Is Hypnotherapy a Placebo or the Real Deal?

Whenever I hear the word ‘hypnotize’ I immediately think of André the Hilarious Hypnotist. I’ve never been to one of his shows, but I hear he gets people to do wild stuff. Riding an imaginary racehorse and not knowing about it? I’ll pass, thanks.

Entertainment is one thing, but what about using hypnotherapy as a way to heal past traumas or rid yourself of bad habits? Some say it works, while others are convinced it’s snake oil. Having never been hypnotized myself, I decided to do a little digging to find out how effective, if at all, it actually is.

Hypnotherapy vs. Hypnosis


But first, let’s clear up a common misconception. While both hypnotherapy and hypnosis achieve the same goal (guiding someone into a deep state of relaxation where they’re highly responsive to suggestion), the difference between hypnosis and hypnotherapy is significant.

Hypnotherapy is practiced by a licensed therapist with a goal to improve overall wellness, whereas hypnosis is used as a comedic tool to get you to speak ‘moon language.’ I’m being flip, but the modality does have an admittedly poor reputation.

The point here is that you shouldn’t dismiss hypnotherapy out of hand. Put your judgements and preconceptions aside and make your decision to try it (or not) with an informed and open mind.

What is hypnotherapy, exactly?

According to Psychology Today, “hypnotherapy is a trance-like state of focus and concentration achieved with the help of a clinical hypnotherapist.” They liken it to that feeling of being completely absorbed, whether by a book, a movie or simply your own thoughts.

Positive psychology cofounder Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi refers to this as a state of ‘flow’ and claims it’s an important contributor to creativity and well-being. For the purposes of hypnotherapy, being in this deep meditative state allows you to turn your focus inward.

Oftentimes, we’re so caught up in whatever is wrong that we fail to comprehend our inherent ability to right the situation. Hypnotherapy allows you to go within and discover the tools you need to make the necessary changes and take control of your life.

Does hypnotherapy actually work?

The mere fact that scientists are so closely studying hypnosis must mean something. They wouldn’t willingly chase their tails when they could be using their time on more important things, like helping people in chronic pain or with chronic fatigue.

In his TED talk The amazing story of the man who gave us modern pain relief, Latif Nasser tells the story of John J. Bonica. Dubbed pain relief’s founding father by Time Magazine, Bonica claimed that pain is the most complex human experience. One that involves your past life, your current life, your interactions, even your family.

If that’s the case, then there’s no reason to believe it can’t be managed by something like hypnotherapy. According to David R. Patterson and Mark P. Jensen, professors at the University of Washington in Seattle and two of the nation’s leading experts on hypnosis, it can.

Patterson proved the claim during a talk he presented on hypnotism and pain control at a burn unit at Vanderbilt University. The doctors were skeptical, so he offered to demonstrate his technique.

Although initially reluctant to be hypnotized, the patient eventually agreed and quickly slipped into a deep, peaceful trance, allowing the nurses to remove his bandages and clean his wounds without so much as a whimper.

This is far from an isolated case. More than 75 percent of arthritis sufferers who’ve used hypnosis for pain relief have experienced significant improvement. In fact, research suggests that hypnosis may be more effective in the treatment of acute and chronic pain than conventional methods.

What can hypnotherapy be used for?


Hypnotherapy can be applied in two different ways. The first is suggestion therapy, where the trance-like state makes one better able to respond to suggestions. This approach is useful for changing behaviors like smoking as well as for dealing with pain.

The second is analysis. This approach enables therapist and patient to take advantage of the relaxed state to explore psychological issues, such as figuring out the root cause of a disorder or unlocking the memory of a traumatic past event.

You can also use hypnotherapy to treat insomnia, reduce anxiety, be better at business and to improve self-confidence. It’s even seen impressive results in stroke rehabilitation.

This woman used hypnotherapy to cure her digestive problems, while mom of two, Julie Evans, lost 140 pounds after undergoing hypnosis gastric bypass.

The downside? Hypnotherapy doesn’t work for everyone. Some are susceptible to it and others just aren’t. The only way you’ll know is to try. Just make sure you find a reputable therapist to work with.

