Frequently Asked Questions About Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy

Hypnosis 4 Health® | San Francisco Hypnotherapy
“What is hypnosis?”
It is not quite sleep, but a natural, normal, relaxed and focused state of attention characterized by:


  • Feelings of well-being
  • Increased muscle relaxation
  • Increased pain threshold
  • Predominating Alpha brain waves
  • Diminished ability to vocalize
  • Fixed stare and/or REM (Rapid Eye Movement)
  • Flashback access of stressful or positive memories
  • Literal, childlike understanding of ideas
  • Ability to rouse oneself at will
  • Ability to accept new ideas and beliefs about yourself if they are sufficiently emotionalized and not in conflict with your values.

Simply put, hypnosis is a focusing and amplifying technique.

There are two basic forms of Hypnosis:

1) Hypnotherapy, in which a qualified Hypnotherapist usually employs interactive guided imagery with the client to reinforce the relaxation response, process emotions, and confront obstacles as in dreaming in REM sleep.

2) Deep Hypnosis, done either with the direction of a Hypnotherapist or as Self-Hypnosis by oneself, which could be described as guided or applied meditation toward a specific goal with a fixed stare.

The trance is part of the normal repertory of states of human consciousness.

It can be any kind of state of narrowed and focused attention or state of absorption. You can be in a focused, work trance, an exercise trance, or a creative, day-dreaming trance, and be totally oblivious to your surroundings or time passing, like when knitting, reading, or doing a puzzle.

Drumming, chanting, dancing, listening and playing music, watching a film, and getting a massage, are all natural trance-inducing activities. Some trance states are more “productive” than others, yet mostly we use trance states to unwind, like before going to sleep or napping.

Taking the time to learn to ‘hang out’ and navigate in that “in-between”, dream-like trance state, and you will be amazed at your hidden resources, abilities and strengths! (Avoiding trance time, and you probably will develop sleep difficulties.)

Most people readily outsource their daily winding down trance state to the biggest hypnotizer of all time: television.

TV commercials are often designed to make a viewer feel inadequate, not empowered, so the viewer will want to buy something to compensate.

And with 60% of TV commercials about junk food, it is no wonder why so many Americans are overweight and struggling with diabetes…Advertising is hypnotic, and it works!

The subconscious part of us is the seat of intuition and creativity; that is why some writers or painters do their best work either early morning or late at night. Their subconscious is closer to the surface then, especially after dreaming in REM sleep (REM often occurs in hypnosis), or in the darkness of night, after a long day and their intellect is tired.

Even with eyes wide open some people go into “highway hypnosis” and drive right past their exit. And what do we have along the freeways whether we like it or not? Billboard advertising!

So if you are going to go into hypnosis everyday anyway, why not learn how to use this valuable tool? A good Hypnotherapist can show you how.

“How do I know if hypnosis will work for me?”
If you are unable to attain your goals, consider this: you may actually be really good at hypnotizing yourself to fail!

Here are 3 ways we psychologically sabotage ourselves:

Firstly, the subconscious part of us will tend to repeat the behavior with the strongest emotional charge associated to it, whether it is “good” or “bad” for us. Usually, if it feels or tastes good, we’ll want more.

By the same token, if you’re stressed out about biting your nails, then you’ll probably end up biting your nails from all the stress. So often we invest more feelings in what not to do or spend time worrying about the problem…and then switching to being in denial that the problem even exists. That is why bad habits are so hard to break; the habits become our story, the one we can’t seem to alter. The more we repeat bad habits, the harder it is to break them.

Secondly, as French Psychologist Emile Coue once said a century ago, “when imagination and reason are at war, imagination always seizes the day.” This is how our greatest fears tend to be realized: we allow our imagination to stray into what could go wrong rather than on what could go right. The effort to use creative imagination sometimes feels insurmountable, especially if we are undergoing a period of low energy or recovering from a health setback.

Thirdly, the subconscious part of us does not respond to negative framing. Telling yourself what “not” to do is like trying not to think of a pink elephant, trying “not” to smoke, or trying “not” to eat French fries; what are you thinking about? Pink elephants, smoking, and French fries. So circulating in a negative thought pattern gets you nowhere.

