Does Hypnosis Work for Mental Health Issues?

hypnotherapy-0216137Hypnosis has long been fodder for television shows and stand-up acts, and most people are familiar with hypnotists who claim to be able to make anyone do anything while under hypnosis. But hypnosis is no longer just a sideshow performance, and an increasing number of people are turning to hypnosis to quit smoking, get over depression and anxiety, lose weight, and forget about phobias.

Hypnosis is still controversial within mental health, partially because it’s often part of a comedy act and not real treatment and partially because some hypnotherapists have induced false memories under regression-based hypnotherapy.

What Is It?
Hypnosis isn’t a magic trick. It’s an altered state of consciousness that hypnotists induce via the power of suggestion. Hypnotists may use relaxation techniques, key words, guided imagery, or some combination of these to help clients slowly relax. Then, while under hypnosis, hypnotists make suggestions about changes in behavior.

The idea behind hypnosis is that, even when the conscious mind wants to do something, the unconscious mind might not fully accept this change. Hypnotists claim that, under the right conditions, they can subtly alter the effects the unconscious mind has on the conscious mind and help bring about behavioral changes. Some hypnotists use hypnosis to help gradually alter a client’s perceptions. A person struggling with pain, for example, might undergo hypnosis to help him or her see the pain as pressure. An increasing number of women are even using hypnosis to help cope with the pain of childbirth.

Does It Work?
You can’t be hypnotized to do something that is outside of your moral compass or that you don’t really want to do. People who try to quit gambling or spending through hypnosis will likely not see results if they’re quitting only because of family pressure. Hypnosis can’t change the way you think; it simply makes it easier to follow through with behavioral changes. Hypnosis can also bring about a state of relaxation, and some hypnotherapists teach their clients how to self-hypnotize under stressful conditions. For people with anxiety issues, severe stress, or depression, this can help ease the symptoms.

But hypnosis is not a panacea, and is most effective when it’s used in conjunction with therapy and lifestyle changes. Particularly for long-term, chronic problems, it may take several hypnosis sessions to see results. Some people don’t see any results at all; because hypnosis thrives on suggestibility, if you’re not particularly suggestible it probably won’t work.

Choosing a Hypnotist
If you’re thinking about trying hypnotherapy, get a recommendation from your therapist. The American Society of Clinical Hypnosis also maintains a directory of qualified hypnotists with a clinical background. Make sure you know how long your hypnotist has been practicing and what methods he or she uses. The messages you hear under hypnosis should not come as a surprise, and your hypnotist should discuss the specific tools he or she is going to use before hypnotizing you.

Regression-based hypnosis, which is used to recover repressed memories, can be dangerous. Because people are more suggestible under hypnosis, the hypnotist can inadvertently fabricate memories that didn’t actually occur. Particularly if these memories are traumatic, this can lead to additional mental health issues. People with a history of psychosis should not undergo hypnosis without first taking to their doctors, because hypnosis increases their risk of a psychotic episode.


  1. About the society. (n.d.). American Society of Clinical Hypnosis. Retrieved from
  2. Beattie-Moss, M. (n.d.). Does hypnosis work? Research Penn State. Retrieved from
  3. Mental health and hypnosis. (n.d.). WebMD. Retrieved from
  4. Portenoy, R. (2008, August 18). How does hypnosis work, can anyone be hypnotized, and when is it used? ABC News. Retrieved from

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The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Ira Bindman

    February 16th, 2013 at 9:27 AM

    As a psychotherapist who knows hypnosis, I wouldn’t use hypnosis to treat major psychological issues like depression and anxiety. These are usually more deep seated and difficult to deal with. Hypnosis is, in my opinion, good for phobias, stopping smoking, fear of obesity, flying and other similar complaints. I use various techniques, like guided imagery, talking to the inner child and chair work to promote healing. I find people coming for hypnosis are looking for a “quick fix” and the early trauma, sexual abuse, eating disorders and the like require much more depth-full work.

  • jacqui

    February 17th, 2013 at 5:23 AM

    I want to try this for losing weight but am not sure that it would work. Any thoughts on that and whether there are people who have had food issues resolved or help with them through hypnosis? It seems like I have tried everything else but I never seem to have the willpower to see it all the way through.

