Hypnotherapy: Definition, Techniques, and Powerful Efficacy


Hypnotherapy has been used since ancient times as a form of therapy that relies on hypnosis to help in the management of conditions such as pain and anxiety. 

There are many benefits of hypnotherapy including the fact that it is largely a natural treatment and one that does not rely on prescriptions. 

Definition: What is Hypnotherapy?

Also known as guided hypnosis,  hypnotherapy is an alternative treatment technique that is used in the management or treatment of certain health conditions. The term hypnotherapy is derived from the word hypnosis. Hypnosis means induced consciousness where an individual loses ordinary voluntary action and instead responds to directions or suggestions. The use of hypnosis in therapy is what is termed hypnotherapy. 

The main aim of hypnotherapy is to achieve a positive medical outcome on the patient, for example to modify behavior or recover repressed memory.  When done well, this approach can contribute to pain reduction across different forms of pain including pain of childbirth, and abdominal pain among others including chronic pain conditions. Other benefits of hypnotherapy may include helping to manage conditions such as dementia symptoms, menopause-associated vasomotor symptoms, behavioral issues, problematic behaviors, irrational fears, chronic anxiety disorders, relationship issues, and even bad habits.

In administering hypnotherapy, various approaches are used including applying extreme concentration, intense attention, and relaxation to realize a heightened mindful state. Essentially, this alternative treatment transforms a person’s mind to an altered or adjusted state of internal awareness. This state is commonly referred to as a trance.  

Hypnotherapy Techniques

There are several techniques and types of hypnotherapy including traditional hypnotherapy, clinical hypnotherapy or clinical hypnosis, suggestion therapy, behavioral hypnotherapy, mindful hypnotherapy, and “Neo-Ericksonian hypnotherapy.  Please note that some of these techniques require the services of a medical provider trained and experienced in the hypnotherapy profession. Professional training in this field y is well established, and might be incorporated in courses such as a degree in medicine, degree in nursing or even a doctorate level degree. 

Please note that hypnosis is more than the technique used. Instead, successful hypnotherapy based treatment is highly determined by the direct and internal awareness of the patient. You might have access to the services of the best hypnosis professional in the world, but you will equally need to play a huge role for the treatment to work. It takes immense absorption in self, unlike the conventional treatments which are triggered by manufactured medicine. 

Here is a look at the various techniques of hypnotherapy, including the conditions where each technique applies best.

Traditional hypnotherapy

The traditional type of hypnotherapy is mostly practiced by Victorian hypnotherapy practitioners. It relies on direct suggestion and sometimes includes relaxation therapy combined with avoiding drugs plus alcohol. The traditional form of hypnotherapy is believed to be the easiest of all hypnosis techniques as it relies on simple commands and suggestions to influence one’s thoughts, feelings, and actions. Anyone can practice it with very little guidance or training. 

Important to note though that as much as traditional hypnotherapy is considered easy, such a hypnotherapy session might only work well among people who are good at following orders. It is considered less effective on people who have critical and analytical thought processes. A critical conscious mind will interfere with suggestions and commands, thus preventing messages from being absorbed properly by the subconscious mind.  

Modern day hypnotists practice what is commonly referred to as stage hypnotism, a close match of traditional hypnotherapy. Stage hypnotism is popular among comedies and club attendees. 

Clinical hypnotherapy

Clinical hypnotherapy is based on teaching patients to apply deep relaxation. It is mostly used in the treatment of conditions such as weight loss, low self-esteem, smoking addiction, and pain. Clinical hypnotherapy is used upon consultation with a qualified medical practitioner who is experienced and has gone through relevant training in the application of hypnotherapy techniques.  

During a clinical hypnotherapy session, a clinical hypnotherapist will normally guide the patient through suggestions to think about pleasant things in life and generally apply their mind to imagining positive experiences. There are several hypnotherapy organizations that offer clinical hypnotherapy, so you will definitely be able to find one near you.  This type might also be referred to as medical hypnosis.  

Cognitive behavioral hypnotherapy  

Cognitive behavioral hypnotherapy is a highly advanced technique that is used to treat or relieve a wide range of conditions both physical and emotional.  

It is designed to change the way the patient behaves and thinks by using a combination of traditional cognitive behavioral approaches alongside hypnosis. 