That is why motivation based upon aversion often fails or only works temporarily.
Fear, anxiety, and guilt are stressful and unhealthy motivators anyway, and decisions made under stress are usually not good decisions. Nobody wants to live with a dark cloud over their heads, stuck in a rut.

So how do you hypnotize yourself to succeed?

Well, winners don’t win by running away from failure!

Self-Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy can help you stay focused on your success, motivating you to take action in a positive, sustainable way, without dwelling in negativity.

Over time you can begin to intentionally associate and amplify stronger feelings to your goal, eclipsing the unproductive and sometimes overwhelming feelings associated with the unwanted behavior that keep you stuck, giving you the metal edge you need to succeed.

“How do I know if I can be hypnotized?”
There are only three types of people that cannot be hypnotized:

  • A person in an active psychotic process or with a thought disorder
  • A person with a low IQ
  • A person who really does not want to be hypnotized

The truth is: all hypnosis is self-hypnosis.

Three conditions must be met for a person to benefit from hypnosis: the person must agree to be hypnotized, participate in the process with their full attention, and be able to use their imagination or improvise.

Actually, hypnotizability is a sign of intelligence and was used extensively by such brilliant artists as Aldous Huxley, Sergei Rachmaninoff, and Mozart. Kevin Costner hired a Hypnotherapist during the filming of “Waterworld” to manage his sea sickness without resorting to the medication that can make you drowsy.

Most people can be hypnotized if they want to be hypnotized. It has to be a voluntary endeavor. No one can hypnotize you against your will. If you bet a friend $100 that you cannot be hypnotized at a stage hypnosis show, and you went up onstage and refused to do what the hypnotist suggested, you’d get dismissed and make $100. When we go to the movies, it’s called, ‘the willing suspension of disbelief’.

“What does hypnosis feel like?”
It feels like in the morning when you hit the snooze button on your alarm, and you are aware of yourself lying in your bed with eyes closed, not quite asleep, but not quite awake either.

Generally, you can feel hypnotic relaxation in your body in some way; either your limbs will feel heavy, like lead or light and tingly, almost numb. (You don’t need to get hooked up to an expensive biofeedback machine to learn this about yourself!)

Sometimes a good indicator of deep hypnotic relaxation is experiencing slight twitches in your body as your nervous system “reboots” and you shift to abdominal (parasympathetic) breathing. Recognizing these sensations is the best biofeedback you could ever have!

“Is hypnosis dangerous?”
Absolutely not.

Hypnosis was approved by the Council of Mental Health of the American Medical Association in September of 1958 as a safe practice with no harmful side effects. At the same time, the AMA vigorously denounced Stage Hypnosis due misperceptions promoted by Stage Hypnotists that might inhibit the public from seeking help with the technique.

To date, no one has been seriously hurt with hypnosis. Those concerned greatly underestimate the ability of the subconscious to protect us; it contains our very survival instinct.

Fundamentalist religious leaders both from the East and West who wish to frighten and disempower their followers often portray Hypnosis as dangerous or involving the occult.

Fear, ignorance, and peer-pressure have caused more people to hurt themselves and/or others, even while wide awake, than would ever occur as a result of a Clinical Hypnotherapy session with a qualified Hypnotherapist.

“Can I be made to do things against my will or could I be raped?”
Absolutely not.

You could never be made to do anything against your will or contrary to your value system.

However, you might act on suggestions in a Stage Hypnosis show that seem out of character, just like you might act silly if you were moderately intoxicated, due to the disinhibiting effect of both alcohol and the charged emotional atmosphere onstage.

You would not unknowingly reveal your deepest secrets either; it is even possible to lie in Hypnosis, which is why legal testimony using hypnosis is not permissible evidence in a court of law.

For young people, peer pressure is much more dangerous and more likely to cause harm!

A person will only act upon suggestions that serve them in some way or reinforce an expected behavior, anything else their subconscious will just ignore.

Most people develop these misperceptions from seeing or hearing about a Stage Hypnosis show, or when Hypnosis is used as a ploy to advance for the plot of a movie, which, you must understand, are both done for entertainment purposes only, not to help or educate people.

