What is Hypnosis?
Past Life Regression
Hypnotherapy in Colorado


What is Hypnosis?

You're driving down the road, lost in a daydream, and you suddenly notice that you've driven past your exit, or you are miles farther than you remember driving. Welcome to the wonderful, normal, every-day experience of hypnosis!

Although hypnosis is often portrayed as being a sleep state (which it isn't), hypnosis is actually a state of heightened awareness -- an experience of focused attention. A normal tool in our consciousness toolbox.

And, although it might be fun to remember scenes of stage hypnosis -- which fall into the category of entertainment -- where people were clucking like chickens or wearing bags on their heads or taking their clothes off or howling like wolves, those things have little to do with the art and craft of hypnotherapy. And, since one can't be compelled to do something in hypnosis that one wouldn't ordinarily do, there is always an element of choice at work.

Some of the other definitions of hypnosis used in the past are: Hypnosis is guided daydreaming; Hypnosis is a natural, altered state of consciousness; Hypnosis is a relaxed, hypersuggestible state; Hypnosis is a twilight state; and Hypnosis as a process of influential communication.

And even though a pleasant by-product of hypnosis is profound relaxation, being relaxed isn't necessary for hypnosis to occur.

Misunderstandings (Myths) About Hypnosis

Hypnosis is caused by the power of the hypnotist.

False: All hypnosis is self-hypnosis, the client is in total control and chooses to follow the hypnotherapist.

Only certain kinds of people can be hypnotized.

False: Everyone can be hypnotized. As with everything, trance comes easier for some than others. As Milton Erickson said, there are no resistant clients, only unskilled hypnotists.

Anyone who can be hypnotized must be weak-minded.

False: Ability to be hypnotized is not correlated with any personality traits.

Once someone has been hypnotized, one can no longer resist it.

False: If a client chooses not to go into trance, she/he will not.

One can be hypnotized to say or do something against one's will.

False: The conditions necessary to effect such powerful influence (such as brainwashing via torture, etc.) do not correspond to the typical therapeutic encounter.

Being hypnotized can be hazardous to your health.

False: Hypnosis itself is not harmful, but an incompetent practitioner can do some damage through sheer ignorance about the complexity of each person's mind or through a lack of respect for the integrity of each human being.

One inevitably becomes dependent on the hypnotist.

False: Hypnosis as a therapeutic tool doesn't in and of itself foster dependencies of any kind.

One can become “stuck” in trance.

False: Trance is a state of focused attention, either inwardly or outwardly directed. It is controlled by the client, who can initiate or terminate trance as she/he chooses.

One is asleep or unconscious when in a trance state.

False: Trance is not sleep. The client is relaxed yet alert.

One must be relaxed in order to be in trance.

False: Trance is concentrated attention. Relaxation is not a prerequisite.

Hypnosis may be used to accurately recall everything that has happened to you.

False: The mind is not a computer. Memories are stored on the basis of perceptions, and are subject to the same distortions as perceptions. Memory is not reliable.

Hypnosis is different from daydreaming, guided imagery, visualization, meditation.

False: Those are different words for the same phenomenon.

Deep trance is necessary in order for hypnosis to be effective.

False: In process-oriented hypnotherapy (as opposed to stage hypnosis or medical-model hypnosis) powerful transformation is experienced in light, medium and deep trance.



Past Life Regression Hypnotherapy Q & A

Q: What is a past life regression?

A: The word "regression," as it is commonly used, refers to going back to an earlier time, experience, memory, mental state or developmental stage. Past life regression is the intention to go back to a time/place where the client existed in another body before physical birth into the current lifetime. This presupposes a belief in reincarnation or the cycle of birth and death.

Q: What is the difference between a past life regression done while under hypnosis and one that doesn't involve hypnosis?

A: Hypnosis is a natural state. We go in and out of levels of trance all day, every day. I would reframe the question: What is the difference between a past life regression done using the ritual of hypnosis, as opposed to one without any particular ritual? Many people benefit from being guided (in any therapeutic work) by a trusted practitioner. Most hypnosis/hypnotherapy sessions include an induction, which invites relaxation, and the client can relax and choose what directions to follow (or not). In a structured hypnosis/hypnotherapy session, the information provided by the client's unconscious emerges distinct (if done by an ethical practitioner) from the agenda of the hypnotist/hypnotherapist. If the past life regression is simply presented to the client as information directly from the facilitator, it is likely that the shared material tells us more about the practitioner than about the client.

Q: I'm not sure what I think about reincarnation. Is it possible that it is true?

