For centuries, scientists, physicians and researchers have taken a keen interest in hypnotherapy. More specifically, they’ve been driven by a simple question: Does hypnotherapy provide medical benefits?

Today, we have decades worth of research that says, yes, hypnotherapy can help alleviate a variety of conditions, from helping people quit smoking to reducing depression.

So what is hypnotherapy?

Here's a quick definition: Hypnotherapy is the use of hypnosis for therapy and behavior modification. To practice hypnotherapy, you enter into hypnosis, a deeply relaxed state in which the mind becomes more responsive to suggestions. In this state, you provide suggestions directly to the subconscious mind, which can have therapeutic benefits. For example, if you wanted to use hypnotherapy to quit smoking, you might enter hypnosis and then suggest that you “no longer need to smoke.”  

Increasingly, hypnotherapy is being recommended for medicinal use. This is a recent trend. The medical establishment only began endorsing the use of clinical hypnosis beginning in the 1950s. Now, the list of healthcare providers that prescribe hypnosis includes some of the world’s top healthcare facilities, including the Mayo Clinic and the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

So what’s driving the trend? Why are more and more healthcare providers prescribing hypnotherapy?

For one, hypnotherapy is effective. Based on research, it's a more effective alternative to traditional psychoanalysis. A classic hypnosis study found that, on average, patients required just six hypnotherapy sessions with a 93-percent recovery rate. Psychoanalysis, on the other hand, required roughly 600 sessions with just a 38-percent recovery rate.

Sounds interesting. But now you might be wondering: What exactly is hypnotherapy? How does it work? Or does it even work?

Here, you’ll find a broad overview of hypnotherapy, including what you can expect by visiting a hypnotherapist, some examples of how it works and the types of conditions it can help, as well as what the medical research says about hypnotherapy.

Hypnotherapy vs Hypnosis: Key Differences

The words “hypnosis” and “hypnotherapy” tend to be used interchangeably. But there’s a key distinction between the two. During hypnotherapy, a patient is hypnotized, but once they reach this state, “therapy” is performed.  

In other words, hypnotherapy is a more focused and therapeutic version of hypnosis. In fact, if you were to undergo hypnosis, chances are you wouldn’t experience long-term benefits, because it wouldn’t have been targeted to your specific needs.

In addition to these distinctions, there are several others that set hypnotherapy apart from hypnosis. They include:  

  • Hypnotherapist vs Self-Hypnosis – Hypnotherapy is performed by a certified hypnotherapist. In general, hypnotherapists are required to complete more advanced training, and therefore, they offer a more complete and therapeutic hypnosis experience. Hypnosis can be conducted via a 1-on-1 session, but it's also self-administered, through recordings and scripts.
  • Tailored to Your Needs – Each patient seeking hypnosis has his or her own subconscious thinking patterns. And these subconscious thoughts are what keep a negative behavior in place. For hypnosis to be effective, the experience must be tailored to reversing this “root cause.” In general, hypnotherapy seeks to understand the root causes of an addiction, phobia, or compulsion, and deliver therapy that is designed to reverse the subconscious source. Hypnotism, on the other hand, may not provide such a personalized approach. In fact, many hypnotists offer a generalized, one-size-fits all approach.
  •  Specialized Care – Hypnotherapists are trained to address a variety of conditions – including overeating, food addiction, substance abuse, smoking, weight loss, phobias and negative thinking. In other words, their training provides the tools to address a much longer list of conditions. Plus, hypnotherapists have a much broader toolbox of techniques to work with, including visualization, neuro-linguistic programming, root cause analysis, and reframing. With more tools, hypnotherapists can provide an approach that’s tailored to each individual’s needs. Hypnotists tend to offer a much more general service, and may specialize in just one technique.
  • Effectiveness – Ultimately, hypnotherapists want you to succeed. Yet, hypnotherapy tends to empower clients more effectively. The reason? Hypnotherapists are trained to recognize change resistance behaviors and uncover the root cause. Additionally, hypnotherapists encourage follow-up appointments to reinforce positive behaviors. Therefore, results may be longer lasting and achieved more quickly.

Who Can Perform Hypnotherapy?

