Why Is Hypnotherapy Becoming Mainstream?

by Hervé Boisdé


In the years that I’ve been practicing hypnotherapy I’ve noticed a shift in the way that hypnotherapy is being perceived, not just by new clients, but also by the medical and psychotherapy community. Previously I sensed a skepticism from many traditional therapists, most didn’t have a good idea of what it was and some were reluctant to encourage their patients to seek out hypnotherapy except for maybe smoking cessation or weight management. Today things are different.

I think the main thing is that there has been a shift in popular culture as to the benefits of mindfulness and meditation. Years ago only a small percentage of New Yorkers would take time to meditate regularly. More recently it seems like everyone meditates. First came yoga and doing poses to balance their body and minds, now people are turning to mindfulness through quiet meditation.

The scientific research is overwhelmingly positive about meditation. The medical community accepts that stress and anxiety are huge factors that affect health, and the mind-body connection is recognized as a reality. Doctors who previously would have written prescriptions for everything are now recommending therapy and/or meditation to their patients.

And while physicians and most licensed mental health professionals don’t learn about hypnotherapy in their schooling, they are reading the articles and studies about it’s benefits. They are also hearing about their patients’ experiences with hypnotherapy, so they have more second-hand knowledge than in the past. But it’s the scientific studies about hypnosis that have really created the real change in how hypnotherapy is viewed as a legitimate and beneficial alternative to traditional methods.

Studies that are mentioned in articles such as this one in New York Magazine, (Nov. 21 2016) “Has Hypnosis Finally Been Vindicated By Neuroscience?” , indicate that the brain goes through measurable shifts and changes while in hypnosis, just like meditation. Neuroscience has been the cutting edge of biology science for the past few decades so any advances in neuroscience generates a lot of publicity and becomes a hot topic.

Even back in 2005, The NY Times published an article titled “This Is Your Brain Under Hypnosis” which stated in the first sentence “Hypnosis, with its long and checkered history in medicine and entertainment, is receiving some new respect from neuroscientists. “ It’s my belief that stage hypnosis set clinical hypnotherapy back for decades, if not over a hundred years, by associating hypnosis with entertainment and foolish behavior. Fortunately that is now in the past when respected publications print evidence from scientific studies that show that clinical hypnosis can heal the mind and the body. That same NY Times article acknowledged that hypnosis was being used effectively for many years, even if science didn’t understand how or why it worked:

Even with little understanding of how it works, hypnosis has been used in medicine since the 1950's to treat pain and, more recently, as a treatment for anxiety, depression, trauma, irritable bowel syndrome and eating disorders.

Back in 2010, Psychology Today published an article entitled “Hypnosis: An Underused Technique” that encouraged psychiatrists to become trained in hypnosis for therapeutic use. The author (an M.D. and psychotherapist ) stated that:

Hypnosis can help patients working on issues such as smoking cessation, weight control, nail biting, phobia mastery, insomnia, anxiety, including PTSD, poor sexual function, obsessive thinking, and stress-related problems that might be rooted in such physical problems as hypertension, headache, or chronic pain problems. Hypnosis can be an effective aid in treating these problems. But not enough psychiatrists, psychologists, and psychotherapists use hypnosis or understand what it can and cannot do.

It’s clear that clinical hypnosis and hypnotherapy have become more mainstream, and with good reason. The scientific community, backed by neuroscience, has come to recognize the clinical uses for it’s use to benefit the mind and the body. And further research will probably become even more common as communities seek alternatives to expensive and addictive treatments for pain management, rather than opioids, and less invasive medical procedures. .

Medical Hypnotherapy and the Future of Healing

by Hervé Boisdé


When I previously wrote a blog about the Mind/Body Connection, I talked about how the subconscious mind is responsible for much of the body’s processes and we can influence the body, both positively or negatively, with our thoughts. Neuroscience is at the very forefront of medical science and we are continuously being stunned at how powerful the mind is for everything that we do and experience. A report available in the US Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health (published in 2006) claims that while only a recent phenomenon, research has shifted to studying the mind/body connection effects in medicine and has become a much more mainstream and accepted view of healing the body.

Although the understanding that emotions affect physical health dates as far back as the second-century physician Galen and the medieval physician and philosopher Moses Maimonides, modern medicine has largely continued to treat the mind and body as two separate entities. In the past 30 years, however, research into the link between health and emotions, behaviour, social and economic status and personality has moved both research and treatment from the fringe of biomedical science into the mainstream.

That being said, most of the medical techniques still used today were developed when the body was being treated separately from the mind. It’s really still only “holistic medicine” that has developed a radically different approach to treatment. Modern medicine that employs either invasive treatments or that relies on pharmaceutical drugs still has it’s place and can be very effective but perhaps even strictly body-oriented approaches can be enhanced with techniques that focus on the mind. It has been estimated that between 75 - 90% of all visits to the doctor’s office are for stress-related symptoms. Just by reducing stress, the average person can greatly improve their health and well-being. This probably comes as no big surprise. But what could be surprising is how the mind can actually be used to help heal the body from illnesses in ways that traditional medicine can not.

Traditional medicine excels at treating acute illness. Acute conditions are severe and come on suddenly, like a broken bone or appendicitis. Most visits to the ER deal with these kind of medical problems. Where traditional medicine struggles is with chronic conditions. A chronic condition, by contrast is a long-developing syndrome, such as osteoporosis, diabetes or asthma. In most cases chronic conditions are managed, usually with prescription drugs, rather than cured.

A study published November 2018 found that hypnotherapy is effective for the treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). They used a sample size of close to 500 patients in 11 hospitals to do the study and found that “Hypnotherapy should be considered as a possible treatment for patients with IBS in primary and secondary care. Furthermore, group therapy could allow many more patients to be treated for the same cost. “

There have been other studies that showed that hypnosis could speed up the healing of bone fractures, help relieve chronic neck pain, improve chronic and severe asthma symptoms, and 2 meta-analyses even found that hypnosis could effectively control cancer symptoms. It’s clear that when more studies are conducted and the research money is spent, many more effective treatments will be found.

As healthcare costs are spiraling out of control, anything that helps to speed up healing and cut costs will be valuable to the medical community. One study on the effects of hypnosis on breast cancer biopsy surgery found that patients experienced 53% less pain, 74% less nausea, 46% less fatique, and 74% less emotional upset from the surgery. The benefits to the hospital included: less drugs needed, less analgesia needed, shorter surgery time, and an average cost savings of $772 per patient! All this from one single hypnosis session before the surgery. Imagine the benefits for other types of medical procedures and surgery, or if included to heal other illnesses that require hospital stays. Self-hypnosis for pain management instead of dangerously addictive opioids is also being proposed by a Stanford researcher.

We are just beginning to scrape the surface in terms of the possibilities of using the mind to treat the body. Hypnosis and hypnotherapy are already showing huge benefits for medical support and allowing the body to heal itself. In the meantime it’s important to fund research that will help convince the people in charge of our institutions that hypnotherapy should be covered by medical insurance and included in employers’ health-plans to manage stress and provide greater well-being.