“How does Stage Hypnosis work?”
In order to “hypnotize” a person into performing silly or bizarre behavior onstage, like what you might expect to see in a Theatre Arts improvisation class, the circumstances or “frame” must warrant the behavior.

Usually, the charismatic or “kingly” Stage Hypnotist takes the stage with much flourish and a microphone, and sets his agenda in motion in front of an inquisitive audience, relying on the emotionally charged atmosphere to motivate his “subjects” to conform and act out his “commands”. It is all done in the name of good fun.

But the Stage Hypnotist most certainly does not have “control” over the participants. He or she is giving adults an excuse or permission to act silly, and they take the bait. A well-known Stage Hypnotist once told me that if the audience and volunteers have had a few drinks, all the better.

Remember, the Stage Hypnotist always asks for volunteers (no, they are not planted), and usually the volunteers have seen a show before so they know what to expect

After the initial hypnotic induction the Stage Hypnotist will then reinforce compliance by asking all noncompliant volunteers to leave the stage as he rearranges the chairs, which also amplifies a feeling of specialness or being “talented” in those who remain compliant.

Then the compliant people left up onstage are asked to act in a bizarre and silly manner and are having all the fun. There is much laughter and clapping present to spur on the silliness, while the rest of the audience also grapples with the projected fear of embarrassment or loss of control they might feel if they were up onstage acting what they might consider as “stupid”.

Take for example, the young guy onstage who is “hypnotized” to think he has been given x-ray glasses that supposedly enable him to see through people’s clothing. He opens his eyes, peers into the audience, and starts smiling from ear to ear. Is he really seeing nude people? Of course not! He sees the woman in the front row cover her breasts with her arms in fear, thinking that somehow he can see through her blouse, and it is hilarious! He’s cracking up at the audience, and they think he’s enjoying himself seeing through everyone’s clothes. So who is really hypnotized?

That is why the Stage Hypnotist does little in the realm of educating the audience on how it all works, thus creating in the spectator a state of surprise, wonderment, awe (like any good magician can) and maybe even a little fear that would keep a person from ever pursuing how to use this helpful tool.

Essentially the Stage Hypnotist is hypnotizing the audience into thinking he or she has some kind of magical power over people, for ultimately, their agenda is to make a name for himself or herself and book more shows.

Of course, Clinical Hypnotherapy differs greatly from Stage Hypnosis in that it serves the client’s agenda exclusively and does not serve to promote the illusion that the Clinical Hypnotherapist possesses “magical or occult powers”.

A good Hypnotherapist will provide you with a therapeutic experience plus the hypnotic tools to empower yourself.

Most importantly, remember this: if you really believe you can change or heal yourself, you can!

“Is there any difference between Clinical Hypnosis and Medical Hypnosis?”
No there is not.

Medical Hypnosis is Clinical Hypnosis and vice versa.

The US Department of Labor makes no distinction, a hypnotherapist is a hypnotherapist, whether or not they have a license to practice medicine or psychology.

Some medical professionals are using the term “Medical” Hypnosis so they can simply charge more for the same service. I would recommend checking how long the person has been in the practice of hypnotherapy and whether or not they teach self-hypnosis or record personalized sessions as part of their practice so you can get your money’s worth from whomever you choose.

Several years ago, the Mayo Clinic published a comprehensive article by James Stewart on the efficacy of hypnosis in medicine. “Hypnosis in Contemporary Medicine” includes documentation of the value of hypnosis shown in clinical trials for a wide variety of medical uses.

Studies are detailed on hypnosis for pain relief, allergies, anesthesia for surgery, dermatology, gastroenterology (including IBS), healing from surgery or injury, hematology (hemophilia), hypertension, neurology (including for headaches), obesity, obstetrics, oncology, otorhinolaryngology (tinnitus), pulmonary medicine (for asthma and smoking cessation), rheumatology (for fibromyalgia), and urology (sexual functions like erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, and urinary incontinence). You can download this excellent 14-page article from the Mayo Clinic website now as a PDF

“How do I know I’ve been hypnotized?”
The shift into a hypnotic state can be subtle at first. As you allow yourself to become absorbed in the imagery, you will experience a distortion in your perception of time. 30-40 minutes will seem like five minutes. You will feel sensations of deep relaxation like your body is sleeping and your mind is awake. Buried feelings are more accessible while entranced, as well as memories from long ago

This sets the stage for an updating, clearing, experiential learning process or what we term a “corrective emotional experience” in Hypnotherapy.

