Ben Allen, Clinical Psychologist         Mind for Health Resources, Ltd.      




Understanding Hypnosis

Hypnosis as an altered state of consciousness, where an individual’s focus of attention is narrowed and his or her concentration directed toward a goal.  Scientists believe that hypnosis tends to involve greater right brain activity and imagination.  Each person experiences hypnosis in a unique way.  The benefit of hypnosis is that it helps an individual relax in a secure environment, allowing the that individual to use his or her subconscious mind to focus on more positive ideas and create motivation for making healthy personal changes.   Through hypnosis, an individual can access mental strengths, and utilize his or her innate capacity for greater mental control and self-mastery. 

There are many myths about hypnosis, but there is nothing magical or mystical about it.   It is simply an inner state of focused attention, absorption and mental concentration.  This altered state of consciousness is similar to a magnifying glass in the sun, in which sunrays are focused in the glass and are thus, more powerful.  Similarly, when the mind is passively concentrated and focused, more potential and power can be directed toward a goal.  It is commonly believed that we use only five- or ten-percent of our mental potential.  Hypnosis is simply a focused state of attention and concentration that allows you to use more of the potential and power of your own mind.  Self-hypnosis can help you gain more control over anxiety, and increase mental concentration.

To better understand hypnosis, consider the differences between the “conscious” and “subconscious” mind.  For simplicity, the conscious mind functions when we are fully awake and aware of our external environment, and the subconscious mind is most active when we are asleep or daydreaming.  For example, have you ever driven on a highway, absorbed in thought, and then became suddenly alerted to the road, only to realize that your mind was off in thought for several miles?  The conscious mind was absorbed in thought and the subconscious mind through years of memory of 1000s of driving hours held the road competently.   Another example of the activity of the subconscious mind is when we are unable to remember someone’s name.  Finally we get frustrated and give up, and then the next day without any conscious effort, the name appears in mind.  The subconscious mind goes on autopilot to do its memory retrieval work.   Additional trance states occur when we are deep in thought, or completely absorbed in a movie or exhilarating book.

In hypnosis, the use of the imagination is the foundation of the process.  Otherwise, it is simply meditation of varying sorts.  Mental imagery is very powerful, especially in a focused state of attention.  Rather than using will power, hypnosis harnesses the natural and cooperative power of imagination.  The skillful use of guided imagery, which is symbolic in nature, can assist in creating change similar to the belief and feeling quality of the very things that are imagined.  This process already occurs constantly, which, ironically is how fear and anxiety manifest.  However, with hypnosis, the outcome can be positive rather than just random.   In addition, positive suggestions are stated to the subconscious mind.  In an altered state of focused attention, ideas that are more healing and compatible with the mind’s desires may be accepted and lead to desired change.

Unaware, we often use spontaneous, informal trance states in a self-limiting manner.  This occurs when  we visualize negative outcomes or memories that tend to stir up anxiety or depression, or when we speak internally to ourselves in critical ways, or brood and reiterate negative experiences.  When criticizing ourselves, we may be in light trance state, preoccupied, and internally focused.  While thoughts, imagination and internal dialogue can be positive and helpful, they can also be negative and maladaptive.  Through hypnosis, you can alter your internal world to discover and change how you think and feel, and visualize and imagine things the way you want them to be.   The goal is to create positive change in thought and behavior.  

Hypnosis is optimally effective when an individual is highly motivated to overcome a problem, and when the therapist is well trained in both hypnosis and in general issues relating to the treatment of the particular problem.  On the other hand, it is less effective when a client maintains unrealistic expectations about its potential, or is ambivalent and less motivated.

Hypnosis should always be used in an ethical manner, and the clinician should be well trained and have received qualified supervision in hypnosis.   Hypnosis is not an end-all treatment, it is one of many to be used only where it is efficacious.   The real work in healing requires a more holistic strategy involving positive lifestyle changes, improvement in diet, and changes in attitude, qualities that go beyond just therapy.

There are many misconceptions about hypnosis, such as a fear of loss of control, of surrendering will, or  of being dominated.  This is a myth, partially resulting from TV images of hypnosis as control strategy or stage
hypnosis, where a guest in the audience is made to quack like a chicken.

899 Skokie Blvd., Suite 304, Northbrook, IL 60062

Tel.: 847-205-9605      Fax: 847-564-8755    e-mail:


Page  1   2