What is Hypnosis? How does it work?

Spiral Sky

Clucking like a chicken.

Swinging pocket watches.

You’re getting sleepy, very sleeeeepy.

Does this sound like your notion of hypnosis?

If so, you are not alone. But, all of the above is inaccurate.

These stereotypical ideas have tarnished the reputation of hypnosis in recent decades.

While hypnosis has been around for thousands of years, going back to the time of Egyptian temples, the entertainment industry has skewed people’s perception of hypnosis.

After decades of myths and misrepresentations, there is a growing body of evidence and research that shows the therapeutic and healing benefits of hypnosis. In fact, the Mayo Clinic is using hypnotherapy to help people heal alongside the more traditional models of treatment. (A type of hypnotherapy being used at the Mayo Clinic happens to be the form of hypnotherapy I am trained in!)

To begin, let’s differentiate hypnosis, hypnotherapy, self-hypnosis, and holistic hypnosis

What is Hypnosis?

Hypnosis alone refers to the process of inducing one into a state of mind that is passive. When in a passive state of mind, also known as a trance, there is increased communication between the conscious mind and the subconscious mind. (more on this below). A trance state often refers to deep relaxation, enhanced focus, and increased suggestibility.

In simplistic terms, I describe hypnosis as deep and restful relaxation with a focus.

Hypnosis is similar to meditation in that you follow particular steps that lead you into deep relaxation and concentration. However, it goes even further as it allows the participant to set a goal of resolution that can be achieved in time.

Hypnotic trances are a natural state that everyone --yes, everyone-- experiences every single day.

Have you ever driven somewhere and arrived at your destination without much memory as to how you got there?

Have you ever been so absorbed in your favorite book or movie that everything around you disappeared for a time?

Have you ever daydreamed?

Then congrats! You've achieved a state of hypnotic trance!

Researchers believe that up to 85% of people can be hypnotized. It seems that those who frequently daydream, become lost in daily tasks, are empathetic and sensitive, and have an open mind to learning new skills are more likely to reach a hypnotic state. That said though, hypnosis is effective even for those who cannot reach a sustained hypnotic state.

The main difference between the trance state just mentioned and hypnosis is that hypnosis is intentionally used as a means to achieve a particular outcome; be it self-awareness, understanding, or healing. Hypnosis can also be done alone or induced and guided by another person.

While the state of hypnosis feels different person to person, in general the experience is one of deep calm and relaxation in both the mind and the body. Do you know that feeling you get when you’re about to fall asleep, or right as you begin to wake up? It is a space where your breath begins to deepen, your whole-being settles in and you might even feel warm and completely comfortable.

Being in a state of hypnosis can often be described as a deep sense of relaxation where you’ve given in to gravity and have a heaviness about you physically, yet you’re highly focused and aware. The difference in hypnosis is that you’ll stay alert as you are guided through your experience. For most, there is reluctancy when it is time to exit the trance state because it is such a peaceful place to exist.


The term hypnotherapy is differentiated from hypnosis. Hypnotherapy is a psychological healing modality that uses the process of hypnosis to help a person achieve a desired goal/outcome.

You can think of it like this- hypnosis is a tool and hypnotherapy is the use of that tool. Hypnosis, the tool that enables the trance state, is a tool that helps to solve mental, emotional, physical, and even spiritual problems. Hypnosis, or again the trance state, can also be thought of like a key. This key helps to unlock a door into areas of our mind that house memories, motivations, unconscious thoughts, and more. Hypnotherapy is conducted by trained medical and mental health professionals.


Self-hypnosis is a process by which a person guides him/herself into a state of deep mental and physical relaxation in order to drop into the subconscious mind where positive images, messages, or thoughts can be absorbed in order to work toward creating positive and lasting change. This can be done in one’s mind, or by listening to an audio and following along. (audios coming soon!)

Holistic Hypnosis

Holistic Hypnosis (HH), as I call my unique process, uses the power of hypnosis and dynamically blends it with ‘coaching’ to help people discover subconscious patterns and limitations, identify challenges, and clarify desires. This process integrates a variety of evidence-based and holistic healing modalities in order to best help one expand inner awareness and develop more resourceful ways of thinking, doing, and responding in order to reach life goals.

This particular mode of hypnosis helps people to take charge of their mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being in a unique way and equips people with greater resourcefulness and empowerment going forward.

For the sake of the remainder of this article, I will primarily use the word hypnosis. The reason for this is because the trace state (hypnosis) is the tool that is used to facilitate relaxation and subsequently the desired personal change. The reasons and/or depths to which one goes, using it for therapeutic purposes or not, is all based on the same foundation and uses the same key tool.

Am I in control in Hypnosis? How does it work?

When it comes to any form of hypnosis, all hypnosis is self-hypnosis. How is this the case? Because hypnosis is an inside job.

A person in a state of hypnosis is in complete control and has free will throughout the entire process whether they are being guided by another or are practicing self-hypnosis. The change happens internally.

Anyone who experiences hypnosis in any form is a willing participant who is in 100% control, meaning there is no such thing as mind control. Let’s be clear about that and squash that myth.

Even though the word "hypnosis" comes from Greek origin meaning a “sleep-like state,” you will not be asleep or unconscious during hypnosis. Although you are very aware of your surroundings under hypnosis, you are incredibly relaxed and focused and all other sounds/sensations/distractions only serve to take you deeper.

In a hypnotic state awareness is heightened and your brain waves change states (to theta waves) so that you become more suggestible. </