John McGrail, C.Ht. (Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist) gives expert video advice on: What are the psychological dangers associated with hypnosis?; Who should avoid undergoing hypnosis? and more...
Is hypnosis safe?
People want to know whether hypnosis is safe and the answer is definitively, absolutely yes. It is a natural natural state of conscious awareness that we all experience every day. Are there risks? Probably not. If a person is suffering from a severe psychotic condition like schizophrenia, hypnosis probably would not be indicated, but anybody that's a professional and ethical would not try it. I suppose if you had a very vulnerable client and a very unethical hypnotherapist, it would be possible, although it's almost impossible to think of that combination happening, for something untoward to happen, but I would say your chances of being struck by lightening are almost about the same. It is a state of consciousness where you are always aware, you're always in control, and no one can make you do, think, say or feel anything you do not wish to. Period.
What can go wrong during a hypnosis session?
Not much can really go wrong that's going to be of great import. The worst possible scenario I can think of is that the client refuses to go into hypnosis. And that's why I'm certified in a bunch of other tools as well. Because there's no one way to skin a cat. If a person feels uncomfortable with what I would consider classical induction, then I might switch to an Ericksonian technique which is much more subtle and permissive. Or I might use some NLP techniques which are done in a more cognitive state. So what can go wrong? The person doesn't enter hypnosis, the person doesn't relax. Very, very rare. I think I've had one person in all the years I've been doing this that simply refused to go into hypnosis. And what I did in that particular instance, 'cause I tried everything and that person wasn't gonna, it wasn't gonna happen, we said good-bye. So that's probably the biggest thing that can go wrong. Because hypnosis is a state of conscious awareness, and because we're always in control of ourselves -- always, always, always -- when we're in hypnosis, if you are given a suggestion, by a hypnotherapist that is either antithetical or untoward or in any way antagonistic, you're simply going to wake up. You're going to come out of that relaxed state and say, "What are you talking about?" And then you get up and you leave. And you don't pay him or her. And the chances of that happening are probably pretty slim because anybody worth their salt is gonna make sure that your experience is pleasant. They want you to be happy. I want my clients to be happy and get their results so they refer all their friends and family to me. That's how I stay in business.
Are there any physical dangers associated with hypnosis?
I have spent a great deal of time, both in my certification process and my doctoral studies, researching the literature. And to my knowledge, there is nothing, nothing physically that can happen as a result of hypnosis.
What are the psychological dangers associated with hypnosis?
If we repress a memory because of a childhood or life trauma, it's because there's a good reason for it to be repressed. Our brain is a marvellous tool and part of our subconscious mind's job is to protect us and keep us safe. So if something happens to a child or even an adult that becomes a repressed memory, it's being repressed for a good reason, and digging it up and reliving it or even remembering it might not be in that person's best interest. The other danger if you will, and it's not really a danger, is that sometimes when we recover memories the memories we recover when in hypnosis aren't real. They can seem very, very real, and that's one of the reasons hypnosis is very rarely used in court in trials because what a person remembers happening under hypnosis may or may not be real and unless there's some way to cooberate that memory with outside proof we can't prove it's real. And so a person could "remember" something that never happened, and it could be extremely tramatic, and it could set off this whole chain, I suppose, of psychological distress that could be avoided. Now there are a lot of ways of looking at experiences that have happened in the past that may not have been pleasant, in what I consider much safer ways. There's a techinque, for instance, called time-line therapy where we look at things from afar, so you're not in it- you're not reliving it, you're looking at something and you don't have to have any emotion attached to it, and we can learn what we need to learn, if that's even appropriate, and quite frankly I use time-line therapy a lot. We can learn what we need to learn about those experiences so that we can release them, the negative emotions associated with them.
Who should avoid undergoing hypnosis?
Quite frankly, I can't think of any, and I'm going to say this with quotes around it, "normal" person, that could be harmed in any way by hypnosis. There is research to suggest that certain psychotic conditions, in particular, schizophrenia, is contraindicated in terms of hypnosis, but we're talking about a psychosis here. And even then, the experts in the field, and these are medical professionals that are doing research on it, far behind the experience and training I have, or probably ever will have, even then, if a psychotic person is introduced to it correctly, probably there will be no harm, but no one in their right mind is going to treat a psychotic person unless they are qualified to do so. So, is there anybody, a "normal" worried person, you know, that's what I like to think, that I work with the worried well of the world. Any worried well person, will probably benefit from hypnosis if they wanted to, but I can't imagine that there would be anybody that shouldn't do it.