I get a lot of email enquiries each day. Within those numerous enquiries, the most popular thing I am asked is “is hypnosis good for…?” You just need to fill in the blank.
On my own hypnotherapy training diploma courses and during seminars, or at speaking events, I am also very often asked by students, members of the public “is hypnosis good for ……?” Again, you fill in the blank with some ailment, disorder or malady.
The language pedant that I am is to reply initially with “is hypnosis good for smoking? Don’t you mean, can it help you stop smoking?” And then I laugh to stop the enquirer thinking I am a weirdo.
When I get down to discussing it and replying in a grown-up fashion, I sometimes discuss a number of typical applications that hypnosis can be helpful with. I’ll mention psychological, physiological and emotional conditions and be sure to point out some ways in which I think hypnosis is not pertinent or helpful – for it is no panacea or magic pill.
Some are surprised by my responses, others saddened – especially if I tell them that I am not into hypnotic exorcism for helping them release the numerous demons that are living within them making their life hellish. Though I am not asked about that too often.
Adam, is hypnosis good for natural childbirth, pain management, overcoming depression, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety disorders, letting go of habits, stress reduction, performance enhancement, my fear of _____, trauma, skin issues and so on and so on… ??
Well yes, it can help with all of these things in some way, and has many other applications too. But is it not wise for us to qualify in what way it can help and to what extent and correct some expectations? It really does depend on what the individual wishes to achieve in relation to that issue or ailment or malady.
Hypnosis may well be of great benefit and very useful in a wide variety of areas. It is often used to overcome, reduce or eliminate symptoms of some kind. Hypnosis is used by many to explore how people think and perceive themselves or their lives. Hypnosis is often used as a tool to teach self-control, self-motivation or self-regulation, especially when it comes to how we think and the thoughts we allow to proliferate in our minds.
So inline with these things and more, hypnosis may well be used to increase an individuals sense of self-esteem and confidence. I know several academics who research the world of hypnosis who often explain hypnosis as being a vehicle by which they deliver the various therapeutic interventions within. With any particular individual, hypnosis may well be good at helping with all manner of things.
However, when budding hypnotherapists, newly qualified and excited ask me the same sorts of questions, I tend to refer them to the top quality journals and Google Scholar or PubMed to look at the evidence for help with such issues. To get more specific when exploring the effectiveness of hypnosis and it’s related applications in therapy, I point out the study by Lynn, Kirsch, Barabasz, Cardena, and Patterson (2000). Within which, the authors summarise the vast majority of research up to that date and reported that hypnosis has shown a depth and breadth of benefits when used for induced analgesia, presurgical preparation, irritable bowel syndrome, asthma, smoking cessation, reducing nausea related to chemotherapy, and for enhancing the effectiveness of cognitive behavior therapy, as well as for treating trauma. A similar review and summary was put together by Hammond (1994) who additionally found hypnosis to be effective with anxiety and stress-related disorders, sexual dysfunction, and eating and sleep disorders. Of course, anyone can go find the evidence for themselves.
Hypnosis is good at helping with many things, though it is often exaggerated by many with regards to what it can do and very few people point out its limitations or actually seek out the evidence for that which they claim it can do.
Go listen to my evidence based hypnosis podcast if you want a microscope view of what hypnosis is good for.