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About Hypnotherapy

Updated on December 20, 2010

Hypnosis is not what you see on television. Popular media portrays hypnosis as a circus trick used for entertaining the masses with unbelievable personality transformations induced by verbal suggestions and a swinging pocket watch. But recently hypnosis has been gaining ground with medical doctors as a legitimate form of therapy for many conditions ranging from sleepwalking to pain control. 

What is Hypnotism?

When a person is hypnotized they are reaching a very focused state of consciousness where they are much more responsive to suggestion. Contrary to media portrayals of hypnotized people being at the mercy of the hypnotist a person undergoing hypnotism cannot be forced to do anything they don’t comply to. Hypnosis is highly dependent on the subject being willing to take the suggestions in and believe that hypnotism will work. The power of hypnotic suggestion will not work on a person who is at all resistant while being hypnotized. Because of this hypnotism has, on its lowest level, a placebo effect.


Hypnotherapy is the use of hypnotism in a medical setting for the relief of physical and mental medical conditions. Pain relief is a major target of hypnotherapy; however, it also has a popular use in the relief of psychological problems such as smoking, eating disorders, and phobias. 

Hypnosis for Pain Relief

On July 2, 2004, the American Psychological Association published an article on hypnosis entitled Hypnosis for the Relief and Control of Pain. Citing studies done by psychologists Dr. Patterson and Mark Jensen, PhD, the article described how patients who were hypnotized experienced less pain, dizziness and vomiting and had reduced stays in the hospital. Even patients who were only moderately susceptible to hypnosis experienced relief from pain. This is a step forward for patients who would have had trouble keeping down harsh medications or those with allergic reactions. As well as being a good alternative or companion treatment to conventional pain killers, hypnosis is also shown to be less expensive.

Hypnosis for Psychological Therapy

When issues about one’s self image become difficult, hypnosis offers an alternative to common psychological help. Because hypnosis offers a calming state in which a patient can feel relaxed and think deeply, it has potential as a self help treatment. If an overweight person feels great distaste in exorcize they can simply practice hypnosis to overcome that distaste. By simply breathing, relaxing, focusing on the positive and telling themselves “I like this…” a patient can change your attitude and willingness to participate in something. Smokers often use hypnosis and other less conventional treatments such as acupuncture to help them to reach a frame of mind where they no longer crave cigarettes. It is this empowering aspect of hypnosis that lends itself so well to psychological therapy.

Many people experience health-care related phobias; fear of such health related things as doctors, dentists, hospitals, needles and disease, which can often restrict a patient’s willingness to seek medical help. However, with the help of self-hypnosis a patient can either go into a trance like state and think of good things to calm themselves or even, with the help of their psychologist, work with imagery and overcome their fear through exposure to the object of their phobia. This ability to be used as imagery therapy means that hypnosis lends its self very well to phobia treatment. It is also the application of good feelings during hypnotherapy that helps patients really overcome inappropriate fear.


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