The Register of Approved Gastrointestinal Psychotherapists and Hypnotherapists
Hypnosis is only one of several approaches to treating irritable bowel syndrome and may not be the most suitable option for all patients. A consultation with a RAGPH therapist will advise on whether hypnosis would be suitable.
Using hypnosis has advantages which makes it an attractive option for many IBS sufferers with chronic and severe symptoms:
- It is one of the most successful treatment approaches for chronic IBS. The response rate to treatment is 80% and better in most published studies to date.
- The treatment often helps individuals who have failed to get improvements with other methods (see for example: Whorwell et al., 1984, 1987; Palsson et al., 1997, 2000).
- It is a uniquely comfortable form of treatment. It is relaxing, easy and generally enjoyable.
- It uses the healing power of the person's own mind, and is generally completely without negative side effects.
- The treatment sometimes results in improvement in other symptoms or problems such as migraine or tension headaches, along with the improvement in IBS symptoms.
- The beneficial effects of the treatment last long after the end of the course of treatment. According to research, individuals who improve from hypnosis treatment for IBS can generally look forward to years of reduced bowel symptoms.
Clinical hypnosis: Is it for you?
As you relax comfortably and listen to your therapist with your eyes closed, you find your body relaxing more and more. Guided by the calm and confident voice, you allow your mind to let go and turn inward. You drowsily notice a mildly curious floating sensation in your body, as if your body is supported as if floating - in the air, or in water. The voice talking to you gradually becomes more distant, and you even find yourself forgetting that it is there... but somehow the soothing voice continues to affect you, gently and almost automatically. As you relax even further, your awareness of where you are, why you are there, and who is speaking to you, recedes into the back of your mind. You just content yourself with effortlessly allowing the voice to act on you, and with enjoying this state of profound relaxation and deep calm... You slip into a daydream and you are having a typical hypnotic experience.
Hypnosis is one of the most intriguing phenomena in our mental functioning. It is full of seeming paradoxes: It is definitely not sleep, nor is it really a waking state either; it depends on attention and concentration, and still is most often characterised by letting go and relaxing; it is most easily induced by a skilled person using specific verbal techniques, and yet it is exclusively the product of the hypnotised person's own mental abilities. Hypnosis has been extensively investigated in a scientific manner over a period of sixty years - and yet no generally accepted definition of the phenomenon exists. Fortunately, though, there is agreement among researchers and practitioners about what typically occurs when a person experiences the hypnotic state, and how the hypnotic state can be used to help people with a variety of problems.
What Happens During Hypnosis
Another characteristic of the hypnotic state is a subjective sense of "involuntariness". People often state that under hypnosis they feel like passive observers to whatever takes place. For example, if you are asked under hypnosis to raise your hand, you may feel your hand rising like a robot arm, without any conscious doing or even decision on your part. This automatic and involuntary movement is considered by some to be the hallmark of true hypnotic experience. This is not really helpless involuntariness, however. Experience shows that if you really need to or want to, you can resist any direct suggestion on part of the hypnotist. You can even wake yourself from of the hypnotic state if you really want to.
People typically experience both mental tranquillity and physical relaxation under hypnosis (relaxation is not a necessary condition for hypnosis, however; one can be both mentally and physically tense, and still be in a state of deep hypnosis). Various changes in perception are also common under hypnosis. Some people feel great heaviness coming over their bodies, others feel very light, numb or even disembodied. Subjective floating, sinking, spinning, and tingling sensations are often reported.
Other changes that accompany the hypnotic state, are the ones which make hypnosis a remarkable tool for mental and physical healing and make the various specialised hypnotic techniques possible. For example, hypnotic analgesia, the blocking of pain with the aid of hypnosis, depends on the mind´s ability to alter body perception in response to suggestion under hypnosis. Age regression, where the person´s mind recreates past experiences in vivid detail as if the events are being relived, relies on the greatly facilitated access to remote memory. Automatic writing, where the subject´s arm is temporarily disengaged from consciousness and allowed to write out responses reflecting unconscious material, depends on the mind's passive automaticity; and projective techniques, such as watching something revealing about your problem on an imagined TV screen, make use of the enhanced creativity and imaginative ability possible under hypnosis. Finally, posthypnotic suggestions, which are instructions given to people under hypnosis that affect them after they wake up, rely on the increased automatic receptivity to suggestions in the hypnotic state.
as a Helping Tool
has countless uses in psychotherapy, psychiatry and various medical specialties.
