Demystifying Hypnotherapy: Origins, Science, and Fundamentals of Personal Transformation


1/29/20244 min read

What first thought comes to mind when you hear "hypnosis"? I can easily imagine a dazzlingly dressed artist swinging a pendulum in front of a hapless client's nose and, according to my understanding at the time, "hypnotising" them into a mysteriously deep state. It's reminiscent of a scene from Mikhail Bulgakov's mystical novel "The Master and Margarita," but far from therapy. While hypnotherapy is recognised as one of the most practical fields of therapy, myths, fears, and a lack of verified information still create a biased impression. To increase interest in the benefits of clinical hypnotherapy, I share text that will help demystify the perception of hypnosis, introduce different hypnosis schools, and explore the science-backed branch of hypnotherapy.

Hypnotherapy and Everyday Self-Hypnosis

While we still know little about hypnotherapy in Lithuania, this field of psychotherapy has been actively analysed since the earliest days of psychology. Hypnotherapy is a widely practised and recognised psychotherapeutic method that utilises hypnosis. Hypnosis is a method to achieve an increased state of awareness. Also known as "hyper-awareness," it enhances suggestion acceptance for therapeutic purposes. These goals may include personal development, problem-solving, stress and anxiety reduction, and the treatment of physical pain and psychosomatic disorders. After therapy, individuals can apply the tools learned in their daily lives.

The Institute of Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy (UK) notes that in everyday life, we often hypnotise ourselves almost every day ( We believe in automatic negative thoughts, listen attentively to our inner critic, and believe we are inadequate. This identification with thoughts is also considered hypnosis, but a shaman or qualified specialist does not conduct the session by himself. This is where we engage in reverse self-hypnosis. Hypnotherapy specifically employs techniques to help us move from negative thoughts towards positive change.

Roots of Esoteric Hypnosis

By delving into the origins of hypnosis, we can better understand its principles of operation. Hypnosis categories are divided into three primary schools: spiritual practices, "trance-like" hypnosis, and clinically evidence-based hypnosis, which I apply in my practice. Indeed, in clinical hypnotherapy, the word "trance" is not used; in this text, I will use it only for the purpose of describing schools. To better understand the differences between hypnosis schools, let me briefly explain each individual's characteristics.

The first one is the school of spirituality. With the resurgence of spirituality, almost all of us have tried shamanic or colourful esoteric practices. These practices may include, for example, prayer, chanting, sound and smell-induced states or psychedelic substance rituals still practised today. It is precisely spiritual practices that are the first sources where hypnagogic states (a state of consciousness that includes us just before falling asleep, when the body is fully relaxed) were mentioned and experienced. These practices are essential in hypnotherapy as fundamentals that prompted further study of the mentioned state. The main difference from clinical hypnotherapy is that this state of deep relaxation is often less consciously perceived, incompletely controlled, and sometimes occurs spontaneously - it lacks a clear "step-by-step" structure.

The second one, somewhat easier to grasp, is "trance-like" hypnotherapy. Here, we also hear about Ericksonian, transcendental, regression hypnotherapy and other subcategories of hypnosis, the main goal of which is to induce a patient into an altered state of consciousness through hypnosis. Compared to clinical hypnosis, the most significant drawback of this school is the uncertainty of the mentioned state itself and the science's ability to prove its validity.

The third school is clinical hypnotherapy, an example being cognitive behaviour hypnotherapy, also known as Hypno CBT. It is a psychotherapeutic method based on fundamental psychological theories that combine cognitive-behavioural therapy, hypnosis, and mindfulness techniques to improve psychological well-being. One of the main features of cognitive hypnotherapy is safety - the client is in control and alert throughout the session, so they can only accept the suggestions they want to accept. Unlike in previous hypnosis schools, the goal here is not to achieve a state of deep relaxation as the ultimate result but to use it as a tool for personal transformation.

The Process and Science of Cognitive Behavioral Hypnotherapy

During cognitive hypnosis, using techniques such as body relaxation, meditation, and breathing, the client reaches a hypnagogic state and, later, an increased state of suggestibility. In this state, the client is fully conscious, clearly perceiving the surroundings, capable of controlling their actions, and making decisions. Thus, the idea that a person in hypnosis is utterly susceptible to the suggestions of the guiding therapist is incorrect. This process may resemble meditation, but hypnotherapy goes further - after achieving deep relaxation, suggestions are presented to the client. It is precisely in the state of "hyper-awareness" that critical thinking decreases, the analytical mind becomes more open to suggestions, and it becomes easier for the client to change their behaviour.

Working as a clinical CBT hypnotherapist, I have found that a significant advantage of clinical hypnotherapy is no ambiguity. We have a clear structure, process, and clinically proven methodologies ensuring results. Clinical hypnosis is research-based, accredited by clinical associations, and recognised by the scientific community as a branch of clinical hypnosis.

Choosing the Right Hypnosis Field

Modern hypnosis is successfully applied to professional athletes, businessmen, artists, and specialists, as well as to improve the daily quality of life and self-awareness and achieve the best results. There is no one better or worse methodology suitable for everyone. Both spiritual and science-based hypnosis can be effective and help individuals achieve their goals. Some may find it interesting and beneficial to try spiritual practices and journeys through past lives. In contrast, others may find security in the precise structure of hypnotherapy and scientifically validated methodologies. Therefore, when choosing a field of hypnosis, it is advisable to evaluate personally what kind of experience or result is desired.