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Hypnosis Explained – FAQs

One of the biggest questions I get as a counselor is, “What is hypnosis?” Perhaps you are wondering too? If so, you’ve come to the right place. That’s because this page is all about hypnosis and how I how I teach clients new skills on their path to wellness. 

To keep it real, hypnosis is nothing more than a natural state of heightened awareness. It’s something that happens to all of us on a daily basis. There’s no hocus-pocus involved and it’s not particularly mystical. I know this may sound odd because media representations of hypnosis suggest otherwise.

You know what I’m talking about, right? A Svengali-type guy who magically puts someone into a deep trance. Once they are hypnotized, the person becomes a zombie.

Sound familiar?  Here is the full on truth – what you see in Hollywood movies is pure fiction.  In fact, it’s not even close.

What follows is a basic Q and A on hypnotherapy. I’ve also included information about my own approach to hypnosis, which you’ll discover is a natural pathway to healing and goal attainment.

In this article, you will learn:

  • A basic definition of hypnosis
  • How to think about hypnosis
  • Uses for hypnosis
  • How hypnosis works
  • Possible side effects of hypnosis
  • The ins and outs of hypnosis and smoking cessation
  • Mindful meditation vs. hypnosis
  • The basics of medical hypnosis
  • What to look for in a hypnotherapist
  • Considerations for self-hypnosis
  • How I use hypnotherapy with clients
  • Expectations for hypnotherapy

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Hypnosis – What is it?

As mentioned above, hypnosis is a heightened state of awareness that happens to all of us, regardless of age, gender or background. Think of this as a relaxing resource state that vibrates calm. While in this place, your mind is more focused, allowing for greater receptivity to suggestion.

To help draw a mental picture, I’m going to share with a bridge analogy.

Bridge Between the Conscious and Unconscious

At night, when you hop into bed to get your Z’s, you walk through several stages of sleep. Think of that first stage as a kind “in between”; a bridge to the subconscious where you aren’t quite awake but also not asleep.

While in this place, you are fully aware of everything going on around you. You are relaxed and calm. Eventually, when the time is right, you cross over the bridge and enter the land of nod.

In a nutshell, the “bridge” is a hypnotic state.

If you’ve ever taken part in yoga, engaged in self-affirmations or simply meditated, you’ve likely experienced this “twilight” state. All of these activities (to some degree) involve entering into a hypnotic state. 

How should I think of hypnosis?

I encourage people to think of hypnosis as natural approach to wellness, which is often referred to as a complimentary alternative medicine (CAM). Other examples of CAMs include bright light therapy for sadness, yoga and herbal teas used for calming purposes.

The University of Chicago has a great alternative therapy page you might want to check out to learn more. Meditation and aromatherapy are also considered CAMS. 

Hypnosis works best when it is combined with other activities that move you towards your goals. 

Is hypnosis curative?

In and of itself – no. Anybody who tells you otherwise isn’t being straight with you. While some people have reported dramatic results, it is scientifically dishonest to say that hypnosis “cures” anything.

What hypnosis can do however, is create more focus around desired goals, such as anxiety reduction, increased confidence and better self-insight. 

And so in this way, hypnosis can offer powerful benefits; a tool you can call upon for to live a calmer, more balanced life. 

What can hypnosis be used for?

Hypnosis, either learned from a certified hypnotist or on your own, has a wide swath of uses and is well established as an approach to health promotion, based on the body of scientific literature.

Common areas that hypnosis has been used to help people with include:

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Hypnosis is like a concentrated laser beam of light

How does hypnosis work?

Typically, at the start of the session, I will help you clear your mind of  extraneous material. In many ways, this is a kind of “mental clearing”.

Once accomplished, you have greater ability to concentrate on thought. Now relaxed and highly focused, actionable, goal focused messages are delivered to your subconscious. 

A useful way of visualizing hypnosis is to think about how the sun scatters its rays across the first first dawn sky. 

As the light diffuses, it illuminates the atmosphere with powerful beams. Areas once dark become visible. Clarity of objects becomes possible.

Hypnosis, in the metaphorical sense, works in much  the same way.  Suggestive messages are delivered to your subconscious by riding a highly pinpointed beams of light. The “beam” is hypnotherapy. The brightened sky represents your goals. 

The image above showing a man walking into a light beam is a good depiction of what I’m talking about.

What happens in a hypnotherapy session with you?

Right off the bat, it’s important to know that everything is confidential. Typically, you will complete an intake form that provides some basic background information. This will help me to understand your issues and your general goals. 

