Hypnotherapy: Hoax Or Help?

By Nicole Beasley

Updated December 10, 2018

Reviewer Chante’ Gamby, LCSW

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Controversy surrounds the use of the hypnotic state, and with good reason. A stage hypnotist suggests that his volunteer is a chicken, and the willing participant responds by squawking and flapping his arms. Are we supposed to take that seriously? Certainly not, but from our seats in the audience, it looks pretty real. What about the traveling hypnotist that holds seminars in city venues, using the hypnotic state to convince people they no longer want to smoke or eat candy? It sounds too good to be true. It is. Yet, there is one use of the hypnotic state that is used to help people overcome significant problems in their lives. It's called hypnotherapy.

What Is Hypnotherapy?

Hypnotherapy is the use of hypnosis for therapeutic purposes. Guided relaxation, focused attention and concentration are methods used to get to what is often referred to as a "trance" state. In initial meetings with the therapist, he or she would spend some time getting to know you, what is troubling you about your life, and what you would like to change. If you both agree that hypnotherapy is an appropriate choice for you, you'll likely begin the process at a later session.

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The hypnotherapist begins by helping you calm and quiet your mind. The goal is a relaxed but focused state of mind in which you will be open to the therapist's suggestions.

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Revisiting Other Times in Your Life

Your therapist may decide to guide you in remembering times in your life that are pertinent to the problems you're facing. This wouldn't be possible if the therapist hadn't worked with you before the hypnotherapy session to learn about your life and understand something of the source of your difficulties. They might ask you to recall details of the setting, the people present, and the sensations you experienced in that time and place.

Hypnotic Suggestions

When the therapist determines that you're ready, he or she suggests that you alter your thoughts, behaviors, sensations or perceptions so that they are in tune with your desire to change yourself. The therapist may describe the scene in a different way than you first remembered it. What was once painful may quickly become something neutral and bearable. What once seemed enjoyable may seem unpleasant. With each experience you re-experience the habit, bad feelings, or psychological trauma with a better outcome.

Therapy for Your Inner Child

Hypnotherapy isn't just for breaking unpleasant habits. A skilled therapist can use this technique to help you with childhood abuse, trauma, or neglect. They can help you come to terms with negative experiences that happened long ago or more recently. As your therapist helps your inner child create a new version of reality, healing takes place.

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Myth vs. Reality

It is important to note that, contrary to what has been portrayed with stage hypnotists, you are actually conscious, awake and in control during a trance state. It is not minded control.

As mentioned earlier, hypnotherapy is a technique that a therapist uses as a part of a larger therapeutic intervention. A stage hypnotist, on the other hand, does it to get a laugh or impress his audience.

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Does Hypnotherapy Work?

If the question is "Does hypnotherapy work?" the answer is "yes, it works in some situations and for some people." Hypnotherapy won't solve all your problems immediately. It doesn't work that way at all. Yet, a well-trained, certified hypnotherapist can use this technique along with others to help you overcome your most important challenges over the course of your therapy.

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Can Anyone Be Successful with Hypnosis?

Some people are able to participate in hypnosis more easily than others. The only way to know is to have at least one talk session with a therapist and, perhaps, allow your therapist to try it. If it doesn't work, your therapist can propose other treatments for you.

Types of Problems Helped by Hypnotherapy

Hypnotherapy has been studied by researchers for many years. The results of the studies show that hypnotherapy does in fact help many people with certain problems. Each of the disorders, physical and mental challenges, and other difficulties on the following list have been effectively treated with therapy that includes hypnotherapy as one technique.

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Phobias
  • Pain
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Post-surgery recovery
  • Nausea
  • Childbirth

Even though each of these conditions has been treated using hypnotherapy, the technique might not work for you. Your therapist is the best source of answers to this question for you in your unique situation.

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Choosing a Hypnotherapist

It's important to choose your hypnotherapist carefully. Not all are truly qualified to use the technique for therapy. It's important to examine the credentials of a therapist before beginning to work with them.

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Look for a hypnotherapist who is a member of theAmerican Society of Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH) or the Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis. To be a member of either of these organizations, a hypnotherapist must have a doctorate level degree in medicine, dentistry, or psychology, or a master's degree in nursing, social work, psychology, or marital/family therapy. Additionally, they must have a specific number of hours of approved training in hypnotherapy. Don't be afraid to ask to see their diploma and certificate and verify their credentials for yourself.

Personal Attributes

Any therapist you may work with should be a good listener. It helps tremendously if they are patient, kind, and empathetic. Remember that you don't have to continue with a therapist after the first visit if it doesn't seem to be a good fit. You're in complete control of the situation and can choose a different therapist at any time.


If you don't trust your therapist, hypnotherapy with him or her probably won't work for you. The only way to enter the hypnotic state is to feel trust that you'll be safe and well-cared-for. You probably won't know whether you feel that trust until you have a therapy session.

Finding Hypnotherapy Near Me

If you live in a large city, you probably won't have trouble finding a therapist near you who is trained in hypnotherapy. You can get hypnotherapy near your home, although you may have to drive through heavy traffic to get there. On the other hand, if you live in a small town or rural area, you may have to drive a long way to get to a therapist who uses this special technique.

However, there is another option, whether you want to avoid traffic jams or prefer not to travel at all. You can choose therapy through on online platform like Better Help to find therapists as close as your nearest internet connection.

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Because the technology of video chat, you can have a virtual face-to-face hypnotherapy session with a therapist who has hypnotherapy training and experience as well as hypnotherapy certification. Therapists are available to talk to you and offer treatments for a variety of physical and mental health challenges.

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