What is Hypnotherapy and Does It Work?

Used for centuries by shamans and ancient civilizations, hypnosis was once exclusively reserved for religious ceremonies and rituals. Modern hypnotherapy can be attributed to a successful psychiatrist in the mid-1900s named Milton Erickson who introduced its use into his practice. Recognized in 1958 as a viable medical procedure by the American Psychology Association, as well as the American Medical Association, hypnotherapy has a long history of use.

Milton Erickson

Hypnosis originates from ‘hypnos,’ the Greek word for sleep. This form of therapy is administered by lulling an individual into a state of heightened relaxation. This altered state of awareness or trance allows the person to deeply focus on an image or idea, thereby increasing his responsiveness. Contrary to popular belief, hypnotherapy is not a form of mind control. The individual does not lose control of his mind or free will. However, hypnotherapy is very effective in teaching people to better identify and comprehend their own actions.

Every event that occurs in life is responsible for a specific physical and emotional response. Thereafter, similar or related events trigger the same response. In most cases, this pattern is helpful in keeping us safe. However, in other instances the subsequent response can be unhealthy. The process of hypnotherapy utilizes a series of stages to break down these connections as a means of targeting the offending habit or behavior.

Stages of Hypnotherapy

Reframing the Problem

In the first stage, the hypnotherapist will generally attempt to reframe the problem by exposing the event that initiated the undesirable reaction. Once the problem has been reframed, the therapist can begin to help divide the memory of the event from the behavior associated with it and implement healthier behaviors.


This stage is the most universally acknowledged part of hypnotherapy. At this point, the individual becomes more in tune with his inner self and his surroundings as the muscles throughout the body loosen up and the brain activity slows. During this heightened level of awareness, individuals tend to be more receptive to the suggestions of the hypnotherapist resulting in an increased probability of success.


This is the process of effectively stepping outside of one’s self. The tool of dissociation is employed to help recreate the traumatic episode from which the unhealthy behavior originated. Primarily used for subjects having endured severe physical or psychological anguish, dissociation allows the individual to view the incident from an outsider’s perspective. Even if the subject has no conscious memory of the event in question, he may be guided to its re-creation as a way to resolve the resulting damage.

Respond, Return & Reflect

Before awakening from the hypnotic state, the therapist will reiterate the session to judge the subject’s attitude toward the suggested modifications. The subject will then be brought gently back to his original state of awareness at which time he and the therapist will discuss the session, possible progress or concerns and how to approach the next phase of his treatment.

While not a form of instant gratification, hypnotherapy can be very effective in treating addiction, pain management, anxiety, phobias, and weight loss, as well as numerous other conditions. However, individuals must understand that the process may require multiple sessions and is not 100% successful in all cases. Additionally, hypnotherapy is not a replacement, but a supplement to other medical treatment. To begin hypnotherapy, patients must obtain a valid medical diagnosis from a licensed physician, because the hypnotherapist will need a specific idea of what is to be treated. An accurate diagnosis is crucial to hypnotherapy, as focusing on the wrong issue could worsen or prolong the condition.


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