Does Hypnosis Therapy Work?

Updated February 17, 2021

Medically Reviewed By: Lauren Guilbeault


Hypnosis. You hear about this all the time in movies and shows, where someone will hold a coin and swing it around, giving you a suggestion as you start to feel a state of dulled consciousness and relaxation. But, did you know that hypnosis isn't some gimmick used in a show for a plot point? It actually can be used to help with certain issues. But, does it work? The answer is a bit more in-depth than you'd think. While it has been for about 200 or more years, it's been teetering on the edge of effectiveness and quackery. But, most have been using it for alternative reasons, and here, we'll discuss whether or not it works.

The Idea Of Hypnosis

Hypnosis involves putting someone into a temporary trance, where everything is ignored or blocked. The person can then focus on the issues at hand, along with any thoughts and tasks that may be there.

Currently, it's considered an aid to psychotherapy, because it involves a hypnotic state where people explore the painful feelings, thoughts, and memories that they've hidden from their consciousness. It also enables people to perceive different aspects of their life differently, including blocking awareness of pain.

It's currently used in two different ways, and they are as follows:

  • Suggestion therapy, where the person can respond to suggestions, which is where people can change bad habits, such as smoking, nail-biting, and even train the perceptions and sensations, so they're not affected by pain.
  • Patient analysis: this is an approach that utilizes the relaxed state that is there to explore the psychological root for disorders, symptoms, or even trauma that's hidden within the unconscious memory. Once the trauma is then revealed, within psychotherapy, it's addressed and taken care of.

It does have some benefits, and it can help with pain control, overcoming habits including smoking and overheating, and is good for people who have severe symptoms and need crisis management.

It can also help with the following:

  • Anxiety, phobias, and fears
  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Sleep issues or disorders
  • PTSD and anxiety with it
  • Loss and grief

So yes, it does help in some ways, and it can supplement other treatments.

Any Drawbacks?


In some cases, there may be drawbacks. If a person is psychotic, and has had delusions or hallucinations, or is under the influence, it isn't good for them. It should only be used to help with pain once the doctor has evaluated the person for any other disorders that maybe there. It also may not work in some cases when compared to medication.

Now, one of the other factors that should be addressed is that hypnosis can recover the repressed memories that actually can be linked to the mental disorder. However, the reliability and the quality of this information isn't always reliable, and it can create a risk that involves creating false memories, and usually, they result in unintended suggestions or asking the questions wrong within a therapist. Hypnosis is not used in mainstream means of psychotherapy, but the use of hypnosis for some medical disorders may be used if the person is very susceptible to suggestions, such as dissociative disorders.

Again though, this is a controversial practice and may negatively affect the person if the questions are asked wrong. The biggest factor here is the state in which how the questions are asked, and whether or not they create a response within the person that's fitting for the therapy.

Is It Dangerous?

The answer to that is no, it's not dangerous when used in a therapy sense, and it does not mind control, nor is it brainwashing. The thing is, the therapist can't make the person do something that they don't want to do. The biggest problem is the fact that it can render a lot of false information and memories to the front. It can create fake memories, and it also may not be good if the person isn't prone to suggestions. Again though, it can't hurt a person, and sometimes, it helps with insomnia, anxiety, and other mental conditions, and it can be used to supplement to help with counteracting some of these various problems.

Hypnosis And Childbirth?

Now, since there has been a resurgence in hypnosis, it has been used to help with different conditions. There have been clinical studies that showed the pain of childbirth could be reduced. It helps both the mom and child, and it also helps not just with the birth itself, but postpartum depression. It was discovered that hypnosis could shorten the labor, and also help the women feel more confident within childbirth, which accounts for a better experience.

It actually can be a great thing for some women to have before they have a child, and if they do this through the next two months, it can be beneficial. It can put the body into a trance, and then get the patient out of the trance, without even having pain, and the contractions are less worrisome.

This brings forth how hypnosis works, but the thing is, the actual method behind this isn't understood in some cases. Unlike chemicals, which affect the brain, hypnosis has physiological effects on people. It can reduce the pain, and some studies have shown that it does affect the anterior cingulate cortex, which is the decision-making center, and the somatosensory cortex, which works on the perception of touch.

From this, it shows that hypnosis can affect the person's ability to choose where the experience will be felt, and whether or not pain will happen, or if it will be blocked, and it's within the decision making or the sensory center.

Does It Work?


While this has been around for a long time, the question remains. It's taken centuries for hypnosis so get the credibility that it needs. There were reliable measures of how much hypnotizability could happen, and it was how the filed became valid. There are many articles on hypnosis that have since then been published in different journals. There is a consensus in the medical community that hypnosis can treat some conditions, such as phobias, addictions, and even pain that's chronic. Many different EEG guides have suggested in some ways that hypnosis does remove the experiences that you may have emotionally while also allowing for sensation in the sensory organs to happen, and you may know that you've been touched, and so it won't hurt.

There is still much research that's using brain imaging to show the connections the brain may make when someone is hypnotized. Those areas of the brain that are a part of making decisions and monitoring the environment as well do have some connections. What this may mean is that when someone is hypnotized, the person can focus on what they're doing without having to ask why they're doing it, or checking the environment around for any changes.

Though despite the recognition by the medical people, there are still many myths that are present, and there is the belief that it's essentially a truth serum that causes people to lose any semblance of free will that's there. There is also the false idea that the person can wipe out all their memories.

The truth is, hypnosis is something that we've all experienced at some point in some way. Think of the time when you've been so engrossed in something that you didn't hear another person call your name. That's a form of hypnosis, and it's quite similar.

They're not unconscious or sleeping, and hypnosis is a verbal suggestion that creates an attentive and responsive mental state where the person is open to suggestions. This doesn't mean you're submissive, for studies have shown that hypnotic subjects solve problems easily. While it is true that the subconscious mind is open to being suggested during hypnosis, that doesn't mean that their free will and judgment are fully gone. It's a means to explore the inner problems and bring forth those repressed memories that may be laying there.

Get Help!


If you feel like you could benefit from hypnosis, or have been curious about it, there isn't any harm in trying. The worst that can happen is that the suggestions may not be effective, or you may not just be susceptible to hypnosis. In that case, other means can be used.

You can seek out a therapist that's used hypnosis before, or you can look into someone who can help you address the concerns that you may have. Hypnosis is something that used to be considered more quackery than anything, but with recent different aspects coming forward about the benefits of hypnosis, it's something that can help you, and it can be used to help you become even better too truly.

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