In Deep Hypnosis, as your awareness phases in and out, and thoughts parade on by, there may be parts of the MP3  recording you may not remember consciously, but the subconscious part of you will. (People who fall asleep while watching TV often start dreaming about what they are hearing on TV.) When using Self-Hypnosis consistency is more important than hypnotic depth.

You will awaken out of hypnosis feeling rested, with very pleasant, somewhat euphoric feelings of well-being.

Remember that hypnosis is a normal, natural state of mind, not a state of being unconscious or drugged, so don’t expect a radical, unnatural change in awareness. It’s like lucid dreaming; the imagery can be quite compelling.

“How long will it take before I notice a change?”
In one session, you can expect to become more relaxed than you are right now. That in itself can be a big change!

Ever notice how just talking about a weight problem or an erectile problem usually creates a bit of tension and anxiety? If you are going to work with the body, then the ability to relax around the issue is an important first step.

If you can agree that the ability to intentionally relax yourself would be helpful for improving your health and mental focus, then in the very first session at least you will learn how to do that.

The problem is usually not lack of information, it’s lack of the right kind of motivation to make course adjustments and get them to stick. Hypnotherapy bridges that gap between the head and the heart by making your goal much more emotionally compelling.

So in the first Hypnotherapy session, we facilitate a positive “corrective emotional experience” for the subconscious part of your mind to “pivot” from and turn the corner toward a new behavior or outcome.

Then you should expect to listen to a Personalized Self-Hypnosis MP3  Recording daily for at least one month for reinforcement.

The inherently hypnotic and creative “positive imaging” process over time can eventually help lift your goal out of the ineffectual, hazy, “just a concept” realm and focus your goal into a more decisive aim.

Depending upon the intensity of your session or the number of times you have listened to your Personalized Self-Hypnosis MP3 Recording, you will notice suggestions for the desired behavioral changes spontaneously popping into your conscious mind almost immediately. The subconscious part of your mind will attempt to prompt you out of your old patterns with these positive cues.

In other words, your conscience will “wake up” to the habit. This is the first step in reprogramming yourself, by raising your awareness of the habitual patterns you’re in.

Next, it is up to you to get real with yourself, be an adult, and consciously act upon these positive cues with a new behavior, taking it one day at a time…then one week at a time.

“To be or not to be, that is the question”, wrote Shakespeare.

As they say, it takes 21 days to make or break a habit…or rehearse for a new part in a play.

In many respects, hypnosis is not about sleep, but about being more awake, but in a relaxed, low stress way, without using fear, shame or guilt as motivators.

“Does hypnosis weaken the will?”
Absolutely not.

You will not develop a dependency on the Hypnotherapist, either, since Hypnotherapy is, in my opinion, best practiced as a short-term, goal-orientated therapy.

These misperceptions are sometimes expounded by unenlightened Yoga teachers or fundamentalist preachers who play upon a follower’s fear of loss of self-control. They are fearful of the fact that hypnosis is a tool to gain more self-control and self-empowerment, by putting you in touch with your own inner guru.

A good Hypnotherapist will teach you Self-Hypnosis or provide you with Self-Hypnosis recordings, or both, to help you strengthen your will and reconnect with your power.

“What if I don’t wake up?”
You would simply fall asleep, and soon wake up like after a nice nap. (If you think about it, I would have to store all the people that didn’t ever wake up in a warehouse or something, which by now would have been discovered, and you’d have heard about it on the tabloid news shows!)

Falling asleep during hypnosis and waking up long after a Self-Hypnosis MP3 Recording is over, probably just indicates you are stressed out and could use more hours of sleep in your life.

Never play a Self-Hypnosis recording while driving a car! Self-Hypnosis is best practiced as a little “down time” at lunch or dinner time, but not late at night, unless you need help getting to sleep or back to sleep, in which case bed time is fine.

“Can hypnosis make me want to eat right or stop smoking?”
When a person asks me this, I question their desire to change.

