March 2022

How Hypnotherapy Might Help

Hypnosis has been used in various cultures throughout the world since ancient times. While it’s not entirely clear how it works, hypnotherapy, the use of hypnosis for therapeutic purposes, might actually benefit some conditions. And there’s a fair amount of research on it.

So what is hypnosis? Hypnosis is a state of mind in which someone has reduced awareness and is very responsive to suggestions or instructions. The term hypnosis comes from the Greek word “hypnos,” meaning sleep. It can be conducted many different ways, including by a trained hypnotherapist, through audio recordings, individually or in a group, or through self-hypnosis.

Some of the most promising evidence for hypnotherapy involves its use for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and pain. Most research shows that gut-directed hypnotherapy, which uses gut-directed imagery, reduces IBS symptoms short-term. But studies are conflicting as to whether it is beneficial over the long-term. As for pain, early research shows that it might benefit both children and adults with various forms of acute pain. It also seems to be beneficial in adults with various types of chronic pain. It’s not clear how it works, but it might be related to reducing feelings of anxiety and the promotion of relaxation. Measurable changes in vital signs have occurred during hypnosis, including decreased heart rate and blood pressure.

If patients want to give hypnotherapy a try, there’s no reason to expect safety concerns, as long as they don’t use it in place of more proven therapies. Explain that there’s no standard licensing for hypnotherapists in the US, but certifications are granted by multiple organizations, including the American Association of Professional Hypnotherapists and the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis. There are also many different types of hypnotherapy – some might work better for certain conditions, such as gut-directed hypnotherapy for IBS. But more research is needed to determine which forms of hypnotherapy may be most appropriate, and which patients may experience the most benefit.

Curious about whether hypnotherapy might help for smoking cessation and other conditions? Check out our new monograph to learn more. 

The information in this brief report is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions. Copyright © 2024 NatMed. Commercial distribution or reproduction prohibited. NatMed is the leading provider of high-quality, evidence-based, clinically-relevant information on natural medicine, dietary supplements, herbs, vitamins, minerals, functional foods, diets, complementary practices, CAM modalities, exercises and medical conditions. Monograph sections include interactions with herbs, drugs, foods and labs, contraindications, depletions, dosing, toxicology, adverse effects, pregnancy and lactation data, synonyms, safety and effectiveness.