When you hear the word hypnosis you may automatically think of a performance where volunteers walk onto a stage and do silly things in front of an audience at the command of the hypnotist. Or you may think  of an old movie scene where a mysterious gentleman in a top hat retrieves a pocket watch from his suit jacket and swings it back and forth, back and forth…asking his patient to follow the watch with their eyes, while repeating the words “you are getting sleepy, very sleepy”.  

This may have some people believing that hypnosis is not real.  The truth is, hypnosis is part of your everyday life.  You probably slip into a “trance” countless times a day, without even noticing it, and many things can happen while you are there.  

Do you ever experience yourself being “stuck” in a thought, so much so that you cannot think of anything else?  Let’s call that focused attention.  What happens next really depends on where your attention is focused.  Unfortunately, as human beings we are literally “wired” to focus on “bad” things. But there’s a good reason for that!  It’s how we survive and how our ancestors have survived since the beginning of time.  It’s how we know to “look both ways before you cross the road” or how we know not to put our hands on a stove burner or to take shelter before a storm. 

Yet sometimes this focused attention is on thoughts or ideas that do not ensure our survival.  Sometimes they even cause a lot of suffering.  In fact, many people go through their entire lives focusing on thoughts like “I’m going to fail”, “I’m not good enough”, “they’ll think I’m stupid”, “I am stupid”, “I can’t get rid of this pain”, “I’m ugly”, and the list goes on. If you stop and think about it, you may even realize that much of your day is spent focusing on these unhelpful thoughts.

You may not recall how or when these difficult thoughts were originally formed in your mind or you may remember the exact moment.  For example, imagine a happy, innocent child having the time of their lives at camp, surrounded by friends, awesome food and lots of activities. Imagine that child looking so content and feeling so safe.  Then all of a sudden a spider drops down from its web landing right between their eyes.  The child experiences unbelievable horror in that moment. All of their friends start to scream and run for the hills.  Now the child is alone.  Every part of that story and every sensation experienced in that moment becomes programmed into the child’s mind leaving them with a spider phobia and possibly even the core belief that their friends will always leave them in times of need.  From that moment any time they return to camp or even think of camp, see one of their camp friends, notice the smell of hotdogs, their mind will remind them of that spider and feeling helpless and alone. In fact, none of those things have to occur.  Their mind will just remind them anyway because the event has been programmed as some type of threat and the mind has an endless capacity for “focused attention”.  

Hypnotherapy is about tapping into this focused attention to improve your life.  

Hypnosis is used as a treatment modality for a wide range of issues, including:


Anxiety and stress

Fears and phobias

Depression and grief

Trauma (physical or emotional)

Motivation and self-confidence

Public speaking

Lifestyle changes

Sports enhancement

Stopping unwanted habits

Hypnosis is an ancient form of healing used throughout the world. 

Like trance, hypnosis is a human state which you have experienced many times in your life.  Informally, it is seen in almost every culture through various customs and rituals, such as candle-lighting, prayer or dancing at weddings.

When used appropriately in a clinical setting, hypnosis is the art of helping clients access the trance state, where they can achieve a level of focused attention that is optimal for changing unwanted or ineffective routines and behaviours. 

Hypnosis is a waking state during which communication occurs between the client and the hypnotist, to help a client access unconscious resources and overwrite repetitive thought and behaviour cycles with more effective ones.[2]

Let’s begin with Trance…

Trance is a common everyday experience where our attention is focused in one area, while we are able to ignore other information or stimuli from our environment[1].  For example, you may recall a time when you were mesmerized by a sunset, or you were immersed in watching a movie or your favourite show.  Perhaps you were listening to a preacher or your favourite speaker or lost in your favourite novel or listening to your favourite album.  In all these scenarios, there is a common occurrence, which is focused attention coupled with paying no attention at all to most other input from your environment.  Ernest Rossi, PhD (1991) stated that everyday trances, such as staring into your cup of coffee or reaching your destination without recalling the roads you drove past, are brief periods of inner focus during which we become introspective and better able to communicate with our inner selves.

Trance is a way in which we learn patterns of behaviour. 

For example, mothers focus their young children’s attention, during which time children learn information about daily life, family and cultural norms and social functioning[1].  Similarly, teachers focus the attention of students.  Therefore, the trance state can be described as a state in which we are learning or programming patterns while our attention is highly focused on the subject matter being programmed.  

This process of learning or programming patterns allows us to carry out routines in our daily lives automatically, in other words, without using our conscious minds to think about them.  Breathing and walking are examples of routines programmed into our subconscious minds and carried out without the need for thinking.  So are undesirable or unhelpful routines, such as ruminating, smoking, binge-eating or procrastinating. Therefore, trance states can have either a positive or a negative impact on us.

Hypnosis is used and studied widely in the medical field. 

Moss and Willmarth (2019)[3] state that hypnosis is “proven to be one of the most powerful tools in enhancing surgical recovery”.  

Rimbert et al. (2019)[4] stated that hypnosis “directly influences the patient’s state of relaxation, perception of the body, and its visual imagination”. 

Montis et al. (2019)[5] found that adults with congenital heart disease undergoing a transesophageal echocardiogram were able to undergo the procedure without sedation when hypnosis was used.  

Jaouen et al. (2019)[6] studied the effects of hypnosis instead of general anesthesia for patients undergoing neck surgery.  Their findings were that patients who underwent hypnosis prior to their neck surgery did not require general anesthesia and there was a high level of global satisfaction with their surgical experience after hypnosis.  

Halsband and Wolf (2019)[7] reported that brain imaging technology (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging fMRI, Positron-Emission-Tomography PET and Electroencephalography EEG) provided evidence that hypnosis was both powerful and successful in inhibiting fear reactions.  

After a review of the literature on imaging techniques and hypnosis, Mathieu and Raz (2015)[8] reported that specific neural patterns are induced by hypnotic suggestions.

[1] Griffin J., & Tyrrell I. (2013). Human Givens.  The new approach to emotional health and clear thinking. HG Publishing.

[2] Mike Mandel Hypnosis Academy

[3] Moss D., & Willmarth E. (2019). Hypnosis, anesthesia, pain management, and preparation for medical procedures. Annals of palliative medicine. 8(4), 498-503. doi: 10.21037/apm.2019.07.01

[4] Rimbert S., Zaepffel M., Riff P., Adam P., & Bougrain L. (2019). Hypnotic State Modulates Sensorimotor Beta Rhythms During Real Movement and Motor Imagery. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 2341. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02341

[5] Montis S., et al. (2019). [Hypnosis in transesophageal echocardiography. The experience in a Pediatric Cardiology and Congenital Heart Disease Unit]. G Ital Cardiol (Rome)20(11), 651–657. doi: 10.1714/3254.32226

[6] Jaouen M., et al. (2019). Neck Surgery with Hypnosis: An Evaluation Based Upon Patient’s Self Assessment. Annals of Otology, Rhinology & Laryngology, 2019 Oct 28:3489419882445. doi: 10.1177/0003489419882445 [Epub ahead of print]

[7] Halsband U., & Wolf T.G. (2019). Functional Changes in Brain Activity After Hypnosis: Neurobiological Mechanisms and Application to Patients with a Specific Phobia—Limitations and Future Directions, International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 67(4), 449-474. doi: 10.1080/00207144.2019.1650551

[8] Landry M., & Raz A. (2015). Hypnosis and Imaging of the Living Human Brain. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 57(3), 285-313. doi: 10.1080/00029157.2014.978496