Hypnosis cannot “make” you want do something that you really don’t want to do. If you love to smoke or eat too much chocolate, who am I to deprive you of something you love?

A person could not be hypnotized out of the blue to run a marathon; but hypnosis could definitely serve to improve a runner’s overall performance, primarily by enhancing their positive expectation of winning. It could easily be mental edge that makes the difference between a bronze and a gold medal.

Hypnosis is a tool, like a hammer. You don’t expect the hammer to drive the nail in for you by itself. There is no easy substitute for making efforts. But it is a whole lot easier using a hammer to drive in a nail than using your hand.

It’s all about focus, aim, and how you choose to motivate yourself…either reactively (away from a negative) or proactively (toward a positive).

Personally, I prefer amplifying the positive; it is usually more sustainable. Who wants to spend their life running away from something?

“Why not just use e-cigarettes, the patch, gum, or pills to quit smoking?”
My question to you is: what happens when you stop using the patch or the drug?


You will tend to relapse because you haven’t made any real changes to the subconscious part of you where your Habit Center resides!

Remember, don’t think that if you are “addicted” to nicotine that you have no choice in the matter. Many, many people have come to see me after failing with the patch and then have succeeded using hypnosis. That’s because hypnosis is self-empowering, while considering yourself totally addicted is not.

The “addiction model” is what weakens the will, not the substance itself! Have you noticed how expensive the patch or gum is? Nicotine “addiction” is good business! You’ll just keep coming back for more.

FYI, smoking cessation drugs are not new, they are repackaged anti-depressants, which may in fact cause the very symptoms they are supposed to ‘fix’: anxiety and nervousness! Also bear in mind that millions of people on anti-depressants still smoke, they don’t suddenly stop craving nicotine by taking a pill! It’s just not that simple.

I question the wisdom of chemically manipulating a person’s dopamine levels or messing with the brain’s pleasure center. From Wikipedia: “Pharmacological blockade of brain dopamine receptors increases rather than decreases drug-taking behavior. Since blocking dopamine decreases desire, the increase in drug taking behavior may be seen as not a chemical desire but as a deeply psychological desire to just ‘feel something’.”

People still do things out of habit that they don’t enjoy.

How is the chemically-treated new non-smoker supposed to derive pleasure from other activities like walking that would help them stay a non-smoker if they are dulling their pleasure center with a drug?

It is no wonder there is such a dismal success rate with these products (20-30%). And according to recent article covered by the Associated Press, the FDA is investigating reports suggesting “increasingly likely” links with the new anti-smoking drug, and “depression, agitation, and suicidal behavior.” Why? This drug doesn’t just inhibit the pleasure derived from smoking, it inhibits the pleasure derived from EVERYTHING! That doesn’t sound like good medicine to me.

Some people ask me if e-cigarettes help a person stop smoking.

My professional opinion is that they do not.

Although there may be some harm reduction to vaping nicotine rather than smoking it, (bearing in mind that not enough studies have been done yet about the possible long-term effects of vaping), nicotine is still an extremely toxic and habit forming substance, can still cause heart disease and cancer.

ONE TENTH OF ONE FLUID OUNCE OF PURE NICOTINE IS A LETHAL DOSE. Lately, I have been seeing an increase in clients who come to see me to get off e-cigarettes, as they have for the patch and gum, because they found themselves vaping far more than they originally smoked!

It also appalls me that e-cigarettes are “marketed” as a smoking cessation aid, yet often are sold side-by-side with other tobacco products…it’s like going to a heroin dealer for your methadone!

To find out how my Stop Smoking NOW!™ Program will help you become a non-smoker without the need of harmful medications or prolonging the agony. click here to set up your FREE, 30 minute consultation and hypnotic screening at my office location.

“Do I need to see a Hypnotherapist or do MP3s work as well?”
That depends on several factors, including the nature and depth of your problem.


General self-hypnosis recordings will only give you general results. I have found that individuals respond better when they are treated as individuals, so I think you’ll agree that the personalized approach is better.

Also, there may not be a good Hypnotherapist in your area, in which case my custom-made, Personalized Self-Hypnosis MP3 Recordings are the next best choice. To order your MP3 recording, use the secure MP3 Order Forms located on the various service pages I offer on my site.