All hypnotherapy is performed by a certified hypnotherapist. Hypnotherapists tend to be more highly trained and offer a more in-depth and personalized experience. As you  look for a hypnotherapist, you should pay particular attention to: 

  • Training: Hypnotherapists must undergo training prior to practicing, and often spend many more hours earning certification. Certification often requires classroom and online coursework, and most receive in-person training with real-life patients. 
  • Competence: Thanks to the added training, hypnotherapists generally have a much broader knowledge base in the area of hypnosis. Therefore, hypnotherapists have a wider range of techniques to draw from, including re-learning, reframing, regression, root-cause and self-identification, which can help those better serve clients. Additionally, they’re trained in proper techniques for managing the subconscious, which contributes to improved effectiveness.
  • Effectiveness: A competent hypnotherapist tends to offer tailored treatment plans. Thusly, they can more effectively identify negative behaviors in the subconscious, and they’re more qualified to perform work at the subconscious level to remove and reframe these behaviors and thought patterns.   

In other words, as you go about choosing a hypnosis provider, it’s best to choose a certified hypnotherapist. Certified hypnotherapists tend to have advanced training in a number of techniques, and can provide you with strategies and approaches that are designed with you in mind. This will ensure you’re receiving the best possible care.

How Does Hypnotherapy Work?

Although each hypnotherapist approaches a case differently, there are a few key steps that are unique to hypnotherapy. In particular, a key differentiator is the time spent learning a client’s behaviors, the thoughts and thinking patterns that keep those behaviors in place, and the creation of a strategy for overcoming a negative behavior on an individual basis.

In particular, as you go through hypnotherapy treatment, you can expect four key steps:

  1. Isolating Behaviors

At the subconscious level, many of habits and compulsions have been reinforced over years. In other words, our brains our hardwired to keep the habit in place, and we’re oblivious to the control these subconscious thoughts have over our actions.

A big difference between hypnosis and hypnotherapy: The hypnotherapist takes time to learn from you about your negative behaviors and triggers. Ultimately, the goal is to determine the subconscious thinking pattern that’s keeping the behavior in place – or the root cause.

For example, a procrastinator might be subconsciously motivated by the pleasure/pain principle. They’re avoiding a task like work or studying because of the perceived pain. By identifying this thought process, the hypnotherapist can begin to develop a treatment plan that addresses and reverses this unconscious thinking.

  1. Developing Strategy for Change

When you visit traditional psychotherapist, you’re typically provided with strategies for overcoming negative behavior. And the same is true of hypnotherapy. For the example of procrastination, a proposed strategy might be to work in timed intervals of 30 or 40 minutes using a kitchen timer.

Yet, with traditional talk therapy, you still hold onto the subconscious belief that the work will be painful. In other words, you’ll still have to will yourself to work in 30-minute intervals, because subconsciously you still perceive the pain of drudgery. In other words, the root cause of your problem has not been dealt with. With hypnotherapy, devising is a strategy is just one piece of the equation – you have to make that strategy stick, and often that requires updating your subconscious thinking.

  1. Enabling the Strategy “Stick”

In hypnotherapy, hypnosis is used as a tool to help clients reach a state of relaxation – similar to daydreaming. When you enter a state of hypnosis, your mind is highly suggestible, and because of this, you can begin to reframe the negative thought patterns that are holding behaviors (like procrastination) in place.

For example, let’s say you’re hoping to overcome procrastination. The hypnotherapist will guide you into hypnosis. Once you’ve achieved this hyper-focused, relaxed state, the hypnotherapist will provide tailored suggestions designed to help you overcome and reframe your existing subconscious thoughts. For procrastination, the suggestion might be: “Working in 30-minute intervals should be a priority in your life. Because you’re working for just a half hour, work will come more easily. And it will feel more manageable than the past.”

Ultimately, because your mind while in a state of hypnosis is so suggestible, this suggestion is much more likely to “stick.” In other words, you’re reversing the negative thoughts that encourage you procrastination.

  1. Reinforcing the Strategy

Another tenant of hypnotherapy: It’s a process. Many people will begin to see results after a single session, but for those results to stick long-term, the strategy will need to be evaluated and reinforced regularly.

