What is hypnosis?

Hypnosis is NOT sleep. Although the word “hypnos” means sleep in Greek, it is not sleep. More than likely, during your hypnosis session, you will be fully aware and fully conscious of everything that is said and everything that is going on around you. While there are different levels of hypnosis, only light to medium depth is all that is needed for habit change (you are fully awake). For pain reduction or pre-surgery hypnosis, sometimes hypnotists will take you to a deeper level which aligns more closely to what we think of as “sleep” (although it is not really sleep).

 It is not MIND CONTROL. Your hypnotist cannot make you tell secrets or to do anything you do not want to do.  Also, you must deeply want the change, commit to the change, and work for the change. It is not magic. But, it is kind of magical. Hypnosis will work for you if you believe that it will work and put in the effort to change. Hypnosis can boost your desire and motivation to make the change you seek and make the change process EASIER! No, it is not mind control, but, it is a very powerful tool!

Hypnosis explained

There are many definitions of hypnosis, most of which have some validity. Hypnosis is a natural state of consciousness, some call it a heightened state of focused awareness. We all experience hypnosis on a daily basis. If you have ever been so deeply focused on an activity, a book or even a daydream that you don’t notice what is going on around you, like someone calling your name, for instance, then you have experienced a light state of hypnosis. 

Dave Elman (one of the most well-known hypnotists in the 20th Century and of all time) described hypnosis as “the bypass of the critical faculty of the conscious mind and the establishment of acceptable selective thinking in the subconscious mind.” Another way of looking at hypnosis is that hypnosis is a state of consciousness in which your mind is open and more receptive to information, suggestion, insight and releasing of feelings and emotions (Jason Linnett).

Many people believe that all hypnosis is self-hypnosis. When you go to a consulting hypnotist or hypnotherapist, it is usually because you want to change something in your life. You and your hypnotist/hypnotherapist will work as a team to help to achieve your goals. Since you have already been in hypnosis millions, perhaps billions of times in your lifetime already, your hypnotist/hypnotherapist will simply help you to reach that state quicker. Your hypnotist/hypnotherapist will usually use words, sometimes music, specialized language, tools and techniques to help you to make the changes that you want. While there are many depths and levels of hypnosis, for most change work, one does not require but a light state of hypnosis. You will not be asleep, and you will likely be completely aware and remember most, if not all, that transpires during a session. A skilled, qualified hypnotist can help you to change habits, feelings, thoughts and behaviors. However, it is YOU making and choosing to make the changes.

The Subconscious Mind (in a nutshell)

The subconscious mind is about 95% of the mind and consists of long term memory, emotions, imagination, creativity, controls your habits, skills, automatic emotional responses, hardwired behaviors, perceptions, and autonomic body functions (such as heartbeat). It stores and acts upon your conditioned beliefs, judgment, body and cellular memory. It is often considered the “operating system” or the “hard drive” of the mind.  The conscious mind is only about 5% of your total mind. The conscious mind is the analytical and reasoning part of the mind, and also includes our creative abilities (will). (Dr. Joe Dispenza, You Are the Placebo, Making Your Mind Matter).

What are the benefits of hypnosis?

Hypnosis is safe and natural and it works relatively quickly compared to other types of change work. This can equate to a huge savings in time and money, for a long term gain.  Hypnosis has been scientifically proven to work with weight loss, smoking cessation, pain reduction, eradicating fears and phobias, and much more.  Hypnosis can be used for insomnia, motivation,  procrastination, memory and focus, helping individuals to reach peak performance. The list goes on and on. People often report that they cannot believe how powerful hypnosis has been in their lives.  Although it is not magic, some people describe it as “almost magical.” 

What does hypnosis feel like?

While in hypnosis, you may feel very relaxed, a tingling, light, floating sensation. Like the feeling right before you drift off to sleep. You might feel a heavy feeling in your body.  Every person experiences hypnosis differently. You may feel deeply relaxed or you may feel no different than usual. Since your critical factor or conscious mind never entirely goes away, you may notice chatter going on in your head, especially during your first session (Am I really in hypnosis? What’s going on here, I don’t feel any different, etc.). Relax, this is quite normal. It means little if anything for how effective the outcome will be. Some people describe a feeling of bliss. Cool, huh? Again, how it feels is highly individual.

Can anyone be hypnotized?

Yes. We all go in and out of hypnosis all day long. Many experts will say that all hypnosis is self-hypnosis. If you want to be hypnotized, you WILL be hypnotized when you come in to our office. The only thing that might stop you from being hypnotized is 1) fear, 2) you simply do not want to be hypnotized and 3) for whatever reason you cannot follow directions (low IQ, organic or drug-induced psychosis).  But, yes, most people have no problem going into hypnosis in our office. Also, if you cannot follow directions outside of hypnosis, there is a good chance your subconscious will not utilize the suggestions presented during the hypnosis sessions.

Is hypnosis safe?

There is a bit of a mystique about hypnosis. Like acupuncture, it has been around for thousands of years. As I said previously, it is not mind control. You, the client, are always awake and in control. Many people don’t realize that hypnosis is a natural state that they go into all day long. It feels kind of like a heightened state of relaxation, focused awareness, sometimes like a daydream or the “zone.” But, you are always aware and in charge. As with any kind of service provider, it is important that you pick and choose your consulting hypnotist carefully. Practicing hypnosis in the United States does not require a license in most states and some hypnotists/hypnotherapists are far better trained than others. Also, hypnosis is considered complementary to other forms of treatment. It should not be used in place of a doctor’s visit, medication or medical advice. When choosing a hypnotist, you should ask them about their experience, training, and find out about their treatment philosophy and ethics. If they see you for a medical condition (physical pain, for instance), they should require a medical consultation and they should not be giving you medical advice. If they do, they are possibly acting beyond the scope of their training, and thereby acting unethically.  Here at Hypnosis Columbia, we believe in providing you the best experience possible, to help you to become healthier, happier and more successful in your life, and we will do so in an ethical manner, abiding by the code and ethics of the National Guild of Hypnotists.

Could I become stuck in hypnosis, unable to “wake up”?  

No.  It has never happened and it never will. If your hypnotist left the room or became ill, for instance, you would naturally emerge from hypnosis in a fairly short amount of time.  Hypnosis does, however, feel so good to some people, they do not want to open their eyes for some time after a session.  It can feel that relaxing!

What can I expect from my hypnosis session?

Before we actually meet in my office, Clients complete an intake questionnaire and we will speak on the phone together.  I will ask you many questions pertaining to your goals, answer your questions, and we will determine if we are a good fit to work together.  After you arrive to your first session, we will continue the dialogue, and when you are ready, I will guide you into a state of hypnosis using my voice and sometimes other techniques.  Hypnosis often simply feels like a deep state of relaxation.  Although you are likely to be very relaxed, you will be awake the entire time.  The “meat” of the work includes the spoken word, sometimes in the form of “suggestions,” and various tools and techniques. Hypnosis is simply being in a heightened state of suggestibility. Therefore, your mind absorbs, incorporates and assimilates meaning at a very deep level. Normally, the session will last any where from 75 to 90 minutes, and sometimes longer. Your first session is usually longer in order that you and I can build rapport and learn to know each other a little better.

How long does a session last?

For each issue that you come to us for, your first session will usually last about 2 hours long so that we can go thorough your entire history, goals, and conduct your first hypnosis session with plenty of time for questions.  Subsequent sessions ordinarily range from 60-85 minutes.

How many sessions will I need?

Some Clients see major changes after one session.  Depending on the individual, the severity of the issue and a number of other factors, sometimes a series of sessions will be recommended.  For instance, typically smoking cessation requires two to four sessions for optimal success, whereas weight reduction may take five or more depending on the amount of weight loss desired.  

How much does hypnosis cost? Is hypnosis covered by insurance?

The average cost of one hypnosis session in the MD/VA/DC area is $80-$250 dollars and it varies throughout the United States as well.  Sometimes there are discounts when purchasing a number of sessions at one time or paying for sessions in advance.  
Please click here for our latest rates. Most hypnotist visits are not covered by insurance. However, you may check with your insurance carrier, particularly if you are seeking help with smoking cessation or weight loss.


Often when people discuss hypnosis and states of consciousness, they discuss brainwaves. The general consensus is that the there are five main levels of brainwaves and that generally speaking light hypnosis begins in Alpha and “deeper” states of hypnosis take place in Theta and Delta.

Gamma (above 40Hz). Ultra high levels of awakened consciousness typified by increased brainwave cycles and thoughts. These waves occur typically when you are highly stressed or are confronted by a dangerous situation requiring immediate action (fight or flight). Not a lot is known about Gamma level brainwaves.

Beta (12Hz to 40Hz). Beta levels are where our brainwaves usually cycle during the day when we are awake and have full alert consciousness. This is a very general categorization and encompasses most normal daily tasks where we have a full alert attention below the Gamma range. 
Alpha (8Hz to 12 Hz). Alpha levels are typified by relaxed mental states associated with creativity, problem solving, visualization, and even light daydreaming. Alpha brainwaves cycle 8 to 12 times per second and in these levels you will still have conscious awareness of everything but will generally feel nice and calm and relaxed. Alpha levels are like the entry gateway to hypnosis and the subconscious – an entry point so to speak before reaching more productive levels of hypnosis or meditation (such as Theta level). Many hypnotists utilize this state for habit change.
Theta (4Hz to 8Hz) Theta states are reached when we experience deep relaxation, the first stages of sleep, dream-like creativity, mid-level hypnosis, and deeper meditative states. Theta brainwaves cycle between 4Hz to 8Hz and are typified by a much reduced conscious awareness and heightened subconscious receptivity. This is why hypnosis is largely performed in the Theta realm because the subconscious is more absorbing of new suggestion without excessive conscious analysis. Most people are still aware of their surroundings while in this state.

Delta (0 to 4Hz) This is where your brainwaves are cycling very very slowly, most commonly experienced only during the deepest levels of sleep each night (high REM sleep). There are other specific occasions where Delta brainwaves are experienced such as in a coma state, reaction to certain drugs, and also in deep levels of hypnosis. In Delta the conscious processes of the mind switch off and the automated subconscious/unconscious processes take full control. This is why Delta states are linked to healing or physical recuperation because it heightens the inherent connection between the unconscious process of your mind that regulate the physical systems of your body.