If you think your problem necessitates a private session, like with smoking cessation, shop around; in order for your subconscious to feel safe enough to resolve the underlying cause(s) of your symptom or problem, you must feel your Hypnotherapist listens to you deeply and understands your needs.

You must also feel comfortable about your Hypnotherapist’s techniques, level of experience, and professionalism. You must also like the sound of their voice!

If you live in the SF Bay Area, and would like to set up your FREE 30 minute consultation to learn how hypnosis can work for you, please click here.

“What about ‘False Memory Syndrome’?”
Here’s the scoop. Confirmation bias, propaganda, yellow journalism, fake news, trauma, emotional abuse, all can cause False Memory Syndrome (FMS).

When the amygdala is active during stressful, emotionally charged experiences, emotional memories are stored but sometimes in fragments that when consolidated over time and cobbled together to make sense, creates a false narrative of the experience or set of experiences. This can naturally lead to false memories.

In a therapeutic setting, FMS might occur, for instance, when a psychiatrist, social worker, or other health professional poorly trained in psychology uses hypnotic techniques with an emotionally unstable client to fulfill the clinician’s agenda of supposedly “uncovering” repressed memories of a specific theme.

The unskilled therapist asks the hypnotized client leading questions in an effort to uncover preconceived theories of child abuse, or find “proof” of the therapist’s own conspiratorial fantasies of satanic rituals, or UFO abductions. Creating a false narrative can confuse the unstable client and is obviously serving only the interests of the therapist, not the client.

The average person would begin to suspect something was inappropriate and simply either terminate the session by opening their eyes or walk out and not return.

(Generally speaking, Hypnosis should not be used with an emotionally or mentally unstable person anyway. A qualified Hypnotherapist is trained to refer such a person to another Mental Health Professional.)

Bear in mind that having an advanced degree in Psychology or Medicine may give a Practitioner the right to claim that they can do Hypnosis as part of the services they offer, but that is no guarantee that they have had specialized training or adequate experience in the holistic art of Hypnotherapy.

Make sure your Hypnotherapist is currently certified by a well-established hypnotherapy certification association (and therefore accountable) like the American Council of Hypnotist Examiners, and has had at least 200 to 300 hours of specific training in Hypnosis.

In fact, the most notorious and well-documented court case claiming damages due to FMS occurred with a very manipulative American Psychiatrist who also put their emotionally unstable patient on powerful psychiatric medication and used coercive techniques in “psychotherapy” to forcefully suggest the patient had experienced something in childhood they had not. (It was later revealed that the Psychiatrist needed support for their pet theory of wide-spread satanic rituals taking place in America so they could write a book about it.)

Throughout the ordeal, which lasted over the course of several years, the patient periodically expressed their disbelief, only to be overridden by the doctor acting as an authority figure and then prescribed more dosage of major tranquilizers.

It took a great deal of time, constant duress, and the use of powerful drugs for this Psychiatrist to establish this false memory in their patient, which was very confusing for the patient, but ultimately not permanent.

Although this makes a great tabloid news story, false memories could not happen without constant reinforcement coupled with mind numbing medications, which typically are not present in short-term, goal oriented Hypnotherapy.

Now that being said, people do watch repetitive and opinionated, zealous “news” programs, too, and sometimes drink alcohol to manage stress…which in my opinion combined over time sets the stage for a misinformed public infected with false memories as a result of toxic propaganda and fake news!

“What the heck is ‘NLP’?”
“NLP” or Neuro-Linguistic Programming is a hybrid form of hypnosis and one of many techniques that a qualified Hypnotherapist may use. Don’t be fooled by fancy sounding words.

Make sure your NLP Practitioner is also a Hypnotherapist with in-depth training in hypnosis techniques as does a ACHE Certified Hypnotherapist. NLP is a useful tool in building rapport with friends or potential sales clients, but used for personal growth and without traditional hypnotic inductions, in many cases it does not attain the hypnotic depth that profound inner healing necessitates for long lasting results.

“Hypnotherapist” is a legally recognized profession by the US Department of Labor.

“How can I learn more about how hypnosis works?”
To read more in-depth about how hypnosis works and view a list of recommended reading, please click here.

Get started today!

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