Hypnotherapy: What is it, what are the different types and treatments?

Hypnotherapy. Have you ever thought of being hypnotized? In this article, we answer some questions you might have: what is hypnotherapy, what are the different forms and treatments that it has, is it the same thing as hypnosis, and some of the biggest benefits and tips.



What is Hypnotherapy?

Deriving from the Greek word “hypnos” for “sleep,” hypnotherapy is the act of guided relaxation and altered attention to accomplish a heightened state of awareness also known as a trance within the subconscious mind. Attention can be so focused and intense in this state that one may; not know what is happening around them. In this naturally occurring hypnotic state with the help of a trained therapist, a person will focus their attention on specific thoughts or tasks. The intended outcome is a form of new responses, thoughts, behaviors, attitudes or feelings.

Dating back as far as recorded history goes, hypnotherapy has been practiced all over the world. People from every corner such as healers, shamans, witch doctors, wise women, tribal doctors, Hindu fakirs, Indian yogi and Persian magi have all practiced forms of hypnotherapy, albeit it was known under different names. The Egyptians in 3,000 B.C. used “temple sleep” otherwise known as “incubation.” Priests considered the special power of “sleep” to have incredible healing benefits. The Temples of Imhotep, found in areas of the Middle East and Africa, were popular for “shrine sleep” and “sleep therapy”. The Hebrews used breathing exercises, meditation, and chanting to produce a hypnotic effect under the term “Kavanah” which we view today as self-hypnosis.

Types of Hypnotherapy

As with any form of therapy, the genres vary. Within hypnotherapy exists Traditional, Eriksonian, Solution Focused, Cognitive/Behavioral, and Curative.

  • The Traditional form is what was practiced by most Victorian hypnotists. It consists mainly of direct suggestion of the symptom removal. If the goal is to stop smoking, once in the trance, the trained hypnotist will use the traditional method and ask the patient to visualize the bad in smoking, how it hurts your eyes and nose, or how unpleasant the smoke might smell. The hypnotist would then offer the suggestion that the patient will be OK without smoking and ask them to remember how awful the smell is everytime they feel the need to pick up a cigarette.
  • Founded by the psychiatrist, Milton Erickson, also known as the father of modern hypnotherapy, Ericksonian hypnotherapy is the opposite of that of Traditional Hypnotherapy by the use of indirect suggestions, metaphors, and storytelling. It is thought that this method is more effective than that of the Traditional because the indirect suggestion is harder to directly resist. Disregarding Freud’s notion that the cause of the problems needs to be removed from the past, Erickson believed that the language of the unconscious mind is imagination and metaphor. With this theory, the subconscious mind would process these stories and metaphors as coded messages better than the conscious mind could.

“Your eyes may grow tired as you listen to the story, you’re allowed to close them and you can. If you close your eyes you may experience a pleasant and deep sense of comfort as you begin to relax.”

  • Solution Focused Hypnotherapy focuses on the solution to the problem rather than the problem itself and is looked upon as useful for inspiring change in a short period of time. Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) is based on the work by Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg; it is used frequently in psychology and hypnotherapy. The biggest key to this type of hypnotherapy is setting future goals for oneself. After the goal is set, the hypnotherapist might suggest something along the lines of, “What would your future look like if the problem you’re experiencing had improved? What would have changed?” to help the solution become more obvious.
  • Cognitive and Behavioral Hypnotherapy try to help connect and align the subconscious and conscious mind and their understanding of reality. Essentially, to guide the patient out of a fear or state of mind. This is done by positively leading an emotional, behavioral, cognitive and symptomatic change. This technique combines positive psychology, neuroscience, evolutionary psychology and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) together. It’s based on three key principles
    • (1) being in a trance is something we do every day, without realizing (ex. daydreaming or getting lost in one’s thoughts)
    • (2) all behavior has a positive forethought and intention
    • (3) each person is unique.
  • Curative Hypnotherapy is used to help the patient identify why their unconscious is producing negative or undesirable symptoms. Success is attained by going over the original event that led to the disturbance in the subconscious thought, essentially identifying and correcting the reason(s) why a problem continues to linger. Due to the number of people that deal with criticism, rejection, sadness, embarrassment or distress throughout everyday life, many people also suffer from anxiety, depression, and insomnia to name a few. The Curative Hypnotherapy approach would help the patient address their issue but also help to find a workable solution to the problem.  

