Adding Hypnotherapy To Your Existing Counseling Practice

Hypnosis and counseling are two potentially complementary approaches to mental health treatment that can work together to provide powerful results. Those with a career in counseling may wish to get certified in hypnotherapy and add this to the services they offer.

Hypnotherapy is a form of therapy that uses hypnosis to help clients access their subconscious minds and make positive changes in their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors through suggestion.

When combined with counseling, hypnotherapy can enhance the effectiveness of traditional talk therapy and help clients achieve their goals more quickly and effectively.

In this article, we’ll explore how a hypnotherapy counseling approach can be effective, and how to add hypnosis in counseling practices.

The Role of Hypnotherapy in Addressing Mental Health Issues

Hypnotherapy as a mental health service.

Hypnotherapy can be a valuable tool for addressing a wide range of mental health issues.

According to the American Psychological Association, “there is scientific evidence that hypnotherapy can be applied with some success to a wide range of health problems (e.g., hypertension, asthma, insomnia, bruxism), chronic and acute pain management, habit modification (e.g., overeating, smoking), mood and anxiety disorders (e.g., some phobias), and personality disorders.”

As Milton Erickson (founder of The American Society of Clinical Hypnosis) said, “Patients are patients because they are out of rapport with their own unconscious . . .” Hypnotherapy helps clients get back in rapport with themselves.

The Difference Between Hypnotherapy And Counseling

Counselling and hypnotherapy are two different therapeutic approaches, each with its own goals, techniques, and potential benefits. There is significant overlap, however. Each discipline has a wide variety of techniques, so we’ll be talking mostly in generalities here.

Let’s examine both counseling and hypnotherapy:

Hypnosis and counseling similarities and differences.
  • Counseling: Also sometimes known as talk therapy or psychotherapy, counseling involves a verbal communication process between the counselor (therapist) and the client (talk therapy). Counselors help their clients explore and understand their feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. They can provide guidance and tools to help clients cope with life challenges, such as grief, stress, addiction, or mental health disorders. Techniques used in counseling include cognitive-behavioral therapy, psychodynamic therapy, humanistic therapy, and many more. The goals and methods are typically agreed upon by the therapist and the client, based on the client’s needs and preferences.
  • Hypnotherapy: Hypnotherapy is a type of alternative treatment that uses hypnosis, a state of focused attention and increased suggestibility, to treat a variety of physical and psychological conditions. During clinical hypnotherapy, the therapist guides the client into a relaxed state and makes suggestions to help the client make changes. Hypnotherapy can be used to manage pain, anxiety, phobias, and to change negative habits such as smoking.
  • Here are some key differences between counseling and hypnotherapy:

    • Techniques: Counseling uses conversation and a variety of psychological techniques to encourage personal growth and problem-solving. Hypnotherapy uses hypnosis to help the client reach a state of deep relaxation and suggestibility, where they can explore deep-seated issues or change behaviors.
    • Client Involvement: In counseling, clients are usually fully conscious, actively participating, and engaging in the process. In hypnotherapy, clients are guided into a hypnotic state, though they remain conscious and in control. Although there’s sometimes conversation during hypnotic sessions, it tends to be more focused on the hypnotherapist giving suggestions to the client.
    • Issues Addressed: Both can address a variety of issues, but some problems might be more appropriately addressed by one method than the other. As a general rule, when more insight or understanding is beneficial, talk therapy is preferred. Hypnosis tends to be solution focused, rather than focusing on insight or understanding. Counseling can be solution-oriented and hypnotherapy can lead to insight and understanding. There are tendencies, not rules.
    • Training and Regulation: There are different training and certification requirements for counselors and hypnotherapists. In many jurisdictions, counseling doesn’t require specific education or training, nor does hypnotherapy. However, there are many psychologists, mental health counselors, and psychiatrists who are regulated by state, regional or federal governments, and are required to have specific education, training, and licensure. In addition, professional organizations may be involved in overseeing professions, although they may not have regulatory oversight.

    The Basics of Hypnotherapy for Counselors

    Counselor practicing hypnotherapy.

    Hypnotherapy involves inducing a trance-like state in clients and using suggestion to help them make positive changes. In hypnosis, regression therapy can also be used to take clients back to events that may have influence on their current emotions and behaviors.

    While many people are under the impression that hypnotic inductions (the process of inducing a trance and increasing suggestibility) are difficult, inductions are actually simple to learn. And as a counselor, you already have a lot of the other know-how needed.

