Questions You’ve Always Wanted to Ask Your Therapist About Therapy and Hypnosis

By 
Dr. Rebecca Hoffenberg

How Questions about Psychotherapy and Hypnotherapy Help the Therapeutic Relationship

As a Clinical Psychologist who integrates hypnosis into my practice, my goal is not only to work through the issues that clients hope to address, but also to develop a relationship in which my clients feel supported and understood. As this relationship is paramount to the therapy process itself, it’s important for me to gain a sense of any preconceived notions my clients may have about therapy, hypnosis, and what treatment may entail.

While the goal for a first therapy session is a comprehensive understanding of what the client hopes to achieve, I also like to use this time to address any questions about the therapy process.

It can be daunting to know what to share with your therapist and what to expect from therapy. As such, I take my responsibility as a provider very seriously and ensure that I create an open and safe environment where my clients feel comfortable asking questions. I have found that the more they understand the process, the more they can communicate to me what they want out of therapy; and in turn, I am able to tailor the therapy to fit their needs. This is not always easy, however, since many people may feel reluctant to ask questions. Therefore, to demystify the therapy process, this blog post aims to explore some of the most commonly wondered questions concerning psychotherapy and the use of hypnosis in treatment.

1. Is What We Talk About Really Confidential?

It is crucial that clients feel that it is safe to openly express themselves in treatment, which is why there are laws in place that require therapists to keep clinical information private. Therapy is confidential, meaning that your personal information, or even the fact that you are in therapy, cannot legally be shared with others except in very extreme and rare circumstances.

To feel secure in treatment, clients need to know that what they share will be kept confidential and will not be discussed with anyone without their consent. Therefore, therapists view confidentiality as inherent to the therapeutic relationship and of utmost importance.  

Although confidentiality is our highest priority, there are times that safety concerns take precedence. As stated in the American Psychological Association’s Code of Ethics, therapists are required by law to break confidentiality when they have a reason to believe that their client may harm themselves or someone else. If a therapist is made aware that a vulnerable person — defined as a person with a disability, a child, or a person over the age of 65 — is being harmed, the therapist is required to report this information to social services or law enforcement. Although this can be a difficult conversation, therapists are encouraged to discuss with their clients before they make a report in order to help their clients process this decision with support; the only exception to this would be if the therapist has concerns regarding his or her own safety in doing so. 

2.Can You Over-Share With Your Therapist?

As therapists, we encourage sharing as much as is comfortable for the client. It’s our job to create a safe, supportive environment where our clients can speak freely and openly. Throughout the course of therapy, clients often reveal thoughts, feelings, and behaviors they would not otherwise share with the people they are closest to in their lives. This is a privilege that therapists do not take lightly. As part of our training, we learn to have a different understanding of behaviors, events, and mental illness, and we approach this information with curiosity rather than judgment.

 
While revealing oneself to a non-judgmental professional can offer relief for someone who is struggling, it can also feel unnerving. Trust in the therapeutic relationship is earned over time, and it’s not expected that clients will feel completely at ease right away. Instead, it’s important that clients learn to trust their own judgment and wait to share with their therapist when they are ready. For this reason, I engage my clients in an open dialogue about trust and how they are feeling about the therapy process.

3. What Will My Therapist Think if I Disagree With Him or Her?

Well-trained therapists should be open to feedback and encourage clients to tell them if they are disappointed or if there is something they would like to do differently in therapy. Communicating my openness to this kind of feedback helps my clients feel heard and understood. Like any relationship, , there are times in the therapy process when disappointments, misunderstandings or empathic failures arise.

When a client feels comfortable sharing this with me, I take it as a sign that we are in a good place in terms of our relationship, and I encourage this type of feedback even when it is difficult.

Being honest with your therapist about how you feel can aid in deepening your treatment and getting the most out of your time. When clients learn to be open with their therapist and see that their therapist can handle the feedback, it can serve as practice for expressing concerns with loved ones with whom they fear rejection, abandonment, or retaliation.

4. Do Therapists Like Their Clients?

The therapeutic relationship is unique, and as therapists, we think about this relationship differently than we would another connection in our lives. We take a nonjudgmental stance and understand that, in seeking treatment, our clients are hurting. That being said, one of my favorite aspects of being a psychologist is that I get to meet people who I may not have otherwise encountered in my personal life. I find it difficult to dislike my clients, and instead, I feel a great deal of respect for them and their experiences. As a therapist, we are trained to understand any challenges that come up in therapy and how to navigate that in a way that maintains the relationship. 

5. When Using Hypnosis in Sessions, Can Someone Get Stuck in Trance?  

The idea of being “stuck” in trance is a common myth that stems from misleading portrayals of hypnotherapy in the media and the belief that trance is a unique state that exists only within the confines of formal hypnosis. As discussed by Dr. Cynthia edwards-Hawver, you cannot get stuck in trance, because a “hypnotic trance” is actually a common experience. It occurs during daily life, such as when you are driving on the highway fully alert, and yet you still manage to miss your exit; or when you are so caught up in an engaging movie or book that you lose track of time.

6. Is Hypnosis Mind Control?

This is another common myth about hypnosis, as discussed by the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH). People often begin treatment familiar with the depiction of hypnosis as seen in movies or on stage, however, the way that hypnosis is used in therapy is vastly different. To help my clients better understand hypnosis, I explain to them that I cannot make them do something they do not actually want to do, which the Mayo Clinic explains, as well.

Instead, hypnosis is an adjunct to more traditional talk therapy to help people connect with the part of themselves that is ready and wanting to make a change. The person undergoing hypnosis is fully aware and in control, and can shift his or her focus or move his or her body at any time.

7. Should I See Someone for Hypnosis Who Has a Background in Mental Health?

As a Licensed Clinical Psychologist with a formal education that has allowed me to spend years learning about mental illness and wellbeing, I adamantly believe that a person seeking our hypnotherapy should only see a licensed mental health professional. Unfortunately, it is not legally required that someone be licensed to practice hypnosis; personally, I believe this can have detrimental effects on clients, as it can lead individuals to seek treatment from someone who is not qualified to provide a high standard of mental health care. In contrast, all of us at NY Health Hypnosis & Integrative Therapy are licensed clinicians who are highly trained and only practice within the confines of our areas of clinical competency.

8. Do You Have to Believe in Hypnosis for It to Work?

At NY Health Hypnosis & Integrative Therapy, we see clients who are looking to address their struggles with a combination of therapy and hypnosis.

Hypnosis is not a magical solution, and yet, it can be particularly useful in helping people who have felt stagnant or held back when engaging in other types of therapeutic treatment.

Personally, I find that hypnotherapy is most effective when used as an adjunct to more traditional styles of therapy. While some people have very positive expectations about hypnosis, others can be more skeptical; therefore, I always encourage questions and discussion before beginning hypnosis. From my experience, I think that if a person is open and curious - even if they have doubts - they can benefit from the experience of hypnotherapy.

Dr. Rebecca Hoffenberg is a Clinical Psychologist at NY Health Hypnosis & Integrative Therapy. For questions or to learn more about how mindfulness & hypnotherapy can help you, please contact us here.

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