There are a lot of myths around hypnosis – I regularly get people coming in the clinic who ask me not to make them quack like a duck. Or they say things like, ‘My partner wants you to make me stop smoking’.

Well, the good news is I can’t make anybody do anything they don’t want to, whether that’s quacking like a duck or stopping smoking. There’s nothing I, nor any other hypnotist, can do to force you to do something.

You’re probably saying to yourself, ‘What about stage hypnosis? I’ve seen them make those people do some weird things’. The truth is that a stage hypnotist begins with an audience of possibly hundreds and, through a process of elimination, ends up with a handful of people on the stage. They are there because, deep down at an unconscious level, they want to be there. Maybe they want to experience being hypnotised or maybe they’re naturally shy and want a reason to experience the opposite or maybe there’s some other reason. At some level of awareness, they’re choosing to participate.

Another common misconception is that you’re unconscious when you’re hypnotised. In fact, hypnosis is a heightened state of awareness. Your hearing becomes more acute – you become more aware. It is similar to that state of drifting that you enter just before you fall asleep, where your mind is starting to dream but you are still aware of your surroundings.

Hypnosis is a naturally occurring state of awareness that we all drift in and out of every day – about 140 times a day, in fact! Daydreaming and being ‘on automatic pilot’ are examples of self-hypnosis. Sometimes people worry that they may reveal things while in trance. Most hypnotherapists don’t need the client to talk while they’re hypnotised. The therapy is based on information that the client gives while fully conscious and then the therapist, after inducing trance, will offer beneficial suggestions to the unconscious mind. The client can accept or reject these suggestions. Even if the hypnotherapist asks a question, the client will not give anything away that they don’t want to.

If you do decide to explore hypnotherapy, make sure that you go to a hypnotherapist that is registered with one of the relevant professional associations. The Australian Hypnotherapists Association or the Australian Society of Clinical Hypnotherapists ensure that their members are fully qualified.