Addiction and substance dependency can sometimes be very tricky to overcome. Hypnotherapy has been shown through scientific research to be a successful tool in helping a person to gain control over their addiction, become sober, and as a strategy in preventing relapse.
Keep reading to find out more about the treatment of addictions utilising hypnotherapy, including who can perform it, and how it works.
What Is Hypnotherapy?
Evidence-based studies suggest that hypnotherapy can effectively treat addiction and various other psychological issues. In essence, hypnotherapy is a combination of psychotherapy and hypnosis. Before the client undergoes hypnotherapy by a trained therapist, they must fully understand the process and give their informed consent prior to the therapy session.
Hypnosis involves an altered state of consciousness often referred to as a trance state. A trance state is a natural state of consciousness, similar to meditation. All people are capable of a trance state and often go into the natural state many times a day.
Hypnotherapy is a process where a person and a qualified hypnotherapist work together to facilitate the person to reach this natural, peaceful, and healing state.
Much more than just a comfortable feeling, hypnosis is a physiological state that can be measured and monitored via Electroencephalogram (EEG) which is a test that measures the electrical activity in the brain. When you are in a hypnotic state, you are often more open to therapeutic suggestions offered by your therapist. The suggestions are often based on positive, empowering, behavioural changing statements aimed to facilitate transformation and self-autonomy, empowering the client to move towards their specific goal. It is important to note that at all times you are in complete control, and you cannot be persuaded to do or say, anything that is not acceptable to you.
Self-hypnosis is a skill a person can practice by themselves. Self-hypnosis can be taught to anyone. Similar to mindfulness techniques, it is a helpful self-soothing strategy to relieve the symptoms of anxiety and difficult experiences such as cravings, negative self-talk, and overwhelming emotions.
The Core Aspects of Hypnotherapy
Absorption – A Form of Deep Mental Focus
The individual who undergoes hypnotherapy becomes mentally involved and deeply absorbed in their internal environment including guided thoughts, images, or perceptions. Their level of concentration is somewhat similar to the experience of becoming fully absorbed when reading a compelling book or watching a movie.
When a person in hypnotic trance experiences disassociation, it means they have the ability to observe a situation from a different perspective. This can have many benefits in Hypnotherapy. It can allow the client to see a situation without the negative impact of personal emotions influencing the therapeutic process. It can enable relief or respite from a difficult or painful situation. It can enable a different perspective to become crystal clear and assist in problem solving and finding hidden solutions.
Hypnotherapy For Addiction – The Benefits
While a person is in a hypnotic trance, he or she is often more open to acceptable therapeutic suggestions given by the hypnotherapist which are directed toward the client achieving their desired goals.
During hypnosis, individuals can become imaginative. In this process, guided imagery promoting successful outcomes are imagined. New decision-making strategies which promote the desired behavioural and emotional goals are practised. This strengthens new neurology to activate in the brain. This is further reinforced by the new decision-making strategies to be practised out of trance by the person in their daily lives. For example, this relaxed trance-like state can assist individuals with obtaining a different perspective on their addictive behaviour. What may seem impossible under normal circumstances – e.g. quitting a behaviour or substance addiction – can often seem more appropriate and achievable.
Furthermore, under the guidance of the therapist, clients can safely access memories, heal and let go of past pain and trauma and create healing metaphors helping to foster a strength-based perspective.
Everyone experiences hypnosis differently however, for some, undergoing hypnotherapy treatment can help them break free from long-term addictive behaviour and self-sabotaging patterns in the waking state.
Many misconceptions exist about hypnotherapy and hypnosis, and many people question whether the practices are safe or effective. Hypnotherapy is completely safe when it is performed by a professional who has been properly trained in this therapy. All AHA Hypnotherapists have achieved the highest of standards that are expected of Clinical Hypnotherapists in Australia. If you are receiving therapy from an AHA therapist you can be assured that therapist has, and continues to, maintain currency in the field of Clinical Hypnotherapy.
What Some Studies Reveal
A growing body of research is highlighting the significant role hypnotherapy can have in treating mental health and addiction issues. Some research studies focus on case studies and treatment methods aiming to understand the most effective hypnotherapy models of treatment. For example, Dr Tracie O'Keefe, a leading Australian researcher in hypnotherapy and psychotherapy, has published research identifying the significant impact hypnotherapy has in treating addiction, promoting sobriety and preventing relapse (O’Keefe, 2017; O’Keefe, 2020). Varied studies look at understanding what types of hypnotherapy methods are successful and how combining hypnotherapy with psychological modalities works well together to foster lasting change. For example, treatment studies that combined hypnotherapy techniques with known psychological treatment models such as cognitive behavioural therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, internal family systems and psychotherapy have been identified as significant for the treatment of addiction, compared to hypnotherapy alone (Barbieri, 2008; O’Keefe, 2020; Potter, 2004). Other studies focus on how hypnotherapy influences neurological changes in the brain (Li et al., 2019). The future of research in hypnotherapy is focusing on looking at changes in neural mechanisms in brain structure. This is an exciting development, the more that is being understood about the possible changes within the network of neurological connections the more hypnotherapy shows its potential as a significant, evidence-based modality in the treatment of addiction and substance abuse disorders and as an effective, therapeutic approach to create lasting physical and emotional wellbeing.
