Hypnosis: Does It Work?
by Amy Scholten, MPH
Many people think of hypnosis as mind control or habit control. Others view it as entertainment. It is neither of these things. Instead, hypnosis is a focused state of attention. It helps you feel calm and relaxed. In this state, you are more willing to accept a hypnotist's suggestions. These suggestions are aimed at a goal you are working on. For example, your goal may be to ease long term pain.
How Does It Work?
In movies and on TV hypnotherapists often swing a gold watch. Very few practitioners actually do this. Instead, the hypnotherapist talks to you and you help the process along. Different methods are used to help you relax. Common ones are repeating words or mental images. When you are relaxed, the hypnotherapist makes suggestions based on your goal. A session often lasts 30 to 60 minutes. At the end, you come out of the trance on your own or with help.
Some people are hypnotized more easily than others. It depends on how easily they can:
Two things are helpful in getting results. One is having a skilled hypnotherapist. The other is being a person who is easily hypnotized. However, most people can be hypnotized to some degree. You need to be able to focus and accept the techniques.
Some people fear being hypnotized. They think they will lose control over their behavior. They worry that they will forget what happened during the session. These fears are unfounded. You do not have to worry about these things.
Who Should Perform Hypnosis?
As with any healthcare professional, choose with care. The hypnotherapist should:
Also, find out if your insurance will cover the cost of the sessions.
Can Hypnosis Really Help Me?
Hypnosis is used to treat a wide range of problems, including:
Hypnosis may be used with counseling or psychotherapy.
Is hypnosis effective? It depends. Like all therapies, it works for some people and not for others. It can be part of a care plan that includes other treatments too.
American Society of Clinical Hypnosis
The New England Society of Clinical Hypnosis
Canadian Federation of Clinical Hypnosis
Definition of hypnosis. American Society of Clinical Hypnosis website. Available at: https://www.asch.net/Public/GeneralInfoonHypnosis/GeneralInfoTemplate.aspx. Accessed June 29, 2021.
Hypnosis today: looking beyond the media portrayal. American Psychological Association website. Available at:
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Accessed June 29, 2021.
Hypnotherapy. EBSCO Natural and Alternative Treatments website. Available at: https://www.ebsco.com/products/research-databases/natural-alternative-treatments. Accessed June 29, 2021.
Last reviewed June 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
Last Updated: 6/29/2021
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