Hypnotherapy is a type of complementary and alternative medicine in which the mind is used to help with a variety of problems, such as breaking bad habits or coping with stress.

It is used for a wide variety of applications, and studies into its efficacy are often of poor quality which makes it difficult to determine efficacy.

Several post-2000 and post-2010 meta-analyses and systematic reviews of the literature on various conditions have concluded that the efficacy of hypnotherapy is “not verified“, that there is no evidence or insufficient evidence for efficacy.

Traditional hypnotherapy

The form of hypnotherapy practiced by most Victorian hypnotists, including James Braid and Hippolyte Bernheim, mainly employed direct suggestion of symptom removal, with some use of therapeutic relaxation and occasionally aversion to alcohol, drugs, etc.

Ericksonian hypnotherapy

In the 1950s, Milton H. Erickson developed a radically different approach to hypnotism, which has subsequently become known as “Ericksonian hypnotherapy” or “Neo-Ericksonian hypnotherapy.

Erickson made use of an informal conversational approach with many clients and complex language patterns and therapeutic strategies. This divergence from tradition led some of his colleagues, including Andre Weitzenhoffer, to dispute whether Erickson was right to label his approach “hypnosis” at all.

The founders of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), a method somewhat similar in some regards to some versions of hypnotherapy, claimed that they had modeled the work of Erickson extensively and assimilated it into their approach. Weitzenhoffer disputed whether NLP bears any genuine resemblance to Erickson’s work.

Solution-focused hypnotherapy

In the 2000s, hypnotherapists began to combine aspects of solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT) with Ericksonian hypnotherapy to produce therapy that was goal-focused (what the client wanted to achieve) rather than the more traditional problem-focused approach (spending time discussing the issues that brought the client to seek help). A solution-focused hypnotherapy session may include techniques from NLP.

Cognitive/behavioral hypnotherapy

Cognitive-behavioral hypnotherapy (CBH) is an integrated psychological therapy employing clinical hypnosis and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

The use of CBT in conjunction with hypnotherapy may result in greater treatment effectiveness. A meta-analysis of eight different types of research revealed: “a 70% greater improvement” for patients undergoing an integrated treatment to those using CBT only.

In 1974, Theodore X. Barber and his colleagues published a review of the research which argued, following the earlier social psychology of Theodore R. Sarbin, that hypnotism was better understood not as a “special state” but as the result of normal psychological variables, such as active imagination, expectation, appropriate attitudes, and motivation.

Barber introduced the term “cognitive-behavioral” to describe the nonstate theory of hypnotism and discussed its application to behavior therapy.

The growing application of cognitive and behavioral psychological theories and concepts to the explanation of hypnosis paved the way for closer integration of hypnotherapy with various cognitive and behavioral therapies.

Many cognitive and behavioral therapies were themselves originally influenced by older hypnotherapy techniques, e.g., the systematic desensitization of Joseph Wolpe, the cardinal technique of early behavior therapy, was originally called “hypnotic desensitization” and derived from the Medical Hypnosis (1948) of Lewis Wolberg.

Curative hypnotherapy

David Lesser (1928 – 2001) was the originator of what is today known by the term “curative hypnotherapy“.

It was he who first saw the possibility of finding the causes of people’s symptoms by using a combination of hypnosis, IMR and a method of specific questioning that he began to explore.

Rather than try to override the subconscious information as Janet had done, he realized the necessity- and developed the process- to correct the wrong information.

Lesser’s understanding of the logicality and simplicity of the subconscious led to the creation of the methodical treatment used today and it is his work and understanding that underpins the therapy and is why the term “Lesserian” was coined and trademarked.

As the understanding of the workings of the subconscious continues to evolve, the application of the therapy continues to change.

The three most influential changes have been in Specific Questioning (1992) to gain more accurate subconscious information; a subconscious cause/effect mapping system (SRBC)(1996) to streamline the process of curative hypnotherapy treatment; and the ‘LBR Criteria’ (2003) to be able to differentiate more easily between causal and trigger events and helping to target more accurately the erroneous data which requires reinterpretation.

Hypnotherapy expert Dr Peter Marshall, former Principal of the London School of Hypnotherapy and Psychotherapy Ltd. and author of A Handbook of Hypnotherapy, devised the Trance Theory of Mental Illness, which provides that people suffering from depression, or certain other kinds of neuroses, are already living in a trance and so the hypnotherapist does not need to induce them, but rather to make them understand this and help lead them out of it.

Uses

Clinicians choose hypnotherapy to address a wide range of circumstances; however, according to Yeates (2016), people choose to have hypnotherapy for many other reasons:

Ignoring specific issues such as performance anxiety, road rage, weight, smoking, drinking, unsafe sex, etc., those seeking hypnotherapy today do so because of ill-defined, vague feelings that:

  • their health is far from optimal;
  • their worry about past/present/future events is excessive and debilitating;
  • they are not comfortable with who they are;
  • they’re not performing up to the level of their true potential; and/or
  • their lives are lacking some significant (but unidentified) thing.

Childbirth

Hypnotherapy is often applied in the birthing process and the post-natal period, but there is insufficient evidence to determine if it alleviates pain during childbirth and no evidence that it is effective against post-natal depression.

Bulimia

Literature shows that a wide variety of hypnotic interventions have been investigated for the treatment bulimia nervosa, with inconclusive effect.

Similar studies have shown that groups suffering from bulimia nervosa, undergoing hypnotherapy, were more exceptional to no treatment, placebos, or other alternative treatments.

Other uses

Among its many other applications in other medical domains, hypnotism was used therapeutically, by some alienists in the Victorian era, to treat the condition then known as hysteria.

Modern hypnotherapy is widely accepted for the treatment of certain habit disorders, to control irrational fears, as well as in the treatment of conditions such as insomnia and addiction.

Hypnosis has also been used to enhance recovery from non-psychological conditions such as after surgical procedures, in breast cancer care and even with gastro-intestinal problems, including IBS.

*This article was originally published at en.wikipedia.org.