What Is Hypnotherapy

What Is Hypnotherapy?

Hypnosis is a natural state of deep relaxation.

Because you are in a heightened state of awareness during this deep relaxation (sometimes called a trance), hypnosis can help you reach your goals, heal past traumas, accelerate healing, control pain, and achieve success in many areas of life. Another way to define this evidence-based-modality is that hypnosis is simply a natural state of relaxed focus.

We all experience this natural trance state several times a day, whether daydreaming, road hypnosis while driving, watching TV, or the peaceful, dreamy feeling we experience as we drift in or out of sleep. By “natural,” I mean that everyone has the capacity to enter into this relaxed state of awareness called hypnosis.

By using guided therapeutic relaxation, Hypnotherapy utilizes this natural trance state to create change in a person’s life.

Hypnotherapy activates your natural healing process. It mobilizes the subconscious mind (the autonomic nervous system) to do the healing. Hypnotherapy doesn’t do the healing, it is a technique that actives your own natural healing potential.

Our subconscious mind is like an automatic pilot, and is the origin of most of our habits, emotions, and beliefs about ourselves and the world around us. This part of our mind also has a profound impact on our body’s tendency to be healthy or ill, relaxed or anxious.

When our lives are not in balance, our subconscious mind will attempt to communicate this information to our conscious mind. The subconscious mind communicates through emotions, imagery, bodily sensations, symptoms and ailments. However, often time our conscious mind does not understand the message. By going into deep, natural relaxation through hypnosis we can find out what the subconscious is trying to communicate to us directly.

Hypnosis makes all the difference for many people in getting their own conscious and subconscious minds to work for them rather than against them.

By relaxing our conscious critical and logical mind our subconscious mind is open to receiving new, empowering information. Developing an effective communication system with the subconscious mind through hypnotherapy can help heal a person’s body and move a person towards achieving the goals they could never reach through willpower alone.

Hypnotherapy is therapeutic, not in that it’s doing something to you, but in drawing out what is already there.

Hypnosis has been used for everything from a natural anesthesia during surgery, performance enhancement for sports, to relief from anxiety and control of habits like smoking and unhealthy eating.

An actual hypnosis session involves deep relaxation to bring the body into a balanced state, releasing many of the everyday tensions we carry around. This deep relaxation helps to quiet the conscious mind, and free up the subconscious mind to receive new empowering ideas and thoughts more easily.

For some people this is a unique and profoundly peaceful experience. Some people find it is like the restful feeling that precedes falling asleep or waking. Others find it is a focused concentration similar to being completely absorbed in a good book.

Communicating effectively with this part of our mind can result in profound and positive changes in our lives.

Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus, Ph.D. explains hypnotherapy this way in his article “The Truth About Hypnosis” published in Psychology Today:

“Hypnotherapy is the utilization of the hypnotic state and focused intention in order to resolve a specific issue, attain a goal and create positive, permanent change.

“A hypnotic induction combined with deepening techniques help soften the clients critical and analytical conscious mind which acts as a filter often preventing new positive ideas and suggestions from taking permanent hold in the subconscious. The critical mind part of us is often formed at a young age without adult wisdom and maturity. Therefore, many things that we might think about ourselves could be long outdated and based on outdated childhood thinking.

“After the critical filter is softened, suggestions are given to the client, guiding them to focus on positive input and their desired outcome. This ”rewires” their thinking and subsequent behavior which becomes automatically driven by the subconscious mind after the hypnosis session is over. The old thinking patterns are updated with new information, with the wisdom and intellect of our sensible adult reasoning mind. Therefore old, limiting beliefs and habits are replaced with new positive and healthy beliefs and habits.

“The suggestions given to people under hypnosis appear to be an important part of the mechanism through which the procedure works. While many people won’t accept or respond to an up-front, direct suggestion, under hypnosis, suggestions seem to get into the mind – perhaps through the ’back door’ of consciousness where they often germinate and take root as important behavioral or psychological changes.”

Since hypnosis is simply a state of heightened awareness, that’s achieved through guided relaxation, the person being hypnotized is always in complete control. They can never be made to do or say anything they don’t want to, they have complete freedom to accept or reject the therapists’ suggestions and can come out of the trance state whenever they want.

