• Marie Otsuka

The science behind hypnotherapy: Does hypnotherapy really work?


For the uninitiated, hypnotherapy is a form of guided hypnosis and psychotherapy that involves guiding an individual into the trance state. While many are skeptical about hypnotherapy, or write it off as “new-age nonsense”, there is now a growing pool of researchers and doctors who recommend hypnotherapy as an alternative treatment.

How does hypnotherapy work?

In a hypnotherapy session, you’d work with a hypnotherapist to enter an altered state of awareness. When you’re in this state, you experience increased suggestibility, which allows your hypnotherapist to guide you into making positive changes in your life. Many folks use hypnotherapy to get rid of unwanted behaviours such as smoking, gambling, etc.

Hypnotherapy can also be used for pain management (for those with chronic diseases, or for pregnant women who are hoping to experience minimal stress and pain when they’re delivering their babies). The practice of using hypnotherapy to help women give birth in a relaxed, stress-free environment is termed hypnobirthing.

Is hypnotherapy recognised by medical professionals?

If you’re wondering whether hypnotherapy is recognised by doctors and the medical world at large, the answer is a resounding yes.

The American Psychological Association’s stance is that although hypnosis has been controversial, most clinicians agree it can be a “powerful, effective therapeutic technique” for a wide range of conditions. The British Psychological Society concurs, stating that enough studies have now accumulated to suggest that the inclusion of hypnotic procedures may be beneficial in the management and treatment of a wide range of conditions and problems encountered in the practice of medicine, psychiatry and psychotherapy.

Is hypnotherapy proven to work?

There are various studies which show that hypnotherapy does work, including this 2006 study in the Fertility and Sterility journal. Dr Levitas, who led the study, was working with the hypothesis that hypnotherapy would result in beneficial outcomes for women undergoing IVF. The rationale behind this? Because hypnotherapy could help a woman’s uterus to remain relaxed, this would allow the embryo to implant more easily.

After putting this hypothesis to the test, Dr Levitas and his colleagues found that women who are hypnotized before undergoing the embryo transfer procedure had a 28% implantation rate, which is a vast improvement from the 14.4% implantation rate experienced by women who were not hypnotized.

As Dr Levitas theorizes, the hypnotherapy is likely to have produced changes in the participants’ immune or hormonal uterine function, resulting in an improvement in the interaction between the blastocyst and the endometrium. This resulted in the increased implantation and clinical pregnancy rates among women who underwent hypnotherapy.

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