What It’s Really Like To Get Hypnotherapy
It's a dream. Literally.
Have you ever wished someone could rewire your brain, making all of your problems disappear? Maybe you suffer from chronic anxiety or want to stop biting your nails. Perhaps, no matter what you do, you just cannot sleep well.
I fell into the last category. After trying every home remedy, self-help book and herbal tea out there, it was time to try something different before I did a Chandler and woke up in a work meeting with a one-way ticket to Tulsa.
Hypnotherapy, a friend suggested. Weekly sessions are designed to lull you into a state of deep and total relaxation, within which you can access and change the parts of your brain linked to habits and behaviours. My sole experience of the practice up until this point went no further than watching Derren Brown trick fans into sitting in ice baths until their heart rates dropped to well below average, so I was sceptical, to say the least.
After a lot of research and a phone consultation with Jaimie Crooks, qualified South London hypnotherapist and life coach, I actually felt hopeful I could make progress in a few short sessions. The dream, right?
I explained to Jaimie that when it was time to sleep, my mind decided that it was the perfect opportunity to go over every stupid thing I might have said or done since late 1999. Yes, you looked ridiculous in that prom dress, no, you weren’t clever enough to pass that exam/get that job/dump your shitty ex/buy Cryptocurrency. THANK YOU, BRAIN. So what could she do?
Jaimie assured me that I wasn’t the first client to tell her my anxious brain would never, ever fall asleep on her watch (or her lovely couch, to be precise), and I wouldn't be the last to be proved wrong. But how? I couldn’t even sleep in the comfort of my own bed – how could a stranger help me?
I filled out a questionnaire, explaining what I wanted out of three sessions with the Harvard and University of London graduate (eight hours of Zs a night, please – and a winning lottery ticket, if you’re asking). Jaimie explained that she recorded sessions and emailed them to clients afterwards, so I could listen to her instructions lying in bed at night, and she could even hypnotise me via Skype if needs must. A super-modern solution to an age-old problem. I was intrigued, scared and even allowed myself to be a little bit excited.
Opting to travel to her Kensington clinic, I was pleased to find two cats and an endless supply of tea. An hour with two fluffballs and some herbal infusions could be nothing but good for my soul, right? Jaimie reviewed what I’d written in my questionnaire, which asked everything from what medication I might be taking to how my exercise regime looked, to what my goals for the future might be. Taking a holistic approach to my brain and body's current situation, no stone was left unturned. Next, she asked if I’d prefer to sit or lie on the sofa while she rewired my brain’s theta waves. Sure. No biggie. Totally normal and fine.
Explaining that her clients seek help with everything from quitting smoking to getting promoted at work, she explained that hypnotherapy can be extremely effective. By drawing you into a ‘suggestable’ state where you’re more likely to take in good advice from trained practitioners, you don't actually 'sleep’ at all. I'd describe the feeling as more of a dream-like state, which admittedly took a couple of sessions to fully relax into.
The process was this: I closed my eyes as Jaimie counted from 5-1, leading me and my brain down a long, spiral 'staircase,' to a dreamy state of rest. I was encouraged to settle into a growing sense of calm and safety, consciously aware of the sensations in my body (a lot of mental squirming and discomfort, essentially - what was I even doing there?!).
Before I had time to think too deeply, I was instructed to look directly into an imagined, brilliant bright light that would make my eyes feel heavy. It didn't, but I duly followed my instructions. I focused on gentle breathing and total relaxation - not being in the habit of setting aside time to focus on myself, I thought, hey, even if this feeling is a placebo… I’m digging it. By the end of the first session, I felt a bit embarrassed, so 'awake' I insisted I could transcribe Jaimie's dialogue back word-for-word as 'proof' that I'd stayed conscious the whole time. By my third visit, I was astonished to open my eyes, blinking at the ceiling light, wondering where the hell 15 minutes had just gone.
Hypnosis is essentially meditation with intent - literally, 'positive vibes'. Scientific research has proven that the brain produces consistent waves at all frequencies, and that hypnotised subjects show a boost in the lower frequency waves that are associated with the dream state of sleep. Therefore hypnotherapy helps you focus on your goals and turn away from thoughts that hold you back from achieving them (the ones that pop up when you're fully alert). A lot more effective than Lush lavender body cream.
While in the dream state a hypnotherapist will repeat positive affirmations, such as ‘you can easily become whatever you want to be in life’, or ‘you can achieve restful sleep.' Training your brain to subconsciously recall these in testing times.
In one session, Jaimie talked about ‘travelling back to times of childhood, to some of my earliest attempts at growth,' and, instead of digging deep into traumatic moments like you might with counselling sessions, encouraged me to remember the positive instances of excitement, strength and newness from my youth (in this case, learning to walk for the very first time). It might sound a little 'out there' on paper, but in the moment it feels truly indulgent. The absolute embodiment of #selfcare.
This is your time to harness feelings and strengths that might currently lay dormant inside of you, covered up by everyday distractions (hello, Instagram) and weights on the mind (hello, ex's Instagram).
This, in turn, relaxes your mental state and helps you function better. For me it took a few sessions to fully switch off and give myself up to the idea, but when I did it was like a lightbulb going on (or switching off, to be more accurate). I walked out feeling lighter, calmer and more prepared to deal with the issues subconsciously stopping those Zzz’s, and I finally started to get some shut-eye.
Jaimie’s practice expanded out to life coaching, exploring these areas for improvement and accomplishment by encouraging me to consider the thoughts that naturally popped up during the sessions, and how I could work on them when not lying horizontal. Not all practitioners do this, so it’s worth doing some research into the kind of help that would benefit you. For a cynical, stubborn person like myself, it was a lesson in surrendering a little power to someone else for a bit, mark out my #lifegoals (actual, not Instagram) and setting aside time to look after myself. I’d recommend that to absolutely everyone. After a few sessions it turns out that it’s so easy, you can do it with your eyes closed.
MTV tried hypnotherapy with private coach and hypnotherapist Jaimie Crooks. You can book a free telephone consultation at Definitelydefinitely.com.
By Amy Everett