What is hypnotherapy?

Hypnotherapy uses a state of deep, relaxed focus to treat medical or mental health conditions. This kind of therapy can help change feelings or behaviors in your subconscious mind. Your subconscious mind stores feelings, thoughts, and urges that you are usually not aware of. Your conscious mind is the part that allows you to be aware of things around you and think logically.

When you are hypnotized, you are in a state between sleeping and waking. Your focus is so narrow that you are not aware of things around you. You may have a deep, heavy restful feeling, or you may have a light, floating feeling. While hypnotized, you can follow instructions such as taking a deep breath or waking up when you are told to do so.

When is it used?

Hypnotherapy may be used to help you:

  • Overcome fears and build confidence
  • Treat sleep disorders
  • Overcome depression
  • Stop smoking
  • Improve school or sports performance
  • Lose weight
  • Reduce stress
  • Deal with the pain of surgery, dental work or child-birth

Hypnotherapy can help you feel better without using medicine, or it can be used along with medicine. Hypnosis may not be right for people with certain medical problems, people who abuse drugs or alcohol, or those who have certain mental health problems. Talk with your healthcare provider first if you are thinking of trying hypnosis.

How does it work?

Almost everyone can be hypnotized. You cannot be hypnotized if you do not want to be. When you are hypnotized, no one can make you do anything that you don’t want to do. You are the one in control. Simple tests will help you find out how good a subject you are likely to be.

You can be hypnotized in private or in a group of people. A good hypnotherapist will ask enough questions to understand your reasons for being treated. The therapist will answer any questions you have before starting the therapy session.

  • When you are ready, your therapist will guide you into a state of deep focus and relaxation. You may be asked to think about activities or things you enjoy, places where you feel safe and comfortable, or other things that help you relax.
  • At first, you are aware of everything. You may hear every word. As the session goes on, the hypnotist’s voice may fade in and out, or you may not hear the therapist at all. You may get so relaxed that you fall asleep. As your conscious mind gets more relaxed, your subconscious mind gets more focused.
  • While you are in this relaxed yet focused state, your therapist will give you suggestions and ideas to help you achieve your goals. For example, to imagine yourself going through your day without smoking, or to substitute a behavior such as drinking a glass of water instead of eating junk food. These ideas stay in your mind after the therapy session.
  • At the end of the session, the therapist will help you return to your normal state of being fully awake. You may feel relaxed and peaceful. Your therapist may teach you how to go into this relaxed yet focused state by yourself.

How do I find a therapist?

Anyone can claim to be a hypnotherapist. It is important to seek treatment from a licensed professional who belongs to the National Board for Certified Clinical Hypnotherapists. Ask questions and get referrals from people you know and trust. You could check with:

  • Your healthcare provider
  • Your health insurance company
  • Your employee assistance program (EAP) at work
  • Local mental health or human service agencies
  • Professional associations of psychologists, psychiatrists, or counselors
Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2012-04-17
Last reviewed: 2014-04-03
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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