Tried meditation and didn't like it? Just not the type to commit to daily sessions for the rest of your life? You might be able to tap some of the same rewards with hypnosis.
Some people just don't get meditation. The devotion, the time commitment: Meditation asks a fair amount of you—though the payoffs in stress relief and improved health make it worthwhile. But if you're not the meditating type, don't lose hope: Hypnosis may offer an alternative. This mental technique focuses on the subconscious mind and can produce results in just one session, while meditation is a life-long practice that allows results to happen in a more spontaneous way. Put simply, "meditation is deep relaxation and hypnosis is deep relaxation with added suggestion," says Orlando, Florida-based hypnotist Richard Barker.
Both practices treat a variety of conditions such as anxiety, stress, depression, chronic pain, and insomnia, but if you are looking for proven research, meditation has the upper hand. Numerous studies have shown that meditation has positive neurological effects. While hypnosis has a history that dates back to the 18th century—when German physician Franz Mesmer used hypnosis to treat patients in Vienna and Paris—it hasn't been until recently that research has uncovered the areas of the brain affected by hypnosis. "Psychology has a curriculum but hypnosis is not yet regulated in the Unites States, mostly because we do not understand it," says Barker.
What is understood about hypnosis, however, are the results. Like meditation, hypnosis has been tapped by professional athletes to help with performance. Hypnosis is also used to eradicate certain phobias (such as fear of public speaking), to help people stop smoking, sleep better, and help those who are grieving. The number of sessions varies depending on the person, says Barker, but it usually takes just one. "Once I find the root cause of what's making you do what you are doing, I can change the script," he says. Another option for people trying to manage emotional issues that can't be dealt with in one or two sessions is self-hypnosis, which shares many of the same characteristics as guided meditation.
Many of Mt. Vernon, Washington-based hypnotist Kelley Woods clients with long-term anxiety have tried meditation without success. She uses Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), a process that identifies the way we have been "programmed" to think, act, and feel, and then changes the behavior through hypnosis. "In meditation the ultimate goal is to quiet the mind, in hypnosis, we use the ability of your thoughts to focus on what you would like to happen, and then we change the way you think about your challenges," says Woods. If you want to give hypnosis a try, you can find a certified hypnotherapist through the National Guild of Hypnotists, a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the practice. While treatment varies based on each individual's condition, many conditions require just one session. A typical therapy session lasts about 90 minutes and can cost anywhere from $200 to $1,500.