What Are The Different Types of Hypnosis?

Our Hypnotherapy Experts

What is hypnosis?

Despite persistent myths about hypnosis — and its fictional use in movies to program sleeper agents or make someone quack like a duck — hypnosis is an effective therapeutic tool for meaningful healing and lasting change.

Hypnosis is a natural state of deep relaxation and heightened awareness that can be reached in a matter of minutes. It has been compared to meditation and “flow state” in terms of narrowed focus and a shifting sense of the passage of time.

In this calm, hypnotic state, your therapist uses suggestion to guide you away from painful rumination and toward solutions to your problems. This immersed concentration can open the mind to new experiences and positive transformation.

You might already know that hypnosis can be especially beneficial in addressing problems related to stress, trauma, grief, phobias, anxiety, sleep issues, pain management, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), migraines, and unwanted habits like nail-biting or overeating.

But did you know that there are different types of hypnosis?

The history and types of hypnosis

Eighteenth-century physician Franz Mesmer is often credited with the discovery of hypnosis. However, Mesmer practiced what he called “animal magnetism” to cure his patients of various ailments, and he worked with metal rods and electrical charges to produce a trance-like state — not at all how hypnosis is practiced today.

Mesmer’s contemporaries and later practitioners eschewed his metal rods in favor of focusing their patients’ attention — on a gold pen, for instance — and then suggesting that they simply “go to sleep.” These hypnotists then used hypnotic suggestion to help effect lasting change.

While there are many methods of hypnosis, there are two primary types in current practice: traditional hypnosis, which is also referred to as direct or authoritarian hypnosis; and the Ericksonian approach.

Traditional or direct hypnosis centers on direct commands given by the therapist while the client is in a hypnotic state. This type of hypnosis is typically applied to self-improvement, and is also the kind of hypnosis used by stage hypnotists with willing volunteers to entertain audiences. 

Examples of direct suggestion in traditional hypnosis include commands like “you fall asleep easily” or “you naturally go to bed on time and rest peacefully through the night,” when working with someone who struggles with insomnia. For a client dealing with sugar cravings, the therapist might use direct suggestion to remind them how they get a stomach ache after consuming sweets, and instruct them instead toward a healthier habit.

While the traditional approach is straightforward, it works best for people who eagerly follow orders and aren’t prone to resistance. For clients who are critical thinkers, direct suggestion may not be especially effective. Some studies found that direct suggestion hypnosis has a success rate that rarely tops 30-percent, and that it might carry a higher relapse rate.

The more modern Ericksonian approach to hypnosis, pioneered by American psychiatrist and psychologist Milton Erickson, focuses on each client’s unique needs and circumstances and carries a higher success rate. 

Instead of using direct suggestion, the Ericksonian approach relies on the use of metaphors and storytelling to encourage clients to think creatively and come to organic, constructive conclusions. The underlying theory is that most people are less resistant to indirect suggestion. This type of hypnosis supports clients in developing new skills and embracing new perspectives.

The benefits of the Ericksonian approach

Ericksonian hypnosis is the preferred approach by many professional practitioners, including the therapists at NY Health Hypnosis & Integrative Therapy.

Born in 1901, Milton Erickson contracted polio as a teenager. He survived, but was left paralyzed and in extreme pain. This experience gave him great empathy for the clients he would see later in his life.

His approach to hypnosis, using indirect suggestion, is considered to be both subtle and respectful. Instead of an authoritarian therapist controlling the hypnosis session, the Ericksonian approach places the client in control, with the therapist acting as a guide. Each client is viewed as an individual with unique strengths and needs — and with an innate drive toward meaningful goals — and their treatment is tailored accordingly.

Erickson noted that we fall into trances every day — for instance, when we become lost in thought during meetings or on the drive to work, or when creatives or athletes find themselves in “flow state.” He believed the unconscious mind is listening, even when we’re not in a deep hypnotic trance — and that the creative unconscious mind is wise and can be trusted to find solutions to our problems.

Because many people don’t accept or respond well to authoritarian commands, Erickson used deliberately vague language in his indirect suggestions, engaging the client’s mind to fill in the gaps. 

A key element of the Ericksonian approach is “confusion,” or distracting the conscious mind in order to open the creative power of the unconscious through the use of metaphors, contradictions, the unexpected, and stories. This technique allows clients to discover their own ideas and solutions related to their problems, essentially creating their own blueprint for success.

How we use Ericksonian hypnosis in an integrative approach to help our clients

Our team of clinical psychologists is committed to the highest level of client care — something we’re able to achieve by thinking outside of the box. We incorporate alternative approaches like hypnosis and EMDR, because we are passionate about using all the tools available to help each client move forward.

Each of us here at NYHH emerged from our post-doctoral training wanting something more to help our clients — something more effective, more heartfelt, and more unconscious. Hypnosis was the answer. 

We use Ericksonian hypnosis to help our clients get in touch with the part of themselves that wants to change. This method quiets the thoughts and resistance that get in the way of progress.

Hypnosis is not a quick fix or a stage show. When performed by a trained mental health professional, hypnosis can help clients let go of unwanted habits, encourage positive thinking, boost self-confidence, strengthen the mind-body connection, and provide relief from a variety of mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and eating disorders.

While we find the integration of hypnosis to be extremely useful in the therapy process, hypnosis is only one of the many forms of therapy that we use in our sessions. We use a variety of therapy techniques, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Psychodynamic Therapy, Emotion-Focused Therapy (EFT), and Eye Movement Desensitization Therapy (EMDR). 

Each of our therapists has a unique approach to incorporating their primary form of therapy, and we tailor each session to best address the needs of the client.

When hypnosis is applied conscientiously, clinical research demonstrates that hypnosis can help reduce anxiety and relieve pain. It can help you cease unwanted habits and get better sleep. It can help with stress management and can reinforce constructive coping skills and resilience.

Our integration of hypnosis extends client progress far beyond the results of traditional therapy used in isolation. When used in combination with other therapy modalities, hypnosis is an effective tool for positive change and growth.

Everyone has the ability to change their life in a meaningful and lasting way, though many people need a little support in finding effective ways to bring about those changes. We use Ericksonian hypnosis to help our clients uncover the unconscious reasons they have previously failed to reach their goals, and to guide them as they develop effective strategies for bringing about their desired changes.

Our Hypnotherapy Experts are Clinical Psychologists at NY Health Hypnosis & Integrative Therapy that specialize in combining hypnosis and therapy for treating mental health issues. To get in touch or learn more about how combining therapy and hypnosis can help you, please contact us here.

To make an appointment, please click the button below: