Hypnotherapy induces a state of deep relaxation, which may be useful for healing from trauma.
Trauma is a universal human experience. A traumatic event may involve anything from interpersonal abuse to a natural disaster to the sudden death of a loved one.
When people struggle to process traumatic events or experiences, it can lead to certain mental health conditions or symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, flashbacks, and more.
Hypnosis, also called hypnotherapy, is a state of deep relaxation and focused concentration. It’s a type of mind-body treatment for trauma.
A trained and certified hypnotist or hypnotherapist guides you into this deep state of focus and relaxation with verbal cues, repetition, and imagery.
When you’re under hypnosis, this intense level of concentration and focus may allow you to ignore ordinary distractions and be more open to guided suggestions to make changes to improve your health.”
Through the help of a hypnotherapist, you may be able to heal certain symptoms related to trauma you’ve experienced.
Certain studies have shown hypnotherapy to be helpful in the treatment of trauma symptoms, as well as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), in some instances.
A meta-analysis of six studies on hypnotherapy found that hypnotherapy significantly reduced participants’ PTSD symptoms of intrusion and avoidance. Regardless of the nature of the trauma, participants who received hypnotherapy experienced a reduction in their symptoms.
However, not all studies used the same type of hypnotherapy, which compromised the findings.
Another study found that hypnotherapy can help reduce insomnia in those with combat-related PTSD. In fact, the study found that hypnotherapy, as an additive treatment, decreased intrusive and avoidance symptoms of PTSD and improved sleep.
Researchers have also found that hypnotherapy may be able to reduce depression symptoms. A study comparing the effectiveness of cognitive hypnotherapy, which is hypnosis combined with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), versus CBT alone, found that cognitive hypnotherapy was more effective in reducing depression, anxiety, and hopelessness.
Hypnotherapy explores different states of consciousness, which play a major role in your everyday life.
The conscious mind involves the thoughts and feelings you can access directly, while the state of mind accessed during hypnotherapy can be deeper and more focused on accessing certain thoughts, beliefs, and feelings. This includes your habits, skills, and past learnings that you don’t often think about.
PTSD occurs after witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event, and comes about due to a variety of factors. PTSD symptoms fall under four categories:
- re-experiencing symptoms
- negative shifts in thoughts and mood
- physical symptoms
Hypnotherapy is not as well understood as other treatment options but if you are interested in trying hypnotherapy for trauma, consider speaking with a mental health professional about what treatment plan may be best for you.
Hypnotherapy techniques for PTSD
During hypnosis, the mind is more active and open. With the use of relaxation, guided imagery, and supportive hypnotic suggestions, the hypnotherapist may help shift your feelings or beliefs to better manage certain symptoms of trauma.
Hypnotherapy techniques for PTSD may include the following:
- Relaxation. The hypnotherapist guides you through a
relaxation techniqueto reduce mental and physical stress.
- Identifying triggers. During hypnosis, it may be possible to identify triggers that have gone unnoticed. For instance, country music may have played in the background during your traumatic experience. Now, when you hear that genre, it triggers a negative reaction, although you don’t know why. Hypnosis can help you access those hidden memories and identify the trigger.
- Reframing memories. The hypnotherapist will help you
reframethe event in your mind by bringing in a new perspective. For instance, the hypnotherapist may remind you that while being fearful was appropriate at the time of the event, it’s no longer useful to you now. Or if the trauma happened in childhood, you can imagine being there as an adult and comforting yourself.
- Anchoring resource states. Once you’ve addressed the painful triggers, you can begin to replace them with “anchors” of feeling confident, safe, or in control. This positive emotion is paired with a physical stimulus, such as touching your thumb and forefinger. Later, doing this physical action can help bring about positive emotions.
Hypnotherapy may be able to help with the following conditions:
- post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- chronic pain
- eating disorders
- grief and loss
- sleep disorders
- behavioral issues
Hypnotherapy can be used alone or with other treatments.
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is another type of treatment developed to help you handle traumatic memories.
During EMDR, you recall your traumatic experiences while making rapid eye movements or another form of stimulation to support you in reprocessing and repairing the impact of that trauma that occurred.
Though they appear similar at first glance, EMDR and hypnotherapy are two very different and distinct types of treatments.
Unlike hypnotherapy, EMDR does not induce a trance-like state of mind. Rather it continually grounds you by honing in on your emotions and sensations as a way of staying connected to reality.
Hypnotherapy is not as well-researched and understood as other treatment methods. Certain therapy techniques have more evidence of being effective treatments for treating trauma.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is a type of therapy that focuses on identifying and changing unhelpful patterns of thoughts, behaviors, and feelings. It’s the umbrella term for the interventions below.
- Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT). TF-CBT is a type of therapy used for children and adolescents who have experienced trauma.
- Cognitive processing therapy (CPT). Cognitive processing therapy is a specific type of CBT that helps you learn how to change and challenge unhelpful beliefs linked to trauma.
- Cognitive therapy. Cognitive therapy involves changing your harmful perceptions of the trauma, with the aim of interrupting the unhelpful behavioral and/or thought patterns that have been interfering in your daily life.
- Prolonged exposure (PE). PE is a specific type of CBT that teaches you to gradually approach trauma-related memories, feelings, and situations. By facing what you’ve been avoiding, you learn that the trauma-related memories and cues are not dangerous and don’t need to be avoided anymore.
Most people have experienced some degree of trauma in their lifetime. When people struggle to process traumatic events or experiences, it can lead to certain mental health conditions or symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, flashbacks, and more.
During hypnotherapy, certain aspects of the mind can be more accessible and open to suggestion. With the use of techniques such as relaxation, reframing, and anchoring, the hypnotherapist helps you identify and heal these painful memories.