Hypnotherapy is a form of therapy that takes place when a person is in a hypnosis so they are more open to suggestions on how to make healthy changes in perceptions, thoughts, emotions, memories, and behaviors.
A hypnotherapist is a person trained in both hypnosis and therapy.
With hypnosis a person is in a deep state of relaxation with a heightened ability to focus and concentrate. This allows the person to be more open to suggestions on how to improve their health and reach their intended goal.
It is easier for the therapist and the person to access unconscious motivations, intentions, and past experiences that are tied to a person’s symptoms.
The biggest concern with being hypnotized is the possibility of being led to create false memories. However, this can be completely avoided by choosing a good therapist.
Since a person is highly suggestible, if asked the wrong questions they could have memories that didn’t occur and remember them as the truth even when they come out of a hypnotic state. Therefore, it is advised not to use hypnosis for memory retrieval, it is not supported by research. False memories are even more likely to occur if a person is handling stressful events that happened at an early age. This could lead a person to more distress and anxiety.
Hypnotherapy can also bring up past trauma causing some anxiety. These are the reasons it is super important to find a Hypnosis Therapist that is educated, certified, well-experienced, ethical, and that you instinctively trust.
You can pull yourself out of a hypnosis state at any point. If there were an emergency a person could easily snap out of the hypnotic state.
That way the hypnotherapist can understand the problem that you are looking to solve, and come up with suggestions ahead of time that they will be providing in the hypnosis state.
There are 4 stages of hypnosis:
Stage 1: Induction
A hypnosis therapist will use verbal cues, repetitions, imagery, or sometimes objects and music to guide a person toward an ultimate state of relaxation. They may also guide the person toward specific breathing techniques and muscle relaxation.
Stage 2: Deepener
The second stage is deepener. This step often involves counting down or using similar descending imagery such as walking down stairs or slowly sinking deeper and deeper into a comfortable bed (Cleveland Clinic). Both of these stages are about getting into the trance to open the mind to suggestion.
Parts of the brain that are responsible for processes and making decisions become more active during this stage.
Stage 3: Suggestions
The third stage is suggestions. The hypnotherapist will tap into unconscious thoughts that may be causing a habit or a behavior. The hypnotherapist carefully chooses their words and imagery to offer up suggestions. The suggestions will help to create positive changes in thoughts, behaviors, emotions, etc. Sometimes the therapist may ask questions or just ask the person to imagine certain scenarios.
Example: To quit smoking, you’ll learn to identify your triggers to want to smoke, learn positive ways to change, understand resources to effect change, disrupt your pattern, attach a better response, notice the difference and install the changed behavior (Cleveland Clinic). Part of the process may be using imagery. They may ask the person to imagine their problem as a monster and then tell them to kill it with a sword.
A hypnotherapist might also use analysis (regression therapy). The therapist has a person walkthrough difficult past memories and helps the person to move past them.
Suggestions vs Affirmations
Suggestions are very different from affirmations because affirmations don’t get direct responses from the subconscious. Hypnotherapy has the advantage of being able to communicate with the subconscious in a two-way fashion (AAPH). Suggestions are also more direct, specific, and work much quicker.
Stage 4: Emergence
The fourth stage of hypnosis is emergence. This is when a person comes out of the hypnotic state and the person may be told to start moving limbs, or imagining the opposite of the deepener such as climbing up stairs.
What Does Hypnosis Feel Like?
Hypnosis silences the conscious mind. Many people describe the trance-like state as calming, allowing them to block out distractions and really concentrate. Different people have all sorts of bodily responses to relaxation instructions - some feel as though their body is very heavy, whereas some can feel very light, almost as if they were floating (Hypnosis and Suggestion).
The language we use significantly affects the way we feel, yet not many people know what kind of words make themselves feel good, relaxed, and so on (Kotera, 2018).
Hypnosis is often used with other therapies and treatments such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Psychodynamic Therapy.
Hypnosis would not be a good choice for people suffering from severe mental health issues like delusions, hallucinations, or psychotic symptoms.