  • Holistic Hypnosis & Hypnotherapy - Los Angeles

    February 17th, 2013 at 7:21 PM

    There are many misconceptions about hypnosis that abound. The “quick fix” can be a reality. I have just had one three hour session with two clients. The first with an expanding obsessive phobia about urinating on herself. Beginning to reach the level of virtual agoraphobia. Secondary cause, anxiety focus creating a phobic cycle, resolved through illumination, understanding and suggestion. Primary anchor/trigger, regressed to wetting herself at school as a child. Resolved with catharsis, adult/child gestalt, reframing, therapeutic suggestion inserted in any of these processes as/when/where deemed helpful.

    The second, writers block in a successful scriptwriter. Uncovering, (hypnoanalysis) in trance led to understanding, teenager consciousness, losing much playtime to the birth of two children, was interpreting/reacting to writing as if it were schoolwork/homework, even though the adult here and now consciousness loved the creative trance state. Parts therapy as adult/teen gestalt, etc.,resolved.

    I have indeed resolved reactive depression in one session on occasion. Clinical Depression is of course a totally different kettle of fish. Much more complex and often many deep roots and processes. Those who are expecting a magical solution where inappropriate are gently disabused of this idea, though some hypnotherapists encourage it to add to the placebo effect, or for less pure motives.

    The psychology field abounds in false myths regarding psychosis and the dangers of hypnosis in general. I have assisted psychotics reduce their need for medications by more than 50%. One 17 yr old after two sessions (he stopped his meds on his own), went back to his psychiatrist who said with surprise, “Oh, your not psychotic anymore!”

    Any tool, such as hypnosis, is of itself pretty neutral. A hammer can be used to build a house or bash in a head. Motive, skill, knowledge and artistry, as with psychotherapy, are the significant factors. Some of the best books I have are written by psychotherapist/hypnotherapists. As I read Psychotherapy on my own,
    and Psychiatry, Sociology etc. for over 25 years, I consider myself a Hypnotherapy/Therapist, psycho or otherwise! best, Hypnohotshot.

  • Edouard P

    August 19th, 2016 at 3:09 AM

    Dear Sir, I just read your 2013 post, on how you treated a few of your patients.
    I think I can be helped with a ‘musicians’bloc’ which is maybe comparable to the writers bloc that you apparently cured. But living in Europe, in Holland, a country where hypnosis is a field for quacks only, I think I need to go to the UK. My first contact there, a psychiatrist, apparently thinks I am a psychopath, quod I am non. He stopped all contact. May I ask, would you be able to name me a colleague in the UK who has earned your respect and who really cures (like the much admired Eric Berne used to say) ? As this is quite important to me, many thanks for your attention.
    With kind regards, Edouard,
    near Amsterdam.

  • Doug

    February 17th, 2013 at 11:45 PM

    The idea sounds promising.But what about the after-effects of hypnosis.Maybe it will allow me to easily do something that I have trouble doing.But the idea and action should go through the entire process of self-convincing,will to do and then action with an increasing magnitude.That is the natural way.But hypnosis makes it from zero to full in a small time.What effects does that have if any on the human mind?This needs further consideration.

  • Mellie

    February 18th, 2013 at 9:26 AM

    Hypnosis has gotten a bad rap because you see it done more in these magic shows then you ever do see a real session that is actually helping someone with a mental health issue that they could be facing.

    If it wants to be taken a little more seriosuly as a valid treatment for some issues then I think that it has to stop being relegated to just being some bit part of someone’s stage show.

  • ray

    February 18th, 2013 at 5:03 PM

    if it cannot push a person to do something if he does not want to then I dont see how it really helps. encouragement and incentives sound like a better idea. and hypnosis seems like it has had too much hype due to the wrong perception of it being some sort of magic.

  • cindy

    February 18th, 2013 at 11:16 PM

    regression based hypnosis sounds interesting…it may be beneficial too you know…maybe if someone has had a traumatic event in the past the details of the event can be extracted first,the client brought out from the state of hypnosis and then the event discussed…it shouldn’t be rejected completely in my can have benefits too.

  • Luke

    February 19th, 2013 at 3:33 AM

    Does anyone know if hypnotism can work for erectile dysfunction, assuming it has a psychological cause (and not a physical or medical cause)?

