How is hypnosis used in Hypnotherapy?

I’m sure by now you would have heard of the term hypnosis and you may have even watched a stage show where the hypnotist got an audience member to do something silly as cluck like a chicken. Well, I’m here to tell you that in reality, hypnosis bears little resemblance to those stereotyped images of stage shows. So let’s have a closer look at the practice of Hypnotherapy and Hypnosis and clear away any misconceptions that you may have about it.

How is Hypnosis used in Hypnotherapy?

Hypnosis, or trance, is a naturally occurring state that we all go in and out of frequently. It is a state of deep relaxation, narrowed focus, heightened suggestibility and a process of active imagination. When we are daydreaming or ‘zoned out’ in a movie or in any state where we are in automatic pilot mode- we are in a state of trance. Just like that gentle feeling before you doze off to sleep.

When hypnosis is used therapeutically as in Hypnotherapy, a person is guided into a ‘trance state’ to achieve a specific outcome. But they are awake and aware of what is happening at all times. The person in hypnosis is in control throughout and can terminate the hypnotic trance at any stage.

Hypnotherapy works by combining hypnosis with precise, outcome-oriented suggestions processed through the subconscious mind which makes it capable of creating positive life changes on many levels.  The state achieved by hypnosis is no different from that of guided visualisation, meditation or any of the other types of therapeutic or relaxation techniques. They are all simply different ways of accessing the same state; the innate human resource of trance.

The conscious and subconscious mind

We all have a conscious mind and a subconscious mind. The conscious mind is what you are aware of here and now at any point in time. The subconscious mind is everything else – it’s the powerhouse of our existence.

From the day we are born we are programming things into the subconscious mind. What’s good, bad, happy, sad, right, wrong, safe, dangerous etc. Once it’s programmed into the subconscious mind it is locked in with a barrier called the critical faculty barrier and that’s a huge part of our survival mechanism.

The prime purpose of the subconscious mind is protection and survival. It operates like the hard drive of a computer, it accepts what we program into it without analysing it and because we are surviving, it thinks that it is protecting us by holding onto and running the same programs.

Sometimes we can program things into the subconscious mind that we don’t want such as anxiety, phobias, panic attacks, negative beliefs etc. Once we program something into the subconscious mind it is very difficult to change it consciously. If for example, you have a phobia, you can try to overcome it by consciously telling yourself that it’s okay, you’re safe but if the subconscious mind is running a program that’s screaming “terror” it doesn’t matter what you tell yourself consciously, the subconscious mind will go into action. Your stress hormones will start pumping, your heart will pound and your breathing changes. Anything you tell yourself will bounce off that barrier because it is your subconscious mind that is in control.

The subconscious mind controls all your body functions and the changes that are occurring originate in the mind but are felt throughout the whole body.

The subconscious mind also controls our habits. 90% of everything we do every day is habitual. We don’t have to think about how we dress or turn on a tap or walk. We just do it automatically as part of our survival mechanism. If we had to get up every day and think about everything and learn everything again, we couldn’t survive.

People don’t decide to blush or sweat profusely or become depressed. The part of our mind that does these behaviours is not the conscious part. They happen automatically which means it’s the subconscious mind that produces the response. Therefore it makes sense when seeking treatment for these conditions to work at a subconscious level.

In Hypnosis, we go into a state of relaxation and we relax away the critical faculty barrier so that we can talk directly to the subconscious mind.  Just like putting a new computer program over an old one that is no longer serving its purpose. Once the two parts of the mind are in agreement, the body responds instantly and automatically.

What is Hypnotherapy used for?

Hypnosis is no longer considered a fringe treatment because of research, improved training and certification. It is now promoted by the American Psychological Association (2020) as a therapy beneficial for “pain, anxiety, and mood disorders,” while helping people change negative habits such as smoking or drinking.

A 2019 study involving a six-week-long intervention with both group therapy and individual therapy sessions found hypnosis to be as effective as motivational interviewing in patients with long-term histories of alcohol abuse.

A year after the intervention, both groups showed a significant reduction in alcohol consumption (Shestopal & Bramness, 2019).

Hypnosis is increasingly used as a treatment for depression and is as effective at relieving symptoms of depression as psychological interventions attempting to treat patterns of distorted cognition (Milling, Valentine, McCarley, & LoStimolo, 2018).

In one study with heroin addicts, group hypnosis therapy was provided to 10 methadone patients who continued street drug use, in two 5 patient groups consisting of 10 weekly sessions. 100% of participants who completed the treatment (9 of the original 10) remained clean after 6 months, while 78% remained clean after 2 years. Results like this are possible because of the nature of hypnosis.


Scientific evidence for the use of hypnosis is plentiful. We now have so much study, research and growth in the field. With more understanding and methods developed over the past 100 years, many more people are discovering the value and power of hypnosis. It is beginning to receive the positive recognition it deserves.

While hypnosis can be highly effective on its own, if balanced correctly with other therapies, it can become even more valuable to the therapist.

If you’re interested in hypnotherapy to help you to make changes, let’s work together to get you the life that you want.

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Medical Disclaimer: This article is for information purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. For medical advice always consult your physician. The information provided in this blog is based on the best knowledge of the author at the time of writing and we do not assume liability for the information within this blog, be it direct or indirect, consequential, special, exemplary or other damages.