Hypnotherapy is a component of talk therapy that can be very effective in treating anxiety disorders. The term hypnotherapy is derived from the Greek word hypnos, which means "to sleep." Since a person is put into a state of deep physical relaxation during hypnotherapy, the name makes sense. But the brain is anything BUT sleeping during this process! In fact, hypnotherapy allows a patient's mind to enter an extremely focused, altered state of consciousness. While in this altered state, or trance, a person will be highly responsive to suggestion. Despite funny media portrayals, this does not mean a hypnotist can control a person's free will or thoughts. Rather, the trance allows the hypno-therapist to make proposals that may help end or alter certain behaviors in the hypnotized patient. For example, a person with phobias may benefit from the suggestion that his irrational fear is really no big deal. Or a person with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder may find that a hypnotherapist's proposals make this disorder's all-consuming rituals less necessary. This type of hypnosis is also known as suggestion therapy, and it is one of the two ways in which hypnotherapy can be used to treat anxiety disorders. The other method is called analysis, and it uses the hypnotic state to find the ROOT of an anxiety disorder. The idea behind analysis is that a person may have hidden traumatic events in parts of his or her memory, which are more likely to surface while in a trance. Once these memories are brought to light, a therapist can then address and treat them during psychotherapy. Analysis, while often very helpful, can pose a risk of creating false memories, called confabulations. These confabulations are usually the result of unintended suggestions made by the hypnotherapist. Careful care is taken by reputable psychotherapists when utilizing hypnosis to help ensure that this will not happen. Hypnotherapy is considered a valid treatment for anxiety disorders by both the American Medical Association AND the American Psychological Association. Still, hypnotherapy should always be performed by a licensed mental health professional trained in the technique. To find one in your area, visit The American Society of Clinical Hypnosis at www.asch.net.
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Last Updated:December 20, 2012