  • dolly y

    February 19th, 2013 at 3:54 AM

    To me hypnosis is going to be like anything else.
    If you are open to it working for you then there is a good chance that it could work for you and help you with some of your issues.
    If you have, though, closed your mind to the possibility that it could help you, then there is a good chance that it can’t help.
    But this is the same thing with any sort of therapy that you pursue.
    If you are not willing to give it a chance to help you and are determined that it will do nothing for you, then guess what?
    There is a pretty good chance that it won’t.

  • Unti

    February 19th, 2013 at 11:18 AM

    I had a professor in my Intro to Psych class who I swear hypnotized us right before our exams. He told us to think of a place that was very relaxing. I really can’t remember what else he said, but it was really strange when he “brought us back.” I’ve never had that feeling/sensation before or since. Could it just have been really deep relaxation or was it hypnotism? I guess we’ll never know!

  • Vera L

    February 19th, 2013 at 11:22 AM

    Unti, it sounds like your experience was very similar to this:

    Hypnosis isn’t a magic trick. It’s an altered state of consciousness that hypnotists induce via the power of suggestion. Hypnotists may use relaxation techniques, key words, guided imagery, or some combination of these to help clients slowly relax. Then, while under hypnosis, hypnotists make suggestions about changes in behavior.

    …except for one thing-the suggestions about changes in behavior. Do you recall the professor giving any suggestions about changing study habits before the exam or anything else? That may be the key to the answer you are looking for. If no suggestions were made, it could indeed have been just a deep relaxation exercise to help you manage your stress level during exam times.

  • Wayne

    February 19th, 2013 at 11:38 AM

    I really like the reasoning behind hypnosis discussed here (the conscious mind wanting to do something/make a change while the unconscious mind hasn’t committed to it yet).

  • Sarah

    February 19th, 2013 at 11:48 AM

    This all just sounds a little hocus pocus to me…

  • Holistic Hypnosis & Hypnotherapy - Los Angeles

    February 24th, 2013 at 4:21 PM

    As someone who has been a professional Hypnotherapist for over 16 years I can assure you this is not so. I have in my personal library many many thousands of dollars worth of books on Hypnotism, well over ten or probably twenty thousand dollars. These date all the way back to the 1890’s, and are written by Medical Doctors, Psychiatrists, PhD Clinical Psychologists and a couple by Dentists.

    Most comments on Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy evidence in general two main flaws. They are opinions from those who are either uninformed and/or misinformed. With little or no factual basis. I find as a general rule of thumb, the less a person knows about hypnosis, the more they tend to be agin it.

    To get information from fairly contemporary PhD Clinical Psychologists, read Brown & Fromm, “Hypnotherapy and Hypno-analysis.” or “Hypnosis and Behavioral Medicine.” If you go to, the search engine of book search engines, a fantastic resource for education/research, and search for “hypnosis”, hundreds if not thousands of books will come up. A lesser number with a search for “hypnotherapy, but still in the hundreds. This was the main resource for my own library.

  • Abraham Y

    February 19th, 2013 at 11:50 AM

    It is interesting that people with psychosis shouldn’t do hypnotism b/c it can bring on a psychotic episode. I wonder why that is? Are people who are psychotic more prone to being susceptible to suggestions that people who aren’t? All of this is very interesting to me. It’s like someone really can get inside your head and move around in there.

  • David

    April 19th, 2015 at 5:29 PM

    I have anxiety depression and psychosis. I decided to try hypnotherapy because nothing else is working. I take my anti psychotics and antidepressants regularly and have had one to one counselling as well as group counselling. They all help up to a point but not enough to prevent me from loosing my job. I know the risks of hypnosis for psychotics and thought it was still worth a try. I was sceptical at first but having now been for a number of appointments it seems to be working. I am beginning to concentrate on things a bit better. I feel less paranoid and I am thinuking about suicide less.

    I am not sure how it is working or if the effects will be permanent What I do know is that today I feel a better able to cope even though I am in a more difficult position being out of work.

  • MrKappa

    February 19th, 2013 at 8:04 PM

    Hand fixations are blissful when I’m in the mood.

  • V M

    February 19th, 2013 at 11:29 PM

    Never heard of hypnosis as a therapy technique.. sounds interesting though.

