Hypnosis: An Underused Technique

Hypnosis helps tremendously with many mental health conditions.


Hypnosis is a method of sustained, focused concentration. Hypnosis allows the subject to process information in a manner different from the way it is processed in the regular alert state. Because of the power of hypnosis, when integrated into a behavior modification strategy it can be used in various ways to treat many disorders.

For many people, including plenty of mental health professionals, hypnosis brings to mind mental weakness, mind control, sleep, or loss of consciousness. Women are often considered more hypnotizable than men. Those are myths. Hypnosis is neither mind control nor a strategy for the weak-willed. Clearly, women are not more hypnotizable than men, and finally, the old wives’ tale that people go to sleep or lose consciousness when they are hypnotized is just that – an old wives’ tale. On the contrary, a hypnotized person enters a highly alert state in which the person’s focus or concentration is heightened.

Hypnosis allows patients to focus and sustain concentration so they can be taught a well-thought – out behavior modification program. Hypnosis can also be used as an adjunctive part of an ongoing therapeutic plan. For example, a dentist who uses hypnosis for pain or anxiety control is aiding his primary therapy – the practice of dentistry – in an adjunctive way.

Hypnosis can help patients working on issues such as smoking cessation, weight control, nail biting, phobia mastery, insomnia, anxiety, including PTSD, poor sexual function, obsessive thinking, and stress-related problems that might be rooted in such physical problems as hypertension, headache, or chronic pain problems. Hypnosis can be a highly effective aid in treating these problems but not enough psychiatrists, psychologists, and psychotherapists use hypnosis or understand what it can and cannot do.

An example of how I use hypnosis involved a lady who had been stuck in a lift for many hours and subsequently suffered post-traumatic stress disorder with incapacitating flashbacks, agitation, and depression. She came for help after having tried several traditional therapies and one approach involving cognitive-behavioral therapy  – all of which had failed.

I used hypnosis and guided imagery, a common NLP technique . Within a period of four sessions, I was able to get this woman to project her flashbacks and anxiety onto a large movie screen that we designed together. Essentially, we were able to start on a road to get those memories out of her thoughts and onto the screen. When she needed to relax herself,  she learned to “flip the visuals” on the screen and go to another set of imagery with pleasant associations for her. I taught her this strategy so that, after our sessions ended, she could continue practicing it on her own. I believe the focused concentration that she developed through the hypnosis allowed this imagery to work. In a short time on her own she conquered the PTSD.

There’s no need for gadgets or drugs when hypnosis is used, all that’s needed is the person’s willingness and the practitioner’s skill in guiding them into their own hypnotic state.

Patients should beware of the stage hypnotist who hypnotizes just for the sake of doing so. That’s entertainment – not health care. As a formal procedure, medical hypnosis takes training and experience, and needs to be used by those who are aware of the appropriate uses, strengths, and contraindications. In the mid-1950s, the British Medical Association and the American Medical Association issued a policy statement that recognized hypnosis as a legitimate treatment in medicine and dentistry.

Debates surrounding the psychological, physiologic, neurochemical, or emotional responses prompted by hypnosis continue. Up to the present time, though, the mechanism that makes hypnosis effective is either unclear or unknown. Documentation of scientific proof of its effectiveness is based on clinical experience and often anecdotal. Culture, motivation, trends, belief systems, and hope often enter the clinical picture.