Hypnosis is quickly gaining a legion of followers in the city, who rely on it to help manage a host of ailments from insomnia to overeating to stress - and while it may to the unacquainted conjure up memories of Paul McKenna TV shows from the Nineties, the actual practise - and outcomes of hypnotherapy - couldn’t be further from those stunts.
The ailments it treats might be common of our fast-paced, modern lifestyles, but hypnotherapy dates back thousands of years, and the ancient Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans are all thought to have dedicated sleep or “dream” temples to healing therapy in the hypnotic state.
How does it work? In a guided session, a hypnotherapist uses visualisation and hypnosis techniques to take you into a deep state of relaxation, or altered state of awareness, in which you’ll be “highly responsive” to a series of positive suggestions they plant which are aimed at breaking the root of bad habits and reframing traumas, explains hypnotherapist Ailsa Frank. “We use techniques to make changes in the subconscious part of the mind, which stores memories and learned behaviour, while the conscious critical mind is at rest.”
These suggestions are usually things you’ve discussed beforehand. People usually see a hypnotherapist to treat one main issue, which becomes the predominant focus of the hypno session. But other issues — related to confidence and anxiety, for example — are also often dealt with along the way. “For instance, during hypnotherapy to reduce drinking we would cover the confidence issues that may cause someone to drink more the night before a work presentation to cope with nerves, or things like relationship or heartbreak issues that might be driving their drinking,” Frank continues.
Is everyone able to be hypnotised? According to hypnotherapist Tim Smale, absolutely: “It’s easy to get someone into a state of hypnosis because you are, in fact, in a hypnotic state naturally many times throughout the day. Think about when you’re engrossed in a tv show and tune out surrounding noise: that is a state of hypnosis. We just create that in a clinical environment to help switch you into a daydream state.”
Most hypnotherapists say you’ll need between two and four sessions to treat a specific problem, while others say you can break habits in a single session. Many now incorporate audio recordings for their clients to follow up with their progress from home.
Not sure who to call? Whether you need a creativity boost or to nix vices, here are some of London’s top hypnotherapists and the issues they specialise in treating...
For performance nerves…
Tim’s approach is pragmatic - rather than endlessly search for the original source of the nerves, he quickly establishes from a set of scores on behaviour traits out of ten how they view the world and sources of fear. Next, he focusses on what they’d like to change and why.
“I open a window to the subconscious, through which tweaks can happen. It’s hugely effective; I want to make myself redundant as quickly as possible.” His clients are given audio recordings to reinforce the effects of the session at home.
Cost: £260 per session.
For a creativity boost...
Stuck in a creativity or career rut? It’s Jessica Boston, aka The Creators’ Hypnotherapist, who millennial Londoners have on speed dial to help them break out of behavioural patterns that are holding them back in life.
“My powerful subconscious somatic hypnosis and transformational coaching programmes help clients to understand their subconscious feelings and work through trauma and anxiety to build the confidence to achieve their creative goals,” she says. “My techniques are designed for open-minded, high-achieving, yet unfulfilled individuals who want to understand their feelings better and create a state that allows them to reach their potential with greater ease.”
Boston offers online sessions as part of her one-to-one Homecoming programme and, this year is launching group hypnotherapy sessions. Her clients receive MP3 recordings to reinforce progress made in each session in their own time. Expect to end a session feeling like the world is your oyster.
Cost: enquire directly.
After treating scores of anxious city-dwellers, Zoe has come to believe that, while there are nuances, anxiety is primarily due to two things: “it’s either adverse experiences, often as a child or young adult, which are stored and which haven’t been processed, or it’s the result of a lifestyle - which people might have no choice over. My job is to tell the subconscious that the anxiety isn’t useful or helpful, and to take them out of fight or flight into a new place to clear old events.”
Zoe also sees patients with Generalised Anxiety Disorder, i.e. where someone is anxious about being anxious and might scan their body for symptoms of anxiety, thereby prompting the state.
Cost: Initial 2 hour session: £295. Follow up sessions of 90 mitres: £245
For alcohol reduction...
Frank is well-known in the UK for her “Take Control of Alcohol Hypnotherapy Reduction System.” Author of Cut the Crap and Feel Amazing and founder of the Feel Amazing hypnotherapy app, she uses techniques to get to the root problem of issues like anxiety, stress, debt and addictions, to help clients break habits and release cravings, while boosting their self-confidence.
