Kissing Cousins: Hypnosis and Mindfulness
I wonder if you, as I did, believe that the difference between mindfulness meditation and hypnosis is that you are “in charge” during the mindfulness process, while the hypnotist is in charge during hypnosis?
In the 80s I studied and practiced Vipassana, an early form of Buddhist meditation, which began to inform my work as a therapist. I then watched in awe as the techniques of Vipassana, became know as “mindfulness” and spread in to practically every area of psychotherapy.
Now I use both hypnosis and mindfulness personally and in my practice. As I enthusiastically study Mindfulness and Hypnosis The Power of Suggestion to Transform Experience, by Michael Yapko, I realize how much guided mindfulness meditation (GMM) and hypnosis have in common.
Yapko, (p. 25): I hope clinicians who have embraced mindfulness discover that mindfulness approaches are more strongly related to patterns and dynamics of hypnosis than they may have realized. Mindfulness works; hypnosis works; and it is the task of the clinicians to ask the penetrating questions about how they work, for whom and under what conditions.
Both mindfulness and hypnosis are tools of the therapeutic process, adaptable to a wide variety of therapeutic approaches, which are designed to help clients transform themselves in relation to the range of emotionally based mental and physical issues that they bring to therapy.
While I am finding every word in the book informative and inspiring, I think the important take away message is exemplified in the following (p. 169):
Both mindfulness and hypnosis are clear that acceptance has to precede change, but in hypnosis a well-defined therapeutic target lies one step beyond acceptance. In hypnosis, there is an implicit or explicit suggestion to do something.
Are you going to encourage clients who come to therapy with a goal (a hope, a wish, a desired outcome) in mind to “just be” and lead them to believe that by “just being” they will resolve their problems? …. Alternatively, will you retain the essence of the message about the merits of focusing, meditating, and “just being” while encouraging clients to actively evolve specific skills for problem solving? The skill might even be to learn that some problems cannot be solved and the message to “accept and just be” is perfect.
The consciousness that mindfulness can be a tool for acceptance and a precursor to action, or just a tool for awareness, is an important distinction for clients to know, and for both therapist and client to discuss in order to facilitate a positive therapeutic outcome.
Note regarding professional requirements: You do not need to be a licensed therapist to practice mindfulness or hypnosis. There are associations such as Southern California Society for Clinical Hypnosis, a Los Angeles chapter of American Association of Clinical Hypnosis, which train licensed professionals who have ethical qualifications to really support the client. Two years of intensive training is required for full membership and credential.
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