I’ll want to know some things, such as your history with a given life challenge and how it has impacted you. Then, we’ll assess your self-beliefs to explore how they may be holding you back from reaching greater happiness. If hypnotherapy is appropriate, we’ll work together to create a plan of action.

When we begin a session, you will relax on a comfortable couch. A pair of headphones will be provided that plays ambient music. As you listen to these calming tones, I will be speaking over them and conducting the session.

Your only job is to relax, absorb, and enjoy.

What is the scope of your practice?

To train clients in the methods of self-hypnosis that research shows can provide mental and physical health benefits. In this way, you are taught new skills that help you to become centered with a focus on goal attainment.

What are the side effects of hypnosis?

Most people report the side effects as positive, such as better concentration, more restful sleep and feelings of wellness. Others have have shared they became more in touch with their emotions.

After a hypnotherapy session, you might become slightly disoriented, however, it goes away quickly. 

Because the hypnotherapy services I offer are limited to goal attainment, anxiety reduction, and confidence building, most people feel better after a session. Remember, when you are in a state of hypnosis, you are in a natural state of mind. 

That said, as part of hypnotic phenomenon, some have observed distortions in time. For example, time seems to go by very fast during hypnosis. For others, time slows down. And still others report increased imaginal processing. 

All of this is to say that hypnotherapy is a very safe, natural way to cope with stress, become more focused and work through fears. 

Do you think I can be hypnotized?

The vast majority of people absolutely can be hypnotized. According to the research, around 5% of people who are mentally healthy cannot be hypnotized. Remember, at its core, hypnosis is nothing more than an altered state of consciousness that allows a person to enter into a relaxed state.

I like to think of hypnosis as an older version of the term “mindfulness”, which is a bit more contemporary. 

When you think about it, you’ve probably already experienced a state of hypnosis but just didn’t know it. Here are some real life examples:

  • Daydreaming
  • Losing yourself in an interesting book or article
  • Getting caught up in a good movie

Hypnosis works pretty much like that – deep, focused and concentrated thought that is centered on your goal. While there are some people who have high levels of interference due to stress and anxiety, most all people find they are able to be hypnotized after a period of time.

And I won’t try to fool you – a person needs to be open to the process of hypnosis in order for change to take place. Without that openness, it’s hard for anything to happen. 

Are some folks more easily hypnotized than others?

The simple, truthful answer is yes. Much of the outcome depends upon the hypnotist, the person’s current emotional state and of course, their openness to experiencing hypnosis. A lot of people in Chicago appreciate the simplicity of hypnotherapy. 

I often encourage prospective clients to read the following article on Psychcentral regarding Hypnosis as a pathway to learning. As a matter of fact disclosure, I blog for that site.

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Will hypnosis instantly help me to stop smoking?

For most people the answer is probably not. I recognize that may not be what you want to hear but I’m just leveling with you. In fact, anyone who tells you they can “instantly” stop anything or guarantee results through hypnosis isn’t being straight with you.

But when you think about it, on an intuitive level, doesn’t this make sense? 

Here is what hypnosis can do if you want to quit. It can act as tool to support your motivation for healthier living. 

Let me give you an example. Let’s say your goal is to stop smoking cigarettes. In and of itself, hypnosis probably won’t be the“magic bullet” to “cure” your nicotine addiction. Others who provide hypnosis services may tell you something different. 

Here is all that I can tell you – an addiction to smoking, generally speaking, is thought to be  psychological, behavioral and social in nature. This means it is best to take a comprehensive approach to maximize your chances of success.

A comprehensive approach means: 

  • Nicotine replacement, with the permission of your physician, (patches and gums) to help with physical withdraw symptoms.
  • Behavioral modification through therapy for psychological change. Ideally offered through a licensed mental health therapist.
  • Group support for smoking cessation (online or in person).
  • Physical activity & exercise. This helps to reduce potential weight gain and manage stress 
  • Working with your medical doctor and/or psychotherapist to address potential mood related changes, such as anxiety and depression.

So what can hypnosis actually do to help me stop smoking?

What hypnosis can do is augment the activities mentioned above so that you have a more focused, mindful approach to the smoking cessation process. This allows you to feel more empowered and in touch with the reasons why you wanted to quit smoking in the first place. 

The clinical research shows that hypnosis, when combined with other approaches to smoking cessation, has been helpful to many people.  The operative word is combined

You’ll hear me mention this more below but I say it now: Hypnosis, in and of itself, is not “therapy” but instead, an adjunct to therapy. 

That folks … is the full on truth. There’s no such thing as an “instant fix” to stop smoking. I wish there were – truly.

The key to success is committing yourself to different approaches and not relying on just one thing. This last point I can’t emphasize enough … getting support from others who have stopped is critical. 