Most of her clients are looking to reduce their alcohol consumption rather than quit completely, while she also specialises in treating women who are looking to stop or cut back on their drinking in preparation for starting a family. Her typical one-to-one sessions take place over the phone, and have done for the past 15 years (long before the pandemic), but this year she has launched an in-person clinic at The Birth Company on Harley Street, where she will also be offering sessions with clients focused on fertility.
Frank recommends between two and four sessions to break a habit, and follow up with recordings on her app. Read one writer’s account of how sessions with Ailsa helped cure her binge drinking here.
Cost: £175 per session.
“You don’t change the memory - you change the response to it,” says Gemma of her approach to addressing phobias, adding that, actually, the response which creates the phobia can even be someone else’s: “I once treated someone with a phobia of flying who’d had a bad day and was anxious and had happened to fly that day. Someone else had said to them that they must have a fear of flying and, boom, the association was formed.”
Perlin’s sessions kickstart the reprogramming, which continues to work while you sleep and dream. She suggests between one to three sessions to tackle most phobias, and offers remote sessions, which work well “because people are often relaxed in their own environment.”
Cost: £160 per 50 minute session.
For help with sleep-related issues…
Max has helped countless clients - and some seriously high profile ones - to tackle their insomnia through his practise and through his sleep-specific clinic www.thesleepcoach.co.uk. “I see a lot of people for insomnia who’ve usually tried everything. I switch the focus from them being in their heads to being in their body, encouraging that somatic release. I teach a sequence which is easy to replicate and should shorten the time it takes to fall asleep.”
He also looks at habits such as too much coffee or alcohol, making sure that his sessions tackle their presence in routine, too.
Cost: Prices start at £495.
For eating-related issues and weight management...
Harley Street hypnotherapist Susan Hepburn is reported to have helped too many stars to name over the years. “I work with the whole person to ensure results are permanent — I don’t believe in a ‘quick fix’,” she says. “The first half of the session involves talking and discovering how I can help my clients with their issues that brought them to see me, when I invariably discover other related issues too. By listening to my clients, I am getting their storyline. The next part is the meditation, where I do my work of changing the narrative and deleting unwanted files of negative behaviour patterns that we have agreed beforehand. We work together as a partnership, but it’s crucial that my clients feel that these are their instructions and not mine. I am simply there as a catalyst to make it all happen.”
Cost: from £295 to £395 a session.
To release trauma
“Everything you think is a blueprint your mind and body is trying to make real - your words shape your reality, as do the pictures you make in your head. It’s never the thing - it’s the thing you think about the thing,” says Peer of how she approaches solving deep-rooted issues.
“We use powerful language to not just take away the old language, but to insert new wiring, to excite the imagination. The common denominator amongst my clients is the fundamental belief that they aren’t good enough . I help them to shape a new reality through my Rapid Transformation Therapy.”
Cost: enquire directly.
For help with addictions...
Psychologist and hypnotherapist Aaron Surtees is the founder of City Hypnosis and the Subconsciously app. He primarily treats clients for issues related to anxiety and confidence, root relationships with food, alcohol and social media, as well as unwanted habits such as nail biting, needle phobia and psychosexual issues.
The Surtees Method combines hypnotic suggestions and mind programming techniques to rewire the subconscious mind and change unwanted patterns of thought and behaviour. He offers in-person and video hypnosis, and typically recommends four sessions. Clients can reinforce the work achieved in sessions with audio downloads and recordings via his app.
Cost: £350 per session (or £325 each when booking four).
For the whole family...
Constantly feel like you’re navigating a tight rope, trying to juggle parenthood, a busy career and everything else that life throws at you? Over in Soho, it’s a family affair at the London Clinic of Hypnotherapy, a chic space run by Lydia Johnson. She works with entire families, including everything from tired or anxious parents, frazzled step parents, siblings, cousins and offspring at points in their lives when everything feels overwhelming.
“There is a particular time within the family atmosphere that tends to be the busiest and most frenetic,” Johnson says. “Teens and students are growing into themselves, with their own individual needs and aspirations, they may be going out too much, under eating, feeling stressed about exams or not feeling listened to at home, it tends to coincide with parents being at the pinnacle of their career, having lots of responsibilities and perhaps feeling under-appreciated.” This is where Johnson steps in, to help deal with the stress and bad habits that can arise as a result of this environment.
She will usually recommend her signature three-hour “breakthrough session” —organised into five pillars: family, relationships, work, diet, health and sense of self — and can be done online in two parts or in clinic in one sitting.
Cost: from £395 for the three-hour breakthrough session.