    There will be doubts in people’s minds no doubt.. and the major reason for it?the often wrong depiction of hypnosis in popular media. its not something that makes one slave of the hypnotist as is often thought! if more people learn the true meaning of hypnosis maybe then this can help people, otherwise they may be unwilling to even adopt this technique for therapy!

  • brandon a

    February 20th, 2013 at 4:09 AM

    I think that one of the most valuable lines in this that I read is that hypniosis can’t be used as a one trick pony. In order for it to help and to work it needs to be used in conjunction with other forms of therapy too. It alone is not going to just be some kind of a quick fix or trick you or your mind into doing something that ultimately you may not be ready or able to do. I think that for some people who are open to it and will allow it to help them, it could be quite valuable to use. But for someone who does not necessarily believe in its validity then they are going to have a difficult time gaining any sort of benefit from it.

  • Holistic Hypnosis & Hypnotherapy - Los Angeles

    February 24th, 2013 at 3:58 PM

    It ain’t necessarily so. As hypnotherapy deals with the subconscious or other-than-conscious mind, conscious beliefs may be irrelevant. I have had highly skeptical clients rapidly enter deep trance. This may be due to my skills with covert processes, and/or their desire for help creating rapport/trust in spite of themselves, and/ or they may be in the group of naturally “High response” to hypnosis. The separation of consciousnesses can be extreme. I have discussed a concern with more than one client, only to have them, after I have assisted them enter trance, want to deal with a completely different issue, that the Other-than-conscious mind views as currently more significant. I had to change direction on a dime. So much for my treatment plan!

  • herems

    October 15th, 2013 at 7:16 PM

    I found a 20c paperback called The Painless Way To Stop Smoking. I had tried everything but was thoroughly hooked. This little gem showed me how to hypnotise myself, give myself reasons to stop the filthy habit and focus on something else when the craving arose, three deep breaths. One statement in the book: if you dont believe you are in a hynotised state, look at the wall at a certain point and tell yourself how sleepy you are etc etc and your eyes must close. Which they did. BUT no instructions how to open them again. I remembered tv shows where the operator tells the crowd ‘on the count of 3’…etc you will wake up, this worked for me. Also I never smoked again. NOW if I am sluggish in the morning and cant drag myself from bed I only have to say to myself….’on the count of 3 I will open my eyes and hop out of bed…one two…’off go the bedclothes and I am out in a second……..believe me or believe me not..NOW we have a foster child who is addicted to cutting herself. She is still a ward of court but I feel strongly that a medical hypnotist could quite easily suggest to her, in a hypnotic state, that she refrains from doing this but takes deep breaths instead……one has to find the right person in West Australia and then persuade the powers that be to try this…she will hit an artery soon and we will loose her…

  • Pryncyss

    November 5th, 2013 at 10:39 PM

    Dear Herems,
    I was looking around online about hypnosis to see if it might help with my problems when I came across your story. I pray to our heavenly Farher that the child you were talking about is ok and getting the help she needs. I have never cut but I have tried to end mt life years ago due to major depression anxiety panic attacks self image issues and PTSD due to my ex husband and his mother. My heart sunk when I read your story and I would love to know if this young girl got help amd if do how she is doing. I don’t know why God has placed this on my heart. I pray you all are blessed.

  • Dianne

    November 10th, 2014 at 2:22 AM

    Just wondering if you have tried hypnosis for this problem. My partner is also into cutting hisself and very recently did hit a main vein with plentiful blood loss. I am looking into this as an alternative to medication which he is also over doing.

  • garlington

    February 21st, 2013 at 6:00 AM

    Okay so let’s say that hypnosis works- does it work only for the short term or does it offer resolutions that have lasting and long term effects?

  • ross

    February 21st, 2013 at 11:19 PM

    does hypnosis really work well? I have a few habits that I’d love to get over but cannot bring myself to. It would be great if this technique can help something like that. Have been intrigued by hypnosis but never knew the science behind it.

  • Red Ninja

    February 22nd, 2013 at 11:25 PM

    Do the effects last long after the treatment is over? Because by what it seems it looks like the effects of hypnosis wouldn’t last long.

    Anyhow, it does sound like something that could work if administered the right way. And the lack of medication just gives this method a shot in the arm for more research on it.

