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Medical hypnosis, also commonly referred to as hypnotherapy, is a technique in which a trained therapist attempts to guide a patient into a state of extreme relaxation and focus known as a trance. During a trance, a patient is thought to be so relaxed and focused on the process itself that he or she is no longer aware of his or her surroundings or conscious thoughts. Supporters of this technique believe it can be successful at treating a variety of mental and physical health issues.
A hypnotherapist will typically have his or her patient concentrate on a specific task in order to guide the patient into a trance. The patient may be led through some type of physical relaxation exercise, such as deep breathing or imagining he or she is in a calming place. Once the patient becomes relaxed, the hypnotherapist may have him or her perform an exercise designed to produce specific focus and block out all external occurrences. For example, a patient may be instructed to look at a particular item or repeat a phrase until he or she is able to focus on one task at a time and ignore all outside stimuli.
One of the central beliefs of medical hypnosis is the thought that during the state of being in a trance, a patient may be better able to take suggestions or divulge thoughts or other information that he or she had kept deep in his or her memories or subconscious thoughts. The precise technique a hypnotherapist uses usually depends on the patient and what he or she hopes to accomplish with the therapy. A hyponotherapist may ask the patient a variety of questions about his or her symptoms, past experiences, or anything else the therapist believes may be relevant to contributing to the patient’s condition. By discovering contributing factors, it is thought that the hypnotherapist can work with the patient to resolve the condition. Giving a patient suggestions or guidance, such as telling him or her to no longer be afraid of a particular phobia, during the hypnosis is also thought to help change the patient’s behavior once he or she is out of the trance.
Medical hypnosis may be recommended for a wide range of health conditions. It is often used as a potential treatment option for mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, addictions, and phobias. Physical health disorders that are recommended for hypnosis treatment include chronic back pain, constipation, headache, and irritable bowel syndrome. The therapy is generally not advised as a treatment option for people with an altered states of mind, such as those with drug or alcohol problems or psychotic disorders.
Critics of medical hypnosis claim that there is no conclusive proof that the technique is effective at treating health conditions. Some believe that the technique is a form of brainwashing and could be considered dangerous. Other critics tend to consider hypnosis as harmless, and may not discourage it as part of a comprehensive treatment program, but tend not to believe it can work on its own.