In 1885, a young Austrian traveled to France to study with Jean-Martin Charcot, Europe’s premier neurologist and hypnotist. The young man thought that hypnosis might hold the cure for mental illness. A year later, and just married, he opened a medical practice specializing in neurology (disorders of the nervous system) and the use of hypnosis.
The young man’s success was limited. He wasn’t good at hypnosis, and couldn’t often obtain cures. He needed a way to regularly get results. He also wanted a system that would take longer to cure people. Hypnosis worked quickly. He wanted to keep charging patients for repeated appointments—he was tired of being broke! He eventually discovered ways to do this through asking leading questions and listening to his patients talk, combined with clues revealed in their dreams. This system became known as “the talking cure,” and was the basis for a new science: psychoanalysis. The young doctor (and failed hypnotist) was Sigmund Freud.
It was thanks to Freud that hypnotherapy and psychotherapy went in different directions. Although they help people with similar issues, their approaches are different:
Psychotherapy—You come to a psychotherapist because there’s something wrong with you—you are broken. Your therapist (or you and your therapist) will fix the problem. One of the most popular styles of psychotherapy is not strictly Freudian. Known as CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, it seeks to get practical and effective changes more quickly. Often, once a patient is diagnosed, a psychotherapist will use a book known as the DSM-IV to determine how long it should take to cure the patient. I refer to this as “process-centered” therapy. People are considered machines in this discipline, and the same repair is assumed to fix all similar machines in the same length of time. Generally, that’s all insurance will cover. Psychotherapy uses the conscious mind to eventually access the unconscious, and hopefully release problems.
Hypnotherapy—In hypnotherapy, it’s understood that you are not broken. You’re doing the best you can with the knowledge, training and experience you have. Because you are not broken, a hypnotherapist neither fixes nor cures you. He or she simply gives you new knowledge and training so that together you can change unwanted behaviors and eliminate unwanted beliefs. Hypnotherapy bypasses the conscious mind and works directly with the unconscious, the location of the unwanted behavior or belief.
In hypnotherapy, each person is considered an individual, and treatment is unique to that person. I refer to this as “client-centered” therapy. Hypnotists will often train in numerous approaches to be able to provide a client with exactly the work that is needed.
If your only knowledge of hypnosis comes from movies or live shows, you should know that the nature of hypnotherapy today is greatly different than in the past. Beginning in the 1940s, psychiatrist Milton H. Erickson revolutionized the nature of hypnotherapy. He analyzed the nature of trance and how people accept suggestions. Instead of ordering people around with “You are getting sleepy!” commands, he started giving more apparent control to the patient (“You may find that you’re getting sleepy, and can close your eyes when you want to”). Hypnotic suggestions changed from direct instructions (“You will stop biting your nails”) to metaphoric tales and stories that led a patient’s unconscious mind to change unwanted behavior on its own.
Both psychotherapy and hypnotherapy have many uses. They’re great for overcoming fears and problems that keep you from being social and succeeding in life. Some physical problems have mental causes, and they can be treated with hypnotherapy or psychotherapy. Hypnotherapy tends to succeed more quickly, and is less expensive, but often isn’t covered by medical insurance. In the U.S., psychotherapists are licensed by states, while hypnotherapists are certified by self-governing organizations. Unfortunately, the quality of both psychotherapists and hypnotherapists varies widely, and if you choose to use one or another, you should ask for references.
Donald Michael Kraig graduated from UCLA with a degree in philosophy, and has become a certified hypnotherapist and Master NLP practitioner. After years of personal work and study, Don began teaching workshops on the Kabalah, Tarot, Magick, past lives, Tantra, meditation, the chakras and numerous other subjects throughout the U.S. and in Europe. His book, Modern Magick, is the most popular step-by-step course in real magick ever published.