What is the difference between hypnosis and hypnotherapy?

Hypnosis and hypnotherapy are two words that are used rather interchangeably. However, they are not the same. Hypnosis is more a state of mind while hypnotherapy is the name of the therapeutic version in which hypnosis is used.

What are the most common uses of hypnotherapy?

Some of the most common uses for hypnotherapy include childbirth, called HypnoBirthing, a type of self-hypnosis which is used to help calm the mother and keep a relaxed environment while in labor.

Hypnotherapy for depression and for anxiety are used to help alleviate the burden that these common psychological disorders can sometimes lead to by connecting with the subconscious mind. The hypnotherapist will try to address one’s perception of what happened to cause them to have issues with self-esteem and mood.

Stress is a huge problem that many people deal with and can sometimes be seen as the cause of death. Hypnotherapy is wonderful for patients that deal with heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and sleep disorders because it helps to alleviate some of the stress built up.

Hypnotherapy for eating disorders uses the power of suggestion to help change one’s habits and thoughts when it comes to the subject of food. It looks to facilitate a change in thinking surrounding certain sore points for someone with an eating disorder… for example, going out to dinner with friends or having to cook when people come over.

Along with a similar note, hypnotherapy is commonly used to treat weight loss. According to a study published in 1986, hypnosis treatment for weight loss is over thirty times more effective than regular dieting alone. These treatments usually include metaphors for ego-strengthening, decision making, motivation, and ideomotor exploration.

Addictions are a large reason people try hypnotherapy. It has the highest rate of success for ceasing an addiction out of all of the addiction stopping methods- especially with the want to cease smoking. According to a study from the University of Iowa in 1992, hypnosis is three times as effective as the nicotine patch and fifteen times as effective as willpower.

Hypnotherapy in the World

Many of the world’s most renowned hypnotherapists are no longer living today, though many played a part in the different types and treatments of hypnotherapy. Among the top five are Étienne Eugène Azam, Vladimir Bekhterev, Hippolyte Bernheim, Alfred Binet, and James Braid.

Hypnotherapy is such a widely used treatment method that many famous actors and athletes today also use it. This includes the United States White Sox baseball team and the Swiss ski team hiring a full-time hypnotherapist for their teams, actor Orlando Bloom (weight loss), actor Bruce Willis, professional golfer Tiger Woods (fear of public speaking), and Princess Kate Middleton (Hypnobirthing).

Benefits of Hypnotherapy

Thinking benefits and hypnotherapy

Mozart is said to have composed an opera while hypnotized. Albert Einstein was known to self-hypnotize every day and use this trance of hypnosis to brainstorm ideas.

Improved sleep and hypnotherapy

In a recent Swiss study, researchers were able to conclude that those who took a 90-minute nap while listening to a hypnotic suggestion tape slept 80-percent more in the slow-wave sleep cycle (the deepest sleep cycle) than those who did not listen to the tape. The best part is, hypnotherapy, unlike many sleep-inducing drugs, has no adverse side effects!

Behavior changes and hypnotherapy

Many people use it to promote behavior changes. Whether that be to quit smoking, start sleeping well, alter eating habits, mood swings, or help remedy a fear, hypnotherapy is one of the best remedies to help lead behavior in a better direction.


Improved sleep is a benefit of hypnotherapy.

Tips for a Hypnotherapy Session

  • Be Honest. It’s important first and foremost, to be honest with oneself but also with the therapist for a session to be as successful as possible. Don’t refrain from talking about one’s background, what is really going on, and one’s progress with the problem.
  • Patience. As with many things, some people will get quicker results than others. It’s important not to feel that progress isn’t made because one isn’t cured after the first session or two. Communicate to the therapist that progress is taking longer than expected. They will usually have a perspective which helps you understand what’s happening.
  • Relax. The idea of hypnotherapy is, of course, relaxation. However, relaxation before going into an unconscious state is vital for good results. Don’t forget to take a deep breath, lay back, and relax.
  • Don’t force it. Don’t try to be hypnotized. Trying to be hypnotized is like trying to go to sleep.

Have you ever been hypnotized? Feel free to leave your thoughts below.

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