Arizona Integrative Hypnotherapy

My intention and purpose is to meet the needs of each individual person. Each client receives a personalized strategy that considers their unique conditions, needs and circumstances.

I do not analyze, diagnose, prescribe, or give advice during our hypnotherapy sessions. We do not meet so that I can “fix” you. If I claim the hero role in order to fix you then that would make you the victim in need of rescuing. You cannot heal from a place of victimhood.

As I wrote above, Hypnotherapy activates YOUR natural healing process. It mobilizes your subconscious mind (the autonomic nervous system) to do the healing. Hypnotherapy doesn’t do the healing, it is a technique that actives your own natural healing potential.

Your subconscious knows you better than anyone what the issue in need of healing is and how to resolve it. Though I will be coaching your through our hypnotherapy sessions together, all insights and guidance comes from you, the one person who knows you best.

That’s why, on average, most clients need 3 to 6, sometimes 8, sessions to achieve effective and long term results. We go straight to the one entity that has the answers, your subconscious mind.

Using the most appropriate hypnotherapeutic interventions, Integrative Hypnotherapy is a collaborative approach to physical, emotional, and mental healing. Working in partnership with you and helping you tap into your body’s natural and intuitive healing power allows you to maximize your own potential for health and well-being.

The Best Scientific Evidence for the Use of Hypnosis

Evidence for Hypnosis and Pain Control

One of the best endorsements of hypnosis is the summary of a paper by Mark P. Jensen and David R. Patterson of the University of Washington on the topic of using hypnosis for chronic pain. In fact, this research paper, as published in American Psychologist (the journal of the American Psychological Association) shines the light on every area of pain and how hypnosis can positively impact it.

“The empirical support for hypnosis for chronic pain management has flourished over the past two decades. Clinical trials show that hypnosis is effective for reducing chronic pain, although outcomes vary between individuals. The findings from these clinical trials also show that hypnotic treatments have a number of positive effects beyond pain control.

“Neurophysiological studies reveal that hypnotic analgesia has clear effects on brain and spinal-cord functioning that differ as a function of the specific hypnotic suggestions made, providing further evidence for the specific effects of hypnosis. The research results have important implications for how clinicians can help their clients experience maximum benefits from hypnosis and treatments that include hypnotic components.” [7]

American Psychologist
Journal of the American Psychological Association

Beyond chronic pain, hypnosis is widely used in the area of natural childbirth. One study showed,

“Prenatal hypnosis preparation resulted in significantly less use of sedatives, analgesia, and regional anesthesia during labor and in higher 1-minute neonatal Apgar scores.” [1]

American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis

Hypnosis has been actively shown to reduce the pain associated with fibromyalgia.

“The patients experienced less pain during hypnosis than at rest.” [5]

European Journal of Pain

It’s really important to realize that pain is a multifaceted experience. This next study shows that different suggestions work on different parts of that experience.

“Consistent with the Malone study, we found that different hypnotic suggestions differentially affect the two dimensions of pain. Specifically we found that hypnotic induction plus analgesia suggestion reduced the intensity dimension of pain significantly more than it reduced the unpleasantness dimension.

“Conversely, hypnotic induction plus relaxation suggestion reduced the unpleasantness dimension of pain significantly more than it reduced the intensity dimension. This demonstration of different pain interventions affecting different dimensions of pain is consistent with a growing body of literature in which pain is studied as a multidimensional experience.” [6]

Journal of Pain and Symptom Management

Beyond pain there are other unpleasant sensations the body can endure. Often times during chemotherapy and cancer treatment, some of the other drugs given can cause severe nausea and vomiting. Hypnosis has been shown to actively reduce that.

“One of the first modern applications of hypnosis with cancer patients…[multiple] studies reported positive results including statistically significant reductions in nausea and vomiting.” [3]

CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians
Published for the American Cancer Society

In another study, the effectiveness of a 15-minute pre-surgery hypnosis session versus an empathic listening session in a clinical trial was tested with 200 breast cancer patients. The research showed that patients who received hypnosis reported less post-surgical pain, nausea, fatigue and discomfort. The study also found that the hospital saved $772 per patient in the hypnosis group, mainly due to reduced surgical time. Patients who were hypnotized required less of the analgesic lidocaine and the sedative propofol during surgery.

“Patients in the hypnosis group required less propofol and lidocaine than patients in the control group. Patients in the hypnosis group also reported less pain intensity, pain unpleasantness, nausea, fatigue, discomfort, and emotional upset. Patients in the hypnosis group cost the institution $772.71 less per patient than those in the control group, mainly due to reduced surgical time.

Hypnosis was superior to attention control regarding propofol and lidocaine use; pain, nausea, fatigue, discomfort, and emotional upset at discharge; and institutional cost. Overall, the present data support the use of hypnosis with breast cancer surgery patients.” [19]

Journal of the National Cancer Institute

Research has also shown the benefits of hypnosis for burn victims. Researchers at the University of Washington Medical School found that hypnosis before wound debridements significantly reduced pain reported by patients on one pain rating questionnaire.

“The authors found that the group receiving hypnosis had a significant drop in pain compared with the control group when measured by the McGill Pain Questionnaire. The findings suggest that hypnosis affects multiple pain domains and that measures that assess these multiple domains may be more sensitive to the effects of hypnotic analgesia treatments.” [20]

Rehabilitation Psychology
A journal of American Psychological Association

One study found that hypnosis could help reduce kids’ post-surgical pain or pain related to other medical procedures.

“Hypnosis was consistently found to be more effective than control conditions in alleviating discomfort associated with bone marrow aspirations, lumbar punctures, voiding cystourethograms, the Nuss procedure, and post-surgical pain.” [22]

Journal of Behavioral Medicine

This review article found that when it comes to labor and delivery-related pain, hypnosis was consistently shown to be more effective than standard medical care, supportive counseling, and childbirth education classes in reducing pain.

“Hetero-hypnosis (A hypnotic state that is created by another person, including the listening to of tapes or CDs) and self-hypnosis were consistently shown to be more effective than standard medical care, supportive counseling, and childbirth education classes in reducing pain. Other benefits included better infant Apgar scores and shorter Stage 1 labor.” [23]

Clinical Psychology Review

Hypnosis and Pain Relief in Children

This research study investigated if hypnotherapy decreased pain, anxiety, and stress in children with severe burns while they were having their bandages and dressings changed. 62 burn patients between the ages of 4 and 16 were selected for this study.

One group received hypnotherapy sessions and the second group received the standard care. Measurements included pain, anxiety, stress, and speed of wound healing.

“The patients in the hypnotherapy group had 70% lower levels of pain and 67% lower levels of anxiety compared next to the standard care group.

“By the time the third bandage and dressing change came around, the hypnotherapy group had a 90% reduction in pain levels and 84% power levels of anxiety.” [26]

Trials

Hypnosis and Post Surgery Healing

And the use of hypnosis to speed up the recovery time after surgery has been shown time and again. Two studies from Harvard Medical School show hypnosis significantly reduces the time it takes to heal.

The first study showed that six weeks after an ankle fracture, those in the hypnosis group showed the equivalent of eight and a half weeks of healing. That effectively demonstrates that using hypnosis helped that group heal bone fractures 41% faster. [2]

The second study focused on people having breast reduction surgery. The group treated with hypnosis healed “significantly faster” than supportive attention group and control group. [2]

Hypnosis often works on multiple fronts. In this next study patients that went through surgery saw a decrease in pain as well as better outcomes overall.

“Hypnosis has been demonstrated to effectively control pain and emotional distress and to improve recovery…results revealed a significant, large effect size…indicating that surgical patients in hypnosis treatment groups had better outcomes than 89% of patients in control groups.” [3]

CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians
Published for the American Cancer Society

Hypnosis reduces pain and speeds up recovery from surgery:

“Since 1992, we have used hypnosis routinely in more than 1400 patients undergoing surgery. We found that hypnosis used with patients as an adjunct to conscious sedation and local anesthesia was associated with improved intraoperative patient comfort, and with reduced anxiety, pain, intraoperative requirements for anxiolytic and analgesic drugs, optimal surgical conditions and a faster recovery of the patient. We reported our clinical experience and our fundamental research.” [4]

Revue Médicale de Liège

Hypnosis and Smoking Cessation

One of the area’s hypnosis has been repeatedly tested and shown to have beneficial effects is the area of addictions. Hypnotherapy is routinely used in the top addiction and recovery centers to help people develop motivational strategies and counteract learned helplessness. Although hypnosis is used in all areas of addictions, there are many studies showing the effects of hypnosis when treating tobacco cessation.

