Look into my eyes, look into my eyes…
Whilst therapies such as counselling or psychotherapy can easily be done online and that hypnotherapy is no different, I have met many people who believe that, to do hypnosis, one needs to be physically present in the same room as the hypnotiser and that there needs to be some kind of direct eye contact for hypnosis to take place. Others are apprehensive and fear that the process might be unsafe.
It is a fact that, from Kaa’s hypnotic eyes in the Jungle Book, to the fictional hypnotist ‘Kenny Craig’ of Little Britain who, in the blink of an eye gets whatever he wants, to the two adorable (yet highly mischievous), George Beard and Harold Hutchins of Captain Underpants, it is all still here: the hypnotised subject very much is at the close mercy of the hypnotiser...
Don’t get me wrong, I do laugh at these as much as anyone else (and by the way, my son is a fan of Captain Underpants), but I can’t help thinking that these just keep on perpetuating the old and very wrong pre-conceived ideas that to take place, hypnosis needs to be done at close range and that it makes you lose control.
Having the eyes focused on something before starting hypnosis (which in hypnotherapy terms is called an eye-fixation induction) is certainly very common practice. Although this induction is an important process that helps the client go into hypnosis, it is mainly the client who does it by focusing onto something; be a point on the ceiling, her arm, her hand or her breathing… Because importantly, all hypnosis is self-hypnosis; and if no one has yet agreed on what hypnosis really is, that, we know for sure.
No one does hypnosis to you. You do it yourself and to yourself. Simply through the guidance of someone else; like meditation or mindfulness.
Hypnotherapy is a talking therapy and by listening, imagining and engaging with a series of words and imageries, you do hypnosis. No magic, no invisible force or vibes… just the power of your own mind.
Close contact is therefore not necessary; nor is it essential to gaze into the client’s eyes… In fact, I never do the latter and I don’t know a hypnotherapist who does.
Hypnotherapy online: how effective is it?
Online hypnotherapy has certainly been the way forward in recent months for the reasons we understand. And, although it cannot be said that research on the efficacy of online hypnotherapy is plentiful due to the novelty of the practice, some studies have certainly been conclusive in showing that hypnosis work from a distance.
In 2006, Alex Aviv conducted tele-hypnosis (i.e. hypnosis on the phone) on the treatment of adolescents refusing to attend school during stressful exam periods. Sessions were organised on the phone in the mornings whilst students were at home. Out of the twelve school-refusal students, eight managed to maintain full-time attendance, three showed partial improvement and only one case failed.
A randomised controlled trial (Niamh Flynn - 2019) examined the effect of online hypnosis in reducing migraine symptoms. Forty-three participants were randomly assigned to a wait-list control (i.e. no treatment) or a hypnotherapy treatment with MP3-audio recordings targeting various components such as frequency, duration and severity of the pain. The result on the treatment group was convincing and ‘demonstrated that 'hypnosis intervention delivered online was effective in reducing migraine symptoms in migraine sufferers’.
In 2019, Shariq S. Hasan et Al studied the efficacy of online hypnotherapy for irritable bowel syndrome. The study found that ‘65% of subjects suffering from IBS responded to Skype hypnotherapy with all other outcomes significantly improving’ compared to 76% for a face to face; as such concluding that ‘skype hypnotherapy is effective but slightly less so than face-to-face treatment’.
Of course, I strongly believe in face to face therapy since nothing replaces human contact. However, given the ongoing Covid pandemic, online hypnotherapy remains a safe and valuable option.
What to expect during online hypnotherapy
Online hypnotherapy works pretty much the same as any other talking therapy. All you need is a good connection, a comfortable chair and possibly headphones or speakers if you wish to get a better sound. Importantly, you should be alone in a quiet room and away from possible distractions; after all, it is your ‘me’ time!
From a therapist point of view, it is better to be able to see the client when she/he does hypnosis as it gives us clues on how the client experiences it. But I perfectly understand that some might feel uncomfortable being watched online, and I therefore give the choice to my clients. Should you prefer to do the session with the camera turned off, this is not a problem.
Importantly, you do not lose control and you do not get ‘stuck’ in hypnosis. The process is simple: the hypnotherapist counts you out of hypnosis but if for whatever reason, you want to terminate a session earlier, you simply count yourself out of hypnosis.
Finally, although rare, network interruptions may happen and the therapist should always mention to you what to do and what the protocol is in this unlikely event. I personally have my own detailed online guidelines, and should you decide to go ahead online, I will make sure these are communicated to you beforehand.
So don't let misconceptions control you...
Hypnotherapy is a safe and natural therapy method. If you are worried about Covid-19, or simply don't have time to go and meet me for a face to face appointment, don't bypass this option... grab it!
Share the love, not the virus; get better and stay safe.