How does hypnotherapy work?

Hypnotherapy is usually considered an aid to psychotherapy, rather than a treatment in itself. It helps with psychotherapy because the hypnotic state allows a person to explore painful thoughts, feelings, and memories that may be hidden from the conscious mind. Hypnotherapy also enables a person to perceive some things differently, such as blocking an awareness of pain.

Hypnosis can be used in two ways:

  • Suggestion therapy: The hypnotic state makes a person better able to respond to suggestions. Hypnosis can help a person change certain behaviors, such as stopping smoking or nail-biting. It can also help change perceptions and sensations, which can be particularly useful in treating pain.
  • Analysis (hypnotherapy): This approach uses the relaxed state to find the root cause of a disorder or symptom, such as a traumatic past event that a person has hidden in his or her unconscious memory. Once the trauma is revealed, it can be addressed in psychotherapy.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/07/2019.


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