By Dr. Shirley McNeal

When you think of hypnosis or hypnotherapy, what may first come to mind are stage hypnotists.

You've seen it before – these are people who take volunteers from the audience, hypnotize them, and give them suggestions to quack like a duck, act drunk, or laugh hysterically.

That is truly an act.  Working with a psychotherapist who has been trained in clinical hypnosis to help people like you is an entirely different experience.

Everyone has experienced hypnotic trance states that occur naturally.

For example, you are in a trance state when, while driving your car, you miss your exit because you are daydreaming.

Similarly, you are in a trance state when you are so absorbed in a book, movie, or TV show that you fail to hear what others around you are saying.

I can teach you how to voluntarily enter such trance states and to use them to improve your life.

Which Areas Can Hypnosis Help Me With?

Not only is hypnosis useful in quitting smoking, losing weight, or changing other habits, but it can also help you with:

  • Relaxation
  • Pain relief
  • Stress reduction
  • Insomnia
  • Reduction of stress-related symptoms (headaches,
    dermatological, and gastrointestinal problems)
  • Preparation for medical procedures and surgery
  • Preparation for labor and childbirth
  • Reduction of side effects due to radiation and chemotherapy
  • Enhancement of immune system functioning
  • Enhancement of performance skills, especially athletic and musical performance skill
  • Reduction of fears and phobias, (fear of flying, public speaking, and stage fright)
  • Improvement in test taking

Any situation where you might become anxious can be handled more effectively with hypnosis.

Hypnosis can also be useful for enhancing, healing, and strengthening purposes. It can help increase self-confidence, self-esteem, and feelings of mastery and control.

The experience of hypnosis is usually pleasant. It does not involve going to sleep, losing consciousness, or giving up control.

Instead, it involves entering a state of relaxation, or a state of alertness, where your attention is narrowed and focused and where you are able to screen out distractions. You will know exactly where you are and you will be able to come out of trance at any time.

In My Practice

Typically, when clients come into my office for our first session together, we will talk about what he or she wants to work on and what to expect from hypnosis. Then I will teach him a hypnotic induction procedure.

There are many kinds of inductions; some involving concentrating on breathing and muscle relaxation, or fixing your eyes on a particular spot, or imagining going to a lovely and peaceful place. Some people go into trance very easily and others take longer, but almost anyone who wants to have the experience of going into a hypnotic trance can do so.

The CD programs work similarly as well.

Once you are in trance, I will make suggestions geared to your particular situation.

For example, if you are bothered by headaches, I might ask you to visualize an image of your headache and notice its size, shape, color, texture, etc. Then I might suggest that you modify and transform that image. You could choose to break it up in small pieces, shrink it down to a tiny size, sweep it away, or transform it into an image of a cool mountain lake. There are a multitude of creative possibilities.

Initially, during my office sessions, I will guide my clients but then teach them self-hypnosis so that the practice can continue at home. In some cases, with the client's permission, I can record one or more of the sessions so there is a CD to listen to at home. Often, only a few sessions are necessary before you notice positive results and improvements.

Dr. Shirley McNeal is nationally board certified Clinical Psychologist and an Approved Consultant certified by the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis. She is a Fellow of both the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis and the Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis and currently belongs to the California Psychological Association and the American Psychological Association.

She has one published work, "Inner Strengths: Contemporary Psychotherapy and Hypnosis for Ego Strengthening," three programs with the Hypnosis Network, and maintains a private practice in California.

To learn more about Dr. McNeal and her hypnosis programs, please click here.