Insights into Psychology

What Is… Hypnotherapy

head with cogs inside

In this series, I dig a little deeper into the meaning of psychological terms.  This week’s term is hypnotherapy.

Psychology Today describes hypnotherapy as a “trance-like state of focus and concentration” that is reached with the guidance of a clinical hypnotherapist.  This state is likened to being fully absorbed in a good book, and it allows individuals to turn the focus fully inward to access resources present within themselves.

Uses of hypnotherapy

Psychology Today further explains that hypnosis is not a type of psychotherapy in and of itself; rather, it’s used by trained psychotherapy professionals to help facilitate other types of psychotherapy.

Hypnotherapy may be useful in anxiety disorders, substance use disorders, pain, and childbirth (also known as hypno-birthing).  However, there’s limited high quality evidence to establish its effectiveness, so it’s not generally considered to be an evidence-based treatment.

Wikipedia describes several types of hypnotherapy:

  • Traditional: uses direct suggestion to target symptoms.
  • Ericksonian: uses an informal conversational approach, and the founders of neuro-linguistic programming drew on Erickson’s work.
  • Solution-focused: incorporates elements of solution-focused brief therapy and Ericksonian hypnotherapy.
  • Cognitive/behavioural: incorporates elements of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
  • Curative: aims to uncover the causes of people’s symptoms through hypnosis.

According to the American Institute of Health Care Professionals, hypnotherapy is:

utilized to create an unconscious change in the patient by introducing new responses, thoughts, behavioral changes and changes in attitude into the subconscious mind. Contrary to popular belief, a patient is not “put under” and has control over his or her actions. Hypnotherapy enables the patient to attain a peaceful state of being, where he or she is not distracted by other mundane problems. This helps patients to focus on their problems and by asking pertinent questions, a clinical hypnotherapist can get to the root of these problems.

Hypnotherapist education & credentials

I was curious about what might be involved in training, so I did some looking around.  A school in my area of Canada has a 7.5-month program to get either a “resident hypnotherapist” certificate or, with a more intensive program, a “counselling hypnotherapist diploma”.  Another school has a four-week course to become a “clinical hypnotherapist”.

The Hypnotherapy Academy of America offers a range of modules in their “certification training in evidence-based hypnotherapy”, from pain control to natal regression, interlife exploration, and past life regression.  That certainly raised an eyebrow – evidence-based??

There is a patchwork of different certification organizations.  Some require a graduate degree in a medical or mental health field and licensing as a mental health or other health care practitioner, such as the Canadian Federation of Clinical Hypnosis, the American Society of Clinical Hypnotherapy, and the National Board for Clinical Certified Hypnotherapists.

It sounds like, when it comes to hypnotherapy, it makes a very big difference who’s doing it.  When the practitioner is a qualified mental health professional, it may be a useful tool to supplement their practice.  When the practitioner is trained to think that past life regression is an evidence-based therapy, the results are probably not so reliable.


The Psychology Corner: Insights into psychology and psychological tests

The Psychology Corner has an overview of terms covered in the What Is… series, along with a collection of scientifically validated psychological tests.

13 thoughts on “What Is… Hypnotherapy”

  1. I’ve had that done. It made me so highly uncomfortable that I never went back to continue the treatment. I’m pretty good at meditation and visualization – which might be part of the whole hypnotherapy regime. The person who administered the ‘test’ in my case set off alarm bells before she even got started, I probably should have told her and left. I’m not good at confrontation though. She asked me to assume positions that were painful (I thought that stuff should be relaxing!) and ask questions which to me were too personal and strange, given the context of the meeting in the first place. So I’m heartened to hear that they require certification or extensive training, because obviously the novice can do a lot of damage IMHO.

  2. I’ve heard you have to be careful because some hypnotherapists actually implant false memories by being too leading, even if they don’t mean to.

  3. Very interesting Ashley, although I don’t think I would like to be hypnotised, who knows what demons they might drag up, lol

  4. I think hypnosis is super interesting. It helps a lot of people. We had a hypnotist come to my psychology class my senior year of HS. It was for shits & giggles. But I couldn’t be hypnotized. Idk why. Lol.

    1. I would guess setting would likely make a difference, and in class would be harder to get in the zone than 1:1 with a therapist.

      1. I also think you have to want to be able to hypnotized. Which I don’t. I don’t like the idea of someone having that kind of control over my mind. Lol. But I do find it interesting.

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