    As a counselor, you will need to be trained in the basics of hypnosis and hypnotherapy in order to use these techniques effectively. However, many of your existing skills will transfer across. People in hypnosis can talk, so you can use many of your counseling skills within the trance.

    Incorporating Hypnotic Techniques in Your Counseling Practice

    Here’s the thing that many counselors who haven’t yet been trained in hypnosis, need to know. . .

    Counseling sessions already include many of the same elements as hypnosis sessions.

    • Rapport is important. As a counselor, you’re already establishing rapport with your clients.
    • Clients and patients may experience strong emotions during a session. This can create increased suggestibility.
    • Clients may concentrate deeply on an idea, or think about something in a way they’ve never thought of before. This is hypnotic.
    • When clients tell you about an experience and become emotional, they are already partially regressed into that experience.
    • In some counseling sessions, the client comes in, sits down, and relaxes.
    • Effective counselor’s words carry weight with their clients. While counselors may-or-may-not give advice, their words may encourage the clients to reflect deeply. In other words, the clients have increased suggestibility.

    Many hypnotherapists have had the experience of working with a client, asking them questions about what they want to accomplish, establishing rapport, digging into the issue at hand, and realizing the client is already halfway or more into a trance state.

    In these cases, we can simply move gently into an induction or suggestion phase of the session. In your hypnotherapy training, you’ll learn to recognize the signs of trance and can do the same in your counseling sessions.

    Hypnotic counseling is not a big step from counseling.

    Tips for Using Hypnotherapy Safely and Effectively

    Practice caution using hypnosis.

    It is important to use hypnotherapy safely and effectively in your counseling practice. This means being trained in the proper techniques and using hypnotherapy only with clients who are appropriate candidates for this type of therapy.

    There are few contraindications for hypnosis, according to WebMD. However, practicing caution is always recommended.

    Hypnosis Risks and Side Effects

    Hypnosis isn’t recommended for folks with serious mental disorders, including:

    • Schizophrenia
    • Hallucinations
    • Drug and alcohol misuse
    • Delusions

    The American Association Of Professional Hypnotherapists mentions, in their code of ethics, “contact and receive approval of any other counseling professional or mental health professional presently treating my new perspective [sic] client.”

    We, at the International Hypnosis Association recommend this as well, for folks with the hypnosis contraindications listed above. We’d add that many counselors don’t have training in mental health disorders, so for the above conditions, I’d stick with clinical psychologists, licensed mental health counselors, and psychiatrists (the nomenclature may be slightly different in your part of the world).

    Ethics And Professional Standards

    Ethics and standards of behavior for hypnotherapists are much the same as for counselors. Some hypnotic techniques require touch. Anyone doing hypnotherapy and counselling should get permission to touch a client beforehand, for anything other than a handshake at the door. If it’s not appropriate to touch a client during a hypnotic intervention, use techniques that don’t require it.

    Training and Certification for Hypnotherapy in Counseling

    Proper training and certification are essential for using hypnotherapy safely and effectively in your counseling practice. This means completing a comprehensive training program and obtaining certification from a reputable organization.

    Finding Hypnotherapy Training Programs

    There are many hypnotherapy training programs available for counselors. These programs typically involve a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on training in hypnosis and hypnotherapy techniques.

    You can browse our list of schools with IHA Approved Courses, to see what’s available near you. 

    The Benefits of Continuing Education in Hypnotherapy for Counselors

    Continuing education in hypnotherapy can help counselors stay up-to-date on the latest techniques and best practices in this field. This can help counselors provide the best possible care to their clients and achieve the best possible outcomes.

    Conclusion: The Power of Hypnotherapy in Counseling

    Hypnotherapy can be a powerful tool for counselors looking to enhance the effectiveness of their counseling sessions. By incorporating hypnotic techniques into their practice, counselors can help clients achieve their goals more quickly and effectively. With proper hypnosis training and certification, counselors can use hypnotherapy safely and effectively to address a wide range of mental health issues.

    If you are a psychologist, and want to be a psychologist that does hypnosis, the path forward is simple. The same is true for other counselors. Just get some additional training, and for the most part, the new skills will fit in well with your existing practice.

    About the Author

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    Keith Livingston is the Director of Education & Operations for the International Hypnosis Association. He's been training Hypnotherapists and NLP Master Practitioners for more than 20 years, and have created, or co-created more than 20 NLP/Hypnosis related programs.

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