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What is Clinical Hypnotherapy?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Clinical hypnotherapy is treatment for patients with psychological issues provided under hypnosis, where an altered state is induced in the patient with the use of relaxation and concentration exercises. People under hypnosis have the ability to hyperfocus under direction from a hypnotherapist and they are also very susceptible to suggestion, which can be useful for certain types of therapy. Practitioners of clinical hypnotherapy are licensed by professional organizations and must adhere to very high standards of conduct.

There are several ways clinical hypnotherapy can be used to help a patient. One option is analysis under hypnosis. Patients processing psychological trauma, difficult memories, and other issues they may have trouble confronting while fully conscious can stay relaxed and comfortable under hypnosis. An analysis session conducted while the patient is hypnotized will allow the patient to deal with these issues without incurring more stress and trauma. Once the patient is brought out of hypnosis, the benefits of the analysis will linger.

Suggestion therapy, where a patient is hypnotized and the therapist plants suggestions to help the patient modify behaviors, can be used in the treatment of phobias, anxiety, and some types of addictions. While suggestion therapy is sometimes described as “brainwashing” as though the patient is powerless to defy suggestions made under hypnosis, the truth is a bit more complicated. Therapists work with their patients to develop suggestions the patient will act on in a fully conscious state, but patients can and do override these suggestions.

The length of a clinical hypnotherapy session varies. In the first session, the patient will meet with the therapist to discuss the issues the patient wants to address, and the therapist will develop a treatment plan. In future sessions, the therapist uses a series of exercises to bring the patient into a state of hypnosis, where the patient will be relaxed and comfortable, but also alert and capable of focus. While the patient is in this state, the therapist can work with the patient on issues of concern, and then bring the patient out of hypnosis and into a normal mental state.

Patients may need just one session, or a series of sessions. Clinical hypnosis can be paired with exercises to do at home, such as breathing and meditation exercises to help patients relax, and it may be used in conjunction with other types of therapy as well. Patients interested in exploring clinical hypnotherapy as a treatment option can contact a professional organization to get a list of of certified hypnotherapists in their area.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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