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What is hypnosis?

Hypnosis (hypnotherapy), like sleep, puts the mind in an altered, relaxed state. Under hypnosis, the mind can still reach memories, sensations, and other thoughts. Hypnosis is often used for things such as breaking bad habits, controlling pain, and managing stress.

Some people have trouble becoming hypnotized. Others are more receptive to this form of therapy. Hypnotism will work only if the person wants to be hypnotized and it requires trust and imagination. While hypnotized, a person can interrupt the process at any time.

When hypnotized, the heart rate may decrease, the body temperature may change, and blood flow to certain areas may be altered. The state of deep relaxation can stop people from thinking about pain and other concerns. Hypnotism has been used as a pain reliever during certain surgeries, such as dental procedures.

Other uses for hypnotism include:

  • Pain reduction

  • Smoking cessation

  • Anxiety reduction or control

  • Depression treatment

  • Overcoming or reducing fears or phobias

The American Society of Clinical Hypnosis states that hypnosis should only be done by licensed clinicians competent in the use of hypnotic treatments. This includes such professionals as doctors, licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs), master's prepared mental health nurses, and marital or family counselors. Each of these professionals would need specific education in hypnotic treatments.

Hypnosis and memory recovery

TV shows often portray hypnosis being used to access and recall hidden or vague memories. But research has not shown this method to be reliable. There is a widespread belief that hypnosis produces accurate memories and that people who have been hypnotized tend to feel confident that their memories are accurate. This can lead to the persistence of false memories. Researchers have found that hypnosis does not work well as a memory-recovery method.

Tell all of your healthcare providers about any health approaches, supplements, and medicines you use. This will give them a full picture of your health. It will also help make sure you get safe, effective, and coordinated care.

Medical Reviewers:

  • Bianca Garilli MD
  • Heather M Trevino BSN RNC
  • Marianne Fraser MSN RN