Hypnotherapy, a powerful and often misunderstood therapeutic technique, has been gaining recognition for its efficacy in addressing many common problems such as stress, fear, smoking, obesity, pain, IBS, insomnia, and substance abuse. This article delves into this fascinating modality, unraveling its mysteries and shedding light on its profound impact on the human mind.

The Basics of Hypnotherapy:

At its core, hypnotherapy involves inducing a state of deep physical relaxation, focused attention along with heightened suggestibility. Contrary to common misconceptions, it is not a form of mind control, but rather a collaborative process between practitioner and the client. A hypnotherapist guides the client into a more receptive level of thought and then offers positive suggestions supporting healthy change.

Understanding the Hypnotic Trance:

Think of hypnotherapy as goal-oriented meditation. With simple direction and creative scenarios clients are comfortably guided into a deep daydream state, which is something we all routinely experience in the form of ‘zoning out’ or becoming momentarily ‘lost in our thoughts’. Another example is the phenomenon referred to as ‘highway hypnosis’ when, on long drives, we can slide into that daydream state and reach our destination with no clear memory of the journey.

These are common, everyday examples of when the subconscious mind is more open and active. It’s also important to understand that we as humans can shift from one level of awareness to another. Hypnosis is a language tool enabling this therapeutic transition.

Benefit of Accessing Subconscious Thought:

This is why hypnotherapy is such a powerful tool. Think of the subconscious as the hard drive; the home of all habits, memories, emotions, values and beliefs that shape the routine patterns of our daily lives.  If we routinely repeat any pattern of action, thought, or emotion, and its repeated long enough, it becomes rooted in the subconscious mind for better or worse.

In life, it’s all about our routine pattern of thought, how we think and what we most routinely think about that dictates our life experience; how we feel, how we appear, and how we respond to the world around us.

It’s also important to know that the subconscious doesn’t care if the pattern is good or bad; healthy or not. It also doesn’t matter what we intellectually or consciously may prefer. Once problem patterns are rooted, they can feel automatic. Smokers know that smoking is a potentially deadly habit, and they are also certainly aware of the cost. Along with the addictive qualities of nicotine, the repetitive, ritualistic pattern of smoking reinforces the habit to continue, despite what we might consciously prefer.

Another example of a pattern problem is dieting. There is a good reason why there are dozens of diets to choose from, dieting doesn’t work. Slick, manipulative advertising promises rapid results often involving extreme restrictions or unsustainable practices, leading to short-term weight loss followed by rebound weight gain when normal eating resumes. UCLA posted this study: in less than two years, 23% of dieters gained back more weight than they lost. In more than two years that percentage rose to 83%.

The dieting concept implies a temporary, conscious level change with eating habit patterns which reside on a much deeper, subconscious, level. It’s not a pound problem, it’s a pattern problem. Dieting is like weeding your garden by only clipping them off at the ground level. It looks great for a while, but the problem always returns.

For lasting results, it’s crucial to adopt a more permanent and balanced lifestyle, focusing on nourishing the body rather than just restricting calories. Desperate overweight individuals continue searching for an answer that is not readily available.

With hypnotherapy, we can create an emotional disconnect from the problem pattern and plant seeds supporting healthy change. Clients then take the same approach to establish sustainable relief as they previously took to secure the problem, repetition.

My clients have easy access to mp3 recordings of their sessions via Dropbox and listen daily for a minimum of 3 months. Without repetition the office session is like a massage; it feels good in the moment but it’s always back to business as usual.

A great longevity study confirmed that 71% of patients with irritable bowel syndrome, who listened daily to home recordings of IBS specific hypnosis sessions for 3 months were still symptom-free after 5 years. (Gonsalkorale WM 2003)

Just follow the feeling. The advantage hypnotherapy has over other options is that it feels wonderful. When that feel-good connection is made on the initial visit, clients never see listening to home sessions as a chore.

Applications of Hypnotherapy:

Hypnotherapy has proven to be effective in treating a wide range of conditions. These include, but are not limited to:

  1. Anxiety and Stress Management: Hypnotherapy helps individuals achieve deep relaxation, alleviating anxiety and stress by reprogramming negative thought patterns.
  2. Smoking Cessation: By targeting the subconscious mind’s associations with smoking, hypnotherapy aids in breaking the habit and promoting a smoke-free lifestyle.
  3. Weight Loss: Addressing the root causes of unhealthy eating habits, hypnotherapy supports individuals in adopting positive behaviors for sustainable weight loss.
  4. Pain Management: Chronic pain sufferers can benefit from hypnotherapy as it helps modulate the perception of pain and promotes relaxation, reducing reliance on medication.
  5. Phobias and Fears: Hypnotherapy assists in uncovering the origins of phobias and fears, facilitating their resolution through targeted suggestions.
  6. Substance abuse: Hypnotherapy can initiate a sense of euphoria which clients can enjoy daily. With repetition, this new experience can become a preferred alternative to drugs and/or alcohol.

The Therapeutic Process:

In my practice, the initial visit involves a discussion of the client’s goals and concerns, followed by a review of how/why hypnotherapy can help. Then I teach clients how to listen to a session properly, and what to experience in terms of physical sensations such as warmth, tingling, weightlessness or feeling peacefully heavy.

I also review the potential of unique visual imagery such as colors or unexpected imaginative scenarios and how personal experiences with hypnotherapy can vary from day to day. It’s best to allow each session to be uniquely right for you that moment in time.

Prior to conducting the hypnotherapy session, I also teach my clients how to do self-hypnosis. This is a simple technique that empowers individuals to access meditative relaxation on their own which only takes about 10 minutes.

With self-hypnosis the client is in a light meditative trance which makes it so easy to then transition into the hypnotherapy session. Most clients have no previous experience with hypnotherapy and this approach makes it so much easier for anyone to get into the flow of the process on the first visit.

Once the session begins, I help clients into deeper mediative relaxation and then guide them through creative scenarios supporting specific goals. This is very much a collaborative process where clients are actively participating in their own healthy transformation.

Ethical Considerations:

This empowering modality is rapidly becoming more widely embraced thanks in part to the many meditation apps readily available to anyone searching for healthy relief. However, there is still a long way to go.

At the time of this writing there are thirty states offering specific standards of practice for hypnotherapy [more]. Fifteen states defer to the guidelines presented by the National Guild of Hypnotists and the remaining states currently have no formal recommendations.


Hypnotherapy, once relegated to the realm of mysticism, is now experiencing growing recognition as a legitimate and effective therapeutic modality. As our understanding of the mind continues to evolve, hypnotherapy stands as a beacon of hope for those seeking positive and lasting changes in their lives. The key lies in unlocking the potential of the subconscious mind, harnessing its power for personal transformation and self-healing.

by: Paul Gustafson RN CH