Hypnosis is a state of deep relaxation in which the subconscious mind is made more accessible. You are not asleep merely both physically and mentally relaxed. Although hypnosis is often seen as a means of entertainment, it is a powerful tool for change and is used in circumstances as diverse as sports performance or childbirth.
There are as many ways to induce hypnosis, as there are clients. The state of trance is subjective but almost everyone can be taught how to enter a hypnotic trance, as it is a naturally occurring condition, not unlike the stage we reach between being awake and asleep.
Hypnosis is totally natural and safe - you already experience trance regularly, such as when you become 'lost' in a book, whilst driving (were those traffic lights actually green?) or when concentrating intensely and loosing track of time. You cannot get 'stuck' in hypnosis - you would naturally either fall asleep or return to normal wakefulness - if your therapist left you there. You usually remain aware of yourself and your surroundings and you can voluntarily terminate the trance at any point.
Although some individuals are able to reach a deep state of trance, deep enough to undergo surgery for example, most therapeutic work is carried out in a light stage of trance.
Hypnotherapy is a two way process between the therapist and the client. You cannot be hypnotised against your will or be made to reveal things you don't want to. Hypnosis is thought to work by altering our state of consciousness, allowing the analytical left brain to be switched off, while the creative right brain becomes more dominant. This allows us to access what we call our subconscious mind - the part of us that has to change if we wish to overcome obstacles and unhelpful behaviours. For example, a client who consciously wants to overcome their fear of spiders may try everything they consciously can to do it, engaging the logical left-brain to engage in self-talk such as,' I know they can't hurt me' but as long as their subconscious mind retains this fear and prevents the patient from succeeding. Progress can only be made be reprogramming the subconscious so that deep-seated instincts and beliefs are eliminated.