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Hypnotherapy’s Usefulness in Modern Medicine

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Modern medicine has seen the rise of hypnotherapy as a legitimate, complementary treatment to a number of physical and psychological conditions. Since the 18th century, the study, usage and acceptance of hypnotherapy in conjunction with medical treatment have evolved at a modest pace. But more modern clinical trials have been done to determine the effectiveness of hypnosis and its role in the medical field. Studies have shown positive results for hypnotherapy’s use in issues like overcoming anxiety, assisting in pain relief, treating obesity, offering relief from phobias and overcoming addictions.

Self-hypnosis can be taught for pain control and anxiety alleviation. In those with burn injuries, clinical trials have shown significant pain relief with hypnosis. One 1997 trial demonstrated that after being treated with a single session of hypnosis, a group of severely burned patients suffering from high levels of physical pain reported less post-treatment pain compared to the controlled group.[1] Hypnotherapy has found use in pediatric surgery for preoperative and postoperative comfort and cooperation. One noted case is of a 10-year old boy suffering from pain, nausea and vomiting preceding his appendicitis surgery. Having learned self-hypnosis to treat his migraines, he refused offered pain medication before surgery. Before visibly relaxing he said, “It’s going to be fixed, so now I can turn off my switch.” The patient is noted as using hypnotherapy to help counteract his post-operative pain and nausea.[2]

Hypnotherapy has provided some help in the treatment of weight issues like obesity and for treating phobias. In a trial of sixty obese patients with sleep apnea, persons were randomly assigned to treatment with diet alone or diet and hypnosis. The hypnotherapy group with stress reduction lost “significantly” more weight over the course of eighteen months than the other two groups.[3] Consulting hypnotist Cindy Locher notes that hypnotherapy may help one overcome phobias by reprogramming how the mind reacts to a trigger. “When positive thoughts are introduced, new associations can be formed, which reinforce the calm, relaxed positive feelings that you desire when in the presence of your previous trigger.”[4]

Hypnotherapy is also being used to treat addiction in various rehabilitation clinics and addiction treatment centres. It is being used as a means of identifying a person’s underlying causes for addictive behaviour. Self-hypnosis is also explored to help one reject daily cravings in the real world.[5] A 1970 study on smoking cessation concluded that hypnosis had helped to decrease smoking withdrawal discomfort in a group of smokers who had been unable to quit. Implementing one 12-hour group session, the program reported a 1-year abstention rate of smoking in 88% of persons.[6]

Even with modern science, there is no magic cure or magic pill for every condition and ailment out there. But with growing evidence to support the use of hypnotherapy, hypnosis has proven itself to be a fairly safe and potentially useful adjunct to current medical treatments when done by trained and licensed practitioners.



[1] Patterson, DR and Ptacek, JT. Baseline pain as a moderator of hypnotic analgesia for burn injury treatment. J Consult Clin Psychol. 1997; 65: 60-67.

[2] Kohen, Daniel P. and Olness, Karen. Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy with Children, Fourth Edition. New York: Routledge, 2012. 317. Web. 24 Jun. 2014.

[3] Stradling, J, Roberts, D, Wilson, A, and Lovelock, F. Controlled trial of hypnotherapy for weight loss in patients with obstructive sleep apnea. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 1998; 22: 278-281.

[4] Locher, Cindy. “Curing Phobias, fears and anxiety with Hypnosis.”  Edge Magazine. Web. 24 Jun. 2014.

[5] “Hypnosis as an Addiction Treatment.” Alcohol rehab. Web. 24 Jun 2014.

[6] Kline, MV. The use of extended group hypnotherapy sessions in controlling cigarette habituation. Int J Clin Exp Hypn. 1970; 18: 270-282.