Hypnotherapy is a form of therapy that uses hypnosis in an attempt to treat a condition.

Hypnotherapy normally involves an individual being in a deeply relaxed state. The therapy also uses focused attention and concentration to induce a heightened state of awareness.

This allows the patient to focus on specific thoughts or factors. Hypnotherapy will commonly involve suggestion therapy, which allows a person to be more inclined to changing behaviours (including pain management).

Hypnotherapy can also be used to explore causes of a condition or symptom. This may include events that have been hidden in an individual’s unconscious memory.

Hypnotherapy has the potential to be very useful for many mental health conditions

The Science Behind Hypnotherapy

Hypnotherapy attempts to put a patient in a trance-like state. Hypnosis puts an individual in an incredibly focused state – to the extent that anything revolving around a person will not be noticed.

At this point, the mind is in a position where a person will usually talk freely. Essentially, they can access the unconscious mind, guided by the therapist.

A person will be able to respond easier to a therapist in this state. A range of techniques and commands are used throughout hypnotherapy.

How Does Hypnotherapy Work?

Hypnotherapy tends to follow roughly the same format. A therapist will begin by relaxing an individual to the extent that they will be in a trance-like state.

They will then guide the patient to focus on specific thoughts, events or feelings. By being hypnotised, a patient will be able to respond easier to suggestions made by the therapist.

This enables the patient to – over time – being more open-minded to changing their beliefs or feelings towards something. This can help their symptoms lessening.

Alternatively, hypnotherapy can be used to uncover a trauma that hasn’t been processed. The trauma may have been pushed to the unconscious mind, yet is causing many problems to the patient.

Hypnotherapy can lead the person to recalling the trauma, which could then be focused on by a different form of psychotherapy. Hypnotherapy is a gradual process – it takes time to achieve its benefits.

It is normally a relaxed state to be in – the person will normally talk freely, without inhibition. Prior to starting therapy, the patient and therapist will agree on what the patient aims to achieve from the therapy.

The therapist will gradually take the patient out of a trance at the end of the session. The patient will normally follow the suggestions made to them by a therapist, which should see their symptoms lessening – perhaps even being cured.

Finally, hypnotherapy only works if an individual is willing to hypnotised – the mind can block this if necessary.

When is Hypnotherapy Useful?

Hypnotherapy has the potential to be very useful for many mental health conditions. Any anxiety disorder – especially phobias – can be treated successfully with Hypnotherapy.

Those with some Somatic Disorders can also be helped, as it may reveal the root cause behind their symptoms.  People with habits such as smoking or nail biting may also find relief from Hypnotherapy.

Hypnotherapy can also be an excellent intervention when a person appears to be in a highly-emotional or depressed state, yet are unsure on the causes. Hypnotherapy will often be able to find the cause behind a disturbed state – which can then be treated in the relevant way.

Any condition can feasibly be treated by Hypnotherapy. However, as always, it is important to mention that it isn’t a one-size fits all therapy, and every person is different.

How effective is Hypnotherapy?

Hypnotherapy appears to be effective in many cases, with the literature largely suggesting hypnotherapy is very effective.

In cases where a traumatic event is attempted to be overcome, Hypnotherapy shows strong effectiveness [1]. Hypnotherapy has been shown to be effective in treating Acute Stress Disorder, along with other forms of trauma-based symptoms.

One study found a combination of CBT and Hypnotherapy produced positive results in treating mental health conditions [2].

In Somatic Disorders, Hypnotherapy appears to be effective [3]. However, Hypnotherapy doesn’t appear to be effective in treating eating disorders like bulimia [4].

It mainly seems that Hypnotherapy has the potential to be very useful; whether done alone or as an adjunct with another form of therapy.

Not everyone though will find relief from hypnotherapy – it is down to individual circumstances.

How to find a therapist?

It is recommended that you contact your GP and inform them of your problems. They will refer you to the relevant mental health team.

If you are aiming to use the private sector, you could ask your GP or someone you know for a recommendation. You can also look online – the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy have a therapist directory on their site.

See Also


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[1] Shakibaei, F., Harandi, A., Gholamrezaei, A., Samoei, R. & Salehi, P. (2008). Hypnotherapy in Management of Pain and Reexperiencing of Trauma in Burn Patients. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis. 26 (2), p185-197.

[2] Bryant, R., Moulds, M., Nixon, R., Mastrodomenico, J., Felmingham, K. & Hopwood, S. (2006). Hypnotherapy and cognitive behaviour therapy of acute stress disorder: A 3-year follow-up. Behaviour Research and Therapy. 44 (9), p1331-1335. 

[3] Frankel, F. H. (1973). The Effects of Brief Hypnotherapy in a Series of Psychosomatic Problems. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics. 22 (1), p269-275.

[4] Barabasz, M. (2012). Cognitive hypnotherapy with bulimia. American Journal of Clinical Hypnotherapy. 54 (4), p353-364.