A: There are at least four different possibilities regarding reincarnation. 1) Reincarnation is absolutely true. It is natural that our souls leave one physical vessel at death and enter the body of a newborn, then repeat the pattern. Lives flow in linear fashion, and we keep returning based on various ideas about learning lessons or spiritual evolution. 2) Reincarnation is absolutely true. We exist in a "simultaneous now," where all possibilities -- past, present and future of all choices considered, not considered, taken, and not taken -- exist all at the same time. In this case, there is no "past" to regress to, but simply other dimensions/vibrational realities. We are easily able to sense/experience not only our own other times and places, but all other times and places. All experience is available to everyone. That's why so many people believe they were Cleopatra or Jesus Christ in another incarnation. In this scenario, there is no such thing as separation, or a discrete "me."  This model doesn't work with the idea of "lessons." 3)  Reincarnation doesn't exist at all. Descriptions of past lives are simply the creative imaginations of the participants. This belief is held by many organized religions. 4) The memories are metaphorical stories offered by the unconscious of the individual as a means of education, growth and personal/spiritual expansion.

Q: What if the past life memories are only my imagination? I've had a past life regression before and it feels like I'm making things up.

A: The thing that has always seemed amazing to me is that, out of the millions of images, thoughts, feelings, sensations, etc., that your unconscious mind could have presented to you, why those? In my work as a psychotherapist/hypnotherapist, I've learned that the unconscious doesn't waste time dredging up things that have no deeper meaning to the seeker. It actually doesn't matter if you are having a "real" memory or not. What matters is what your unconscious presented, how it connects to your current life, and why it arose now? Asking yourself those questions will open the door to expanded awareness.

Q: Is there any danger involved in doing a past life regression?

A: For most people, no. Even if the facilitator is unqualified, the likelihood -- for a "normal" person -- is that the participant's inherent self-preservation skills, boundaries and innate wellness will allow the experience to be benign. Problems could emerge if the participant is experiencing mental/emotional distress and the facilitator isn't a licensed psychotherapist. Under those conditions, the practitioner could cause harm by not knowing how to hold a healthy and secure therapeutic environment and how to assist the client to resolve any difficulties that might emerge from the session.

Q: Is there a difference between getting a past life regression because it would be interesting, and getting one for therapy reasons?

A: Yes. My focus is on uncovering the roots of a problem, so I mainly offer past life regression hypnotherapy as another tool for education, healing and growth. Another option is what is often called an "entertainment" past life regression. This is when the participant is curious about the concept of reincarnation, past lives and might be wondering if she/he can be hypnotized. In this case, the focus is on the details of the experience (time, place, descriptions of physical things, gathering information that could be validated) rather than the underlying roots. These exploration-type past life regressions are often done in groups, as well as individually.

Q: Is it true that solving problems that began in another life can change my current life for the better?

A: There's lots of anecdotal evidence to support that. Whether you believe the source of the problem is in an actual other time and place, or you believe your unconscious is using the visions/information to heal you, change seems to happen. As with everything, it is true if you believe it is.


Hypnotherapy in Colorado
Choosing an Ethical Hypnotherapist

The State of Colorado has no particular rules or regulations regarding the practice of hypnotherapy specifically, but it requires all individuals working in a counseling (broadly defined) capacity to register with the State Database. This Database has a generic category for all those practitioners who are not already affiliated with another Professional Board (such as Licensed Psychologists, Licensed Professional Counselors, Licensed Social Workers, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapists, etc.).

This generic category is called "Unlicensed Psychotherapists," which is an unfortunate use of a professional title (Psychotherapist). Unlicensed Practitioner or Unlicensed Counselor would be more accurate labels.

In the category of Unlicensed Psychotherapists is everyone who is working with clients in a counseling/therapeutic capacity, some with Master's Degrees (but not licensed), and most without. Hypnotherapists are listed in this category.

In order to ethically call oneself a Psychotherapist, a professional must have completed at least a Master's Degree in some form of Counseling Psychology from an accredited university.

In Colorado it is common practice for practitioners without a Master's Degree to use the fuzzy category provided by the state ("Unlicensed Psychotherapist") as validation for calling her/himself a "Psychotherapist." In many cases, the only education/training the individual has completed is a hypnotherapy training, or some other certification process.

If the practitioner in question is already ethically misrepresenting her/himself in such a manner, is this really a person you wish to trust professionally?

Do your homework. If you are considering working with a healing/helping professional, check her/his credentials. If that person is claiming to be a "Psychotherapist," is there education to back up that assertion? It might be legally acceptable in Colorado to use this professional title in such a meaningless way, but it is ethically unacceptable.

Another questionable practice is the use of false degrees.

I often see the credential Ph.D. after a practitioner's name, based only on having completed some hypnotherapy certification course called "Doctor of Hypnotherapy." At this time, there is no accredited university Doctoral (Ph.D.) program in hypnotherapy, so if you see this title after someone's name, let your alarm bell sound.

Another favorite is claiming a Ph.D. as a "Doctor of Metaphysics." Once again, there is no accredited university Doctoral (Ph.D.) degree in metaphysics.

When choosing a hypnotherapy certification program, select a program that stresses ethics and expects students to only claim titles, degrees, education and training they have actually completed.

Since being a Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist is a respected title, there is no reason for a hypnotherapist, without an advanced degree, to call her/himself anything other than what she/he actually is.

Anything else is false advertising.


Lynda Hilburn, MA, LPC, CCH, Psychotherapist, Hypnotherapist, Counselor, Psychic, Boulder, Colorado

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