Below are some conditions that hypnotherapy can help, usually as part of a broader treatment plan. A typical course of hypnotherapy may require one to six visits. Once the practitioner has taught you how to access the trance state on your own, you can start using self-hypnosis on a regular basis to maintain or improve health.
Several studies show that hypnotherapy can benefit people with IBS, whose symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating, and changes in bowel habits. In a 2003 study, 204 IBS patients attended 12 one hour hypnotherapy sessions. Seventy-one percent reported improvement in symptoms after the hypnotherapy course. Of those, 81 percent maintained their improvement up to five years (Gut, November 2003).
This therapy also shows promise for treating functional dyspepsia, a type of chronic indigestion. In a British trial, 126 patients received one of three treatments for 16 weeks: regular hypnotherapy sessions, psychological counseling, or the acid suppressing drug Zantac. Even 40 weeks after treatment ended, the hypnotherapy group still had fewer symptoms like nausea and bloating, needed less medication, and had fewer doctors’ visits than those in the other two groups (Gastroenterology, December 2002).
Research suggests that hypnotherapy can be helpful in treating a wide range of skin conditions, including dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, and warts. In a six week trial, people with warts on their hands or feet who attended twice weekly hypnotherapy sessions lost significantly more warts than those who used topical salicylic acid (a standard treatment for warts), a topical placebo, or no treatment (Spanos, 1988).
A meta analysis (a study of studies) of 20 controlled studies found that patients who received hypnotherapy before or during surgery fared better than 89 percent of patients in control groups. Among the benefits were reduced anxiety, pain, and postoperative nausea and vomiting, less blood loss, and shorter hospital stays (Anesthesia and Analgesia, June 2002).
In a meta analysis of 27 published studies by psychologists Guy Montgomery, PhD, Katherine DuHamel, PhD, and William Redd, PhD, hypnosis relieved pain in 75 percent of the 933 people studied (International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, July 2001). In some cases, the degree of hypnotic relief exceeded the relief provided by use of morphine. Drs. Patterson and Jensen indicate that hypnotic strategies are equivalent or more effective than other treatments for both acute and chronic pain, and they are likely to save both money and time for patients and clinicians. Evidence suggests that hypnosis might be considered a standard of treatment unless the person fails to respond to it or shows a strong opposition against it. Hypnotherapy has been effectively used as part of an integrative treatment program for chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia, arthritis, headache, and back or neck pain.
Research shows that cancer patient who receive hypnotherapy prior to o during chemotherapy sessions have less nausea and vomiting afterward. The National Institutes of Health Technology assessment panel, in 1996, judged hypnosis to be a valuable tool for alleviating pan from cancer and other chronic conditions.
Pregnancy and Childbirth
Several studies have found that hypnotherapy can reduce morning sickness and it’s been used for more than a century to control pain during labor and delivery. Also, there’s some evidence that it can shorten labor time and help turn babies from the breech (bottom down) position to the proper (head down) position.
Allergies and Autoimmunity
Many disorders are marked by overactive immune function, including allergies, asthma, and autoimmune diseases such as lupus, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis. A hypnotherapist can offer suggestions and images designed to ease symptoms and restore balance to the immune system.
Anxiety and Phobias
As a form of relaxation training, hypnotherapy has proven effective in treating anxiety, panic disorder, and phobias. Some health plans cover it to treat post traumatic stress disorder.
The data for hypnotherapy and smoking cessation are mixed.
A 2007 study shows that hospitalized patients who smoke may be more likely to quit smoking through the use of hypnotherapy than patients using other smoking cessation methods. At 6 months after discharge, 50% of patients treated with hypnotherapy alone were nonsmokers, compared with 50% of patients in the group that combined nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) with hypnotherapy, 25% in the control group of patients who preferred to quit “cold turkey”, and 15.78% in the group using NRT alone (Science News, Oct 24, 2007).
In a randomized controlled smoking cessation trial conducted in 2008 at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, 286 current smokers were enrolled in a study to determine whether hypnosis would be more effective in helping smokers quit than standard behavioral counseling when both interventions are combined with nicotine patches (NP). Participants in both treatment conditions were seen for two 60-min sessions, and received three follow-up phone calls and 2 months of NP. Based on biochemical or proxy confirmation, 26% of the participants in the hypnosis group were abstinent at 6 months compared with 18% of the behavioral group. At 12 months, 20% of the participants in the hypnosis group were abstinent compared with 14% of the behavioral group. Among participants with a history of depression, hypnosis yielded significantly higher validated point-prevalence quit rates at 6 and 12 months than standard treatment. It was concluded that hypnosis combined with NP compares favorably with standard behavioral counseling in generating long-term quit rates (Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco, 2008).
Studies show that adding hypnotherapy to cognitive behavioral treatments for weight reduction can increase the chances of losing weight and keeping it off. While hypnotherapy won’t magically melt pounds, it can be helpful for reinforcing motivation, and for helping people change their behavior and attitudes about eating and physical activity.