Key Takeaways

  • Hypnotherapy is a mind-body tool that encourages a deep state of relaxation, increasing openness to the power of suggestion. It can help people improve their health by addressing the underlying psychological aspects of behavior change.
  • Hypnotherapy does not involve “mind control.” People undergoing hypnotherapy still have the autonomy to be themselves and make their own decisions.
  • While research on the science behind hypnotherapy is limited, there is strong evidence that it can help alleviate symptoms of chronic pain, irritable bowel syndrome, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

For many of us, our knowledge of hypnosis comes from what we’ve seen in the movies or on TV. You can probably recall a dramatic scene in which someone appears to be “under the spell” of a hypnotist. The person might do silly things or act in ways that are totally out of character, based on the hypnotist’s “commands.” And while this can make for great entertainment, these portrayals do not accurately represent the evidence-based process of hypnotherapy. 

When conducted by a trained hypnotherapist, hypnotherapy can enhance your mental and physical well-being in a variety of ways. It’s a form of mind-body medicine that encourages a deep state of relaxation, increasing openness to the hypnotherapist’s suggestions. This can help people improve their health by addressing the underlying psychological aspects of behavior change.

What is hypnotherapy?

Hypnotherapy involves a deep state of relaxation and focused attention. When performed by a trained hypnotherapist, a person is guided into what appears to be a trance-like state. Based on the hypnotherapist’s instructions, they’re encouraged to focus on a certain idea and let other distractions fade away. 

Throughout this process, the hypnotherapist is not engaging in “mind control.” When participating in hypnotherapy, you still have the autonomy to be yourself and make your own decisions. But unlike traditional talk therapy — the conscious process of back-and-forth communication between a client and therapist — hypnotherapy focuses on the subconscious.

How do I find out if my insurance covers therapy?

The science behind hypnotherapy

Research on the science behind hypnotherapy is limited and it’s also important to remember that hypnosis is not the same as psychotherapy. It’s considered a “procedure” that can be helpful as part of a treatment plan that contains other forms of support. 

However, we do have evidence that hypnotherapy can help alleviate symptoms of a range of conditions and that its efficacy hinges on the power of “suggestibility” or a person’s openness to the hypnotherapist’s directions within a hypnotic state. 

It is believed that hypnotherapy “works  by providing a direct pathway to the unconscious mind, something we can’t readily do in our daily lives. In doing so, participants can focus their attention on the desired outcome and move beyond the psychological barriers keeping them from making positive changes. 

What can hypnotherapy help with?

Hypnotherapy has a wide range of applications. It’s frequently used to treat things like addiction (for example, quitting smoking), promote weight loss, or change unwanted habits. While research on the applications of hypnotherapy is ongoing for these, we do have strong evidence to suggest that hypnotherapy is especially helpful for people living with chronic pain, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

Hypnotherapy is also used to address mental health concerns like depression and anxiety. However, it’s typically recommended as an adjunctive therapy as opposed to a standalone treatment for mental illness.

Read What’s the difference between a psychiatric nurse practitioner and a psychiatrist?

What does the process of working with a hypnotherapist look like?

If you’ve never had hypnotherapy before, familiarizing yourself with what to expect from a session will help you feel prepared to make the most of the experience. Typically, hypnotherapy starts with an initial intake session and consultation. Your hypnotherapist will listen to your concerns and help you assess whether or not this form of treatment is right for you. This is an excellent time to ask any questions you may have about the experience or express any concerns.

Hypnotherapy sessions will vary based on your unique needs and your provider’s preferred methods. But the following list outlines some of the steps you may experience during hypnotherapy.

  1. Explaining goals: Before you begin, your hypnotherapist will explain the goals of your session and what you can expect to happen.
  2. Using guided imagery and relaxation: Your hypnotherapist will then begin to speak in a calm, soothing voice. They may walk you through some guided imagery designed to help you relax your body and quiet your mind.
  3. Focusing on solutions: Once you’re relaxed, your hypnotherapist will then encourage you to focus on solutions for whatever challenge or symptoms you wish to address. In doing so, distractions in your environment will fade away.
  4. Visualizing your goals: Your hypnotherapist may then ask you to picture yourself achieving your goals and visualize, in detail, what your life would look like if your symptoms were resolved or reduced.
  5. Guiding back to the present: As the session comes to a close, you may be able to bring yourself back to consciousness or your hypnotherapist will guide you out of the hypnotic state.
  6. Processing the session: Once you’re alert, your hypnotherapist may ask you to provide some feedback on the session and talk about the experience. Over time, you may be able to engage in self-hypnosis whenever you need to feel more calm and relaxed in your daily life

Risks and benefits of hypnotherapy

Some research suggests that hypnotherapy may cause drowsiness, dizziness, stiffness, or headaches in some people and it’s typically not a recommended procedure for individuals living with a serious mental illness. But as a medical or psychological procedure that supports behavior change, hypnotherapy has a relatively low risk profile

For most people, hypnotherapy side effects are limited and you typically don’t need any recovery time after a session. When used alongside other supportive treatments, hypnotherapy can provide a host of emotional and psychological benefits. Being able to tap into your subconscious mind and find a solution inside yourself can be an empowering experience that can positively impact on your sense of self-esteem and self-control. 

Read: Therapy and psychiatry: Which is right for you?

Find a hypnotherapist with Rula

If you’re working on your mental health, getting support from a trained hypnotherapist can help support you in reaching your goals. And thanks to its relatively low risk of side effects, it can be a great option for those who wish to avoid medication or who are interested in a mind/body treatment approach. 

With Rula, you can find a licensed hypnotherapist who you can meet with from the comfort of home in just a few clicks. Yes — hypnotherapy can be conducted remotely via our secure teletherapy platform! So you don’t even have to leave the house to attend your sessions. 

To take the first step, we invite you to explore our therapist-matching platform to find a provider that’s right for you.

More From Rula

February 26, 2024
What is sex therapy, and how can it help you?

Sex therapy can help improve your sex life and relationships.

February 26, 2024
Understanding adverse childhood experiences and the childhood trauma test

The childhood trauma test can help you identify trauma and get the help you need.