Learn / How Hypnotherapy Helps Clear the Path to Recovery

How Hypnotherapy Helps Clear the Path to Recovery

Hannah Friedman
 November 24th, 2022|   Clinically Reviewed by 
Rajnandini Rathod

What do you picture when you think of hypnosis? 

You might not realize that hypnosis has therapeutic applications. It can even help with addiction recovery. Some rehabs use hypnotherapy during inpatient treatment. Here’s how it works.

What Is Hypnotherapy?

Hypnotherapy, or hypnosis, puts you into a brief trance-like state1 to help you relax and concentrate. And it’s not the way you’ve seen it on TV. In a lot of media, hypnosis makes people reveal their deepest secrets, or do things against their will. But in reality, you’ll be fully in control the whole time. For most people, hypnosis feels like a state of deep rest,2 but without falling asleep.

This treatment is no substitute for other, more traditional methods. However, combining hypnosis with talk therapy3 helps some people move past mental barriers. By facing your deeper thoughts and feelings, you can gain new insight. This helps some clients heal from serious mental health issues. 

Find Your Inner Ability to Heal With the Ericksonian Technique

There are a few different types of hypnotherapy. The central idea of Ericksonian hypnosis4 is that everyone can solve their own problems. In treatment, your therapist tries to harness the natural creativity of your subconscious mind. Then, they’ll help you use that creativity to build a healthier outlook.

Erikson hypnosis uses a lot of guided imagery.5 While you’re in a trance, your therapist uses metaphors to talk about issues you’re currently facing. For example, they might ask you to imagine approaching a path with a fork. Each option represents a real life choice. By noting how you feel about each path, you’ll gain clarity about what you want to do outside of therapy.

This treatment invites you to look at your life in a new way. But researchers still need more information about it. Because this approach is so personal for each patient, it’s hard to study the effectiveness of Ericksonian treatment.6 

Cognitive Hypnotherapy Combines Cognitive Behavioral Therapy With Hypnosis

For a more evidence-based approach, you might consider cognitive hypnotherapy. This treatment uses traditional cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) methods in combination with hypnosis.7 Rather than simply attending a CBT session, your therapist will first induce a hypnotic state. Then, once you’re in this focused frame of mind, they’ll guide you through traditional CBT exercises.

CBT teaches you to change your thought patterns8 and practice healthier coping strategies. When you’re in a hypnotic state, you’re more open to those suggestions to change. Much like the Ericksonian approach to hypnotherapy, experts are calling for more data about this type of treatment.

Self-Hypnosis Can Be Self-Care

In most hypnotherapy methods, a trained hypnotherapist acts as your guide. But if you’d like to use these methods outside of therapy sessions, you can learn self-hypnosis.

It’s important to learn this technique from an expert before you try it alone. First, your therapist will teach you how to safely enter a hypnotic state9 by yourself. They’ll also teach you what to do when you’re in hypnosis, and how to re-alert yourself out of the trance-state when you’re ready. 

After you have this training, you can practice self-hypnosis on your own, whenever or wherever you need to. This coping strategy can empower you to take control of your own healing process.   

Using Hypnotherapy in Mental Health Treatment

Therapists rarely use hypnotherapy by itself.10 More often, they’ll have you engage in other treatments while you’re in a hypnotic state. This strategy can help you stay open to other therapeutic techniques. 

Treating Anxiety

Several types of hypnosis can treat anxiety.11 Research shows that self-hypnosis gives you a greater sense of control.12 In one study, this reduced the frequency of patients’ panic attacks. This method can also help with the chronic symptoms of anxiety, like insomnia.

Because Ericksonian hypnosis relieves stress,13 it can also treat these conditions. It’s especially helpful for people with generalized anxiety disorder. This treatment is relaxing and rejuvenating. It even helps some people stop procrastinating.

Healing From PTSD

Some therapists treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with hypnosis.14 People with a history of trauma often benefit from cognitive therapy. Treatment can relieve flashbacks, nightmares, and intrusive memories.

However, hypnosis can sometimes be triggering.15 You might even re-experience a traumatic memory during a trance state. Because of this risk, it’s important to work with a trained hypnotherapist, instead of trying self-hypnosis. They can help you work through painful experiences, and move past lingering triggers.

Managing Chronic Pain

Studies show that hypnotherapy decreases chronic pain.16 This method might be even more effective than physical therapy. This might be a viable treatment for people who developed an addiction due to chronic pain.17 By improving your physical symptoms, hypnosis might replace drug abuse as a healthier coping mechanism. 

Hypnotherapy for Addiction Recovery

Some studies show that hypnosis can aid in addiction recovery. This treatment may increase patients’ self-esteem and lower their impulsivity, making it easier to stay sober. Experts have used hypnosis to treat several different types of addiction:

However, there’s significant controversy about hypnotherapy as a mental health treatment.  Some authorities on addiction science, like the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), say that there is little to no evidence that hypnotherapy treats addiction.21 As research continues, this treatment may gain support from the medical community. But even now, there are ways you can safely incorporate hypnosis into your recovery.

How Does Hypnosis Help With Treatment?

Hypnotherapy can be a valuable part of addiction treatment, but it isn’t right for everyone.22 If you have certain diagnoses, it might even be dangerous. Hypnosis is not an appropriate treatment for people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or seizure disorders—just to name a few. 

If you want to try this therapy, it’s important to get your doctor’s opinion in advance. And if it turns out hypnosis is a good fit for you, there are a few ways it can support your recovery. 

Learn to Sleep Soundly 

Many people in addiction recovery experience sleep issues23 long after they start treatment. And this isn’t only exhausting; it can also get in the way of your continued healing. Research suggests that hypnosis can alleviate some sleep disorders,24 like insomnia and sleepwalking. 

Relax During Recovery

Recovery is a stressful process. And experiencing a lot of stress can increase your risk of relapse.25 You can use hypnotherapy to find deep relaxation26 during rehab. Even if it’s not a formal part of treatment, you might practice self-hypnosis to unwind at the end of the day. Over time, it can even become part of your self-care routine. 

Hypnotherapy Can Support Long-Term Healing

Hypnotherapy is an adjunct treatment. In other words, it’s no replacement for rehab. But it can support other therapeutic methods. And as you prepare for life after treatment, you can use it as a coping strategy. Because you can practice it on your own, this approach can be empowering in every stage of recovery. 
Search for a rehab that offers hypnotherapy and learn about their treatment philosophies, complementary therapies, housing options, and more.

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