Is hypnotherapy effective?
- The American Psychological Association defines hypnosis as a 'therapeutic technique in which clinicians make suggestions to individuals who have undergone a procedure designed to relax them and focus their minds.'
- Hypnosis--named after the Greek god of sleep, Hypnos--was first used scientifically by German physician Franz Mesmer in the 18th century and was initially called 'mesmerism.' Mesmer was under the 'mistaken belief that hypnotism made use of an occult force (which he termed 'animal magnetism') that flowed through the hypnotist into the subject.' He was soon discredited, but his methods interested medical practitioners long after that, with English physician James Braid eventually coining the term 'hypnosis' in the 19th century.
- Hypnotherapist and behavioral psychology expert Edie Raether, MS, CSP, explains that hypnosis is a 'meditative state where the client is more open and receptive due to being relaxed.' She also says that there are two main types: 'suggestive and exploratory, which is very effective for PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Unconscious and buried experiences rise to the surface and are expelled, allowing people to experience immediate healing.'
- A 2019 national survey about clinical hypnosis found that '7.6% of respondents had undergone hypnosis treatment, and 63.1% reported some resulting benefit.'
In the psychotherapeutic realm, hypnosis has proven efficacy in treating anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorders, and—lacking the side effects and costliness of many medications—may represent a novel and holistic approach to medication resistant ailments.
When traditional talk therapy is not an expedient enough option for patients, hypnosis may hasten the process, allowing the subject to access thoughts and memories otherwise inaccessible to the conscious mind in a controlled therapeutic setting.
The use of EMDR (a relatively new therapy in which one reprocesses traumatic memories) with hypnosis has proven to be especially helpful to those who suffer from Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). This common post-traumatic condition often responds poorly to conventional therapy due to the psychological defenses associated with the disorder.
Increasing scientific understanding of the mechanisms involved in hypnosis has led many therapists to conclude that while hypnosis 'in itself is not a therapy…it can be a tool that facilitates the delivery of therapy in the same way a syringe delivers drugs.'
This therapeutic application extends into the physiological realm as well, as hypnosis has been demonstrated to profoundly affect conditions such as asthma, allergic reactions, and even gastrointestinal disease.
Finally, the physical efficacy of hypnosis is directly evidenced by its effects on pain relief and can be measured by the frequency at which cortical neurons fire in the brain. While hypnotized, subjects enduring chronic pain displayed the lower frequencies associated with pain relief, demonstrating tangible evidence towards the validity of hypnotherapeutic practices.
Hypnosis is a valuable tool in any therapist's toolkit to combat a variety of mental, emotional, and physical ailments.
Hypnotherapy, also referred to as hypnosis, has been touted for centuries as a method that induces therapeutic results and can be used to reduce anxiety, alleviate pain, insomnia, addictions, and post-traumatic stress. But it may not be for everyone. According to Stanford University School of Medicine research, hypnotherapy is undoubtedly effective, but only for persons with a particular cognitive makeup. The study found that people are classified as having either 'high hypnotizability' or 'low hypnotizability.'
Regardless of one's ability to be hypnotized, the practice has the potential for psychological dangers such as: dependence on suggestive guidance from a therapist during trances, the creation of false memory syndrome, hallucinations, and even psychotic breakdowns. Perhaps the worst of all is mental conditioning, caused by the REM (rapid eye movement) state of hypnosis. Politicians and cults also use this conditioning method to control vulnerable minds.
Additionally, even if someone is successfully hypnotized and doesn't fall prey to the potential psychological dangers, there are still reasons why the therapy will not solve their problems. If one's environment is toxic, if they are somehow benefitting from being unwell, or if they are not prepared to 'do the work,' then no amount of hypnosis can help.
Notably, hypnotherapy is also not the answer if looking for a miracle weight-loss solution. Most studies on the subject found that hypnotherapy helped subjects lose only about six pounds over 18 months, with experts conceding that 'Weight loss is usually best achieved with diet and exercise.'
Some practitioners may praise hypnotherapy, but the negative variables attached to the practice largely question its effectiveness.