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Hypnotherapy - Mechanism, Induction, Benefits, Contraindications, and Drawbacks

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Hypnotherapy is an adjunctive therapy that relaxes the body and activates the mind. The article comprehensively describes the therapy.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Ramchandra Lamba

Published At January 11, 2023
Reviewed AtFebruary 14, 2024


Hypnotherapy is all about hypnosis but for intervention purposes. In the late 1700s, scientists explored the therapeutic part of hypnosis but ended up with limited shreds of evidence and did not exhibit much scientific credibility. Recently in the modern world, researchers analyzed its benefits, mechanism of action, and effectiveness comprehensively. They also proved the merits of hypnotherapy in pain and anxiety control.

What Is Hypnotherapy?

Hypnotherapy is a coordinated mind-body intervention that uses hypnosis to make a person's body intensely relaxed and the mind active. The state features a condition often called a trance. Trance is the focused attention and increased receptiveness to suggestions. In simple terms, hypnotherapy aids in focus, awareness, and relaxation eventually. It is an adjunctive treatment used to treat various illnesses and conditions such as phobia, anxiety, and smoking cessation.

How Does Hypnosis Differ From Hypnotherapy?

‘Hypno’ from hypnosis originates from a Greek word meaning ‘sleep.’ Hypnosis refers to a state of an active and open mind with focused attention. Though hypnosis and hypnotherapy are interchangeably confessed, they are not alike. Hypnosis is just a state of mind, while hypnotherapy is an intervention that utilizes hypnosis by a therapist.

What Are the Techniques of Hypnotherapy?

Some of the hypnotherapy techniques include:

  • The hypnotherapist will assist the patient in envisioning themselves in a tranquil and relaxed state, even while addressing problematic behaviors or confronting their fears.

  • The hypnotherapist might offer subtle recommendations for behavioral adjustments aimed at aiding the individual in overcoming their issue. For instance, the individual may be guided to envision themselves as a reassuring mentor during a phobic episode, thereby learning to rely on their capabilities to navigate the situation.

  • The individuals may receive instruction in specific cognitive-behavioral coping techniques like the STOP technique and guided imagery, which they can employ when managing anxieties or fears.

  • The individual might also be prompted to discuss the initial occurrence of the issue or behavior they are working to overcome, along with their emotions at that time.

How Is Hypnosis Induced?

The therapist applies multiple techniques to induce hypnosis in a person. Typical primary hypnosis techniques include traditional hypnosis, Erickson's, and self-hypnosis. Here are some methods therapists use to put a person in a trance.

  • Talking slowly, audibly, and soothingly.

  • Creative visualization for both trance and suggestions.

  • Eye fixation. Works by focussing on an object for a span. We often implement this by daydreaming.

  • Hypnosis spiral.

  • Misdirection.

  • Countdown technique from 100 to 1.

What Are the Benefits of Hypnotherapy?

Doctors, in addition to medications and other therapies, prefer hypnotherapy for various conditions as it gains control over the mind and can change negative illness thoughts to positive ones. Underneath are the conditions that benefit from hypnotherapy.

  • Phobia and anxiety.

  • Stress.

  • Depression.

  • In pain concerns, the therapy guides the control of chronic pain in headaches, fibromyalgia, burns, cancer, and temporomandibular disorders. Additionally, pain after dental procedures and surgery are addressed.

  • Evident-based studies suggest hypnotherapy as an adjacent treatment for hot flashes. Hot flashes are the symptom of menopause, showing intense heat with sweating and raised heartbeat due to changes in hormone levels.

  • Hypnotherapy improves women’s childbirth experience and diminishes fear. Studies show that hypnosis reduces the amount of analgesia and oxytocin used. Hence, it is implied in the birthing process and the post-partum period.

  • Gut-directed hypnotherapy in irritable bowel syndrome.

  • The therapy also benefits severe eating disorders known as bulimia nervosa.

  • In recent years, hypnotherapy has been performed to relieve habitual disorders, such as enuresis(bed-wetting), insomnia, and smoking addiction.

  • Skin conditions such as psoriasis and warts.

  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

  • It alleviates the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation, such as nausea and vomiting. Also used to recover from post-surgery breast cancer.

Contraindications of Hypnotherapy:

Hypnotherapy is utterly a safe and complementary adjunctive treatment performed by hypnotherapists. The therapy exhibits significant benefits in many people, but the treatment has several adverse side effects in some cases. The following are the adverse reactions found in rare patients.

  • Drowsiness.

  • Dizziness.

  • Head pain.

  • Anxiety.

  • Negative thoughts or false memories.

Hypnotherapy is contraindicated in the below mental illnesses due to its adverse side effects.

  • Psychosis.

  • Personality disorder.

  • Seizure or epilepsy.

Who Implements Hypnotherapy?

Hypnotherapy is performed by a well-trained, licensed, or certified healthcare professional known as a hypnotist or hypnotherapist.

How Effective Is Hypnotherapy?

Though hypnotherapy is a supportive treatment, it has its unique impact on relieving distorted thoughts and behavior. The effectiveness of the treatment differs based on who it is implied to and how it is performed. Hypnotherapy is considerably effective in treating stress, anxiety, pain during childbirth, irritable bowel syndrome, and post-cancer treatment. Hypnotherapy in synchrony with medicines and psychotherapy like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is more likely to have effectiveness.

What Are the Drawbacks of Hypnotherapy?

Hypnotherapy as an adjunctive therapy shows numerous advantages over many illnesses and habits. However, the intervention cannot aid as a mainstream to treat the condition. It is crucial to consult a medical practitioner before undergoing hypno treatment. He will advise the treatment only after inspecting the health status and the presence of any underlying medical conditions. Nevertheless, hypnotherapy itself has several following drawbacks.

  • Hypnosis might not be fully accomplished in some patients with unreliable suggestions and thoughts.

  • Hypnosis evolves hallucinations and delusions during the treatment, which might not apply to psychotic patients.

  • Hypnotherapy gives way to false and distorted memories.

  • In some cases, people experience adverse reactions during or after the therapy.

  • Hypnotherapy might be inappropriate for drug or alcohol cessation.

  • Doctors would direct hypnotherapy for pain control only in some cases after seeking pharmacological and surgical treatment if needed.

  • The therapy might be less effective than pharmacological drugs in psychological conditions.

  • The quality of data collected in the hypnosis process is sometimes less reliable.

  • Hypnotherapy to treat dissociative disorders is still a bias.

  • Hypnotherapy could not reach successful themes in the case of uncooperative patients.


Further to previous elements, hypnotherapy is effective when used adjacent to primary interventions. The therapy's aim is not to hypnotize but to change a person’s false beliefs into true positive ones. The more one gets hypnotized, one’s habits and problems are sorted out.

Dr. Ramchandra Lamba
Dr. Ramchandra Lamba



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