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Hypnotherapy: A Massage for the Mind by Rachel Astarte Piccione

Not many people understand hypnotherapy. Some may consider it a method of mind control or even a New Age oddity. Hypnosis, however, has been around since the beginning of mankind. In fact, we naturally enter states of hypnosis every day. Hypnotherapy is the use of those natural states of hypnosis as a mode of healing.

What is Hypnotherapy?

We’ve all heard of shows where people are asked to go on stage and get hypnotized. Once under a hypnotic spell, they are then commanded to do odd things like cluck like a chicken. That's called "stage hypnosis." It's used solely for entertainment and has nothing to do with hypnosis for therapeutic purposes.

Therapeutic hypnosis, or hypnotherapy, is a state of deep relaxation. That's it. A person in a relaxed, hypnotic trance always is in control. The experience is similar to meditation. When a person is meditating and a cat jumps into his or her lap, the meditator is aware of the cat, can gently remove it, and return to meditating.

How does Hypnotherapy Work?

Hypnotherapists use words and often music to help their client enter into a relaxed state. In that state, the conscious mind—or ego, which is the watchdog for all we do and think—takes a break from all its hard work. This opens our subconscious mind—the place where our personal memories and habits are stored—to suggestions designed to either change or enhance our behavior, depending on what is needed.

Some people make the mistaken assumption that a hypnotherapist can plant ideas in a person’s mind without that person's awareness or permission. This is simply not possible. Because the subconscious only will act on what makes sense to it, a hypnotherapist cannot coerce a person to do anything that is out of character. That person’s subconscious mind would reject the suggestion entirely.

What many of us don't realize is that we enter states of hypnosis every day. Because our subconscious mind is the place where we store habits and memories, it is called upon much of the time to do its job. We don't have to remember how to drive or how to peel a banana; our subconscious remembers. The daydreaming driver who remembers to make an exit at the last minute is in self-hypnosis. In fact, daydreaming is a form of mild trance or an altered state of consciousness.

Why Would Someone Need Hypnotherapy?

Many of us have habits we wish to eliminate such as smoking, overeating or biting our nails. We may even have fears that debilitate us, or behaviors that are detrimental to our well-being. By accessing the subconscious mind (the place where these habits and traits replay over and over again) and providing an alternative suggestion, we can retrain the brain to behave in a more beneficial way.

Hypnotherapy can work in other ways, too. Athletes undergo states of hypnotic trance to improve their game and artists do the same to break through creative blocks. Hypnotherapy works for anyone who simply wants to relieve stress and feel refreshed. It's like a massage for the mind.

There are so many possibilities present for all of us when we quiet the ego and let the deeper self come forth. We spend so much time "in our heads," totally disconnected from the eternal truth that is in all of us. Hypnotherapy helps us to still the frenzied mind and listen to the inner voice, the one that has been present since the beginning of creation.

Rachel Astarte Piccione, MFA, CCH, CLC, is a transpersonal hypnotherapist and spiritual counselor. She is trained in a number of healing modalities including shamanism, creative writing, and aromatherapy. Her mind-body wellness practice, Healing Arts New York, has offices in New York City and Nyack. She can be reached at or 888-807-6466 or visit

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