What is hypnotherapy?
Hypnotherapy is an adjunctive technique as part of psychotherapy that utilizes hypnosis to aid in the treatment of specific symptoms or health conditions. Hypnotherapy works by inducing a trance-like state marked by waking awareness that allows people to experience detached external attention and to focus on inner experiences.

It is sometimes used as part of a treatment plan for phobias and other anxiety disorders. It is also sometimes used for pain management, weight loss, smoking cessation, and a variety of other applications.
The use of hypnosis to treat mental health conditions is called hypnotherapy.​

What is Hypnosis?
Hypnosis is a state of focused concentration. The focus of attention may be so narrow that you are not aware of things around you, like being so engrossed in watching a TV show or reading a book that you lose awareness of your surroundings. This would be a light state of self-hypnosis.

A hypnotic trance is a state between sleeping and waking, like daydreaming. One person may have a deep, heavy restful feeling, while another may have a light, floating sensation.

During hypnotherapy, clients can still follow instructions such as moving a finger, taking a deep breath, or waking up when they are told to do so.

What is hypnosis used to treat?
Hypnotherapy can help you feel better without using medicine, or it can be used along with medicine. Hypnosis can help:

  • Build confidence
  • Overcome fears
  • Treat sleep disorders
  • Treat specific phobias
  • Overcome depression
  • Cope with anxiety
  • Quit smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, or using illicit drugs
  • Improve performance
  • Lose weight
  • Reduce stress
  • Pain management
  • Overcome traumatic experiences
  • Deal with sexual dysfunction and/or lack of desire
  • Resolve medical conditions such as digestive, skin, and gastrointestinal issues

Hypnotherapy Techniques:
During a hypnotherapy session, people are guided through a process to induce a trance-like state that helps them focus their minds, respond more readily to suggestions, and become deeply relaxed. Hypnotherapy utilizes the heightened awareness of the hypnotic state to help you focus on a problem more deeply. Hypnotherapy techniques include:

  • Relaxation: You will be guided by the hypnotherapist to visualize yourself in a state of peacefulness and relaxation, even when confronting the problem behavior.
  • Suggestion: Your hypnotherapist may make gentle suggestions for behavior changes that can help you conquer your issue.
  • Coping skills: You may be taught cognitive-behavioral coping skills, such as guided imagery and the STOP! technique, that you can use when confronting fears or anxieties.
  • Exploration of past experiences: You may be encouraged to talk about the first time you experienced a problem or a pleasant event and how you felt at that moment.

How Hypnotherapy Works:
Hypnotherapy by itself is not a form of psychotherapy, but rather a tool that helps facilitate various types of psychotherapy treatments. Only trained and licensed therapists with specific hypnotherapy training can decide, with their patient, if hypnotherapy should be used along with other treatments.

Almost everyone can be hypnotized to some level. However, you cannot be hypnotized if you do not want to be or are deliberately resistant to hypnosis. It is possible to be hypnotized alone or in a group of people. You can even be taught to hypnotize yourself.

During initial sessions, most people are aware of everything. You may hear every word, or the therapists voice may fade in and out, or you may not consciously hear the therapist at all. As sessions progress, you might get so relaxed that you feel as if you have fallen asleep.  As your conscious mind becomes less alert, your subconscious mind gets more focused. The more often you are hypnotized, the deeper you can learn to go.

What are the risks?
Hypnosis may not be right for people with certain medical problems, or people under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or those who have active delusions or hallucinations. Hypnotherapy should only be used to treat medical problems in coordination with a physician.

Common Misconceptions
There are a number of myths and misconceptions about hypnotherapy that can affect how people view this therapeutic tool.

  • Hypnotherapy will make me lose control and do things I would not do normally.  Unlike some dramatic portrayals of hypnosis in movies, books, or on stage, you will not be unconscious, asleep, or in any way out of control of yourself. You will hear the therapist’s suggestions, but it is up to you to decide whether or not to act on them.
  • Hypnotherapy is often confused with stage hypnosis. Stage hypnotists are performers who are excellent at reading people. They seek extroverts who will put on a great show for the crowd. Whether or not their subjects are truly hypnotized is debatable, but they are willing to go along with the sometimes outrageous suggestions of the stage hypnotist.
  • Hypnotherapy doesn't cause you to forget what happened. You will remember the things that occur during your hypnotic state, you will not be asleep or unconscious, and you will be able to break the hypnotic trance at any time.
  • Hypnotherapy doesn't cause you to lose control. During hypnotherapy, you remain in control. It is not possible for anyone to force you to do anything against your will, even under hypnosis. You will be tuned in to the work at hand, and so may not pay attention to your surroundings, but you will always be in charge of your own actions, behaviors, and statements.
  • Being hypnotizable doesn't mean you are less intelligent. While some people believe that they cannot be hypnotized, research suggests that most people are hypnotizable to a certain degree. To be hypnotized, you must be willing to experience trance. Only about 10% of people are difficult or impossible to hypnotize.​