It is mostly applied through talking, with emphasis on current challenges as opposed to past occurrences. Cognitive behavioral hypnotherapy  ‘suspends’ the conscious thoughts and in its place, hypnosis is used to influence the recovery process. 

Depending on the issue at hand and the desired goals, your therapist will use a number of approaches that might include helping you to:

  • Identify challenges in your life
  • Identify negative thought trends and the impact on your life
  • Learn new habits and practice them.

Some of the components of cognitive behavioral hypnotherapy include cognitive restructuring or reframing, journaling and thought records, role playing, guided discovery, exposure therapy, and behavioral experiments. 

Where can cognitive behavioral hypnotherapy be applied?

Cognitive Behavioral Hypnotherapy technique can be applied to a number of conditions including anxiety disorders, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, panic attacks, anger management, bereavement, relationship challenges, low self-esteem, skin conditions, bed wetting, and pain management.  

It can also be used to reduce challenges of addiction to drugs such as smoking and alcohol, or even weight gain.   

Even in business and work life, medical therapy that is guided by cognitive behavioral hypnotherapy can be used to help persons achieve seemingly difficult goals. It can solve issues such as lack of concentration, lack of focus, and public speaking. 

Mindful hypnotherapy 

The Mindful Hypnotherapy (MH) technique is one of the methods that is practised today as part of modern hypnotherapy. This technique involves focused attention on the present moment plus direct awareness that is nonjudgmental.  It influences the patient to experience the world in a way that makes them get a powerful feel of possibilities to change their life in a powerful way. It gives a feeling of high hopes that doors are going to open to a better self and personal well being.   

A study conducted by the Baylor University in Waco, Texas, established that a combination of hypnotherapy with mindfulness offers both physical and emotional benefits.  According to the study’s co-author Gary Elkins, Ph.D., mindfulness can help people cope with stress even though it requires several months of practice.  

Experts recommend a mindful schedule that involves about 2.5 hours spread across a period of 8 weeks in addition to a daily treatment lasting about 8 hours in total. As you might already imagine, the downtime of such a schedule is that it can consume a lot of time and even resources, meaning it might not be so accommodating to the majority of people.  

Neo-Ericksonian Hypnosis

The Neo-Ericksonian hypnotherapy technique is attributed to Milton Erickson, MD, one of the greatest figures in the field of hypnosis as we know it today. Indeed many experts in the hypnosis field consider Milton Erickson, MD a pioneer in hypnosis while others claim he discovered hypnosis in the sense that as a polio victim he overcame the condition by  connecting to his unconscious mind through the power of hypnosis.  He viewed the unconscious mind as a powerful repository, a great source of wisdom where amazing creativity can occur if triggered. He then went ahead to use this discovery to overcome and overpower his paralysis alongside many other challenges in his life.  

As a result, Neo-Ericksonian went on to become an educator, psychiatrist, and innovator. The Neo-Ericksonian Hypnosis is therefore based on the innovations of this great man.  According to Neo-Ericksonian Hypnosis, the unconscious mind is much smarter than the conscious mind. This means that no matter how smart you might be, you can’t be smarter than the unconscious mind.  This technique puts emphasis on the fact that the victim or patient is the one who understands best the challenges they are experiencing and not the therapist. Therefore, the wisdom of treatment should come from the patient and not the therapist.  

This technique insists on the therapist not imposing their views on the patient nor making assumptions. Rather, the therapist should just be a vehicle that allows the emergence of inner wisdom from the patient.   

Solution focused hypnotherapy

Solution focused hypnotherapy is premised on finding solutions to a challenge that the patient is undergoing.  In other words, solution focused hypnotherapy technique does not concern itself with unpacking the issues a person is undergoing. It simply makes an assessment of the present situation then sets future goals aimed at finding a solution to the problem.  

This method views the causes of a current problem as a distraction that should be left out. The focus is on setting clear goals to overcome the current problem.  

What is the origin of solution focused therapy?

Solution focused hypnotherapy is thought to have originated in the United States. The techniques and strategies involved to arrive at a solution have been developed over a long period of time.  