At a minimum, I encourage people who are undergoing smoking cessation hypnotherapy to join a web-based support group. Ongoing support is critical. 

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Mindful meditation vs. hypnosis?

Mindful mediation is a form of mental and physical relaxation. While hypnosis is similar to meditation, they are not exactly identical.

Hypnosis is always goal focused. Examples include weight loss, increased confidence, smoking cessation, anxiety reduction and so forth.

Meditation is more of a general state of awareness, which is mindfully heightened in the here and now. While meditation can be linked to a goal, it doesn’t have to be. Hypnosis, however, is always  linked to goals.

And so – when you are visualizing yourself playing a better golf game – you are in fact engaging in self-hypnosis.  

Am I experiencing “mind control” during hypnosis?

No. A hypnotist merely guides you into your own experience of relaxation. A person who is hypnotized is awake the entire time but in a highly focused state. The hypnotist cannot make someone do something they don’t want to do. A hypnotist can’t make you bark like a dog or quack like duck. 

Those who believe otherwise have probably been influenced by fiction based movies and television. Bear in mind there is a difference between stage (entertainment) hypnosis and clinical hypnotherapy.

Stage hypnosis is about the “wow” factor, not unlike a magic show. Clinical hypnotherapy, however, is about creating positive change.

What questions should I ask if seeking clinical hypnotherapy?

If you are considering clinical hypnotherapy, ask the person if they are:

  • Licensed as a mental health therapist or medical doctor (LCPC, LCSW, LCP, LFMT, DO, MD, DDS)
  • Hold a Masters degree or higher in psychology, social work, counseling, medicine, marriage and family counseling or a related field.
  • Certified by a national hypnosis certification board or organization in hypnotherapy.
  • Have advanced training in hypnosis. 

More and more, professional hypnotherapy certification organizations, such as the National Board of Clinical Hypnotherapists, require the individual to have specific training, in order to obtain the designation of “Hypnotherapist”. 

What about learning self-hypnosis?

If you want to learn self-hypnosis, a trained hypnotist may be a good option. It may be helpful to find someone who holds a masters degree in psychology or a health related field from an accredited university recognized by the Council for Higher Education.

Additional credentials help as well, such as certifications in meditation, personal training and wellness psychology. I’m not saying any of these things are required. I’m simply suggesting that you look at the person’s background and training as part of your search. 

As an aside, you can also learn about self-hypnosis from a number of books. A great one to consider has been suggested at the bottom of this page.

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What do you offer hypnotherapy for?

The hypnosis services I offer are linked to stress management, anxiety reduction, goal attainment. pain management and confidence building.  I don’t do “age regression” or “memory retrieval” hypnosis. 

The hypnotic work I provide to clients is designed to teach you new skills. It is a form of relaxation therapy.  In this way, you learn how to engage in progressive muscle relaxation, creative visualization and mindfulness based meditation.

Do you offer corporate training?

I have given relaxation hypnosis and guided imagery seminars to a number of companies, schools and non-profits as part of their employee wellness initiatives. I’ve also consulted with organizations on how to encourage mindfulness at the workplace. 

Should you (or your organization) decide to use my services to learn relaxation techniques, I am happy to answer any questions and dispel some of the common myths connected with this approach to wellness.

What are your qualifications to practice hypnotherapy?

My qualifications include:

  • Doctorate in Psychology from Northcentral University
  • Masters in Psychology from Northcentral University
  • Masters in Wellness Promotion from California College San Diego
  • Master Business Administration (MBA) in Healthcare Management from Indiana Tech
  • Board Certified Hypnotherapist through the American Board of Hypnotherapy (#H33400).
  • National Board Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist through the National Board of Clinical Hypnotherapy (#3746)
  • Certified Medical Hypnotherapist
  • Certified Specialist in Hypnosis for Anxiety and Fears through the American Hypnosis Association
  • Certified Meditation Coach through the Mediation Transformation Institute 
  • Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor in the state of Illinois.
  • Approved Clinical Supervisor through the Center for Credentialing and Education
  • Board Certified Drug and Alcohol Counselor

I have written books and articles on the topic of mental and physical health that appear in nationally syndicated magazines and websites. I frequently receive training on various approaches to counseling and hypnotherapy. Additionally, I regularly consult with other wellness professionals. 

Outside of the services I provide, I teach courses in health sciences and psychology at the graduate and undergraduate level. You can read more about my background on my bio page.

How fast does hypnosis work?

Hypnosis has been described by some as the ultimate form of solution focused form of coaching. At its core, hypnosis helps to increase awareness, which very much influences the way you think – which can empower positive change.

