The Use of Hypnosis in Psychotherapy

Many people think of hypnosis as a special type of therapy — hypnotherapy. However, when it comes to psychological interventions like psychotherapy and coaching, I think that hypnosis can usually be better thought of as a tool that is used to facilitate therapy. Just like there are many different styles of psychotherapy which reflect the underlying theories of the clinician, so there are many different ways that hypnosis can be used to treat symptoms and facilitate change. A psychoanalytic psychotherapist would be likely to use dynamically oriented hypnotic techniques, while a cognitive psychotherapist who used hypnosis would be likely to use a form of cognitive hypnosis.

Some people have even argued that the term “hypnotherapist” should not be used at all to describe a licensed healthcare professional. They assert that “hypnotherapist” is a term used to describe a lay hypnotist, or someone who has no healthcare training and practices only the use of hypnosis. This practice is not regulated by state licensing boards, and so is not subject to the same regulation as hypnosis administered by a licensed physician, nurse, psychologist, psychotherapist, or mental health counselor. It is widely accepted that no health professional should attempt to use hypnosis to treat a condition which they are not trained to treat without the use of hypnosis.

I have spent a great deal of time involved with the hypnosis community, and my experience has been that it is comprised of a group of uniquely flexible and goal-oriented clinicians. Particularly in the field of psychotherapy, there is often a lot of trepidation about asserting the effectiveness of psychotherapy techniques or ascribing the benefits of psychotherapy to the actions taken by the therapist. In my opinion, this is unfortunate. I think that when someone goes to see a therapist for help resolving a problem, they deserve to receive straightforward, rapid, and effective help. Hypnosis is an extremely powerful tool for providing that kind of help, because it allows the therapist to bypass many of the habitual patterns of conscious thought which prevent people from finding solutions on their own.

I have also found that this type of work allows a therapist to develop a particular type of insight about the way that people generate thoughts, behaviors, and beliefs. Even when I am not using hypnosis, I find that my therapy work is profoundly influenced by my knowledge in this area. I am always thinking about what kinds of processes are working to reinforce the presenting problems, and what new choices a client would need in order for the problem to naturally resolve itself.

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