“Of 43 consecutive patients undergoing this treatment protocol, 39 reported remaining abstinent from tobacco use at follow-up (6 months to 3 years post-treatment).” [8]

International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis

“After the 2-wk. [smoking cessation] program, 92% or 86 of the men and 90% or 84 of the women reported abstinence, and at 3-mo. follow-up, 86% or 80 of the men and 87% or 81 of the women reported continued abstinence.”[9]

Psychological Reports

“Thirty smokers enrolled in an HMO were referred by their primary physician for treatment. Twenty-one patients returned after an initial consultation and received hypnosis for smoking cessation. At the end of treatment, 81% of those patients reported that they had stopped smoking, and 48% reported abstinence at 12 months post-treatment” [10]

International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis

A study was done in 2005 to test the effectiveness of guided imagery VS placebo in quitting smoking. It found that guided imagery was more than twice as effective as placebo to keep those patients smoke free after 2 years. [11]

Journal of Nursing Scholarship

Hypnosis and Weight Loss

Researchers analyzed 18 studies comparing a cognitive behavioral therapy such as relaxation training, guided imagery, self monitoring, or goal setting with the same therapy supplemented by hypnosis.

Those who received the hypnosis lost more weight than 90% of those not receiving hypnosis and maintained the weight loss two years after treatment ended.

“Researchers analyzed 18 studies comparing a cognitive behavioral therapy such as relaxation training, guided imagery, self monitoring, or goal setting with the same therapy supplemented by hypnosis.Those who received the hypnosis lost more weight than 90 percent of those not receiving hypnosis and maintained the weight loss two years after treatment ended.” [16]

Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology

“An analysis of five weight loss studies showed that the ‘… weight loss reported in the five studies indicates that hypnosis can more than double the effects’ of traditional weight loss approaches.” [16]

Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology

In terms of weight loss, research has found that those who undergo cognitive behavior therapy coupled with hypnosis “substantially enhanced treatment outcome” and tended to lose significantly more weight. After four to six months, those undergoing CBT with hypnosis dropped more than 20 pounds, while those who just did CBT lost about half that amount. The hypnosis group also maintained that weight loss during an 18-month follow-up period, while the CBT-only group tended to regain some weight.

“The results indicated that the addition of hypnosis substantially enhanced treatment outcome, so that the average client receiving cognitive–behavioral hypnotherapy showed greater improvement than at least 70% of clients receiving nonhypnotic treatment.

“Effects seemed particularly pronounced for treatments of obesity, especially at long-term follow-up, indicating that unlike those in nonhypnotic treatment, clients to whom hypnotic inductions had been administered continued to lose weight after treatment ended. These results were particularly striking because of the few procedural differences between the hypnotic and nonhypnotic treatments.” [21]

Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology

Hypnosis and Hot Flashes

Hot flashes are a big problem for a large majority of breast cancer survivors. Researchers were interested in finding a healthy mind-body treatment for hot flashes and found that hot flashes decreased 68%. It also appears to have additional benefits including reduced anxiety, depression and improved sleep.

“By the end of the treatment period, hot flash scores (frequency × average severity) decreased 68% from baseline to end point in the hypnosis arm. Significant improvements in self-reported anxiety, depression, interference of hot flashes on daily activities, and sleep were observed for patients who received the hypnosis intervention in comparison to the no treatment control group.

“Hypnosis appears to reduce perceived hot flashes in breast cancer survivors and may have additional benefits such as reduced anxiety and depression, and improved sleep.” [24]

Journal of Clinical Oncology

Researchers have been searching for effective ways to reduce hot flashes in postmenopausal women. Compared to the structured-attention control group, the hypnosis group had a significant reductions in the self-reported hot flashes.

