What is Hypnotherapy? - Definition & Benefits

Instructor: Karin Gonzalez

Karin has taught middle and high school Health and has a master's degree in social work.

Hypnotherapy can assist with addictions, weight loss and even pain management. There is a myriad of psychological and medical disorders and illnesses that hypnotherapy can alleviate. Learn the definition as well as benefits of hypnotherapy in this lesson.

Definitions of Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy

When you think of hypnosis, you may envision a psychiatrist waving a pocket watch in front of a patient repeating the phrase, 'You are getting very sleepy.' Due to old movies and television shows, you may also have the impression that the hypnotist or hypnotherapist brainwashes his subject, forcing them to do what they do not want to do. This is a myth. Hypnotherapy actually helps clients achieve change that they want, whether it be freedom of an addiction, phobia or anxiety.

Hypnosis is the practice of relaxing the conscious mind to a trance-like state, and subsequently brining the subconscious mind into a heightened state of awareness that is more open to the hypnotherapist's positive suggestions. In this state of narrowed focus and relaxation, a person's body muscles relax, their breath slows, and their heart rate decreases.

If you have never been hypnotized, it is a little like being so completely immersed in a TV show that you don't hear the person next to you calling your name. It can also be compared to driving a car, arriving at your destination, and not really remembering driving to that destination. This is because your mind was in a trance-like state, thinking of something other than driving. This is essentially what being hypnotized feels like.

Hypnotherapy is the practice of using the power of suggestion to bring about positive change in clients or patients who are under hypnosis. A hypnotherapist will meet with a client before performing hypnosis and discuss medical history, ailments and goals for treatment. Because a client's subconscious mind is more open to suggestions from a hypnotherapist, they are more likely to accept a therapist's words and advice during the hypnotherapy session, which can be the catalyst for positive change.

For example, Beverly is fearful of spiders, a condition known as arachnophobia. She desires to be freed of their fear, as it is negatively affecting her life (she refuses to picnic with her family or maintain her vegetable garden). When Beverly is hypnotized, the hypnotherapist suggests that spiders are friendly and helpful in that they kill other pests and insects. The idea is that Beverly will be more receptive to her hypnotherapist's positive suggestions about spiders versus if she was in a normal state of consciousness.

Benefits of Hypnotherapy

Hypnotherapy has been proven to help treat a number of physical, medical and mental health disorders and diseases. Despite it's proven usefulness, hypnosis has had a difficult time justifying it's efficacy and credibility throughout time. For example, the AMA (American Medical Association) had a report endorsing hypnosis in 1958, but rescinded that endorsement in 1987. Despite the AMA's reluctance, the American Psychological Association endorsed hypnosis in 1960. The list of ailments that hypnotherapy has been used to treat is impressive.

Hypnotherapy has been proven to treat or help with:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Pain management
  • Stress
  • Phobias (intense fears)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Addictions
  • Bad habits
  • Sports performance
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Weight Loss
  • Allergies
  • Self esteem and confidence

Group hypnotherapy can be helpful with smoking cessation, weight loss and increasing motivation.
Group hypnotherapy can be helpful in smoking cessation, weight loss and increasing motivation.

Case Examples of Hypnotherapy Patients

Now that you have seen an impressive list of ailments that hypnotherapy can help with, you may be left wondering how hypnotherapy can possibly help with things like irritable bowel syndrome or allergies. We will answer that question via the following case examples of people who used hypnotherapy as a vessel to treat pain, lose weight, decrease allergies and alleviate irritable bowel syndrome.

Pain Management

The use of hypnotherapy to reduce pain is based on the theory that the mind and body are heavily connected. Hypnotherapy has been used to reduce pain associated with childbirth, dental procedures, chronic cancer pain, arthritis, and many other afflictions.

Imagine a hypnotherapist working with Lawton, who has an intense phobia of going to the dentist. Lawton needs a root canal. The hypnotherapist could initiate hypnotherapy before the surgery and make suggestions such as, 'The dental assistant is going to rub numbing gel on your gums to make you more comfortable, so you don't feel the pain.' These suggestions are supposed to help Lawton believe that he will not feel pain, therefore making him feel less pain during the surgery.

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