During follow-up sessions, the hypnotherapist will guide you through exercises to reinforce the new behavior and make it stronger and stronger. Over time and with the proper technique, you can completely transform old, automatic subconscious thoughts.

Also, a hypnotherapist can help to improve upon results. For example, if the results were subtle following your first session, the hypnotherapist may choose another strategy to help you overcome procrastination.

What Can Hypnotherapy Help With?

Hypnosis is all about reframing the subconscious thinking patterns that control our daily lives. Some of these automatic patterns are necessary for survival, but there are many that can have a negative impact.

In other words, virtually any condition that’s driven by subconscious thinking can be reversed or improved using hypnotherapy.

Ultimately, the goal of hypnotherapy is to identify the root cause, provide suggestions for overcoming or reframing that negative behavior, and ultimately, reinforcing the behavior during follow-up sessions.

In particular, hypnotherapy can help you overcome:

  • Compulsive behaviors – Compulsions like overeating or procrastination tend to be rooted in faulty subconscious thinking patterns and associations. We associate overeating with rewards or celebration, and therefore, we continue to do it. Hypnosis can help you identify these negative associations and develop strategies for overcoming them.
  • Phobias and Fears – Phobias and fears – i.e. claustrophobia, fear of flying, or fear of the dentist – can control our lives. Yet, often they’re the result of automatic, irrational thinking that has hijacked our conscious thought processes. Hypnosis provides a means for quieting these irrational thoughts, and replacing them with new more helpful associations.
  • Addictions – Over time, addiction transforms our subconscious mind through repetition. Smokers, for instance, have specific rituals, i.e. smoking while driving or smoking after eating, that activate subconscious thoughts and reinforce the addiction. Through suggestion therapy, hypnosis can help us begin to untangle and reframe these automatic thoughts and overcome a range of addictions, including gambling, smoking, drugs and alcohol, and even shopping or binge eating.
  • Depression and Anxiety – Conditions like depression control our subconscious thoughts, and the result is that voice in your head becomes a feedback loops of negativity. Hypnotherapy can help us isolate the root cause of our depression or anxiety and provide strategies to help quiet these negative thinking patterns.
  • Stress – Stress is a poison on the body, and it causes a number of adverse health effects, including weight gain, hypertension, depression, anxiety and rage. Controlling stress can help us live happier, healthier lives. Yet, stress is amplified by our subconscious thoughts. Therefore, through hypnosis, we can begin gain a firmer grasp on stress and reduce the number of stressors in our lives.  

This is just a short list of the most common conditions hypnosis can be used to help. There are many more. If you’re curious if hypnotherapy can help you, reach out to a certified hypnotherapist.

What Does the Research Say About Hypnotherapy?

It would be impossible to highlight all of the research that has found hypnosis to be effective in medical treatment. But the short answer is that: When administered by a professional, and when used as a therapeutic device, hypnosis can be extremely effective. Here’s a look at some of the research:

  •  Surgical Pain Management: A 1998 study found that when hypnosis was used with patients undergoing surgery; those who underwent hypnosis experienced improved comfort during surgery, as well as reduced pain and anxiety, as well as faster recovery.
  •  Smoking Cessation: A 2007 study found that compared to other types of smoking cessation methods (including cold turkey and nicotine replacement) hypnotherapy was much more effective at helping smokers quit. At six months, 50 percent of the hypnotherapy group were non-smokers compared to just 16 percent in the nicotine replacement therapy group.
  • Sleep Issues: A 2008 study looked at children and adolescents who were suffering from sleep issues like insomnia and nighttime awakenings. Following treatment with hypnotherapy, 87 percent of patients said their symptoms were significantly or completely resolved.
  • Stress: A 2013 Swedish study found that after two weeks of self-guided hypnotherapy, patients experienced a medium-to-strong reduction of stress. Similarly, a 1994 study found that students who received hypnotherapy prior to exams showed less exam anxiety and improved performance.

Getting Started on Your Hypnotherapy Journey

Ultimately, you have three methods for getting started with hypnotherapy: One-on-one sessions, self-hypnosis, and recorded hypnosis.

Learn how Grace Space can help you achieve goals with hypnosis. Our hypnotherapy recordings are designed to help you address and alleviate a variety of conditions. Try them today!