The use of hypnotic techniques by both medical and complementary practitioners
has increased steadily in recent years. Hypnosis is gaining widespread
acceptance as a safe, reliable, effective and comfortable alternative or adjunct
to other, more traditional methods. Hypnosis is also proving invaluable as an
aid in speeding recovery from physical and mental problems.
What Hypnosis Can Do
There are many good reasons to seek the services of psychotherapists skilled in the use of hypnosis. In psychotherapy, hypnotic techniques are effective in speeding the process of therapy. Hypnosis is used effectively to facilitate patients' understanding of themselves or their problems, extinguish unfortunate habits, uncover repressed or forgotten memories, reduce anxiety and fears, and develop a new and more adaptive outlook. In medicine and health psychology, hypnosis is used to effectively treat irritable bowel syndrome, reduce pain and discomfort associated with medical procedures such as childbirth, treatment of burns, and surgery where anaesthesia cannot be used effectively. It is also used to treat chronic pain and psychosomatic problems and counter unhealthy habits that contribute to illness. In dentistry, hypnotic analgesia is an effective needleless alternative to topical anaesthetic drugs, reduces bleeding and discomfort in oral surgery, and is used to treat teeth grinding and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome.
What to Expect
People often feel somewhat apprehensive and have numerous questions when they consider the possibility of seeking clinical hypnosis for their problems. The following are answers to some of the most common questions:
does it feel to be hypnotised?
is no specific hypnotised feeling. A number of different experiences are
commonly associated with the hypnotic state. The most common characteristic, the
one that people tend to remember best and find most surprising, is perhaps the
subjective sense of "involuntariness" - of things happening without any
conscious effort of making them happen.
Will I reveal deep secrets about myself? In some psychotherapeutic applications of hypnosis, it is important to uncover mental material that is related to the problem being treated, - material which you have been ignoring or keeping secret from others and even from yourself. However, no such uncovering is needed in many applications of clinical hypnosis (especially in medical and dental hypnosis - in the treatment of IBS with hypnosis no such uncovering is necessary). If you are very uneasy about the possibility of introspective exploration of this kind, you should discuss it with your hypnotist in the beginning of your work together. Uncovering techniques may not be needed at all to deal with your problem. Hypnosis can be used in many different ways.
Will I do something embarrassing or silly? A clinical hypnotist will not make you dance like a chicken or do other things for amusement at your expense. You do, however, sometimes feel and act differently under hypnosis than you do in the normal waking state. You may become more emotional or feel more childlike. If the process involves uncovering of past experiences, these might also feel embarrassing or uncomfortable. Your therapist is used to such things, however, so there is no need to feel embarrassed. And generally, the benefits of the hypnotic intervention will by far outweigh any slight discomfort on your part.
What if I lose control of myself? Hypnosis does involve a certain amount of letting go of yourself and opening up to a new experience. However, you are not really losing control of yourself when you respond to what the hypnotist suggests. You are making the decision to go along with his or her guidance at every step. You can benefit from hypnosis as long as you are willing to go along with the instructions of hypnotist. It may be helpful to think of the hypnotist as your personal coach - a person helping you to master new ways to use your own mind.
What if I do not wake up again? It is only in movies and bad novels do people get stuck in the hypnotic state. In the real world, it happens only very rarely that people cannot be immediately brought back into the ordinary waking state at the end of a hypnosis session. When that happens, it may simply take them a little longer to come to, or they slip into ordinary sleep and have a nap, and then wake up. In either case, there is no reason for concern.
