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Table of Contents > Articles > You're Getting Verrrrry ...
You're Getting Verrrrry ... Healthy? The Healing Powers of Hypnotherapy

When you hear the word "hypnosis" do you immediately picture a shady character swinging a watch in front of your face trying to make you do something you don't want to do? If so, it's time you learned the facts about this growing alternative therapy.

Hypnotherapy is the name given to hypnosis when it's used for medical purposes. The medical community recognizes hypnotherapy as helpful for a number of health conditions. Most commonly, hypnotherapists treat anxiety and stress, pain, smoking, and overeating. There are other uses for hypnotherapy, however, including help with asthma, childbirth, diabetes, eczema, irritable bowel syndrome, sleep problems, surgical procedures, tics, and Tourette's syndrome. A study in 1999 suggested that hypnosis may help bone fractures heal faster. And it may reduce the need for pain medication during the healing time.

In a hypnotherapy session, a hypnotherapist will work to bring you into a trance-like state. This state is a normal part of human consciousness. It is not, contrary to popular belief, an unnatural psychological state that can be suddenly brought on. In fact, many of us enter this state on our own on a regular basis—we refer to it as "drifting off into space" or "spacing out." A hypnotized person is fully aware of what's going on and can end the session if feeling uncomfortable. About 20 percent of people take to hypnotic suggestion easily and enter deeply into this state. If you are one of these, you may not remember a therapy session after it's done. Another 20 percent may not respond to a hypnotherapist's suggestions at all. The rest of us fall somewhere in between. Children (over 5 years of age) generally respond well to hypnotherapy.

The most common technique used by hypnotherapists is to repeat a direct command in a low, steady tone of voice. Once a trance-like state is achieved, a hypnotherapist can suggest how you should feel about something when you wake up. For example, if you're trying to quit smoking, he or she may suggest to you that in the future you will be disgusted by the taste of cigarettes.

Hypnotherapy may be a good choice if you want to learn how to relax or if you have a stress-related health problem. However, if you have a strong desire to remain in control of your circumstances you may not be able to find help in hypnotherapy. It's also important that you feel comfortable working with a hypnotherapist. You will need to be an active partner and commit yourself to regular self-hypnosis, which your therapist will teach you. You will benefit most by practicing 15 to 20 minutes of self-hypnosis every day.

You should only see a hypnotherapist who is professionally qualified. Preferably, find someone who also has training in psychiatry or psychology. Hypnotherapy is a powerful tool; you need to feel confident that your therapist understands your goals and will direct you appropriately. To find a therapist, go to the National Board for Certified Clinical Hypnotherapists' Web site at or the International Registry of Professional Hypnotherapists' site at And discuss your hypnosis plans with your doctor.


Hypnosis. The World Book Rush-Presbyterian St. Luke's Medical Center Medical Encyclopedia. Available at

Kohen DP, Olness KN, Colwelll SO, Heimel A. The use of relaxation-mental imagery (self-hypnosis) in the management of 505 pediatric encounters. J Dev Behav Pediatr. 1984;5(1):21-25.

Loitman J. Pain management: Beyond pharmacology to acupuncture and hypnosis. JAMA Online. Available at

Olness K. Hypnotherapy: A cyberphysiologic strategy in pain management. Pediatr Clin North Am. 1989;36(4):873-884.

Peck P. Relaxation technique cuts time and cost. Web MD Medical News. Available at

Shealy, CN. The Complete Family Guide to Alternative Medicine: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Natural Healing. New York, New York: Barnes & Noble, Inc.; 1996.

Sugarman LI. Hypnosis in a primary care practice: developing skills for the "new morbitities." J Dev Behav Pediatr. 1996;17(5):300-306.

Sugarman LI. Imaginative Medicine: Hypnosis in pediatric practice (videotape). Rochester, NY: Imaginative Medicine; 1997.

Telephone interviews with Daniel Kohen, M.D. and Laurence Sugarman, M.D.

Ginandes CS, Rosenthal DI. Using hypnosis to accelerate the healing of bone fractures: a randomized controlled pilot study. Altern Ther Health Med. 1999:5(2):67-75.

Review Date: January 2000
Reviewed By: Integrative Medicine editorial

Copyright © 2004 A.D.A.M., Inc

The publisher does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of the information or the consequences arising from the application, use, or misuse of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made in regard to the contents of this material. No claims or endorsements are made for any drugs or compounds currently marketed or in investigative use. This material is not intended as a guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information provided here with a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or other authorized healthcare practitioner and to check product information (including package inserts) regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed herein.

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