Frequently Asked Questions


There are about a score of questions which, over the years, I have often been asked, either by patients or in general conversation. They crop up repeatedly, and seem to me to fall into 3 main groups, which is how I present them below.

Questions about self-control and vulnerability

 Naturally enough, this is the predominant area. I don’t know whether, if we were to revisit the early days of the mesmerists, there was a public fear of them. Certainly though, it was present in the 20th century, sparked perhaps by the character of Svengali, the evil hypnotist in Gerald du Maurier’s novel ‘Trilby’. More recently, the performances of Paul McKenna (in his stage-show days), Derren Brown, and a lot of stage performers, have probably helped to keep this issue prominent. Even the Fast Show contributed a humorous take on the matter.

Is it safe?

Provided the hypnotist observes proper professional procedures, it is very safe.  Ask the hypnotist when and where he/she qualified, and who awarded their qualification, and if you are unsure try to check out how well regarded that awarding body is (or was). That should give you some idea how sound they are likely to be.

Does the hypnotist take over my mind?  Can I become a robot?

No. You ask the hypnotist to help you in a specific way, or with a specific problem. He/she will use aspects of the way our minds all work to help you achieve what you want; but you remain always in control.  Should a hypnotist stray beyond their remit, you can stop the process at any time, stand up, walk out if you wish.  Sometimes, stage hypnotists give the impression that subjects have ‘become robots’. But in fact, they can always reject the hypnotist’s instructions, and so at some level, if they carry them out, they must find them acceptable.  Those who are most prone to reject them (least ‘suggestible’) are often weeded out early in the act.

Can I be forced to do something against my will, or be taken advantage of, or overpowered?

Going into hypnosis is not like taking a drug. In the case of the drug, once it is in your system you may not be able to do much about it; it must take its course. But in hypnosis, even though you may be very deeply relaxed, you remain in control, and you can take the same decisions about what you do or don’t want to do as you normally would.  If you dislike, or disapprove of the process you are experiencing, you can come straight out of it. If suggestions are made which you find unacceptable, you can reject them.

Can you ‘get stuck’ in hypnosis?

No.  If it is not actively being maintained by the hypnotist, hypnosis passes into sleep, and you wake up quite naturally.

Can I terminate the process if I am uncomfortable?

Yes, at any point.

Can I be made to reveal secrets I don’t want to divulge?

Not if you are completely consistent in wanting the secret to remain.  But often we have some degree of wish to unburden ourselves of ‘secrets’, and if so, though we can’t be forced to do so, we may drift into doing so. It is the hypnotist’s professional responsibility to be alert for this, and protect the client, but this is a task requiring real sensitivity, judgement and skill, as he/she will not know and may not always easily sense when the hypnotic process, or even general discussion in the session, is impinging on such hidden areas. At other times, of course, the uncovering of ‘hidden’ material, may be exactly what the client needs, and is seeking.

Questions about the process

How will I know if I am hypnotised? Will I ‘feel hypnotised’?

Yes, if you know what it feels like!  Most people seem to expect to fall into a black pit of complete unawareness, and actually hypnosis is rarely, if ever, like this.  For most people, you feel very deeply and pleasantly relaxed, and time passes either faster or slower than normal.  Most people continue to hear normal daily sounds around them (traffic, footsteps, closing doors, etc) but distantly, as if in a day-dream. (In fact a day-dream. in my view, is the commonest experience of (self) hypnosis, one which we nearly all experience frequently).  A few become intensely aware of some experience – such as a man I treated who, in his first session only, experienced the quiet ticking of the clock as a loud booming noise.  But this is rare.

Will I be unconscious?

No, you will be relaxed; and depending on the individual, that relaxation may be profound, or relatively shallow.  If it is profound, your awareness of the world around you may be dimmer and slower than normal; and likewise your reactions to it.  But they will still be there : you will not be unconscious.

Can hypnosis take you back to ‘revisit’ earlier parts of your life?

Yes; it is a common technique called ‘regression’.

Can it take you back to other lives you have lived in the past?

It would seem so.  How genuine such lives are, or were, is open to debate, and views vary widely. However that may be, it can be a valuable and helpful technique and is used by both believers in past lives and non-believers.

How long does a hypnotherapy session last?

It depends on the purpose, and on the therapist. I tend to use a 1½ hour session, because I find there is plenty of time to talk about the client’s situation and progress, but still plenty of time for the actual therapy. Sessions for stopping smoking are usually up to 2 hours long.

Can anyone be hypnotised?

Pretty much, though there is a wide variation in the depth of the hypnosis which people achieve. It can be increased by practising with the hypnotherapist, and alone.  In my view, the only two pre-conditions are;  (1)  that you must be able to relax to a degree (again practise can increase this), and   (2)  that you can maintain a focus of concentration.  This can be difficult for some people who are injured, mentally ill, or handicapped.

Questions about applications of hypnotherapy

When should I consider using hypnotherapy?

Like most of the complementary therapies, hypnotherapy does not consist of a set of ‘silver bullets’ which each deal with a specific condition.  Instead, it uses a range of processes which are widely applicable, and tailors them as closely as possible to the circumstances being dealt with.

Fundamentally, it is taking a range of the basic natural states and reactions built into any human being, and adapting them to specific purposes.

Very broadly, I would say it should be considered as a treatment of choice if the origin of the problem to be solved is:-

Can it be used to relieve pain?

Yes. This was one of its early uses, and some of the mesmerists seem to have achieved remarkable results. Some hypnotherapists develop quite a specialism in this area. It has been used for this purpose for people in their own homes, in dental practices, in casualty departments, even in surgery.

Can hypnosis be used to help reduce blood pressure?


Can children be hypnotised?

Yes.  Older children in much the same ways as adults, but with younger children it is a very different process – much more of a story-telling approach.  Because of this some hypnotherapists tend to avoid working with younger children, but some make a speciality of it.

So what actual conditions can it be applied to?

It has been, and is, applied to a huge range of conditions and situations, some common, and some entirely unique to a particular individual.  Probably every working hypnotist occasionally encounters some quite novel situations.

Some of the more common ones might include:-

Fears and phobias
Habit breaking
Stopping smoking
Losing weight
Pain control 
Stress reduction
ME/Chronic fatigue
Relationship problems
Bed wetting
Anxiety and panic
Driving test nerves
Flying nerves

Exam Nerves
Performance nerves
Sporting performance
Public speaking and presentations
Learning, memory, concentration
Emotional problems
Insomnia and sleep problems
Sexual problems
Social phobia
Panic attacks
Blood pressure reduction
Skin problems