Photo Credits: Thinkstock


Marie W
Marie W28 days ago

thanks for sharing

Mindvalley M.
Mindvalley M.2 months ago

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Ruth S
Ruth S3 months ago


Michael Milson

You cannot be made to do something you do not want to do.

So if you are truly wanting to lose weight, quit smoking, be free of chronic pain etc. then you will succeed in those goals with hypnosis. The Hypnotherapist, if doing things right, will typically spend the majority of the session talking with you before doing any kind of hypnosis, getting your conscious mind on track with the changes you wish to happen and how those goals will be reached, then the hypnosis is used to align your subconscious mind with the same task, so that together 100% of your mind is working on achieving the goal.

Michael M

In Hypnotherapy, the client does not give up control to the Hypnotherapist, they do not lose their free will, while in a hypnotic state people are often more alert and focused, more aware of their surroundings, sounds around them etc. you may begin to notice your breathing more, or the feeling of your feet pressing against the floor, you may relax and close your eyes, or you may drift off into a somewhat dream-like state and have a hazy memory of what just happened, everyone is unique and different and every Hypnotherapy session is tailored to each individual, which is why some things work on some people one way and need to be done slightly differently for someone else.

Michael M

Just Human, in regards to your comment, the "expert" should have told you that the laughter was natural, it was an abreaction to the hypnotic suggestion.

Abreaction - "A physical movement or an emotional outburst as a reaction to a suggestion, while in the state of hypnosis." The key words here are "while in the state of hypnosis", you may experience these abreactions while in hypnosis (I did myself many times).

Michael M

Just to add a few key points that I see others commenting about.

Hypnosis = a tool to reach the subconscious.
Hypnotherapy = using that tool for positive changes in a client.
Everyone can be hypnotized, period! We all experience hypnosis naturally every day.
You cannot be controlled by hypnosis
See this article for more info on myths

Michael M

continued An article discussing how hypnosis works, how Hypnotherapy can be used to bypass your critical factor and reach your subconscious, to make positive changes, fix problems etc. A listing of 145 different problems Hypnotherapy can help you with. to find some of the best training, teachers and a listing of Hypnotherapists who are trained in E & P.


Michael D. Milson, C.Ht
Certified Hypnotherapist & Smoking Cessation Specialist

Michael M


ways to take care of the symptoms of your problem as well as changing your perception of past events, helping you to get over emotionally traumatic events from childhood etc. the possibilities are almost endless and since the mind expresses itself through the body, many issues in the body that are caused by the mind, can be fixed by the mind, using hypnosis.

Thirdly as to your downside, Hypnotherapy not working for everybody, it has been proven that with exception of a handful of people, namely those with mental defect, incredibly low IQ, brain injuries etc. everyone can be hypnotized and therefor Hypnotherapy can work for everybody, if done by a trained professional who knows how to test for and determine a clients E & P suggestibility, so they can tailor the hypnosis to that specific client. Dr. John Kappas the founder of HMI and author of many books on the subject of hypnosis and E & P, has successfully hypnotized thousands of people who were told by others that they could not be hypnotized.

Check out the following resources for more information.

Michael M

Comment continued

psychological degree or to be a registered Psychotherapist/Psychiatrist or other traditional therapists with a license to practice, a Hypnotherapist such as myself is only required to follow any local laws, such as some states requiring you to register and pay a yearly fee, some requiring you to prove you went to a reputable school and received the right education, but most places have little to no requirements at all as far as licensing or needing to be some kind of medical professional in order to practice Hypnotherapy, something that we as Hypnotherapists are constantly fighting to keep that way as Hypnotherapy is its own separate modality and not just a tool to only be used by licensed therapists. Most Hypnotherapists go through some sort of certification process to ensure they are up to snuff, such as getting certified through the Hypnotherapists Union Local 472 over here in the US who are also affiliated with the AFL-CIO and the OPEIU, they also often obtain professional memberships in organizations such as the American Hypnosis Association.

Hypnotherapists can also work alongside medical professionals such as doctors, dentists, mental health practitioners, psychiatrists etc. via a medical referral and help a client work on medical problems, such as pre and post surgery, losing large amounts of weight, chronic pain, IBS and other issues with a medical origin.

Hypnotherapy can be applied in a multitude of different