A wide variety of the complementary therapies claim to improve health by producing relaxation. Some use the relaxed state to promote psychological change. Others incorporate movement, stretches, and breathing exercises. Relaxation and “stress management” are found to a certain extent within standard medical practice. They are included here because they are generally not well taught in conventional medical curricula and because of the overlap with other, more clearly complementary, therapies.​therapies.


Hypnotherapy is a therapy that spans hundreds of years and has many practitioners across the United States. Researchers have studied whether hypnosis can treat a variety of medical conditions, from irritable bowel syndrome to anxiety and depression. The goal for hypnotherapy is to help a patient learn to better control their state of awareness. In the case of depression, hypnotherapy sessions may be focused on helping a person achieve a state of relaxation. In this relaxed state, they can discuss their feelings and emotions without raising stress and anxiety levels.
Hypnosis is the induction of a deeply relaxed state, with increased suggestibility and suspension of critical faculties. Once in this state, sometimes called a hypnotic trance, patients are given therapeutic suggestions to encourage changes in behavior or relief of symptoms. For example, in a treatment to stop smoking, a hypnosis practitioner might suggest that the patient will no longer find smoking pleasurable or necessary. Hypnosis for a patient with arthritis might include a suggestion that the pain can be turned down like the volume of a radio.
Hypnotism was one of the earliest psychoanalytic techniques employed by Sigmund Freud, who was introduced to the technique by physician Josef Breuer. Freud and Breuer believed that traumatic memories that were not accessible to the waking mind could be revealed while a person was under hypnosis, thus facilitating a “cure.” Freud eventually abandoned hypnosis in favor of forced association, and then free association, after he found that not all of his patients responded to hypnotism.
Hypnotherapy is a form of psychotherapy used to create change in a patient while in a state of sleep, or unconsciousness, known as hypnosis. The word hypnosis comes from the Greek word “hypnos” which simply means, “sleep.” The therapy itself uses guided relaxation techniques from a trained hypnotist that invoke feelings of intense relaxation, concentration, and/or focus to achieve a heightened state of awareness or trance-like state.

“Each unhealthy current behavior, such as smoking, losing one’s temper, excessive alcohol consumption, or compulsive overeating has a chain of events that laid the foundation for all of our current unhealthy choices. Through the ‘memory chip’ that has been laid down in the subconscious mind, we can trace back the experiences and subconscious decisions we made as children that may be leading us to the behavior that is no longer healthy for us.”

Hypnosis has long been considered a valuable technique for recreating and then studying puzzling psychological phenomena. A classic example of this approach uses a technique known as posthypnotic amnesia (PHA) to model memory disorders such as functional amnesia, which involves a sudden memory loss typically due to some sort of psychological trauma (rather than to brain damage or disease). Hypnotists produce PHA by suggesting to a hypnotized person that after hypnosis he will forget particular things until he receives a “cancellation,” such as “Now you can remember everything.” PHA typically only happens when it is specifically suggested and it is much more likely to occur in those with high levels of hypnotic ability, or “high hypnotizable” people. Now a new study shows that this hypnotic state actually influences brain activity associated with memory.


Hypnotherapy involves achieving a psychological state of awareness that is different from the ordinary state of consciousness. While in a hypnotic state, a variety of phenomena can occur. These phenomena include alterations in memory, heightened susceptibility to suggestion, paralysis, sweating, and blushing. All of these changes can be produced or removed in the hypnotic state. Many studies have shown that roughly 90% of the population is capable of being hypnotized.