TRUTH: Hypnotists/Hypnotherapists don’t have any “special powers.” They are not psychics or palm readers. It isn’t and never has been magical, spiritual, supernatural, black magic, or a mystical practice.
Anyone can do hypnosis with the proper training. It is an art and a science. If you read about their education, you will see many have Master’s Degrees in psychology. There are a lot of scientific studies to support hypnosis. It’s been supported by the BMA since the 1800s, and the American Medical Association and British Psychological Society have officially supported hypnotherapy since the 1950s (Hartman, 2017). View the history in our history section. It is also supported by the American Psychological Association and British Medical Association as a reputable form of therapy.
A hypnosis therapist doesn’t control or manipulate a person’s thoughts, they simply guide a person toward healthy thoughts with suggestions. The suggestions are based on a discussion prior to be hypnotized.
So How Can Stage Hypnosis Performers Make People Do Crazy Things?
They will specifically select people who they know are more likely to do crazy things such as pretending to be animals. People who volunteer are typically the people who like entertaining a crowd and doing silly things, but don’t necessarily need to be the center of attention. So they must meet certain criteria to be a part of the show.
The hypnosis therapists are very selective in who they choose to be hypnotized. They ask stage volunteers to do small things to test their compliance and then work up to bigger asks. If a person doesn’t trust and believe they can be hypnotized, then it won’t work.
A trance like state makes a person more open to suggestion. Sometimes it doesn’t work, sometimes they may ask participants to play along, some don’t mind pretending, and sometimes they may use volunteers they paid in advance to take part in the show.
Hypnosis stage performers utilize other techniques outside of hypnosis. They’re using a combination of psychological tricks and stage hypnosis techniques like deception, peer pressure, and the simple power of suggestion in order to get audience members to act how they want (Shelton, 2019). Hypnosis performers learn a bit about how the brain works, so they give commands that confuse a person’s brain into complying with a command such as “sleep.” When a pattern interruption occurs, the brain looks for something to make the situation make sense, and it will blindly follow orders (Shelton, 2019).
TRUTH: Hypnosis Can’t Control Your Mind.
Hypmotists Can’t Make You Do Things Against Your Moral Compass or Ethics
Hypnosis doesn’t make you do anything against your will. If your subconscious doesn’t understand something or agree with it, it will immediately reject it. Studies show it doesn’t reduce peripheral awareness. It isn’t a form of mind control or brainwashing. You still have control over your behavior and won’t share information you are not comfortable sharing.
Even a hypnosis therapist can’t truly make a person change, a person has to want to make changes such as quitting smoking. Hypnosis therapy won’t work for a person who doesn’t want to change. You have to want the change, agree with the change, and then hypnosis is an instrument for helping make that change better, faster, and permanent (AAPH).
TRUTH: Hypnosis is NOT a Deep Sleep
People are awake and aware of their surroundings. Some people report having a heightened awareness with the ability to more effectively concentrate and focus.
TRUTH: Hypnosis is NOT a Quick Fix
It is rare that a person only needs one hypnosis therapy session.
TRUTH: You Don’t Have to be a Certain Personality Type to be Hypnotized
Most people can be hypnotized if they are giving into it and not resisting. You don’t need to be a certain personality type. You are not mentally weak if you can be hypnotized. If you choose to do hypnosis therapy your mind has already accepted the fact that you can be hypnotized. It is just a matter of finding the right method to induce hypnosis. Dr. Kappas’ has methods for determining what type of suggestibility you have to figure out what method to use. However, hypnosis is not the right treatment for anyone, some people are more receptive to it than others.
You have been in a hypnosis state before. Everyone enters a hypnotic state at least twice a day. You are in hypnosis state right before you fall asleep at night and as you are waking up in the morning. However, you can be in a hypnosis state during the day, as well. Many people go into an “environmental hypnosis” when driving on the highway, watching movies/TV, reading a book, or just daydreaming.
Ever been so intensely focused on a project that all the noise around you fades and it takes you a minute to notice someone is talking to you? If you are focusing intensely on a hobby, project, or something else you may enter a hypnotic trance.
TRUTH: You Don’t Get Stuck in Hypnosis
You could fall asleep, but then you would wake up no longer hypnotized.
