Hypnotherapy: what conditions can it treat?
Published 20 May 2022 • By Candice Salomé
According to many theories, most of our problems, whether of personal or psychological order, originate in our unconscious. The unconscious stores thousands of pieces of information that we often do not have access to.
The use of hypnosis for therapeutic purposes allows the unconscious to discard this data and replace it with other data. This is called hypnotherapy.
So, can hypnosis be used for medical purposes and, more particularly, for treating chronic conditions?
We explain it all in our article!
What is hypnotherapy?
The principle of hypnosis
Hypnotherapy can relieve and resolve many health issues: pain, addictions, phobias, depression, digestive or sleep disorders.
Indeed, when a patient enters a state of hypnosis, his or her mind manages to forget what surrounds him or her and this causes hyperreactivity and hypersensitivity to the hypnotherapist's words.
The patient thus perceives things as a whole and looks at things from a broader perspective. He or she can then confront various problems and their solutions more easily, overcome a fear or modify a behaviour that no longer suits his or her present life.
It is this state of letting go that allows hypnosis to act on the mind, on information processing, on our emotional reactions and on our body. Carried out at the level of the unconscious, this psychological work allows conscious activities to be put to sleep.
How it works
Most of the time, hypnosis is practised in individual sessions with a hypnotherapist.
Hypnotherapist has a number of suggestions for the patient to focus on:
- Visual suggestion: the practitioner asks the patient to visualise soothing images or shows them to the patient,
- Auditory suggestion: the practitioner's voice is most often used as a guide,
- Tactile suggestion: physical contact is often maintained between the practitioner and the patient.
These techniques should be adapted to the patient's personality in order to allow him/her to enter the hypnotic state as easily as possible. Indeed, prolonged concentration and focused attention induce the hypnotic state.
It is worth mentioning, that hypnotherapy is currently unregulated in the UK. However, National Occupational Standards for hypnotherapy exist since 2002, thus approving hypnotherapy as a stand-alone therapy.
In the UK hypnotherapy can be practised by people who are not healthcare professionals, and it is not usually available on the NHS. So you should be very careful when choosing a hypnotherapist. Do not hesitate to ask your GP or to contact your local clinical commissioning group (CCG) if you are looking for a private hypnotherapist.
Different hypnosis techniques
There are two main types of hypnosis:
- Classical or traditional hypnosis: this is the first known form of hypnosis. It is mainly based on direct suggestions from the practitioner. These suggestions will be the same for all patients treated for the same health condition.
- Modern hypnosis, known as Ericksonian hypnosis, is named after its founder, the American psychiatrist Milton Erickson. This form of hypnosis is the most widely practiced in psychotherapy and medicine. The patient is led into an altered state of consciousness through his or her own participation. This technique is also called "self-hypnosis". The practitioner enables the patient, through various communication techniques, to connect their conscious with their unconscious in order to bring about some kind of change. This way, the hypnotherapist communicates with the patient, proposing solutions in the form of metaphors, indirect suggestions, activation of dreams or memories, with the aim of solving the patient's problem. Once back in the conscious state, the patient will unconsciously choose one of the solutions mentioned by the practitioner: this is called autosuggestion.
Where can hypnotherapy be used?
Hypnosis is effective in treating numerous health issues. Here are some examples that have been scientifically studied:
Using hypnosis to treat chronic anxiety/stress
Hypnosis, by addressing the underlying cause of stress and by changing perceptions, allows the patient to re-evaluate his or her automatisms and to revise his or her understanding of the world. Thus, it becomes easier to cope with "normal" stressful situations in everyday life, and to free oneself from unnecessary stress.
Hypnosis can also be used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder in adults.
Using hypnosis to lose weight
Hypnosis can help change the person's eating habits, especially of those suffering from obesity. It can be used to help with weight loss but also to improve the patient's body image.
Using hypnosis to quit smoking
Numerous studies have shown that within 6 months of a hypnosis session, the quit rate is between 30% and 40%.
A recent study has shown that hypnosis is more effective in treating tobacco addiction than nicotine replacement therapy.
Using hypnosis to reduce anxiety related to pregnancy or giving birth
During pregnancy, hypnosis can help to gradually reduce anxiety related to childbirth.
Hypnosis can also be used to modify and improve the pregnant woman's perception of her own body .
Using hypnosis to treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Studies have shown that hypnosis significantly improves abdominal pain, bowel habits and abdominal distension, as well as anxiety and depression related to this syndrome.
In addition, it appears that the benefits of hypnosis continue in the medium term (2+ years). In the long term (approximately 5 years), hypnosis is believed to be able to improve the patient's symptoms and reduce the use of medication.
What about you? Have you ever tried hypnosis? If yes, what was your experience like?
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