One thing I have to hand to the Daily Mail newspaper and the Mail Online is that they really do champion hypnotherapy and share quality success stories on a regular basis. It makes me happy to see the popularity of the success stories that subsequently make their way around the internet and portray the field of hypnotherapy is a favourable light.

This morning, I read this great story at the Mail Online “Woman sheds eight stone after using HYPNOTHERAPY top banish her cravings” – it is a fabulous article giving an account of Lynne Seymour from Southampton who had a course of hypnotherapy sessions which helped her overcome food cravings and be more motivated. Her before and after photos are impressive, and she looks so happy, it is a great advertisement for hypnotherapy.

The article does not perpetuate myth or popular misconceptions as is often the case with media representations and stories about hypnotherapy. However, when you pan down and read the comments left by members of the public, it shows how little people seem to really know about hypnosis and hypnotherapy.

Here are just a handful of the comments and my response to them:

Comment 1. “This sounds like a great idea, but I think some people are more susceptible to hypnotherapy than others. An ex-boyfriends Mum lost quite a bit of weight through hypnotherapy though. She would keep herself ‘topped up’ by playing Paul McKenna CD’s while she was sleeping!!

My brief response: Ok, read my other comments I give later on about suggestibility and susceptibility. I just wanted to add that listening to audio tracks when sleeping will not prove of any use. When you are asleep, properly asleep, you are asleep. Do read my article from earlier this week about subliminal messages – the same applies to playing audio when sleeping. Also, audio tracks which encourage you to be passive and just be played in the background are not going to equip you with skills and capabilities. Good audio instruction will advise you to engage in the processes and be active throughout. It perpetuates the myth that hypnosis is something which happens to you rather than something you need to actively engage in (a notion which is repeated often here today, sorry!).

Comment 2. “She looks great. I tried hypnotherapy many years ago for my fear of flying but it didn’t work. I just sat there thinking how ludicrous it all was. You have to be of a suggestible nature to fall for this mumbo jumbo.

My brief response: To suggest that “it didn’t work” shows a complete misunderstanding of what hypnosis actually is. Hypnotherapy is not something which is done to you and you are a passive recipient of it. It is a collaborative process. It is a verb, something you actively engage in. It does not “work” or “not work” – hypnotherapy is not a noun, it is not a thing, it is not a tablet with a certain percentage chance of helping you, it is not a plaster you are applying to a wound – it is a process that you engage in.

There is strong, replicated evidence to show that hypnotisability can be modified, even if you are not a greatly responsive subject at the beginning of treatment. Hypnotisability can be substantially modified (Gorassini & Spanos, 1986; Spanos, 1991). Many initially low-hypnotisable participants can respond like high-hypnotisable participants after positive attitudes about hypnosis are instantiated and training in imagining, interpreting, and responding to suggestions is undertaken. Research in at least five laboratories (see Spanos, 1991) has shown that more than half of participants who test as low hypnotisable can, after assessment and training in a variety of cognitive-behavioural skills, test in the high hypnotisable range on a variety of assessment instruments and suggestions.  If you learn hypnotic skills, evidence proves that you can become more suggestible and responsive – suggestibility and responsiveness to hypnosis are not set in stone and to say “you have to be of a suggestible nature” is incorrect. Unless by “a suggestible nature” the author of the comment meant “open-minded” because that is required. A positive attitude and expectation towards the hypnotic process is something that a hypnotherapist should garner with the client to help advance responsiveness.

Hypnosis is not something you “fall for” either. Strong evidence by Barber (1969) shows that responsiveness to suggestion does not indicate gullibility or weakness on the part of the individual. I guess the author of the comment was attempting to be funny or facetious, but regardless of that, the comment suggests a complete misunderstanding of what hypnosis actually is.

Comment 3. “Glad it went well for her but I tried hypnotherapy and it didn’t work for me”

My brief response: Again, refer to my previous response. Hypnosis is not something that “works on” people. It is a process – it is not 100% the responsibility of hypnosis to work on you. It requires collaboration, understanding, expectation and for you to engage in the process. It might even be more accurate to say “you didn’t work for hypnosis”.

Comment 4. Someone else replied to the above comment with this comment:

“Try again with a different practitioner: it should really work for everybody (with very marginal exceptions). if it has not worked, it is just because the hypnotherapist has not found the right “door” to your subconscious and the root of the issue. Good luck.”

My brief response: The first half of this comment is clearly well-intentioned and not bad advice, but the second half is full of misinformation. Firstly, hypnosis is proven to be nothing to do with a ‘subconscious’ which scientists and neurologists can find no evidence to indicate it’s existence, it is at best a metaphor. You can visit my hub and read the discussion on the matter for more information, or visit my Facebook page as it was recently discussed there too.

Secondly, there is a severe lack of evidence to support the notion that finding a ‘root cause’ is actually useful in a therapeutic sense. There are many more, far more evidence based approaches to using hypnosis and hypnotherapy for achieving your ideal weight than seeking out a root cause of the problem. Despite the considerable popularity of Freud’s work, it is largely deemed pseudoscientific today and much of his approach has been disproven and any therapy results attributed to other reasons.

I could go on (and on, and on) but I think I just wanted to simply show that the hypnotherapy field I work in requires us all to work really hard to correctly educate clients and the public. Yet I see many schools churning out therapists who actually perpetuate some of these myths and make it a tougher task. Somewhere along the line people learn these myths and misconceptions, right?

Ok, have a wonderful weekend, I’ll be back on Monday.