A woman reclining in a chair during hypnosisDepth Hypnosis is a type of therapy that combines elements of shamanism, Buddhism, transpersonal psychology, and hypnotherapy. The primary goal of Depth Hypnosis is to help people achieve meaningful, long-lasting transformation of mind, body, and spirit.

Through the use of spiritual assessments and hypnotherapy techniques, mental health professionals can help individuals explore, address, and resolve deep-rooted issues in order to promote healing and growth.

Development of Depth Hypnosis

Depth Hypnosis was developed in the 1990s by Dr. Isa Gucciardi as she began her own search for emotional healing. Finding traditional cognitive therapy to be lacking, Gucciardi sought treatment that would address her issues on a deeper level. She found hypnotherapy helpful, to an extent, but rejected the controlling nature of “suggestion” hypnosis and what is commonly referred to as the Eriksonian technique. Believing that hypnotherapy of that kind was like “behavioral modification for the subconscious,” Gucciardi realized what was needed was a treatment that could address the root of the issue rather than the symptom.

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Dr. Gucciardi's studies in anthropology, comparative religion, and culture contributed further to the development of her own philosophy of spiritual growth and change. She saw how acculturation, or what she calls a cultural overlay, pulled people away from their most authentic selves. Finding shamanism and Buddhism to be the most useful in helping people find themselves, Gucciardi based Depth Hypnosis on both spiritual frameworks. Earning her PhD in transpersonal psychology provided Dr. Gucciardi with the therapeutic approach she needed to synthesize all of her experience. She blended the techniques of hypnotherapy, the healing journey of shamanism, Buddhism's concept of suffering, and the therapeutic model of transpersonal psychology to form Depth Hypnosis. This form of therapy quickly gained ground and is now practiced all over the world.

How Does Depth Hypnosis Work?

Depth Hypnosis is designed to help people access their true selves, release problematic defenses, and facilitate their own healing. People who participate in Depth Hypnosis are active participants in the change process. Although based in spiritual tradition, Depth Hypnosis does not require that participants accept or even understand these religious foundations and beliefs. It is an experiential process that allows participants to achieve an altered state of being, explore the obstacles that keep them "stuck," and access personal power to begin their healing journey.

Practitioners of Depth Hypnosis believe responses to trauma and stress are stored on an unconscious level and should therefore be resolved by accessing the unconscious. That is where hypnotherapy can be useful. Depth Hypnosis practitioners will use voice-based hypnotherapy techniques to ease participants into an altered state of consciousness. They lead them to the source of their “life energy” through this process and help them experience this force in a visceral way.

Depth Hypnosis is grounded in Eastern philosophy and differs on some levels from a typical Western therapeutic approach. Sessions often take place as follows:

  • FIRST SESSION: Practitioners ask participants a set of assessment questions about their emotional biography and explore the presenting concerns. Throughout the assessment, the practitioner will systematically document the participants' responses. This process creates what is referred to as an emotional map. The map highlights symptoms, problem areas, defenses, strengths, gaps, and patterns. The emotional map is used as a starting point to guide the therapeutic work.
  • SECOND SESSION: With the emotional map to guide them, participants typically know what they want to work on by the end of the first session. At the start of the second session, practitioners often begin to work with the altered state of consciousness. Through light trance induction, practitioners guide participants toward inner wisdom in order to establish a foundation for future work in this altered state. Shamanistic concepts of power retrieval and soul retrieval are incorporated here in order to promote healing and recovery.
  • THIRD SESSION: Work done here is often called “hypnotherapeutic regression." This is the process of exploring what are considered to be past states of being. Past situations that may have caused current problems are recovered, and practitioners can help people shift their relationship with these past events in order to reduce symptoms and encourage healing. 

Future sessions are used to further integrate this regression work with other techniques such as dream work and insight inquiry to further punctuate therapeutic gains. Participants may experience relief from symptoms early in treatment and will often express feelings of emotional well-being after just a few sessions.

Who Can Benefit from Depth Hypnosis?

Depth Hypnosis is a somewhat newer form of therapy, so few studies have been conducted to determine its efficacy with various populations. However, several case studies indicate its effectiveness with certain mental health issues, such as:

  • Abuse: Some case studies show Depth Hypnosis works well with those who have experienced symptoms related to sexual, emotional, or physical abuse. Depth Hypnosis can help people restructure the defenses they may have built around the memories of their abuse and reintegrate the emotions associated with them.
  • Eating disorders: Depth Hypnosis has been shown to improve eating habits in individuals with eating disorders who participated in the therapy. When an eating disorder relates to repressed memories or related concerns, this form of therapy may be particularly effective.
  • Posttraumatic stress: Trauma survivors who experience PTSD as a result of the unprocessed emotions resulting from trauma may obtain benefit from this form of therapy. When trauma is re-experienced in a safe environment, people in therapy may be able to address and resolve those emotions and thus experience a reduction in anxiety and stress.

Depth Hypnosis can address the root of symptoms and potentially alleviate them by bringing issues to the surface. In addition to the above issues, Depth Hypnosis may also be effective in treating:

The Depth Hypnosis Research Project—a pilot study designed to evaluate the efficacy of Depth Hypnosis for issues such as anxiety, depression, and posttraumatic stress—began in 2015.

Who Offers Depth Hypnosis?

The Association for Depth Hypnosis Practitioners (ADHP) is the certifying body for the practice of Depth Hypnosis. Information about comprehensive training and certification programs approved by the ADHP is available to interested therapists on the ADHP website. The Foundation of the Sacred Stream offers a well-regarded training and certification program that is approved by the ADHP. Practitioners may also earn other certifications to enhance their Depth Hypnosis training, including Applied Shamanic Practice, Integrated Energy Modalities, and Applied Buddhist Psychology.

Limitations and Concerns

Because Depth Hypnosis is relatively new, little research has been done to determine its effectiveness and limitations. More research is planned to establish it as an evidence-based practice, but this may take time. Until more research is conducted, participants should be aware that any potential risks are unknown.

In general, those interested in Depth Hypnosis may wish to educate themselves about the risks associated with any type of hypnosis. Although available research indicates hypnotherapy is largely safe, there are a few criticisms of the practice. Some professionals worry people might “fake” the trance state or act hypnotized. This can prevent people from experiencing their authentic selves, which is the goal of Depth Hypnosis. Hypnotherapy skeptics might also say it is nearly impossible to draw a correlation between therapeutic improvement and hypnotherapy due to the varying nature of participants' responses to hypnosis. Finally, some researchers believe hypnotherapy produces a placebo effect—participants experience positive results because they believe the hypnotherapy is working. Their progress has little to do with the process of hypnotherapy itself and more to do with the person's belief that it works. Nevertheless, some argue this placebo effect still achieves the desired outcome; therefore, hypnotherapy should be considered effective.

Those interested in Depth Hypnosis may find it beneficial to learn more about its foundations—shamanism, Buddhism, transpersonal psychology, and hypnotherapy—before beginning treatment. This type of therapy should typically only be pursued with those who are certified, experienced professionals.


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