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How Does Hypnotherapy Actually Work?

Hypnotherapy and Hypnosis creates varied reactions when mentioned in conversation. Many people associate it with a form of “mind control” and perceive it to be dangerous. This can’t be any further from the actual truth. A lot of these ideas have come from a portrayal in movies, popular culture and stage hypnosis shows. Although it may be fun to watch, sometimes these displays tend to make people reluctant to try or use hypnosis as a form of actual therapy. In short, hypnosis is very safe and natural. You always remain in control and are usually completely aware of what’s going on while in that state. This article aims to debunk some of the myths and attempt to explain how this naturally occurring phenomenon works.


If you’ve ever caught yourself daydreaming or wandering off in your thoughts, you’ve actually experienced a natural form of light hypnosis. Hypnosis is simply a state of mind. By allowing yourself to relax and let go you can slowly get yourself into deeper states until you eventually may fall asleep. Hypnosis can also be viewed as a “platform” where you can bypass the critical factor of the mind to access the subconscious. While in this state, most people are more suggestible and can facilitate change at a deep level. Changing a habit, or something about yourself can be challenging. Hypnosis can be viewed as a “catalyst” to help that change along. A therapist can’t make you do anything against your will, and your subconscious will never accept a suggestion if it goes against a core belief system. Change is self-created. It is an opportunity for you to use hypnosis as a gateway to communicate the consciously desired changes to your subconscious mind.

Theory of the Mind & Various Brain Wave States The mind can be divided up into 4 sub-divisions. The Conscious - Critical - Subconscious & Primitive Mind. The conscious mind is what we use in our everyday waking state. It is logical, it reasons and takes in what we experience throughout our day. The Critical Mind is a “filter” that gathers and stores information over a 24 hour period. While we sleep, information that is kept in the critical mind is analysed and filtered with deep subconscious belief systems. If this information does not match up or goes against our core beliefs it is simply discarded. This is why it is so hard to change certain aspects of ourselves at times. Hypnosis is a means by which you can bypass the Critical Mind and allow your conscious mind to communicate directly with the subconscious.

How does your mind allow this to happen? You simply have to allow yourself to become more relaxed, focused and allow yourself to “let go”. By letting go, you let the critical faculty of the mind to step aside and become an observer. There are 4 major brain wave states and I’ve included a diagram here for you to review:

The majority of the work done in hypnotherapy is in the Theta state. You attain the theta state by sitting comfortably in a chair or couch, focus and follow directions/instructions given to you by a therapist. It is a very relaxing process that occurs quite naturally. When you come up out of the deeper state of hypnosis most people find it quite enjoyable and relaxing!

How Can Hypnotherapy Help You? Hypnotherapy can help you with a number of different challenges. It can help confront a deeply seeded fear or phobia. It can help you effectively manage your stress or anxiety. It is also helpful at addressing unwanted habits such as smoking and nail biting.

Although hypnotherapy can be quite effective for most people, it isn’t always indicated. It is important to have this discussion with your therapist prior to you beginning treatment. If interested, I offer a complimentary consultation where we can have a more in depth discussion about potential treatment.

If you have any questions, interested in trying out a session, or getting a personalized self-hypnosis recording made, please reach out and feel free to send me an e-mail.

Written By: Sebastian Di Cesare PhD, RHt - a Research Scientist & practicing Registered Hypnotherapist based in Vancouver, Canada.

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