TRUTH: You Don’t Forget What Happened During Your Session
It is beneficial for a person to remember what happened in their hypnotherapy sessions, and only under certain circumstances will a person not remember.
There are no degree requirements to practice in the U.S. However, to be certified by NBCCH (one of the more respected certification organizations) a hypnotherapist needs a degree.
Hypnotherapists usually need a Bachelor’s Degree in psychology, physician, social work, nursing, or something similar. Then, most hypnotherapist’s will have a master’s degree, and in some cases a doctoral/medical degree, as well.
It is also required to complete 50-60 hours of coursework including supervised practice. The degrees and training are important in obtaining a Certification from The National Board for Certified Clinical Hypnotherapists (NBCCH). Other certifications include the National Board Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist in Public Service (NBCCH-PS), and National Board Certified Diplomate in Clinical Hypnotherapy (NBCDCH). There may be other requirements depending on the state someone chooses to practice in.
Many therapists will also choose an area to specialize in. They may specialize in mental health, cancer support, sleep issues, weight control, trauma, etc.
The state of relaxation with self-hypnosis and meditation are very similar. So the biggest difference between the two are the goals.
The goal for meditation is really to just relax and not achieve anything more than accepting thoughts and emotions without judging them. It is simply clearing the mind of all thoughts and balancing emotions. However, even if you don’t achieve that meditation still produces benefits.
Hypnosis has a centralized goal of overcoming anxiety, improving sleep problems, quitting smoking, or whatever your goal might be.
Hypnosis done by a therapist is completely different from meditation. Because with hypnosis therapy a person has their attention focused on the therapist’s voice and maybe even an object. They ignore all other sounds and distractions around them. They also enter a much deeper state of relaxation where they are somewhere between awake and sleeping. Their subconscious is then open to suggestions to change subconscious belief systems. With meditation the mind may wander and is usually not focused.
It could even create more problems and stress in general, as a negative belief or perception can become reinforced. Self-hypnosis doesn’t allow the direct access to the subconscious mind.
However, using some of the techniques similar to meditation such as deep breathing, imagery, and muscle relaxation can be beneficial in helping with pain and stress. It can help a person to feel more in control, and improve their confidence with a stronger connection between mind and body. Additionally, some self-hypnosis techniques when used before going to sleep may help you to get more deep sleep and sleep longer. According to recent research self-hypnosis has helped many people manage IBS.
There is some evidence of hypnosis dating back to Ancient times. Hypnosis is not a new concept. It has been used in the U.S. since the mid-1800s.
Egyptian papyrus (Pap. A. Nr. 65) from around the 3rd century C.E. describes a method to induce a vision using elements that can induce hypnosis: eye fixation and an auditory and physical shock (Mongiovi).
Hypnosis is not a new concept. It has been used in the U.S. since the mid-1800s. It started first with the discovery of mesmerism by Franz Mesmer. Mesmer is a German physician who studied the balance of magnetic power in the body using animal magnetism. He eventually found he could put people into a trance like state without the use of magnets. He then helped many people heal their symptoms.
James Braid, a Scottish Ophthalmologist that took an interest in Mesmers work, is considered the father of modern hypnosis. He actually coined the term “hypnosis.”
Hypnosis was used by many Pioneers of Psychology
Many pioneers of psychology also studied hypnosis. Liebeault, one of the innovators of modern psychotherapy, wrote a book in 1866 about hypnotherapy. Bernheim, another one of the innovators of modern psychotherapy, was a neurologist turned hypnotherapist. He wrote a book that intrigued the medical world, and resulted in hypnosis becoming a science.
Hypnosis was actually commonly used as an anesthesia by many physicians from 1820 – 1850.
In the 1800s, there were also spiritual healers using hypnosis then would claim that healing came through a spiritual source. There were also many entertainers using hypnosis which is probably why hypnosis got a reputation for being some type of magical art. However, this did not stop the research efforts and the scientific study of hypnosis.
