Is Hypnosis Therapy Real? Here's How It Works

Psychotherapy helps people with mental health conditions improve their well-being, usually through methods like talk therapy. Hypnotherapy, also known as hypnosis therapy or clinical hypnosis, is the therapeutic use of hypnosis in psychotherapy with a trained mental health provider. Hypnosis is a state of trance-like consciousness that makes the mind more open to suggestion.

Read on to learn more about hypnotherapy, how effective it is, and what to expect if you have a hypnosis therapy session.

Woman in hypnosis therapy session

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What Is Hypnosis?

Hypnosis is a state of altered consciousness that allows for increased concentration and focus. This can facilitate therapeutic change, helping with behaviors like:

Despite how hypnosis has been portrayed in the media, it is a real and effective therapeutic tool.

How It Works

Trance-like states can occur regularly in daily life.

In a therapeutic setting, however, a trained therapist will guide you into a focused state of concentration. Once in this altered state, they will suggest visualizations related to your goal for therapy.

Once the session is complete, they will guide you back to a normal state of consciousness.

Not Everyone Can Be Hypnotized

Around 10% to 20% of people cannot be hypnotized. One study indicates that hypnotizability is actually a genetic trait.

What Happens to the Brain

Research on brain imaging shows if a person is under hypnosis and visualizing an image, areas of the brain are activated as if they were in waking, conscious reality. When a person experiences physical pain or pain induced during hypnosis, the areas in the brain correlated to pain are activated.

Can Hypnosis Lead to Mind Control?

Entertainment media gives the impression that hypnosis is mind control. But in reality, hypnosis is a trance-like state of relaxed, deep focus. You can still hear what is going on around you and can come out of the trance at any time. Hypnotherapy cannot make you do something against your will. No hypnotherapist or hypnotist can make someone do things they don't want to do. This is why people who are hypnotized for smoking cessation may continue to smoke.

What It Can Help With

Here are some of the conditions that can be improved or benefit from hypnotherapy:

Cost

The average cost of hypnotherapy ranges from $75 to $125 or more per session, but several sessions may be required to experience results.

Sometimes the cost may be bundled into a broader program, such as with smoking cessation or weight loss.

Insurance will sometimes cover hypnosis when treated by a licensed clinical mental health professional.

Benefits

In a study on pain, hypnosis produced up to a 42% reduction in pain.

Hypnosis offers other benefits including the following:

Side Effects

Reported side effects from hypnosis can include:

When to Use Caution

Hypnosis is not appropriate for people with serious mental disorders and conditions, including psychosis, hallucinations, or delusions. It may even be dangerous for those with dissociative disorders and schizophrenia.

What to Expect

Here are some general steps to expect during your session:

  1. Induction: The therapist will induce a hypnotic state by suggesting relaxation, which can include visualizing something soothing, calming, or pleasant.
  2. Suggestions: Suggestions usually center around your goals, such as losing the desire to smoke or reducing pain.
  3. Emerging to the present moment: When the hypnosis process is complete, the healthcare provider will bring you out of the trance-like state and back into the present moment.

Make sure to dress comfortably for your appointment, as you may need to recline during the session.

Is Self-Hypnosis Effective?

In one study of self-hypnosis for people living with cancer, results indicated that they improved their emotional distress by using self-hypnosis. In another study, participants used self-hypnosis as part of a program to lose weight. The results indicated that those who used hypnosis did see a weight decline and their sense of fullness while eating improved.

Summary

Hypnosis is a trance-like state of consciousness that makes the mind more open to suggestion. It involves inducing a person into an altered state and making suggestions influenced by their goals.

Hypnosis is helpful for many issues, including smoking cessation, weight loss, chronic pain, depression, anxiety, and more. It has been shown to be an effective addition to traditional psychotherapy.

A Word From Verywell

If you are considering hypnotherapy, it's important to find a mental health professional who is trained in hypnosis. This will help you feel at ease during your session. Remember that if hypnotherapy is not the right choice for you, there are plenty of other therapy methods available to help.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is hypnotism real?

    Evidence-based scientific research suggests that hypnotism is real and effective. Research shows hypnosis impacts multiple brain regions. In one study, participants experienced a 42% reduction in pain.

  • Is hypnosis safe?

    When practiced correctly, hypnosis is generally safe. However, hypnosis is not safe if you have a serious mental illness. For most people, it's possible to get out of a hypnotic state any time by counting down.

  • What’s the difference between hypnosis and hypnotherapy?

    They are often used interchangeably, but the meanings are distinct. Hypnosis is a trance-like state in which the mind becomes more open to suggestion, and hypnotherapy is the clinical practice of hypnosis.

  • Can you learn to hypnotize someone?

    Yes. One study indicated that people without experience could be effective in hypnotizing others.

  • How long does hypnosis last?

    In one study, people who combined cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) with hypnosis reported greater improvement than those who had CBT without hypnosis. 

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