Ken Goodman L.C.S.W.

Anxiety and OCD Therapy, Coaching, and Self-Help

What is Hypnotherapy?

Not only is hypnosis relaxing, it can be a very effective for reducing anxious behaviors and anxiety overall. Hypnotherapy can increase bravery, build confidence, and maximize motivation. The process begins when a hypnotherapist leads a person into a hypnotic trance. This sounds mysterious but a trance is a natural state we all experience every day. It’s the state of being when you are drifting off to sleep, when you could open your eyes but you would rather not. It’s the state of being when you are day dreaming or deep in thought while driving and suddenly realize you have not been paying attention.

Hypnosis is a state of relaxation and a state of concentration. It’s the opposite of meditation where you try to clear your mind. In hypnosis you focus intensely on a specific goal or task. Have you ever had the experience of being so focus on finding your lost phone you didn’t realize you have been talking on it all along? Whether it’s drifting off to sleep, in deep thought while driving, or looking for the phone in your hand, these are examples of the hypnotic phenomena that people experience naturally, without a hypnotist.

Hypnotherapists guide clients into a trance, where your brainwave activity is very low. In this very relaxed state, the subconscious mind is more open to new ideas and new ways of being. In this state, hypnotic suggestions become very powerful.  Suggestions to tolerate discomfort and uncertainty and maximize bravery makes facing fears easier but this is best accomplished when in a trance.

For adults suggestions have minimal impact without being trance. Suggestions are more easily believed as a child. What does a mother say to her child after he falls and hurts his knee? She kisses the injured knee and says, “all better” and her child suddenly feels better. Suggestions like these do not work for adults because of our analytic mind. We don’t believe that a kiss will make us feel better.


When in a trance, however, the analytic mind is bypassed and the hypnotherapist can speak directly to the subconscious mind. This is why hypnosis can be so powerful.


The conscious mind is what you are aware of.  Your subconscious mind is what you are unaware of or below the surface of awareness. Imagine an iceberg. Some of it is above the surface of the water where it is easily seen. The majority of it is underwater.  Much of what happens to an iceberg is out of sight. This is similar to people. We behave in ways we do not understand.  We lack insight and awareness. We do things without thinking, even things that are not good for us, and we’re not sure why. It’s because of what is going on in our subconscious, out of our awareness.


Hypnosis allows the hypnotherapist to talk to the subconscious mind and influence it in positive ways. In a trance, that the hypnotherapist can bypass the conscious mind, or analytic mind, and speak directly to where the problem lies, in the subconscious.


Although hypnosis has been around for over two centuries many people have misconceptions. These misconceptions come from movies, television, and stage hypnotism. If you have ever seen a live hypnosis show it seems like the hypnotist has power and control over the audience members on stage. This is not true. The hypnotist cannot make you do anything that you do not want to do. You are never under the power and control of the hypnotist or the hypnotic trance. You can always get out of trance by opening your eyes, stretching your body, and standing up. You can’t be trapped in a trance any more than you can be trapped in a dream. You’ll always wake up. Remember, a trance is a natural state.

It is not uncommon for the mind to wander during a hypnosis session or for the person to remember everything afterwards. People sometimes wonder if they were even hypnotized. This does not mean you were not in a trance. The depth of a trance can very and even low-level trances can be beneficial. There is a learning curve and the more you do hypnosis, the more familiar with the process, the more relaxed you become, and the deeper you can go. Going into a trance depends a lot on the person’s willingness to be hypnotized. Hypnosis is not something that is done to you. It’s collaborative process like ballroom dancing. It works best when you follow along.

A hypnosis digital download can be just as effective as an in-person session. In fact, it might be more impactful because you can listen in the privacy of your own home and you can listen repeatedly.  I advise listening to one hypnosis session once a day for maximum benefit. Just like learning any new skill, the more you do it, the better you get, and the quicker you beat your anxiety.