The Differences and Similarities between Hypnosis and Mindfulness

Mindfulness meditation has been around for over 2500 years and originated as an ancient Buddhist practice. Mindfulness is derived from “sati” which has significant elements drawn from Buddhist tradition. Sati is mindfulness or awareness of drawing your attention, on purpose, to the present moment in a non-judgmental manner. In order to practice mindfulness, you must make sure that you are not evaluating your inner or outer awareness and just being as present as you can in the current moment or situation. Essentially getting yourself into a state of stillness. This helps greatly with decentering your thoughts allowing you to attain a state of tranquility.

 

By practicing mindfulness it helps you to bring your awareness to the present moment so fleeting past or future thoughts don’t affect you as much. Incorporating a consistent practice in your daily life can have very significant impacts on your anxiety, depression or overall mood. As mindfulness has increased its popularity in the west over the past few decades, a long standing debate has come up which looks specifically at the similarities and differences clinical hypnosis has with mindfulness.


Hypnosis, in contrast, can be defined as a deep state of inner concentration or focus. In the context of clinical hypnosis, once a client has attained a state of inner concentration, helpful suggestions can be received and experiential learning can take place to help a client move forward from whatever is keeping them stuck. In addition, it is well documented in the literature that hypnosis “will likely stimulate different qualities of cognition, affect, and physiology than would practitioners of guided meditations. Likewise, hypnosis sessions will predictably involve and affect different parts of the brain than would guided mindfulness meditations” (Yapko, 2020).


In other words, although there may be similar aspects to both approaches, they are both unique in that they will be able to help us by focusing on different aspects of our problems. I personally see this as a positive, which means you can use both to help you move forward in a more holistic or robust way. One thing that most people will agree on is that both Hypnosis and Mindfulness are forms of metacognition. Metacognition is an awareness of one's own thought processes and gaining an understanding of the patterns behind them. I am in favour of integrating both approaches in order to give my clients different ways of experiencing and understanding their own thought processes with the intention of helping them become unstuck.


Hypnotherapy when used in combination with counselling or other evidence based interventions can be a very helpful tool. If you are interested in learning more about the process please reach out and I’d be happy to further discuss this with you.


Written by: Sebastian Di Cesare PhD, RCC - a Registered Clinical Counsellor & Hypnotherapist based in Vancouver, Canada.


References


Karunamuni, N., & Weerasekera, R. (2019). Theoretical Foundations to Guide Mindfulness Meditation: A Path to Wisdom. Current Psychology, 38(3), 627–646. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-017-9631-7


University of California Television (UCTV). (2012, May 31). Applying mindfulness-based cognitive therapy to treatment [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5eQ3MWz4yrI


Van Gordon, W., Shonin, E., Griffiths, M. D., & Singh, N. N. (2015). There is Only One Mindfulness: Why Science and Buddhism Need to Work Together. Mindfulness, 6(1), 49–56. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-014-0379-y


Yapko, M. D. (2020). Contemplating…the Obvious: What you Focus On, you Amplify. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 68(2), 144–150. https://doi.org/10.1080/00207144.2020.1719841


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