Sigmund Freud attempted to use hypnosis but he ended up focusing more on talk therapy. Another big contributor to modern hypnosis is Milton Erickson. What was unique in his approach was that he was not interested in identifying the cause of the symptoms, like many other clinicians back then, instead his focus was on helping patients release their symptoms by stopping the defense functions (Kotera, 2018).
It was actually used in both World War I and World War II to help those injured and dealing with trauma. Since that time, it has been approved by the major medical and psychological organizations in America, Great Britain, and Canada, and has remained a subject of rigorous scientific study (Mongiovi).
Studies which measure brain activity have shown that hypnosis and hypnotic suggestions alter the way that the brain processes information (Hypnosis and Suggestion).
There are also many clinical studies showing the effectiveness of hypnosis for IBS symptoms including constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and rare symptoms of nausea, fatigue, or even urinary problems.
Mounting evidence suggests that hypnotherapy can provide better immediate and long-term relief from symptoms such as re-experiencing traumatic memories than psychotherapy alone (Rotaru & Rusu, 2015).
Hypnotized volunteers are up to 50% more capable of handling painful stimuli (Faymonville et al., 2006).
Scans reveal that hypnosis can lower activity in the brain’s anterior cingulate cortex, linking sensory stimuli to emotional and behavioral responses, and switch off pain signals (Sutton Ph.D, 2021).
Search for a hypnosis therapist that has a degree in the healthcare field such as medicine, psychiatry, psychology, or social work. Make sure they are licensed with the proper training and have a high quality certification (View Education for more info.).
Find out what their experience is and if they have helped people with your specific health condition in the past. Lastly, find out if your insurance can cover your therapy. Some insurance companies will cover 50-80% of the costs. It is also super important to pick someone that you feel comfortable with and you know you can trust.
Here are some directories to help you find a suitable hypnosis therapist:
American Society of Clinical Hypnosis
Cleveland Clinic/Hypnosis. Retrieved from:
Rotaru, T.S., & Rusu, A. (2015). A meta-analysis for the efficacy of hypnotherapy in alleviating PTSD symptoms. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnsis, 64(1), 116-146
Langham Ph.D., Dr R.Y. (2019, June 22). Therapy Tribe/What is Hypnotherapy. Retrieved from:
Emamzadeh, Arash. (2021, February 2). Psychology Today/21 Myths About Hypnosis. Retrieved from:
Fox, Anna. Starks, Terril D. HMI Nationally Accredited College of Hypnotherapy. (2004, Sept. 30). Retrieved from: https://hypnosis.edu/articles/myths
Hartman, Jesse. (2017, Jan 3). Wellness Institute/Hypnotherapy Six Common Myths and Misconceptions. Retrieved from:
Good Therapy/Hypnotherapy (2015, December 2). Retrieved from:
Kotera, Yasuhiro. (2018, January 3). University of Derby/The History of Hypnosis. Retrieved from:
John Mongiovi/A History of Hypnosis: from Ancient Times to Modern Psychology. Retrieved from:
Penn Medicine/6 Surprising Health Benefits of Hypnosis. (2019, January 5). Retrieved from:
Cherry, Kendra. (2022, September 26). VeryWellMind/What is Hypnosis. Retrieved from:
Sutton Ph.D., Jeremy. (2021, Jan 22). Positive Psychology/Does Hypnotherapy Really Work? 10+ Scientific Findings. Retrieved from:
Hypnosis and Suggestion/Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved from:
American Association of Professional Hynotherapists/Hyponsis FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved from:
NaturalHealers/Hypnotherapy Training and Careers. Retrieved from:
Barrie St John. Self-Hypnosis/Meditation vs Self-Hypnosis. Retrieved from:
Shelton, Jacob. (2019, June 25). Ranker/Ways Stage Hypnotists Game Their Participants (And Audiences). Retrieved from:
Regain Editorial Team/Find a Hypnotherapist: All You Need to Know. (2022, July 12). Retrieved from: https://www.regain.us/advice/therapist/find-a-hypnotherapist-all-you-need-to-know/
Faymonville, M.E., Boly, M., & Laureys, S. (2006) Functional neuroanatomy of the hypnotic state. Journal of Physiology-Paris, 99 (4-6), 463-469.