“Participants reported a mean reduction of 74.16% hot flashes for the clinical hypnosis intervention versus a mean reduction of 17.13% hot flashes for controls. Secondary outcomes were significantly improved compared with controls at 12-week follow-up: hot flash-related interference, sleep quality, and treatment satisfaction.”

“Compared with structured-attention control, clinical hypnosis results in significant reductions in self-reported and physiologically measured hot flashes and hot flash scores in postmenopausal women.” [25]

Menopause

Hypnosis and…

Because of the wide range of things that hypnosis can effect, there are many different research studies and clinical trials testing hypnosis and how it treats various disorders. In this next section I will share with you a few of the more interesting pieces of evidence.

Insomnia

“Patients slept significantly longer when on auto-hypnosis alone than when they received the placebo.” [15]

Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine

“Significantly more patients had a normal night’s sleep when on autohypnosis alone than when they received placebo or Mogadon.” [15]

Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine

“There was a tendency for autohypnosis to reduce the time taken to go to sleep.”[15]

Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine

Teeth Grinding / Bruxism

“An objective baseline of the bruxing was established using a portable electromyogram (EMG) detector attached over the masseter muscle during sleep. Hypnotherapy was then employed…. The bruxers showed a significant decrease in EMG activity; they also experienced less facial pain and their partners reported less bruxing noise immediately following treatment and after 4 to 36 months.”[17]

American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis

Increase Self-Esteem & Lowering Anger

“In a research study on self-hypnosis for relapse prevention training with chronic drug/alcohol users. Participants were 261 veterans admitted to Substance Abuse Residential Rehabilitation Treatment Programs (SARRTPs). individuals who used repeated self-hypnosis “at least 3 to 5 times a week,” at 7-week follow-up, reported the highest levels of self-esteem and serenity, and the least anger/impulsivity, in comparison to the minimal-practice and control groups.” [18]

American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis

Hypnosis as a Panacea?

It’s been shown that hypnosis can help with so many different problems, from cancer to teeth grinding and everything in between. It almost gives the impression of hypnosis being a panacea, or a cure all. So is this the case?

No. The reason that it can seem this way is because the very strong connection between the mind and the body. The placebo effect is a well accepted example of how the mind can positively affect the body. Just as powerful, but not as well known, is the nocebo effect. That is when a person’s negative beliefs create negative physical effects on the body.
Modern medicine is now realizing how strong that link is, and how much your mind really impacts your health. That is what makes hypnosis so powerful with such a wide variety of ailments. It’s one of the best tools you can use to positively impact the mind and how you think.

So is hypnosis just the placebo/nocebo effect? I think that’s the wrong question to ask. I think the right question is, ‘Just how powerful is your mind’? It’s been shown that the placebo effect can sometimes be so powerful as to completely cure diseases in some cases. Just as powerful, the nocebo has been shown to cause premature death in rare instances.
If that can happen almost by accident, imagine what can be done by utilizing some of these tools on purpose, with your own best benefit in mind?

CITATIONS & SOURCES:
All citations are in AMA format when applicable. If you are interested in reading the full papers you can find them using Google Scholar or Pub Med.

[1] Vandevusse L, Irland J, Healthcare WF, Berner MA, Fuller S, Adams D. Hypnosis for childbirth: a retrospective comparative analysis of outcomes in one obstetrician’s practice. Am J Clin Hypn. 2007;50(2):109-19.

[2] Ginandes C, Brooks P, Sando W, Jones C, Aker J. Can medical hypnosis accelerate post-surgical wound healing? Results of a clinical trial. Am J Clin Hypn. 2003;45(4):333-51.

[3] Montgomery GH, Schnur JB, Kravits K. Hypnosis for cancer care: over 200 years young. CA Cancer J Clin. 2013;63(1):31-44.

[4] Faymonville ME, Defechereux T, Joris J, Adant JP, Hamoir E, Meurisse M. [Hypnosis and its application in surgery]. Rev Med Liege. 1998;53(7):414-8.

