The truth about hypnosis: Q&A with Peter Kyriakoulis

19 July 2019


When it comes to hypnosis, there are mountains of misinformation – and clouds of confusion. So what’s the truth behind this psychological treatment?

Often associated with the work of magicians or comedians, hypnosis is widely misunderstood. Its legitimacy is scowled at by sceptics who view it as a type of placebo effect.

To provide clarity, we’re sharing the history, purposes and techniques of clinical hypnosis from the lens of someone who practises it: clinical psychologist and hypnotherapist, Peter Kyriakoulis.

Q: What is clinical hypnosis?

PK: Clinical hypnotherapy, also known as clinical hypnosis, aims to connect patients with their subconscious mind. A hypnotherapist uses hypnosis to give relevant suggestions for creating positive change.

A different state of consciousness from being awake or asleep, hypnotherapy is often compared to the deep, relaxed state of daydreaming.

Or you can consider it like watching a film at the cinema. You’re completely absorbed in the movie, but also, aware of your surroundings. If someone calls your name or taps you on the shoulder, you’ll be able to respond. That’s kind of what hypnosis is like.

While hypnotherapy is not the same as sleeping (since you still have awareness and control), hypnotherapists do require patients to be relaxed. This way, you can use your imagination fully, while activating the creative part of your brain.

To enter this relaxed state, it’s therefore paramount that you feel completely comfortable with your hypnotherapist.

Q: Fleeting fad or age-old practice?

PK: Often believed to be a recent, New Age treatment, hypnosis has actually been around since antiquity.

From the Sumerian and Persian to the Chinese, Indian, Egyptian and Greek, nearly all ancient cultures used hypnosis as a healing practice. In fact, some of the earliest evidence of hypnosis for healing dates back to 1500 BC – from the Egyptian Ebers Papyrus.

Fast forward a few thousand years to the mid-1800s, hypnotherapy was recognised by influential psychologists like Sigmund Freud, Pierre Janet and Alfred Binet. Over time, more psychologists took interest, adding to a growing body of research on the hypnosis phenomenon.

The popular myths surrounding hypnosis are thus just that – myths. History reveals that hypnosis is not a fleeting fad, but an ancient practice now widely accepted as a beneficial psychological therapy.

Q: What can hypnosis help with?

PK: Generally, hypnotherapy can aid many emotional problems such as trauma, anxiety and phobias. Hypnosis can also address some physical problems – like chronic pain, irritable bowel syndrome and insomnia.

People even see results with weight loss, smoking cessation and stress management after undergoing hypnotherapy.

However, the effectiveness of hypnotherapy is not related to how relaxed or hypnotised you feel during the session. Instead, it depends on what happens after the hypnotherapy session. You could compare it to throwing a pebble in the pond and not knowing the extent of the ripple.

Q: So how does hypnotherapy work?

PK: Typically considered a psychotherapy aid, a hypnotherapist uses guided relaxation and intense, focused attention to achieve a heightened state of awareness in the patient.

By tapping into the individual’s subconscious state, the hypnotherapist can then help the person explore painful thoughts, feelings and memories that might have been hidden from their conscious mind.

To prompt positive change, a hypnotherapist will use techniques that may help to reveal issues from your past that may be causing distress. Or they might focus on present problems.

If you suffer from clinical epilepsy or schizophrenia, it’s essential that you consult your GP before approaching a hypnotherapist.

Curious about how hypnotherapy can help you? Our team of psychologists who practice hypnotherapy are here to help. Call us on 1300 995 636 today.