Most people’s first experience of hypnosis is seeing someone apparently being hypnotised on stage, either on television, by the likes of Derren Brown or Paul McKenna, or in a local theatre or cabaret.  Stage hypnotists are talented entertainers, and some, like Paul McKenna, may use their talents for therapeutic ends as well.  But there’s a big gap between therapeutic hypnotherapy and stage hypnosis.  Stage hypnosis depends on several tricks and techniques for its entertainment value.  Some might liken it more to a conjuror’s role, because the hypnotist often uses deception, distraction, sleight of hand, and basic human psychology for the act.  Indeed, Derren Brown calls himself ‘a mentalist and illusionist’.

No one can be hypnotised against their will and it’s unusual for people to forget what happened under hypnosis.  Stage hypnotists know this and employ some clever tricks to ensure that the people who come on stage are open to hypnotism, are ‘suggestible’ and are up for some fun on stage!  The hypnotists do this using selection tests.  Only audience members who have succumbed to some suggestion the hypnotist has made will volunteer; fewer still will be chosen to go on stage.

For the hypnotherapist, clients tend to self-select as well.  Who would call for an appointment if they didn’t believe that hypnotherapy work would for them, and want to be hypnotised?

Both stage hypnosis and hypnotherapy are totally safe, but the ‘depth’ of hypnosis comes from different approaches. The stage hypnotist depends on one fundamental human tendency: few people want to look an idiot in front of an audience.  So, when they act hypnotised, that is often what they are doing – ‘acting’. And if there are other people on stage apparently succumbing to hypnosis, few people would want to stand out as the person who was the party pooper.  This social pressure works superbly for the stage hypnotist.

Regardless of how naturally suggestible you are, a hypnotherapist works with you to teach you to self-hypnotise.  The hypnosis is real, and with practise you can get better and better at it.  While in hypnosis, you are in complete control – if you wanted to open your eyes or walk out of the room you could – and, unless you are very tired, you will not fall asleep.  Clients normally report that they remember everything that was said during the session, but they feel more receptive to suggestions.  Being open to suggestions is actually one of the modern definitions of hypnosis and a good test as to whether it is working for you.  The value of hypnotherapy is how it can support you changing habits and boosting your confidence in being able to tackle situations which might have previously been a challenge.

 For more information please visit