The renowned psychiatrist Milton Erickson taught at great length and implemented several solution focused strategies. He is not alone though because many other experts have and continue to contribute to this technique. For example, the theoretical brief for solution focused therapy was developed by Insoo Kim Berg and Steve de Shazer.  

Curative hypnotherapy

This hypnotherapy technique is based on the observations and assertions of Dr. Peter Marshall who authored what is known as the handbook of hypnotherapy which came up with the Trance Theory of Mental Illness.  

Dr. Peter Marshall’s theory asserts that a person who is already suffering mental illness conditions such as depression is in fact already in a trance. It, therefore, suggests that in treating a mental health patient through hypnotherapy, trance should not be included. Instead, the patient should be guided to understand their current trance state and be led effectively to come out of the trance.  

How does curative hypnotherapy work?

In curative hypnotherapy, the patient is guided to access their subconscious mind where they identify why their subconscious is reacting in such a way as to produce undesirable effects which then put them in their current state. To get this done the patient is led to conduct a comprehensive view of the initial event that caused the responses from the subconscious. 

Having viewed the original events that led to the current conditions, the patient then uses their understanding over the years in between to determine if the response that was produced as a result of the original event was the correct one. Once they do this, they are then able to possibly change their mind hence the response, and consequently, there will be a change in all future responses. Should this process be executed successfully with high levels of personal control, then the patient will have been cured!  

Throughout the entire process of curative hypnotherapy sessions, the patient is not obligated to explain the subconscious causes they may have figured out. This follows the ‘content free’ principles where the patient is not under obligation to reveal any details of past or present events to the therapist. Any revelations must be 100% voluntary. 

Efficacy: Does Hypnotherapy Work?

Debate is still out there at large regarding the degree of efficacy of hypnosis,  if it really works and if it can be effective in treating the various conditions that its proponents claim,  both physical and emotional.

Like many concepts, technologies, and approaches in life today there will always be proponents and critics. It is important to realize though that most debates are based on the experiences, observations, beliefs, and studies of the participants from both sides. For example, if person A says that a certain hypnotherapy technique has worked for them, they are probably speaking from experience. If person B counters person A by saying that they too have tried the same hypnotherapy technique and it didn’t work for them, it doesn’t necessarily mean that person B is correct and person A is wrong. The reality of life is such that the majority of people tend to quickly believe the counter-claims perhaps out of fear. That is why sometimes conspiracy theories spread like wildfire, just like fake news.  

Like in conventional medicine, success is not 100% guaranteed

The point here is that even the most authentic medicine can fail to work for some people as much as it delivers amazing results for others. And so when it comes to hypnotherapy, you need to look deeper than the debates. Look at and understand how the mind works. 

The fact that mental illness is caused by a disruption of neurons most likely implies that the same mind can also heal by applying approaches that involve the mind in greater, deeper detail.  Even in the absence of unanimous concurrence, there is a very high chance that hypnotherapy is a powerful force that should be harnessed to deliver positive results to.  

What have studies established about the efficacy of hypnotherapy?

Several studies based on analysis of hypnosis have linked hypnotherapy to high efficacy levels among patients who have been subjected to these techniques. There are still many misconceptions though about hypnotherapy, including observations that only about 50 percent of patients on the higher side have positively responded to hypnosis-based treatments. The techniques from where these studies are derived include highly acclaimed hypnotherapy approaches such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).  

The key takeaway from the myriad of peer-reviewed studies is that hypnotherapy works though not with so high levels of efficacy as would be expected. Many factors could explain the low efficacy levels including the circumstances under which the experiments take place. The fact that most studies follow methodologies while some experiments can be highly controlled could explain the low observed efficacy levels. 


Hypnotherapy is a wide subject, as wide as the range of mental illnesses to a large extent and other physical challenges that human beings go through that conventional medicine can sometimes struggle to treat.  

The most important lesson here is that hypnotherapy can offer tangible relief if applied well. All the techniques covered seem to be highly intense and require undivided attention if they are to work. It seems to be an approach that must start with a strong belief that it will work. The strong belief is then translated to the subconscious mind where as we have seen is the capital of all the responsible actions. 

It is our hope that you have learned important techniques you can apply to overcome personal challenges or try on those close to you as well. Do you have any experience with hypnotherapy? Please share your lessons and don’t forget to share this interesting learning with your friends especially on social media.