How Trance and Hypnotherapy Work

The term trance refers to the daydreamy but highly absorbed state of mind often experienced by people when they meditate, listen to music, attend a long lecture, drive on a freeway at night, undergo a hypnotic induction, or wait patiently in a therapist’s waiting room. The only difference between these various types of trance is the mode of induction. Whether elicited by a hypnotherapist or induced by a long stretch of highway, a trance is a trance. 

Trance is a state of steady, passively observant, focused inner awareness. This state is associated with a vivid involvement in imagined events, a shift into a context-free, literal understanding of words or phrases, and a removal of the restrictions ordinarily imposed upon unconscious abilities and responses. Furthermore, this stabilized attention can be focused internally upon thoughts, images, or sensations that ordinarily would be overlooked, ignored, or actively avoided. The hypnotherapy process is designed to take full advantage of all of these characteristics of trance.

People in a hypnotic trance are able to pay closer attention to their own unconscious sources of potential information and guidance. They are able to more comfortably accept indirect and even direct statements from the therapist that they might otherwise reject. Finally, while in a trance state, clients can experience imagined events with such clarity and relaxed involvement that they undergo many of the same changes in learning, performance, and belief that they would in the actual situation. 

After the client develops a trance, the hypnotherapist directs attention in ways that are therapeutically productive. Because the trance state makes it more likely a person will accept and act on new ideas or be able to access previously unused memories and abilities, direct therapeutic approaches can be used to resolve matters quickly and efficiently. 

From: Hypnotherapy Scripts: A Neo-Ericksonian Approach to Persuasive Healing,
Ronald Havens, Catherine Walters