Something I hear a lot from clients is, "I've tried everything, but I just feel hopeless." Another client I worked with suffered from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) for several years. She also struggled with her weight as she tried to find the source of what was causing the pain she had suffered daily. Her motivation and mood were at an all time low, and she was almost at the point where she had given up hope.
He also believed that hypnosis was a "partial sleep", meaning that a generalised inhibition of cortical functioning could be encouraged to spread throughout regions of the brain. He observed that the various degrees of hypnosis did not significantly differ physiologically from the waking state and hypnosis depended on insignificant changes of environmental stimuli. Pavlov also suggested that lower-brain-stem mechanisms were involved in hypnotic conditioning.[166][167]
Self-hypnosis happens when a person hypnotises oneself, commonly involving the use of autosuggestion. The technique is often used to increase motivation for a diet, to quit smoking, or to reduce stress. People who practise self-hypnosis sometimes require assistance; some people use devices known as mind machines to assist in the process, whereas others use hypnotic recordings.
Australian hypnotism/hypnotherapy organizations (including the Australian Hypnotherapists Association) are seeking government regulation similar to other mental health professions. However, the various tiers of Australian government have shown consistently over the last two decades that they are opposed to government legislation and in favour of self-regulation by industry groups.[51]
Take any bright object (e.g. a lancet case) between the thumb and fore and middle fingers of the left hand; hold it from about eight to fifteen inches from the eyes, at such position above the forehead as may be necessary to produce the greatest possible strain upon the eyes and eyelids, and enable the patient to maintain a steady fixed stare at the object.
State theorists interpret the effects of hypnotism as due primarily to a specific, abnormal, and uniform psychological or physiological state of some description, often referred to as "hypnotic trance" or an "altered state of consciousness". Nonstate theorists rejected the idea of hypnotic trance and interpret the effects of hypnotism as due to a combination of multiple task-specific factors derived from normal cognitive, behavioural, and social psychology, such as social role-perception and favorable motivation (Sarbin), active imagination and positive cognitive set (Barber), response expectancy (Kirsch), and the active use of task-specific subjective strategies (Spanos). The personality psychologist Robert White is often cited as providing one of the first nonstate definitions of hypnosis in a 1941 article:
Braid later acknowledged that the hypnotic induction technique was not necessary in every case, and subsequent researchers have generally found that on average it contributes less than previously expected to the effect of hypnotic suggestions.[35] Variations and alternatives to the original hypnotic induction techniques were subsequently developed. However, this method is still considered authoritative.[citation needed] In 1941, Robert White wrote: "It can be safely stated that nine out of ten hypnotic techniques call for reclining posture, muscular relaxation, and optical fixation followed by eye closure."[36]
Hypnotherapy is used in a number of fields including psychotherapy, surgery, dentistry, research, and medicine. Hypnotherapy is commonly used as an alternative treatment for a wide range of health conditions, including weight control, pain management, and smoking cessation. It is also used to control pain in a variety of conditions such as headache, facial neuralgia, arthritis, burns, musculoskeletal disorders, childbirth, and many more. Hypnotherapy is being used in place of anesthesia, particularly in patients who prove to be allergic to anesthetic drugs, for surgeries such as hysterectomies, cesarean sections, certain cardiovascular procedures, thyroidectomy, and others. Dentistry is using hypnotherapy with success on patients who are allergic to all types of novocaine drugs. Hypnotherapy is also useful in helping patients overcome phobias.
At your first hypnosis session, the hypnotherapist will probably ask you questions about your medical and emotional history. He or she will ask you to talk about any problems you're having, such as pain, anxiety, or tiredness. Once the hypnotherapist knows more about what you're going through, he or she will choose an appropriate hypnotic technique.
Although most practitioners receive their training in hypnotherapy or relaxation as a part of their academic training, the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis and the Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis maintain training programs as well as a registry of practitioners (see previous box). Training in teaching relaxation techniques is provided through various routes from self-teaching and apprenticeships to a number of short courses. Many yoga centers also teach relaxation and offer courses to train yoga teachers.​teachers.

Since hypnotherapy is an adjunct form of therapy, used along with other forms of psychological or medical treatment, there are many applications. Hypnotherapy can be used to treat anxiety, phobias, substance abuse including tobacco, sexual dysfunction, undesirable spontaneous behaviors, and bad habits. It can be used to help improve sleep, learning disorders, communication, and relationship issues. Hypnotherapy can aid in pain management and help resolve medical conditions such as digestive disorders, skin issues, and gastrointestinal side effects of pregnancy and chemotherapy. It can also be used by dentists to help patients control their fears or to treat teeth grinding and other oral conditions.
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