used

Since hypnotherapy is an adjunct form of therapy, used along with other forms of psychological or medical treatment, there are many applications. Hypnotherapy can be used to treat anxiety, phobias, substance abuse including tobacco, sexual dysfunction, undesirable spontaneous behaviors, and bad habits. It can be used to help improve sleep, learning disorders, communication, and relationship issues. Hypnotherapy can aid in pain management and help resolve medical conditions such as digestive disorders, skin issues, and gastrointestinal side effects of pregnancy and chemotherapy. It can also be used by dentists to help patients control their fears or to treat teeth grinding and other oral conditions.

 

What to Expect

Although there are different techniques, clinical hypnotherapy is generally performed in a calm, therapeutic environment. The therapist will guide you into a relaxed, focused state and ask you to think about experiences and situations in positive ways that can help you change the way you think and behave. Unlike some dramatic portrayals of hypnosis in movies, books, or on stage, you will not be unconscious, asleep, or in any way out of control of yourself. You will hear the therapist’s suggestions, but it is up to you to decide whether or not to act on them. 

 

This is not a caricature or gag that you may have seen in a movie, where the hypnotist has people clucking like chickens or doing all manner of unusual behaviors. YOU REMAIN IN CONTROL AND CHOOSE WHETHER A SUGGESTION FITS OR WORKS FOR YOU.

What is Hypnotherapy?

Hypnotherapy is a form of psychotherapy used to create change in a patient while in a state of sleep, or unconsciousness, known as hypnosis. The word hypnosis comes from the Greek word “hypnos” which simply means, “sleep.” The therapy itself uses guided relaxation techniques from a trained hypnotist that invoke feelings of intense relaxation, concentration, and/or focus to achieve a heightened state of awareness or trance-like state.

Being under hypnosis is said to allow a person to be more open to both suggestion and discussion when the patient trusts the hypnotherapist. Hypnotherapy has been used to treat a wide range of conditions or unwanted behavior, such as:

  • Phobias

  • Sleep disorder

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

  • Grief and loss of loved ones

  • Smoking cessation

  • Weight loss

  • Those who have psychotic symptoms, such as delusions or hallucinations, should speak to a qualified hypnotherapist to determine whether or not this therapy is right for them.

 

Methods Used in Hypnotherapy

There are many therapeutic approaches for hypnotherapy and they vary based on the presenting issue.  The common form I practice is suggestion therapy.

Suggestion therapy relies on the patient’s ability to respond to suggestions from the hypnotherapist while in this trance-like state. This method is commonly used to control or stop unwanted behaviors such as smoking, gambling, nail biting, or over-eating. It has also been shown particularly useful in treating pain, or increasing the instance of positive behavior such as self-motivation or confidence.

This method of hypnotherapy is commonly beneficial to hypnotherapists in discovering the psychological root of a problem or symptom, such as social anxiety, depression, or past trauma. These types of trauma are often hidden in unconscious memory and forgotten on a conscious level. Using hypnotherapy for analysis has proven particularly effective at digging into the subconscious memory to attempt to retrieve suppressed memories or early developmental trauma that could result in a wide range of psychological conditions or problematic behavior.

 

Why Hire a Hypnotherapist?

The science behind hypnotherapy is just now beginning to catch up to reports of its beneficial nature. The scientific community is beginning to rave about the potential benefits of hypnosis and what it could do for patients who are looking for a new treatment option. Hypnosis could prove to be a valuable weapon in fighting a multitude of psychological, physical, or behavioral issues.

Hypnotherapy, while thought of by some as something non-scientific, is a regulated, legitimate form of therapy that can both explore and use a person’s subconscious to better help them through psychotherapy, and also act as a method of therapy that helps relieve a person of symptoms and problems they are afflicted with. Hypnotherapy has proven to be extremely effective in cases with patients suffering from pain and addiction.

When used in combination with other forms of therapy, hypnosis has been proven to be quite valuable in combating a whole host of psychological issues such as anxiety, stress and depression, as well as behavioral problems such as smoking, weight loss, or nail biting.

Hypnosis can also help a patient to develop a deeper understanding of self. Whether a victim of past trauma, or someone struggling with depression who doesn’t quite understand the cause, hypnosis might just be the answer you’ve been looking for.

 

What to Look for When Finding a Hypnotherapist

Hypnotherapists, their methods, and the rates in which they achieve success vary by case. Hypnotherapy is a trust-based exercise that demands a great deal of immersion on the part of the patient. The best course of action would typically be to interview several candidates and see which one you feel most connected to. Allow yourself to be receptive to their thoughts, ideas, and descriptions as they attempt to explain what they do and how it can help you.

 

​Smoking Cessation

Hypnosis and suggestion is an effective and safe way to quit smoking and when paired with other stimuli such as a distasteful smell, the results are stronger and longer lasting.  I recommend a protocol of 4 sessions each lasting an hour and getting progressively more tailored to an individuals smoking behavior and pattern.

Nicotine addiction is the second-leading cause of death worldwide, and the leading cause of preventable death. Cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States, including more than 41,000 deaths resulting from secondhand smoke exposure. This is about one in five deaths annually, or 1,300 deaths every day.

 

Signs and symptoms

The time to first cigarette and total cigarettes per day are the 2 strongest predictors of nicotine addiction.

The physical effects of nicotine use include accelerated heart rate, increased blood pressure, and weight loss.

In addition to its physical effects, nicotine exerts a strong behavioral influence. Nicotine may enhance an individual’s level of alertness, although tobacco abuse and dependence may simulate a frantic, almost manic, picture. Speech may also be accelerated in line with behavior. Cessation after prolonged tobacco use can contribute to irritability, which is often soothed by a dose of nicotine.

 

Diagnosis

Nicotine addiction is now referred to as tobacco use disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). [2]

There are 11 possible criteria, of which at least 2 must be present in the last 12 months:

1. Tobacco taken in larger amounts or over longer periods of time

2. Persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control use

3. A great deal of time is spent on activities necessary to obtain or use tobacco

4. Craving or a strong desire or urge to use tobacco

5. Recurrent tobacco use resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home

6. Continued tobacco use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by effects of tobacco (eg, arguments with others about tobacco use)

7. Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of tobacco use

8. Recurrent tobacco use in situations in which it is physically hazardous (eg, smoking in bed)

9. Tobacco use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by tobacco

10. Tolerance, as defined by one of the following:

a. The need for markedly increased amounts of tobacco to achieve the desired effect

b. A markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of tobacco

11. Withdrawal, as manifested by either of the following:

a. The characteristic withdrawal syndrome for tobacco

b. Tobacco (or a closely related substance, such as nicotine) is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms