The Latest Research on Hypnosis

After hundreds of years, hypnosis is finally shedding its old Hollywood image of a dastardly villain using hypnosis to control minds.

Thanks to a growing interest in meditation and other spiritual practices in the West over recent years, hypnosis is being widely accepted as a reliable, fast and effective tool for healing and change work.

As its outdated reputation fades, more and more people are curious to find out how it works… and more importantly – how it can help them.

But beyond being linked to the likes of meditation, it has also been gaining credibility due to scientific research being conducted by highly-respected researchers, neuroscientists and institutions.

To keep yourself up-to-date with the latest trends and studies, check out the 5 researchers below to discover the amazing studies they’re doing in the field of hypnosis.

Dr. David Spiegel

Dr. David Spiegel's Hypnosis Research

If you follow our blog, you’ve probably noticed that we’re big fans of Dr. David Spiegel. And rightfully so, afterall he explained to the Dalai Lama the benefits of self-hypnosis!

But to give you a bit of background info, Dr. David Spiegel is professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford, and has carried out numerous studies proving the effectiveness of self-hypnosis, especially for cancer patients.

Dr. Spiegel is also well-known for refusing painkillers following shoulder surgery in 1972 because he had complete faith in the healing power of hypnosis. Instead, he used self-hypnosis to give him all the pain relief he needed.

Pretty cool, huh?

But in a nutshell, Dr. Spiegel believes that the brain operates differently whilst under hypnosis, which is why subjects absorb concepts so deeply, or why there’s often a total lack of self-consciousness.

In recent years, studies have backed Spiegel’s theory up – demonstrating that the brain is indeed different whilst in a hypnotic state compared to normal states of consciousness.

One famous study carried out by Stanford University used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to prove this by measuring blood flow in the brain whilst the subjects were in a hypnotic trance.

The scans used in the study showed activity in areas of the brain were:

“Involved in focused attention, the monitoring and control of the body’s functioning, and the awareness and evaluation of a person’s internal and external environments.” tweet

Spiegel believes that these findings help explain some of the things that happen during hypnosis.

For example, experiencing a lack of self-consciousness whilst in a deep hypnotic trance explains how stage hypnotists can get people to pretend they’re chickens, or puppets, or ballerinas, or acrobats.

Once hypnotized, people lose their inhibitions and become less self-conscious, which liberates them and enables them to temporarily let their hair down, so to speak.

In one of Dr. Spiegel’s studies, his research team studied brain activity in a group of 36 people who were highly susceptible to hypnosis and a second group of 21 people who showed low susceptibility. Brain activity was monitored during hypnosis, during rest periods, and during a memory task.

They found that certain areas of the brain worked differently under hypnosis than they did under normal circumstances. Which is a major step forward in the field of hypnosis.

According to Spiegel, we can then:

“Alter someone’s capacity to be hypnotized or the effectiveness of hypnosis for problems like pain control.”

What’s more: this information is incredibly helpful when working with skeptical subjects because there’s nothing like scientific evidence to put a doubting mind at ease.

William J. McGeown

William McGeown's Hypnosis Research

Ever wondered why some people are highly suggestible, whereas others, despite what you do, are not??

Well, there’s a good reason for this.

As it turns out, people who are very responsive to hypnosis and hypnotic suggestion may have brains that function differently.

A study by William J.McGeown from the Department of Psychology, University of Hull, UK, looked at the brain activity of people with high and low suggestibility while they were resting in the fMRI scanner, engaged in specific visual tasks, and when they were in and out of hypnosis.

For the “highs” there was decreased brain activity in the anterior parts of the default mode circuit (DMC).

However, for the “lows” there was no change in these areas, plus, they also showed deactivation in areas associated with alertness.

The study concluded that hypnosis does produce unique brain activity in people who are highly suggestible.

In other words, it seems that people who respond well to hypnosis are using their brains in different ways to the rest of the population.

The more we understand about how hypnosis works, the easier it will be to tailor solutions to individuals and to help them access its benefits.

Dr. Irving Kirsch

Dr. Irving Kirsch's Hypnosis Research

If hypnosis is not all in your head, then what is it?

We know it’s an altered state of consciousness, but what else is going on?

To try and explain what happens during hypnosis, some people have compared it to the placebo effect.

According to Wikipedia, a placebo is: “A substance or treatment with no active therapeutic effect.” Sugar pills are a typical example, although the placebo could also be a piece of advice, a CD or video, or anything that produces the desired result.

Placebo effect describes the way someone responds to the placebo. Experiencing pain relief after taking sugar pills, for example. If the person believes they have medication that will ease their pain, that belief is enough to do it. And that’s the placebo effect.

No-one’s saying that hypnosis works in the same way. What they are saying, though, is that hypnosis and the placebo effect have something in common: the recipient’s expectation.

Irving Kirsch is a retired Harvard psychologist and a leading expert on hypnosis. He believes that hypnosis taps into the brain’s expectationprocess.

According to Kirsch, there are two waves of information at work to produce this state. One is the information from the external world entering your brain via your brain stem, and the other is your values, beliefs and expectations.

When these two sources of information collide with each other, that is consciousness. And that collision point, Kirsch believes, is where hypnosis does its work.

David R. Patterson & Mark P. Jensen

David Patterson's Hypnosis Research

Hypnosis already has a good track record when it comes to treating certain conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome and managing chronic pain.

So it’s no longer necessary to prove that hypnosis works. Instead, it makes more sense to highlight those esteemed individuals who are helping to give hypnosis the credibility it deserves. And sometimes, the lengths they have to go to in order to do that.

That’s what David Patterson did. As one of the country’s leading hypnosis experts, he often lectures to other doctors about its potential. At one such lecture, the audience members decided to put his claims to the test.

They asked Patterson to hypnotize a particularly difficult burn patient described as being “angry at the world.” Despite being full of painkilling drugs, the patient screamed every time a nurse tried to change his bandages.

The young man dismissed Patterson, saying he couldn’t be hypnotized. He eventually agreed to try hypnosis, but then stubbornly proceeded to do the opposite of what Patterson suggested to him. So the doctor changed his tactics.

Instead of encouraging the young man to relax, Patterson suggested the boy become increasingly tense. He did the opposite (became increasingly relaxed) and within minutes was in a trance state, so much so that nurses were able to redress his wounds and even rub sponges over his sores without complaint.

Patterson and research partner Mark P. Jensen (both hypnosis experts at the University of Washington Seattle) wanted to know more about how hypnosis affects the human brain. They studied the brain with an EEG machine during hypnosis to try and measure electrical activity.

When the neurons in the human brain communicate, which they do all the time, they create electrical impulses. And when they work together, these impulses generate distinctive rhythmic patterns.

What Patterson and Jensen discovered was that during hypnosis, these rhythms are significantly slower. They also knew that when a person was in pain, these rhythms were faster. So they wanted to find out if hypnosis could slow down these rhythmic patterns enough to reduce the pain or the perception of pain.

Jensen looked at the brains of 20 patients who experienced pain relief using either meditation or hypnosis. He found that:

Those with busier, more active minds benefited most from meditation, while those with more naturally relaxed minds received the most pain relief from hypnosis. tweet

Dr. Joe Dispenza

Dr. Joe Dispenza

Dr. Joe Dispenza is a renowned neuroscientist and author whose TED Talk on neuroplasticity holds clues for what hypnosis can achieve.

In case you’ve never heard of it, neuroplasticity is your brain’s ability to change itself. It happens when you repeat certain thoughts or actions over and over.

Every thought or action causes neurons in your brain to communicate with each other, and the more often you repeat those thoughts or actions, the more those particular neurons communicate.

When you learn something new, those neurons communicate, over and over again, to create a new synaptic network.

As Dr. Dispenza puts it:

“Neurons that fire together, wire together.” tweet

And if you think about it, it makes perfect sense. It explains how you’re able to learn how to drive a car, or play golf, or play a song on the guitar or piano. With enough practice, the mechanics involved become automatic. That’s because the neurons have fired together often enough to ingrain the process into your brain.

Which means the more you give or listen to a hypnotic suggestion, the more a particular set of neurons will fire together.

For example, when working with someone and repeating certain hypnotic themes during an induction, you might use words like relaxation, calmness, focusing and so on.

But you don’t say those words only once, because that doesn’t give the brain enough time to latch onto them. You say them over and over again as part of your spiel.

And now you know why: because the repetition allows those neurons to fire together, create a synaptic network, and absorb the idea of relaxation, or of calmness, or of focus, so that your subject’s body and mind can respond in an appropriate way.

 (From the Hypnosis Training Academy)

An amazing new way to remove unnecessary pain


OldPain2Go is a once only treatment that bargains with your unconscious processes to ask it to remove old, unwanted and unnecessary pain (no trance needed). Because it is your own system doing the work it will know if the pain needs to be there as a safety system or whether it can remove that old pain message and allow you to be pain free. Arthritis, fibromyalgia,back problems, shoulders, legs, sciatica, in fact any pain more than a few months old.

Quite simply pain is a message that alerts us to damage in the body so that we can do whatever is needed to stop causing any more damage and allow the healing. The initial alarm however sometimes carries on way past it being helpful. So let me share this analogy of a fire or smoke alarm to explain:

Imagine you live in a house where the smoke alarm triggered 10 years ago for a fire that was put out that night. However, the alarm has continued to ring incredibly loudly 24 hours a day 7 days a week ever since.

You cannot throw the alarm away or take the batteries out because that would put you at the risk of serious injury or death and so would muffling the sound with a pillow. So you can’t live with this alarm, but you also cannot live without it!

Have you ever thought that whilst it keeps ringing loudly it will not alert you if a new fire has started in the vicinity? Or that eventually it will need to ring evermore louder so that you are still aware of it and alert?

 So imagine now that someone invents a reset button. It is simply to operate all you do is press it once and it tells the alarm that the fire it warned us about is out and it can now look out for new fires. The first fire may have caused irreparable damage but that is not the concern of the smoke alarm, it is programmed so that the smell of charcoal does not falsely trigger it. Its only job is to alert us to present danger only as and when it happens.

 OldPain2Go Method

 This method works by negotiating with that part of the mind that runs your body. Quite simply we tell your suconscious that the pain is causing a problem and suggests it checks out whether this old message still needs to be there. If your subconscious mind checks out all the options it will always chose the one that is safe and gives the best quality of life. If it feels that the pain is still needed at the same level to keep you safe then it will not change anything. However in the vast majority of cases it will either turn the Old Pain Message OFF, or more rarely turn it down to an acceptable and manageable level.

I can see you in person at our Ballyhackamore practice or treatments can be anywhere in the world over Skype.

Take the 5 Minute Holiday


(From an article in Bam!)

Have you ever just wanted to take a break from the day and get rid of all the stress and anxiety that has built up?

Belfast hypnotherapist Warren York says it’s easier than you think. Here are his top tips for taking a five minute holiday:

young-422332_960_7201. Space
Find a nice, quiet spot where you won’t be interrupted for 5 minutes.

2. Where
Make yourself comfortable on a bed or a chair.

3. Breathe
Take a long deep breath and hold for a second.

4. Relax
Exhale and close your eyes.

5. Release
Imagine breathing in relaxation through your nose and breathing out any tension or stress through your toes.

6. Let Go
From the top of your head down, imagine every muscle relaxing and letting go.

7. Descend
For a deep experience, imagine slowly walking down 10 stairs one by one with deep breaths as you take each step.

sea-919042_960_7208. Experience
When you reach the bottom, imagine a doorway ahead leading to a wonderful place of relaxation and go through the door.

It could be a favourite holiday spot or somewhere from your imagination. Notice colours, sounds, smells, temperature – making the experience as real as possible.

9. Be Positive
Enjoy the positive feelings associated with that place knowing you can visit whenever you have a few minutes to yourself.

10. Return
When you’re ready, count from 1 to 10 all the way back, opening your eyes, feeling refreshed and relaxed ready to enjoy the rest of your day.

When you’re finished Warren says: “If you fall asleep during the experience you will waken normally feeling refreshed. If there is an emergency or anything that requires your attention you will become fully alert”.


The importance of breathing correctly is forgotten sometimes.

We get caught up in the moment, our breath becomes shallow and fast. This helps us to stay in, or get into fight or flight mode.

Try this simple breathing guide. For better results engage the diaphragm. Breathe into the tummy rather than the chest and notice the results.

How controlled breathing may promote healing remains a source of scientific study. One theory is that controlled breathing can change the response of the body’s autonomic nervous system, which controls unconscious processes such as heart rate and digestion as well as the body’s stress response, says Dr. Richard Brown, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University and co-author of “The Healing Power of the Breath.”

Consciously changing the way you breathe appears to send a signal to the brain to adjust the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system, which can slow heart rate and digestion and promote feelings of calm as well as the sympathetic system, which controls the release of stress hormones like cortisol.

Many maladies, such as anxiety and depression, are aggravated or triggered by stress. “I have seen patients transformed by adopting regular breathing practices,” says Dr. Brown, who has a private practice in Manhattan and teaches breathing workshops around the world.

When you take slow, steady breaths, your brain gets the message that all is well and activates the parasympathetic response, said Dr. Brown. When you take shallow rapid breaths or hold your breath, the sympathetic response is activated. “If you breathe correctly, your mind will calm down,” said Dr. Patricia Gerbarg, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at New York Medical College and Dr. Brown’s co-author

Dr. Chris Streeter, an associate professor of psychiatry and neurology at Boston University, recently completed a small study in which she measured the effect of daily yoga and breathing on people with diagnoses of major depressive disorder.

After 12 weeks of daily yoga and coherent breathing, the subjects’ depressive symptoms significantly decreased and their levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid, a brain chemical that has calming and anti-anxiety effects, had increased. The research was presented in May at the International Congress on Integrative Medicine and Health in Las Vegas. While the study was small and lacked a control group, Dr. Streeter and her colleagues are planning a randomized controlled trial to further test the intervention.

“The findings were exciting,” she said. “They show that a behavioral intervention can have effects of similar magnitude as an antidepressant.” NY Times

Other hypnotherapists I recommend around the UK

I offer one-to-one hypnotherapy sessions at our Belfast practice in Ballyhackamore. If you can’t make it to Belfast I can offer effective therapy via Skype.

If you are in other parts of the UK however and would like quality hypnotherapy in person there are some hypnotherapists I can highly recommend.

In Birmingham there is the magnificent Michael Pulman who offers a range of techniques to overcome many issues.

For further information and support contact my Walsall hypnotherapist colleague

Hypnotherapy in Birmingham

Kinetic Shift

I cannot believe the results I am getting with Kinetic Shift. My clients at our Belfast practice can’t believe it either.

People who have had anxiety and PTSD are walking out of my office in under an hour transformed!

In fact Kinetic Shift only takes a few minutes and for people who have been to many sessions of conventional therapies without ANY improvements, it truly can be seen as a miracle sometimes.

Kinetic Shift in 4 words – Active , Intuitive, Dynamic , Energising

Kinetic Shift …What is IT? And what will it do for you?

Kinetic Shift is a rapid method combining several different techniques to resolve Fears, Phobias, Anxiety, Weight Loss, Smoking and even PTSD and much more. We all know that we can’t express everything we want to verbally, so we use several other methods of communication and that is key to Kinetic Shift.


Kinetic Shift was developed by Karl Smith after years and years of watching and participating in boring and really pathetic hypnotherapy methods, laying the client down and really boring them to death with long-winded scripts or monotone voices. After 2 years of field testing with Military and Emergency Services personnel, he finalised the 7 simplistic stages of Kinetic Shift.


No more….. “I went to a therapist and I laid there and It didn’t work!” With Kinetic Shift, you will know something happened.

So call in to our hypnotherapy practice in Belfast and find out how Kinetic Shift hypnosis can transform your life fast!



Tips to stop smoking

On national No Smoking Day I was asked to come into U105 radio station in Belfast to be interviewed about how hypnotherapy can help people to stop smoking. I was a smoker myself for 20 years and hypnosis stopped me. I’m glad to say I’ve been free from tobacco for 8 years now and feel great for it. People ask what the success rate is for hypnosis and stopping smoking. It’s about 80% I guess which is quite high. I always make sure that the client is ready to stop smoking and is highly motivated. If they aren’t completely sure I politely ask them to come back when they are ready.

You are in control of the habit and can change that habit. I can help guide your unconscious mind to undo all of the triggers to smoke that have built up over the years. It’s a 2-way street working with a client with focused attention and imagination to build a picture of how great it will be when they finally kick that habit.

The nicotine and carbon monoxide is out of your system in 48 hours so it’s the habit that needs changed.

On the radio interview I gave some practical tips that you can do yourself.

– Take a deep breath

A simple but incredibly useful technique. Some people mistake that first drag from a cigarette as relaxing and calming when in fact a lot of what you are doing is taking a deep breath. Cigarettes cannot calm and relax as nicotine is a stimulant. A deep breath while saying “Breathe and feel good” to yourself will give you that moment.

Any urge or craving only lasts a few moments

– Keep a sports bottle of water with you at all times

Drinking water from a bottle gives your hands and mouth something to do instead of smoking. And it helps to flush the poisonous toxins from cigarettes out of your body.

– Find a way to get a break from your workstation.

Many people smoke so they can take a moment and have a break. You can do this without having to smoke. Go talk to a colleague, get a cup of tea, coffee or preferably water.

– Change how you talk to yourself

This is crucial and something I teach people how to do using hypnotherapy. You can help change you own way of thinking with this simple tip.

We all run an inner commentary in our heads. Instead of saying to yourself “This is difficult” or “I’d really love a cigarette”, say to yourself “I can do this, I am calm and relaxed and happy to be free from smoking”.

-Treat yourself to something nice with money saved

At £10 a day for a packet with a habit of 20 a day it costs over £6500 to smoke. Think what you can do with that money!

-Brush teeth regularly

You won’t want to ruin that lovely fresh breath

-Think how good you’ll feel and look in future

Imagine what it will be like when you have succeeded. Feeling good, energised, smelling great with extra money in your pocket.

– If you slip up don’t despair

Many people falter and have a puff. Don’t use this as an excuse to start smoking again. Treat it as a hiccup and know that you are a non-smoker again.

I hope you find the tips useful.

Keep positive!


You can listen to the interview here

BBC’s Trust Me I’m a Doctor conducts hypnosis study.

Hypnosis has a long and colourful history – and because of this, it’s often been dismissed as a cheap parlour trick.

Michael witnessed the power of hypnosis first hand under the expertise of Professor David Oakley.

He was first tested for his ability to respond to various suggestions whilst hypnotised using the Harvard Group Scale of Hypnotic Susceptibility.

Following a hypnotic induction procedure he was presented with twelve suggestions. Some were easy to follow, such as being asked to imagine your hands being forced together; others were more difficult, such as being asked to experience amnesia.

Overall Michael passed 11 out of the 12 items on the scale, placing him in the top 10% of the population in terms of responsiveness to direct suggestions in hypnosis.

Most of us score in the middle of the scale with between 4 and 8 test items passed (the average is 5.6) and in most recent experiments looking across broad populations, there is no reliable difference in the way that men and women score. Scores of zero and 12 are rare.

Michael described hypnosis as being very relaxing. He also noted that, though hypnosis is often portrayed in popular culture as being caught in a trance, his experience was that he felt free to resist the suggestions he was given, but just chose not to.

While suggested experiences in hypnosis certainly feel real to the individual, they are actually created by non-conscious systems in the brain of the individual.

MRI writing experiment

Professor David Oakley is working with fellow psychologist Dr Eamonn Walsh, psychiatrist Dr Quinton Deeley and neuroscientist Dr Mitul Mehta to use hypnosis as a tool for investigating psychoses such as schizophrenia.

Hypnosis can be used to produce false beliefs (delusions) in healthy volunteers – the kind that patients with certain mental health issues can experience.

It’s hoped that through studies of this kind they can better understand mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, and potentially find new ways to treat it.

Then, while still under hypnosis, Michael was given a different suggestion: He was told to just pretend that someone else was controlling his hand. In experiments, this allows the researchers to compare brain activity patterns to see whether people who think their hand is being controlled by someone else are actually just pretending.

Dr Eamonn Walsh, Dr Quinton Deeley, Dr Mitul Mehta and their colleagues at Kings College London have used both the automatic writing and the pretend condition with 18 individuals – only this time in an MRI scanner to see if they could detect any differences in the patterns of brain activity.

Feeling of control over writing

Graph of how much control people in the experiment reported feeling (18 volunteers, error bars = standard error)


Automatic writing condition

When participants experience someone else controlling their hand when writing (‘automatic writing’), the parts of the brain known as the left cerebellum and left parietal cortex – and particularly the angular gyrus – become over-activated compared to when people are writing voluntarily (but also during hypnosis).

Both these areas of the brain are associated with writing, but over-activations in these areas have also been observed in patients with schizophrenia who report similar symptoms, that their hand is “being controlled”. If a person experiences damage to their left angular gyrus, then they may even lose the ability to write.

These are two scans looking at different “slices” of the brain. In green are areas that were particularly active during the automatic writing task. These scans and activations represent an average over the 18 participants who took part in this study. [The activations in the left cerebellum can be seen in green on the bottom of the image on the left]

‘Pretend’ condition

When the same participants (still under hypnosis) are asked to just pretend someone else was controlling their hand, the pattern of activation was very different.

In this scan, the areas that were particularly active during the ‘pretend’ task can be seen in red. These scans and activations represent an average over the 18 participants who took part in this study. The pattern of activation was found to be quite different to that in the ‘automatic writing’ task. (Compare with ‘automatic writing’ image above.)

There was observed activity in what are known as working memory circuits in the front and back of the brain – the participants are just using their memory to remember what writing feels like.

Hence, participants are clearly not just ‘playing along’ or pretending to be ‘writing automatically’, as the activity patterns in the pretend and the real condition are very different.

Clearly hypnosis is a real phenomenon, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a useful therapeutic tool — can it help you quit smoking or lose weight?

The view of Dr Quinton Deeley, psychiatrist at Kings College London and Maudsley Hospital

His key points are:-

  • Hypnosis is being recommended for irritable bowel syndrome. There is some evidence that it can help with weight loss and to relieve the pain of childbirth.
  • More research is needed to establish what conditions are most likely to benefit from treatments involving hypnosis; we still don’t have the large scale clinical trials that would allow it to be confidently recommended for many of the things it’s advertised for, such as smoking cessation.
  • More studies are needed to establish precisely what types of hypnotic suggestion work best in tandem with existing psychological treatments, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
  • Despite the general lack of evidence, individuals still find hypnosis useful. If you do decide to choose hypnosis as a treatment you should seek out a practitioner who has training in a recognised health profession. They should be a qualified psychologist or psychiatrist and should be registered with a regulatory body to which they’re accountable.

Michael’s conclusion

Hypnosis is a tantalising research tool that has huge potential as a clinical tool.



New scientific study at Stanford discovers how hypnosis works

Real hypnosis is a clinical tool frequently used by psychiatrists. Now scientists are catching a glimpse of how it affects the brain.

 The technique has been used to treat pain management and anxiety, among other conditions.

A group of researchers at the Stanford School of Medicine just used brain imaging to see what was actually happening to people while they were under hypnosis. The team gathered 57 people, some of whom were highly susceptible to hypnotic trance states and others who were not hypnotizable at all.

They placed the participants in brain imaging machines, and played various sets of prerecorded instructions—two sets were meant to induce hypnosis, and two others were given other instructions.

The images captured the regions of the brain that were most active and most dormant while the participants were hypnotized. The team saw changes in three regions in the hypnotized patients.

They saw decreased activity in a region known as the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, a region known to be critical for evaluating contexts, which aids in deciding what to worry about and what to ignore in a particular situation. Reducing that activity shows hypnotized people are able to suspend judgement and immerse themselves in something, without thinking of what else they could or should be attending.

The second change appeared in some of the parts of the brain that give people the ability to separate the thoughts in their heads from the feelings in their bodies.

People in hypnosis “can picture something that makes them stressed, but they can imagine that their bodies are floating and comfortable,” said the study’s senior author, Stanford psychiatry professor David Spiegel, in an interview with CNBC. “So, when you are thinking about something, you can better control how your body responds to that thought.”

The third region affected is located very deep in the brain and involves self-consciousness. “People who are hypnotized tend not to be self-conscious, and so they will do things they wouldn’t normally do,” Spiegel said. “That has therapeutic potential. You can get people to shake up the way they react to problems and approach them from a different point of view.”

Spiegel hopes the research will push forward the use of hypnosis as a clinical technique.

“This is showing that hypnosis is not a parlor trick or a magic show, it is a neurobiological phenomenon.”

He added that hypnosis is underutilized in health care, and that hypnosis can be a viable alternative to the use of painkillers, which have proven to be addictive to millions of people.

“I think this illustrates the reality of hypnosis as a phenomenon,” he said, “and the fact that this is not a way of losing control, as a lot of people fear. It is a way of teaching people to enhance control over their brains and bodies.”







Do you need a Mind Coach?


It’s not often that a relatively unknown tennis player beats seven top-20 opponents in the space of 12 months. But that’s what Johanna Konta has done. Having started last year 146th in the world, the Sydney-born 24-year-old is now set to climb into the top 40.

Success like that doesn’t come easy, and last month it was revealed that Konta has used a mind coach since October 2014: the athlete was spending two hours a week with Juan Coto, a former business consultant, to build up the mental toughness needed to win.

Even hard-rocking band Metallica famously used Phil Towle, a ‘personal enhancement coach’, to help them when the band was falling apart in the early noughties.

Oprah Winfrey and Richard Branson have used mind coaches to accelerate their success, as have countless other celebrities, among them actress Nia Long and singers Kelly Rowland and Leona Lewis. Even hard-rocking band Metallica famously used Phil Towle, a ‘personal enhancement coach’, to help them when the band was falling apart in the early noughties.


Despite the financial crisis, demand for coaches – who charge anywhere between £50 and £250 a session – is soaring, with an estimated 7,000 coaches in the UK alone. Globally, the International Coaching Federation (ICF) has seen a staggering 50% rise in membership in the last five years.

Now, a leading happiness expert is claiming that a mind coach could be the missing link between us and success – in work, money and love. Paul Dolan, a behavioural scientist at London School of Economics and the author of the bestselling book Happiness By Design, says: “Just as people have for years been employing personal trainers to help them get fit and lose weight, so too achieving goals can be accelerated by using an advisor or coach to apply similiar principles to success in life.”
The difficulty we have in sticking to the goals we set ourselves, he suggests, can be explained by behavioural science, which sees the brain as having two systems. “System one governs the fast, automatic processes we do without even knowing we’re doing them and system two, the slow, deliberate moves we make thanks to having rationally thought about them,” explains Dolan, 47, who lives in Hove with his wife Lesley, 35 and two children, Poppy, seven and Stanley, six.

The trouble, he adds, is that “you’re making between two and 10,000 decisions each day and most of those are made for you automatically by your system one brain. If you choose them wisely, a coach can intervene on these automatic ‘habit loops’ and give you the small, practical, daily strategies to create new ones, as well as the feedback on when you’re getting closer to achieving your goals. Feedback is key.”

Most people know they need to set challenging but achievable goals and then break them down into bite-sized chunks. “But we also need feedback on the small achievements. So, just as a personal trainer might count up your reps on bicep curls from one to five and then backwards from 10, a mind coach can help you achieve a goal by giving you feedback on small percentages achieved, for example when you’ve reached 10% of the goal, 20%, and then, once you’re halfway there, countdown with 50% to go, 40% and so on,” he says.

Coaching is about the future, whereas the focus on psychotherapy is often on resolving difficulties arising from the past
Magdalena M. Nook, chief executive of the ICF
So what more do coaches actually do that a therapist doesn’t? “Coaching is about the future, whereas the focus on psychotherapy is often on resolving difficulties arising from the past,” says Magdalena M. Nook, chief executive of the ICF. Another key distinction is managing progress and accountability. So, once the action plan has been made, the coach can hold the client to account on all the little things he/she has agreed to do each day, she explains. A personal trainer might hold you to account just by being there and shouting until you lift that extra weight or run that extra mile. A mind coach would play a similar role but by using tactics such as “daily reminders, pictures on the fridge, mindfulness practices or a 30-day log or diary outlining exactly how and when [the client] did the steps on the plan to their goal,” says Gill Fennings-Monkman, chair of the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy’s (BACP) coaching branch.
Interestingly, ICF figures from 2014 showed that men were more likely than women to seek the help of a coach for such issues as optimising work performance, increasing self-confidence and improving business strategies. “Men might see the idea of having therapy as a sign of weakness but be perfectly fine with the idea of seeing a coach because they might assume having therapy suggests they have deep problems,” says Fennings-Monkman.

Coaching is a relatively new and unregulated field, with few checks and balances in place to ensure you’re not getting someone un- or under-qualified at best and downright shady at worst

But buyer beware: coaching is a relatively new and unregulated field, with few checks and balances in place to ensure you’re not getting someone unqualified.


No mind coach, of course, can promise to make you a global tennis star overnight – a few other contributing factors are required for that. But, if chosen carefully, they just might help you edge a step or two closer to that elusive goal, be it saving a few quid, losing a few pounds or finally starting that business you’ve dreamed of.

Five ways to be your own mind coach

The practices Paul Dolan says can help you reach your goals

1- Make implentation intentions – plan the tiny, daily steps towards your goal, not just the goal itself.
2- Practise mental contrasting – visualise obstacles that will get in the way and how you’re going to overcome them.
3- Set goals within a range – for example, ‘I’m going to save between £100 and £300 a month’ instead of the all-or-nothing mindset of ‘I will save £250 each month’.
4- Know the law of small numbers – frame your goal in small chunks and reward yourself for completing 10%, 20%, 30% and so on, towards it.
5- Use technology for motivation- try a life coaching app or, if you want to lose weight, something like My Fitness Pal can make you accountable by acting like a pocket diet coach. This helps you see what you’ve achieved too, which can be motivating.





The Telegraph
Anna Magee is the editor of