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Abreactions in therapy and play

Hypnotists and hypnotherapists talk a lot about abreactions and what, when and how to deal with them. I recently experienced one first hand, so thought I’d write something about it as I do not believe that the traditional definition of an abreaction is strictly correct.


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Glossary of Hypnotic (and non-hypnotic) terms

There are a lot of terms used throughout the hypnosis and the therapy world that may or may not make sense to you. On this page, I have listed a few of the most common with descriptions.

General terms

Below are some general terms that I’ve not been able to group.


Integral Eye Movement Therapy is a brief change work process that generates rapid change in the area of undesired emotional and identity imprints. The process and algorithms of the technique answers the question, “How did the client learn to feel this way, about that thing?” and applies specific change at the right place within the client’s model of the world. Andrew Austin, Creator of IEMT. I am a licensed practitioner of IEMT.


Neuro-linguistic programming is a controversial approach to psychotherapy and organisational change based on “a model of interpersonal communication chiefly concerned with the relationship between successful patterns of behaviour and the subjective experiences (esp. patterns of thought) underlying them” and “a system of alternative therapy based on this which seeks to educate people in self-awareness and effective communication, and to change their patterns of mental and emotional behaviour”. OED


An emotional (and possibly physical) response experienced as a result of some subconscious trigger. Abreactions take many forms from spontaneous regression to a past event to apparently fighting the therapy being given.


The process by which a state of hypnosis is formally achieved with the subject.


Once hypnotised, it is easy to re-orient a subject and then re-induce hypnosis for further work.


The process by which a hypnotist will intensify a state of hypnosis


A process of intensifying a state of hypnosis by repeatedly waking and then re-inducing hypnosis in a subject.


A state of hypnosis where suggestions given by the hypnotist are freely and clearly acted upon. Additionally, approximately 20% of people are able to achieve a somnambulistic state quickly and easily. These people are often described as “somnambulists”. It is also a term used to describe someone who suffers from “sleep walking”.


The process of re-building and intensifying a past memory. This flexible tool can be used to induce, deepen or even as part of a treatment.

Ideodynamic (and ideomotor) Therapy

A method of working originally created as a result of the indirect and subtle approaches of the legendary Milton Erickson. Milton’s student Ernest Rossi developed the therapeutic use of ideomotor and non-conscious movements in new and powerful ways. Having studied with Norman D. Vaughton (one of Rossi’s own students), I use the techniques of dissociating the client from the physical movements caused by conscious processes. This then facilitates access directly to the unconscious mind leading to profound and often dramatic (seen to be believed) change.


A term used to describe specific observable occurrences as a direct result of hypnosis either suggested or self-evident.

Post Hypnotic Suggestion (PHS)

An automatic response that a hypnosis subject will have no conscious control over carried out at some point after a hypnosis session while they are not formally hypnotised.


Complete rigidity of one or more sets of muscles in the hypnotic subject’s body.


The process by an idea “Ideo” causes muscular movement “motor” without consciously creating the movement.


There are many different forms of hypnotic therapy available, so I have listed a couple of terms that are fairly common throughout.


The process of allowing a hypnosis subject to re-experience a past event.


Artificial creation of an intense dislike of something in order to affect a change in behaviour. Often used in therapy for things like gambling, nail biting and occasionally smoking.

Parts Therapy

A therapy that involves identifying the conflicting elements of a subjects personality and aligning them in order to affect change. This is a personal favourite of mine.

The Mind

For a thorough description of the mind model that I use for hypnosis, please see

The conscious mind

The element of the human mind that deals with short term memory, rationalisation and will power. This is often considered the “analytical mind”.

The subconscious mind

The element of the human mind that deals with long term memory, emotions, habits and addictions and self-preservation. It is these functions and area that we aim to deal with for most hypnotic interventions.

The unconscious mind

The element of all animals minds that deals with the automatic processes of living. This includes the immune system and other essential functions.

The critical faculty

The analytical element of a human brain that sits on the border between conscious and unconscious and normally acts to prevent us accepting and reacting to every suggestion given to us on a day-to-day basis. This faculty needs to be by-passed or otherwise appeased in order to effect hypnosis.