Trance States in Psychotherapy

What is the optimal quality or state of consciousness in psychotherapy? What state of mind permits the broadest access to working with perception, with memory, with deep layers of mental experience?

In psychotherapy, there is a long tradition of inducing quieter, more deeply relaxed states of mind to facilitate greater access to one’s internal experience, leading to a more profound understanding of mind and self.

Several psychotherapists whose profiles are listed with Toronto Psychotherapy Group offer trance-work in psychotherapy in order to facilitate work with less frequently available states of consciousness and awareness.

What Is Trance?

The trance state is an altered state of consciousness that can be experienced as calm; some describe the trance state as one of tranquil yet heightened focus. Trance-work is a therapeutic technique involving induced states of relaxed yet focused attention and concentration. Increased suggestiveness during a trance state can be useful in facilitating psychotherapeutic aims. Release into the trance state can relieve tension and stress.

The advantage to working psychotherapeutically in a trance state is that everyday concerns, inhibitions, and conscious blocks are softened or bypassed. Guided imagery, cues for somatic (bodily) awareness, or other thought exercises may be used to facilitate entry into the trance state.

Note that trance is not synonymous with hypnosis, though the practices bear some relation to one another. Despite common caricatures, neither can normally be used to induce a person to act against his/her ethics, morals, or conscious resolve. It is important to reflect on trance as part of the range of expression consciousness takes: for example, most people have some personal experience of “flow” or being “in the zone”, which is an example of high performance trance, characterized by complete, focused attentiveness on the activity at hand.

Trance in psychotherapy has more in common with facilitated meditative states. Such a state serves as a safe mental theatre to regress into memory, or explore other expressions of being and feeling, free of the inhibitions that accompany normal states of consciousness.

How Psychotherapists Work with Therapeutic Trance When a psychotherapist employs trance in his or her work with you, the aim of the process for both of you will be to explore the mysteries of your inner life and psychological states, free of the distractions of regular, conscious waking life.

Seeing a therapist who employs trance-work may involve some or all of the following:

  1. Using trance to create a focused, calm and powerful state to enable unself-conscious inner exploration
  2. Creating a safe space for more complex regressions in memory
  3. Employing trance to facilitate freedom from typical conscious constraint
  4. Exploring the technique of trance to deepen somatic (bodily) awareness

To consult with a therapist who works with trance techniques and who will work with you to clarify your specific concerns and treatment goals, view our directory of professionals.