Hypnotherapy For Addiction Is Not A Quick Fix
It is important to know that hypnosis is not some wonder cure that will magically erase addictive behaviour after just a single session. Hypnotherapy is a therapeutic model that is used for unlocking human potential by means of the power of suggestion. Furthermore, hypnotherapy can complement treatment for addiction by helping to heal past pain, trauma and negative, self-defeating thinking patterns which could be linked to triggering and sustaining some addictive impulses. Addiction and substance abuse disorders are complex and challenging. Successful hypnotherapy treatment plans are multi-faceted. Challenges to a successful outcome can be due to many factors, for example, individual experiences of therapy, the flexibility of the treatment plan, therapist skill, and rapport between client and therapist, to name a few (O'Keeffe, 2020). Hypnotherapy can be effective in helping people address addictive behaviour and associating issues, however, relapse can occur. Studies indicate that whilst some clients relapse, the trance state and hypnotherapy overall contribute to lasting benefits for the client though positive outcomes such as developing better self-esteem, emotional intelligence and resilience and renewed hope (Barrett, 2010).
Who Can Perform Hypnotherapy For Addiction
The appropriateness of Clinical hypnotherapy for addictions will sometimes depend on the individual complex needs of the client and their co-existing physical and psychological medical concerns or comorbidities. Due to this, on some occasions, a Clinical hypnotherapist will work with a team of health providers to ensure best quality of care. Many clients, however, will self-refer for addictive behaviours and may be seen independently by a Clinical Hypnotherapist who has been professionally trained from an educational facility recognised by reputable Hypnotherapy Associations such as the AHA. When choosing a suitable hypnotherapist, it is important to take into consideration your unique needs and experiences as a client. Addiction can stem from traumatic life experiences, maladaptive coping mechanisms, along with neurobiological and genetic factors. Therefore, it is important to seek a hypnotherapist who is trained in understanding addiction, mental health, and trauma informed practice to help support a successful treatment (O'Keeffe, 2020).
How Is Hypnotherapy Performed
Hypnotherapists are individualised in their treatment approach however a general example of what might be experienced could include; Prior to the session the hypnotherapist will often speak with the client about what type of sensory experiences make them feel comfortable and safe, for instance a beach, a holiday, or a special place in nature. The therapist will often use this information to encourage the client to imagine that scene, for example, focusing on the sounds of seagulls calling, the sun on your skin, and salt spray of the ocean. This will help the person to go deeper into this calming experience in their mind. If done correctly, the person’s physical surroundings will fade from conscious awareness. The outcome is a powerful mix of dissociation, openness to new experiences, and immersion, contributing to what we know as a hypnotic state. Achieving a hypnotic state can often be done in just a few minutes.
This scene-setting technique can generate the perfect setting for positive transformation. During hypnosis, the person who is hypnotised is more open to suggestions from the hypnotherapist, who can or assist the client to dissociate from a painful incident in the past or help them visualise a solution for their issue. Some people can experience emotional a physical benefit in as little as one or two sessions; however, lasting change may require many more sessions to achieve the desired outcome. It is always important to remember that change will occur at a rate that is right for the individual client.
Scientific studies suggest that hypnotherapy is a powerful promoter of mental and behavioural change that can help clients experiencing out-of-control substance usage, dependency and addiction move towards sobriety and recovery by assisting emotional and behavioural change (O'Keeffe, 2020; O'Keeffe, 2017). In clinical practice, scientific research suggests individualised treatment plans including hypnotherapy combined with psychoeducational counselling methods strengthened a person's success rate and reduced their rate of recidivism leading to long-term sobriety (O'Keefe, 2020; Barbieri, 2008; Potter, 2011).
If you or someone you know are thinking about hypnotherapy for addiction, you can reach out to a certified hypnotherapist to see if you are a viable candidate for hypnotherapy to help you overcome the addiction.
Barbieri, J. L. (2008). The urges approach: urge reduction by growing ego strength (urges) for trauma/addiction treatment using alternate bilateral stimulation, hypnotherapy, ego state therapy and energy psychology. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 15(2), 116–138.
Barrett, D. (2010). Hypnosis and hypnotherapy. Praeger.
Li, X., Chen, L., Ma, R., Wang, H., Wan, L., Bu, J., Hong, W., Lv, W., Yang, Y., Rao, H., & Zhang, X. (2019). The neural mechanisms of immediate and follow-up of the treatment effect of hypnosis on smoking craving. Brain Imaging and Behavior, 14(5), 1487–1497.
O'Keefe, T. (2020). Clinical hypnotherapy for stopping drug and alcohol addiction: building resilience in clients to reduce relapses and remain clean and sober. Australian Journal of Clinical Hypnotherapy and Hypnosis, 41(1), 16–26.
O'Keefe, T. (2017). Recovering from the lost years: four cases of instant cessation of drug addiction utilising the clinical hypnotherapy stop drugs and alcohol 6 step program. Australian Journal of Clinical Hypnotherapy and Hypnosis, 39(1), 3–14.
Potter, G. (2004). Intensive therapy: utilizing hypnosis in the treatment of substance abuse disorders. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 47(1), 21–8.