[5] Wik G, Fischer H, Bragée B, Finer B, Fredrikson M. Functional anatomy of hypnotic analgesia: a PET study of patients with fibromyalgia. Eur J Pain. 1999;3(1):7-12.

[6] Dahlgren LA, Kurtz RM, Strube MJ, Malone MD. Differential effects of hypnotic suggestion on multiple dimensions of pain. J Pain Symptom Manage. 1995;10(6):464-70.

[7] Jensen MP, Patterson DR. Hypnotic approaches for chronic pain management: clinical implications of recent research findings. Am Psychol. 2014;69(2):167-77.

[8] Barber J. Freedom from smoking: integrating hypnotic methods and rapid smoking to facilitate smoking cessation. Int J Clin Exp Hypn. 2001;49(3):257-66.

[9] Johnson DL, Karkut RT. Performance by gender in a stop-smoking program combining hypnosis and aversion. Psychol Rep. 1994;75(2):851-7.

[10] Elkins GR, Rajab MH. Clinical hypnosis for smoking cessation: preliminary results of a three-session intervention. Int J Clin Exp Hypn. 2004;52(1):73-81.

[11] Wynd CA. Guided health imagery for smoking cessation and long-term abstinence. J Nurs Scholarsh. 2005;37(3):245-50.

[12] University of Iowa, Journal of Applied Psychology, How One in Five Give Up Smoking. October 1992. (Also New Scientist, October 10, 1992.)

[13] Kaminsky D, Rosca P, Budowski D, Korin Y, Yakhnich L. [Group hypnosis treatment of drug addicts]. Harefuah. 2008;147(8-9):679-83, 751.

[14] Frederick C. Hypnotically facilitated treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder: can it be evidence-based?. Int J Clin Exp Hypn. 2007;55(2):189-206.

[15] Anderson JA, Dalton ER, Basker MA. Insomnia and hypnotherapy. J R Soc Med. 1979;72(10):734-9.

[16] Allison DB, Faith MS. Hypnosis as an adjunct to cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy for obesity: a meta-analytic reappraisal. J Consult Clin Psychol. 1996;64(3):513-6.

[17] Clarke JH, Reynolds PJ. Suggestive hypnotherapy for nocturnal bruxism: a pilot study. Am J Clin Hypn. 1991;33(4):248-53.

[18] Pekala RJ, Maurer R, Kumar VK, et al. Self-hypnosis relapse prevention training with chronic drug/alcohol users: effects on self-esteem, affect, and relapse. Am J Clin Hypn. 2004;46(4):281-97.

[19] Montgomery GH, Boybierg DH. A Randomized Clinical Trial of a Brief Hypnosis Intervention to Control Side Effects in Breast Surgery Patients. JNCI 2007;99(17): 1304–1312.

[20] Askay SW, Patterson DR. A randomized controlled trial of hypnosis for burn wound care. Rehabil. Psychol., 2007; 52(3): 247-253.

[21] Kirsch I, Montgomery G. Hypnosis as an adjunct to cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy: A meta-analysis. J. Consult. Clin. Psychol., 1995;63(2): 214-220

[22] Accardi MC, Milling LS., The effectiveness of hypnosis for reducing procedure-related pain in children and adolescents: a comprehensive methodological review
J Behav Med, 2009;32:328.

[23] Landolt AS, Milling LS,. The efficacy of hypnosis as an intervention for labor and delivery pain: A comprehensive methodological review, Clin. Psychol. Rev, 2011;31(6); 1022-1031.

[24] Elkins G, Marcus J, Randomized trial of a hypnosis intervention for treatment of hot flashes among breast cancer survivors. J Clin Oncol. 2008 Nov 1;26(31):5022-6.

[25] Elkins GR, Fisher WI, Clinical hypnosis in the treatment of postmenopausal hot flashes: a randomized controlled trial. Menopause, 2013; 20(3):291-8

[26] Chester SJ, Stockton K. Effectiveness of medical hypnosis for pain reduction and faster wound healing in pediatric acute burn injury: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial. Trials, 2016;17(1):223 Article at https://medicalxpress.com/news/2016-12-hypnotherapy-trial-pain-anxiety-children.html