This natural form of intervention allows a person to generally see some type of benefit over the course of time. Again, there is no such thing as an instant fix and it is important to state there are no guarantees.

Others may suggest “quick results”. The evidence based research however, suggests otherwise. 

A hypnotherapy research example can  be found in Gut Magazine, the Journal of Gastroenterology. They published a study in 1997 that affirmed the efficacy of using hypnosis in for helping to ameliorate symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, otherwise known as IBS. You can access the clinical research here.  

I’ve written about natural, mindful approaches in the past with helping to quell the uncomfortableness of IBS on my blog at Psychcentral.

What about hypnotherapy for anxiety, pain or a medical condition?

Hypnotherapy should be thought of as one tool that is used as part of a comprehensive approach to wellness. Remember, hypnotherapy isn’t “therapy” but instead, a tool of therapy when appropriate. 

Hypnotherapy for pain management may help to ameliorate the intensity of pain and work through difficult moments. It may also help you move through medical situations, such as pre-surgery anxiety or post-surgery recovery. People with chronic health conditions may also find hypnotherapy helpful. All of these fall under the umbrella of medical hypnosis.

Here’s what you need to know – medical hypnosis is designed to help you cope with a given health issue. It is not curative. You can learn more about medical hypnotherapy in this article.

When I work with a client around health issues, I always do so in conjunction with and the permission of their medical doctor. My role is to help clients learn new strategies for working through. I am not a physician.

If you are in pain or suffering from a medical condition or illness, it is critical that you seek treatment from a licensed physician. If you are experiencing a psychiatric or mental health issue, make an appointment with a licensed psychotherapist as soon as possible.

Finally, if you are in crisis or are concerned you may harm yourself or someone else, call 911 immediately or go to your local emergency room right now. 

Do you give homework assignments?

Yes – because I personally believe that real change happens outside of the office.  These can range from journaling about narrative themes to repeating affirmations to meditating on lessons from the sessions.

Because dreams can act as conduits to the subconscious, I may ask you to write down things you’ve dreamed about in between our sessions. We will use the material to look for patterns, identify themes, and create positive change. 

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What is counseling like with you?

My approach to counseling is warm, intuitive and conversational. I try to create an environment that encourages self-insight and learning. Typically, I help you focus on what is happening in the here and now. In this way, elements of positive psychology are infused into the dynamic. 

We may spend time exploring stress triggers or an incident that caused physical pain (example: a sports related injury). And so catharsis is a very real part of the experience. 

Where are you located?

My office is located at 655 W. Irving Park Rd. It’s at the corner of Irving Park Road and Pine Grove Avenue – very close to Lake Shore Drive.

Is there parking or public transportation?

There is ample street parking available for free on most days. Parking is available in the building for a fee. Current rates are published here.

My office is steps away from most public transportation spots on Chicago Transit (CTA), including major bus lines.

What do you charge?

$160.00 per 1-hour session (1 HR)

My fees are always the same. I try to keep it simple for clients. You can learn more about fees on my fees page.

What’s it like visiting your office?

When you come to my office, I offer a calming, gentle and private environment. During the first session, I will typically have you complete some paperwork.

Sometimes, if we both agree, I will email you this paperwork to save time. I’ll also want to know some things about you as a person. Depending upon the situation and if it is appropriate, hypnotherapy may be an option. 

Below is a video of my office:

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Guy Counseling Office #counseling #hypnosis #chicago

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Here are some things that typically happen over the course of time :

1) A discussion of your background, history and goals.

2) An exploration of how anxiety has had an impact on you. You will likely be asked to consult with your doctor to rule out any medical issues.

3) An examination of how your beliefs may be helping or hindering your goals. This usually involves aspects of CBT.

4) If appropriate, a discussion of how mindfulness based approaches may benefit you, which is offered in the form of hypnotherapy.

5) Skill based learning techniques will be offered, designed to help you work through your unique issues. 

Where can I learn more about hypnosis and self-hypnosis?

A great resource to consider picking up is Hypnotherapy for Dummies. What I like about this book is how it does away with the silly stereotypes regarding hypnosis and provides concrete, useable information.

I have provided a link below. All you have to do is click on the book to be transported to Amazon.


Organizations looking for group training on mindfulness based meditation, including self-hypnosis, are welcome to make contact as well. Group meditation rates may be available. 

The content on this website is intended for information and education only. Always consult with your medical doctor before starting any new health-related activity. This website cannot substitute for professional medical advice. If you are in crisis, are concerned you might hurt yourself or someone else, call 911 now or go to your local emergency room immediately.