There are so many misconceptions about hypnosis and hypnotherapy, which I have previously addressed in my article ‘What is Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy? And Does it Work?’ Much of these misconceptions are a consequence of what most of us have seen being performed by stage hypnotists.
In this article I take a brief look at the similarities and differences between hypnotists using stage hypnosis on the one hand and hypnotherapists using hypnotherapy on the other.
There are perhaps more similarities than some professional hypnotherapists would like to acknowledge, but there is also one fundamental difference. Read on to find out what it is.
A person using stage hypnosis is called a hypnotist, whereas a person working with individual clients is called a hypnotherapist. The title of the role says a lot about the difference.
Although some hypnotherapists try to distance themselves completely from stage hypnosis, in fact some of the techniques used in hypnotherapy are not dissimilar to those used by stage hypnotists.
A stage hypnotist will typically identify those to be invited to participate by using some suggestibility tests, helping them identify people who are likely to be more cooperative. A hypnotherapist may also use these tests to demonstrate to a client that they can enter hypnosis. When a person volunteers to be on stage, they are moving their brain from the critical state that most people in the audience will be experiencing, to a state of consent, starting to have an expectation that something unusual can happen.
A stage hypnotist often uses what is called ‘rapid induction’ methods to help a participant to enter into a hypnotic state quickly. Some hypnotherapists use similar rapid methods, although many do not.
A stage hypnotist can seemingly get a person on stage to do something they wouldn’t otherwise do. In fact, this happens because the participant consents to it and cooperates. In both situations, a person can resist an instruction that would cause them any real harm.
It is suggested by some hypnotists that participants often dissociate from the experience, as if someone else is doing those things. Dissociation is used extensively in hypnotherapy to help clients get closer to difficult situations and to help desensitise them, for example when revisiting earlier traumatic experiences.
Finally, a stage hypnotist makes suggestions to a person on stage or in the audience about how they will respond when something happens after hypnosis. For example, a common trick is to get people to shout something or to stand up when the hypnotist subsequently says a seemingly unrelated phrase. A hypnotherapist uses this technique extensively, establishing which future triggers will lead to which new supportive responses that the client wants to have.
We can summarise by saying that the two are not radically different in form.
However, stage hypnosis has no therapeutic aim. It is being done entirely for the purpose of entertainment.
A hypnotherapist, in contrast, is concerned with wellbeing and in supporting people to make positive changes in their lives, using hypnosis alongside talking therapy and a variety of other methods.
On a lighter note, it’s worth pointing out a further similarity. Hypnotists and hypnotherapists both tend to get paid, although neither is getting rich any time soon!
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