Is Clinical Hypnotherapy harmful to the Believer in Christ?
By Debra Watkins, MA, LMFT
“Don’t ever let anyone hypnotize you!”, Dad said. “That will give the devil a foothold into your mind and open it up to demonic influence!” Some other Christians, pastors, main-line denominations, and influential TV ministers have publicly expressed the dangers of ‘giving control of your subconscious mind to someone else’. Unfortunately, hypnosis can be misused, making it imperative to find a reputable, Holy Spirit-filled, licensed psychotherapist who is certified in clinical hypnotherapy and equipped to process the underlying issues that created the problem in the first place and not just cover it up.
What exactly is Clinical Hypnotherapy? The first thing that comes to your mind is probably something you have seen in a movie or a stage hypnosis show, but Clinical Hypnotherapy is a way for the therapist to help a person struggling with behavioral or emotional issues to bypass the ‘critical factor’ or “walls” that keep an individual stuck in unhelpful thought/behavior patterns, by offering positive, truthful suggestions, directly to the subconscious mind, to bring relief from anxiety, depression, addictions, etc. The American Psychological Association states, “Although hypnosis has been controversial, most clinicians now agree it can be a powerful, effective therapeutic technique for a wide range of conditions, including pain, anxiety and mood disorders. Hypnosis can also help people change negative habits, such as quitting smoking.”
The truth is, as a Christian, licensed Marital and Family Therapist and certified Clinical Hypnotherapist, I have no desire to control anyone’s mind. My goal is to help individuals who struggle with anxiety, depression, addictive emotional/behavioral patterns, and unhelpful thoughts of shame and inferiority be able to maximize their potential by finding within themselves the healing power of Jesus to bring down walls of resistance and allow God’s Word to bring healing and wholeness.
One client struggling with acrophobia, which is extreme fear of heights, gave the following testimony, after her hypnotherapy treatment.
“My experience with clinical hypnotherapy has been extremely positive. I visited therapist Debbie Watkins on 3 occasions, hoping to get relief from a fear of heights and a related fear of flying. I particularly wanted to find relief from vertigo and the feeling of being pulled to the edge of any high area or ledge that I was standing on, and the feeling the of a plane falling during flight. Debbie was able to take me to a place of extreme relaxation, no small feat dealing with someone who has control issues. She used simple phrases and her instructions were easy to follow, so I found concentrating on the experience very easy. By the end of the sessions I was able to visualize very clear images of myself overcoming these fears. The results that I have experienced have been amazing. I am now able to sit in the window seat of an airplane, and have been able to go to the edge of 3rd and 4th stories of buildings, even with glass walls. I’m extremely happy with my experience with clinical hypnotherapy. I will utilize it again in the future if need be.
Another client reported, after a clinical hypnotherapy session, that she felt sensations in the bottom of her right foot that had previously been numb to feeling anything at all, due to the fusion of several vertebrae in her back. Another client, struggling with depression, wept throughout the hypnotherapy session and then reported how she believed, in her past, she had walked a long road of hardship and along the way had forgotten that she was truly loved by God. With tear-stained eyes and a peace-filled smile she reported feeling the presence of the sweet, loving Holy Spirit once again, who reassured her she was not, nor would she ever be, alone.
How is that possible, you ask? Paul the apostle wrote, For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. (Hebrews 4:12) With precision, the Word of God spoken into our subconscious reaches our innermost being and transforms our mind, to help us know our true selves, which is often the most difficult knowledge to gain and the hardest to accept. It is often a mystery to know why we do what we do, but the psalmist David said, You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, you know it completely. (Ps. 139:1-4)
For those who have tried everything else and are still struggling with behavioral or emotional issues, consider how the healing ways of Jesus did not always look like what we expected. Remember when He spat on the ground and made mud, as a salve, and then smeared in onto the blind man’s eyelids and he was healed? Hypnotherapy is not a magic cure, but when we trust God, the Great Physician, and apply our faith and professional training, together we will work to bring down the walls of resistance that have kept you ‘stuck’ in repetitive negative patterns and allow God’s Word to bring the changes you need for abundant living so that you may fulfill the plans and purposes God has for your life.