  • gabriel

    February 25th, 2013 at 4:04 AM

    I think that like most things you will discover that those things that you truly open your mind and heart to are the things that will be allowed to make the most difference to you. Hypnosis may be for you or it very well may not be for you but I would find it very close minded and short sighted to not even give it a try before deciding if it could be of some benefit to you. That is the thing that I see too many people doing- making a rash decision about something before they have ever even tried it for themselves. But I think that hypnosis and its benefits would be some of those things that you have to just try to remain open to and see if it could help you with any of life’s struggles that you could be facing. Sometimes there will end up being this bright spot in your life that you did not even know would ever be possible, and yet there it is once you allow yourself to become a little more open minded with what you believe and what you will allow to make a positive impact on your life.

  • Al Perhacs

    November 12th, 2013 at 8:33 PM

    Yes, hypnosis is more that just a magic trick. It can be used to unleash powerful skills and abilities when learned and used wisely. Good thing this article helps to enlighten people’s mind to become aware about hypnosis.

  • D Pantrik

    October 28th, 2014 at 9:16 AM

    I think the initial flush of success with hypnosis is very similar to the effect of newly embraced religion. I think a release of serotonin is probably at the heart of it, which is no bad thing if a person has been under stress for a time. My problem with hypnosis, rather like its kinsman visualization, is that it demands repetition and indeed its effects wane over long periods. If a person misses a week’s self or paid hypnosis a guilt or separation effect can occur. It is nothing more than a secular catechism really. The beneficial effects tend to be short term and longitudinal studies are rare. I just think exercise is a neater and easier way to maintain a feel good, ‘can do’ attitude.

  • DawnG

    March 21st, 2016 at 1:30 AM

    Hypnosis techniques can be used to help improve performance by considering the athletes pre-performance, performance and post performance attitude. We train you in depth to help clients with anxiety and stress – the most common presenting issues. Whether dealing with social situations, medical issues, pain, sports performance – anxiety is nearly always an exacerbating factor.

  • Mike

    February 13th, 2017 at 8:22 AM

    It is difficult to ignore the success reputable institutions are having using the tool called hypnosis. It is also difficult to ignore the published research studies you can find on a site called PubMed. This site is for medical and mental health professionals looking for study results on everything mental and medical. Additionally, there are several very credible recognizable institutions that use hypnosis in their medical and mental health programs daily. I encourage you to do an internet search “hypnosis and (name of institution). The most well known cancer research hospital in Texas would be a great start on how well hypnosis works for pain and nausea. Then search for “hypnosis and (name of institution) of the most well known diagnostic clinic in the United States to see the many ways they incorporate hypnosis into their healthcare programs. And finally, I would encourage you to do an internet search for “hypnosis and (name of magazine) the most well known psychology magazine of the mental health industry. By simply doing these four searches you eliminate the good intentioned but misinformed ‘professional’ comments from those who lack contemporary knowledge of hypnosis. Sadly, most of the information I read on different sites is at least 30 years out of date. I hope this helps many who are considering using their subconscious mind to change the way they think, feel or behave using the tool called hypnosis. You see, for any real permanent change to occur in an individual. it must occur at the subconscious level. To access the subconscious mind in an intentional office setting, my office, and others like mine use the tool called hypnosis. Hypnosis is: the bypass of the critical factor of the conscious mind and the establishment of selected acceptable thinking.

  • kmnvarier

    December 22nd, 2017 at 10:44 PM

    can hipnosis be useful in treatment of Schizophrenia patients

  • kmnvarier

    December 22nd, 2017 at 10:50 PM

    My wife is a schizoprenia patient according to Psychiartists treating for the past 47 years. Hence the query

  • Roland

    July 3rd, 2020 at 3:04 AM

    I absolutely agree on this article. Hypnosis is just like a magic treatment. It is unbelievable. Thanks for sharing such a informative article with us.

  • Roland

    March 19th, 2021 at 10:24 PM

    Thank you for sharing this information which I was looking for a long time

  • erika

    April 14th, 2021 at 3:42 AM

    I never knew that hypnosis can help you to deal with decreasing anxiety and boost confidence. My brother has been struggling with anxiety problems, and we are looking for advice to help him. I will let him know about the benefits of hypnosis to help him deal with those problems and boost his confidence. especially we have I think

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