Can I be made to do things I do not want to do? Contrary to popular belief, people under hypnosis are not captive and spellbound. They can resist direct instructions that are at odds with their wishes or moral standards. It is not as easy as one might think to make people do things against their will with hypnosis. Unfortunately, however, it has been adequately demonstrated, both in experiments and in established rare cases of misconduct, that hypnosis can be deliberately misused by a skilled hypnotist through the use of sophisticated deception. This is the most important reason for seeking a reputable professional whom you feel comfortable as your hypnotist. If you begin to feel uncomfortable with the person you have selected, talk about it. And if you feel you cannot do so, remember that you are the customer and you are always free to leave without making any apologies.
What if I cannot be hypnotised? The odds are against it. While the degree to which people are receptive to hypnosis varies from individual to individual. The great majority of people, perhaps three out of every four individuals, can be hypnotised to a sufficient degree to enjoy some of the benefits that hypnosis can offer.
Are gullible or simple-minded people most easily hypnotisable? No, the reverse. Researchers have found that more intelligent people are slightly more hypnotizable. It seems that openness to new experiences, rather than gullability, is related to hypnotic ability.
Are women more hypnotisable than men? No, research has conclusively shown that, on the average, there is no difference between men and women in their susceptibility to hypnosis.
hypnosis be dangerous to my mental health?
state of hypnosis is generally very safe and free from complications - probably
no more disturbing to your mind than ordinary sleep. However, in rare cases,
people who suffer from mental problems to such degree that they are struggling
with their grip on reality may get worse due to the disorientation which may be
part of their hypnotic experience. Also, hypnosis involves enhanced contact with
unconscious material. Individuals hiding something very uncomfortable or
traumatic from themselves may therefore occasionally feel agitated after
hypnosis as a result of coming too close to their secrets under hypnosis. This
is an important reason for choosing only a well trained and competent clinical
hypnotist who would be able to help you deal with such effects. For most people,
however, the experience of hypnosis is pleasantly relaxing and refreshing. The
only after effects you are likely to experience are possible drowsiness and
disorientation for the first few minutes afterwards, and possibly stiff neck or
(rarely) a minor headache. All these side effects are transient and harmless and
the possibility of thyem happening can be reduce by a professionally trained
How to Find
Anybody can learn, in the space of half an hour, to induce a hypnotic state in another person. Hypnosis in itself, though, does not help people with physical or psychological problems. Hypnosis is a therapeutic tool and the benefits of hypnosis depend almost entirely on what is done after the hypnotic state has been induced. This is what requires professional skill and specialised knowledge and training. Hypnosis has many non-clinical uses. It can be of use in improving your performance in your chosen sport, to help you relax, or enhancing your creativity. If you are seeking psychotherapeutic or medical benefits from hypnosis, however, it is important to choose your hypnotist carefully.
Hypnosis is not currently restricted or regulated by law in the UK. This is a cause for great concern to many health professionals who use hypnosis. It means that any kind of person, regardless of education, training or experience can offer you hypnosis services. Hypnosis is sometimes misused, either deliberately or, more often, due to incompetence. It is essential that you take care to find a properly qualified and educated professional to conduct medical or psychological hypnosis. A self-proclaimed "hypnotherapist", often found through the yellow pages, may not have any formal education in mental health or psychotherapy. A "professional hypnotist", by the same token, means nothing more than a person who hypnotises people for money. Furthermore, many hypnosis diplomas and certificates have little or no bearing on the quality of a hypnotist or give indications of his or her qualifications to treat health problems.
What should you do?
1. You need to look for proper and accepted diplomas and individuals who specialise in the particular area relevant to your problem. Find out who they trained with and for how long. Was the course accredited by a legitimate body such as the British Accreditation Council for Independent and Higher Education or The United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy?
2. Look for a person who is a member of a reputable registering body such as the National Register of Hypnotherapists or the Register of Approved Gastro-intestinal Psychotherapists and Hypnotherapists. Both organisations restrict their membership to qualified and properly trained professionals, and require their members to adhere to Codes of Ethics and Professional Practice.
Copyright © 2007 The National Register of Hypnotherapists & Psychotherapists Limited
RAGPH is a faculty of The National Register of Hypnotherapists &
Psychotherapists Limited, a company limited by guarantee, registered in England
Company No. 05098070