The 6 most popular types of hypnosis (and how they work)
There is not a single way to hypnotize. This article shows you the varied ways hypnosis is applied.
Hypnosis is a method that promotes behavioral changes through suggestion. Depending on the definition we base ourselves on, we can conceptualize hypnosis as a psychological state or a set of mental attitudes and processes; today, the scientific community associates it with expectations or brain waves.
This article looks at the most prevalent types of hypnosis: the traditional method, which is based on direct verbal suggestion, developed by Milton Erickson, cognitive-behavioral hypnosis, self-hypnosis, Marisa Peer’s RTT (Rapid Transformational Therapy), and neurolinguistic programming or NLP, which without being precisely a form of hypnosis is mostly part of the Ericksonian variant.
The most popular types of hypnosis
Below we will describe six of the best known behavioral change techniques, which include the use of hypnosis. Of course, there are many other versions, and there may be professionals or devices that combine more than one of these methods.
Traditional hypnosis (by suggestion)
The history of traditional hypnosis dates to Franz Mesmer’s unconventional methods, which involved magnets and became popular in the late 18th century. James Braid later showed his opposition to mesmerism hypotheses and proposed that hypnosis was a state of the nervous system, while Pierre Janet attributed it to psychological dissociation.
Traditional hypnosis is based on the induction of a trance state; once the hypnotized person has reached the desired state, they will receive suggestions in verbal format regarding their behavior or mental content. Thus, this method aims to influence behavior, for example, by suggesting that the person abandon a negative habit or belief.
Today the classic method remains the most widely used form of hypnosis worldwide. From a theoretical point of view, it relates to the hypothesis of the unconscious mind raised by Freud, that likely inspired the later developments of psychoanalysis and influencing orientations different from this as cognitivism.
Milton H. Erickson, an American psychologist who is considered a pioneer in this field and in psychotherapy in general, developed Ericksonian hypnosis. This author should not be confused with Erik Erikson, a German evolutionary psychologist known mainly for his theory of the eight stages of psychosocial development.
Ericksonian hypnosis is not carried out through direct suggestions but through metaphors that promote creative and thoughtful thinking. Because of this, it is attributed to greater efficacy than classical hypnosis in people refractory to hypnosis, with a low level of suggestibility or who are skeptical of the procedure.
Erickson’s influence is not limited to hypnosis and neurolinguistic programming, which we will talk about later. The central aspect of its intervention model, the weight of the relationship between the therapist and the client in achieving change, was collected by the strategic school and solution-focused short therapy, both part of the systemic approach.
The cognitive-behavioral perspective conceives hypnosis as a set of methods that promote behavioral change through suggestion. This phenomenon is understood because of the interaction between factors such as the state of physical relaxation, the use of imagination, or the person’s expectations and beliefs.
Some therapists who adhere to cognitive-behavioral orientation use hypnosis techniques to complement broader interventions. In this sense, it has been applied to problems as varied as sleep-wake cycle alterations, behavioral and substance addictions (especially tobacco), or post-traumatic stress disorder.
Self-hypnosis is when a person induces this state itself through self-suggestion. Instruments that serve as a support are often used; the most common are recordings in sound format, although there are also devices that alter brain waves to modify the patient’s consciousness level.
This type of hypnosis is mostly applied to everyday difficulties that do not have a particular gravity. Thus, it is commonly used to develop intrapersonal and interpersonal skills (such as assertiveness), reduce stress, induce relaxation, face stage fright, lose weight, or stop smoking.
Neurolinguistic programming (NLP)
While we cannot say that it is strictly a type of hypnosis, but neurolinguistic programming (often referred to as “NLP”) is closely related to hypnotic methods. This technique, created by Richard Bandler and John Grinder, uses “thought models” to improve psychological skills.
The Milton Model is based on the hypnosis method developed by Milton Erickson; in this variant of NLP, the suggestion is practiced through metaphors. However, Bandler and Grinder’s use of Ericksonian hypnosis has been criticized because the authors misinterpreted many basic ideas.
The scientific community sees neurolinguistic programming as pseudoscience, and therefore as fraudulent. The method’s postulates are not based on any practical basis, although it includes complex concepts to give the “theory” an air of credibility. This type of practice is extremely common in pseudosciences.
Rapid transformational therapy
Lastly, a relatively new form of hypnosis, Rapid Transformational Therapy® or RTT developed by top UK therapist Marisa Peer, encompasses many of the positive features of traditional hypnosis perceived to produce a transformative effect on patients, including using trance and hypnotic conditioning.
However, unlike with traditional hypnotherapy, RTT does not depend only on positive reinforcement. A qualified RTT therapist is taught various crucial techniques and tools and teaches clients how to communicate with their subconscious minds to access and fix the blocks directly there. Many clients experience transformation in a single session with RTT.