Hypnotherapy

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Category: Allied Health Options

What is it?

Hypnotherapy is a form of treatment that sends the client into a hypnotic state. Hypnosis is a natural altered state of consciousness or awareness where the mind is relaxed and focused. Hypnotherapy may involve a range of different strategies where the overall goal is to bring the patient in contact with the reality of the traumatic event and then focus on the appropriate suggestions made by the therapist. Hypnotherapy as described here aims to re-program patterns of behaviour within the mind, enabling irrational fears, negative thoughts and suppressed emotions to be overcome.

How does it work?

During hypnotherapy, the client can set aside limiting beliefs that prevent him or her to move towards a healthier and happier self. As the conscious mind is inactive during the state of hypnosis it is likely to respond to suggestions and permit access to the traumatic memories. When in this state, positive suggestions can be introduced to process these traumatic memories in a less stressful way.

Is it effective?

The results of a recent study have demonstrated the benefit of an add-on hypnotherapy in patients with chronic, combat related PTSD who were suffering from chronic insomnia and sleep disorders. Another earlier study reported significantly lower trauma-related symptoms among PTSD patients who were treated with hypnotherapy than those in the wait-list control group.

Research evidence has shown that hypnotherapy may be an effective technique for PTSD but more clinical trials are needed before any firm conclusions can be drawn.

Are there any disadvantages?

There may be mild feelings of fatigue and disorientation following the hypnotic experience. Recollections may sometimes be experienced more vividly. Hypnotherapy may be offered as part of, or in combination with, other interventions for PTSD.

Where do you get it?

Hypnotherapy can only be administered by a registered mental health professional.

What are the evidence limitations?

The evidence taken from the study mentioned above has limitations that need to be acknowledged. The number of participants was relatively small. In addition, the hypnotherapy intervention was added to an ongoing treatment and thus its sole contribution was difficult to determine out of the overall effects. Therefore interpreting this evidence should be undertaken with caution.

Recommendations

Whilst there is some evidence to suggest that hypnotherapy can work in some patients with PTSD, there is not enough research to confidently say that this intervention is effective for all patients with PTSD.

Key References

Abramowitz, EG, Barak, Y, Ben-Avi, I & Knobler, HY 2008, ‘Hypnotherapy in the treatment of chronic combat-related PTSD patients suffering from insomnia: A randomised, Zolpidem-Controlled Clinical Trial’, International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, vol. 56, no. 3, pp. 270-280.

Brom, D, Kleber, RJ, Defares, PB 1989, ‘Brief Psychotherapy for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder’, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, vol. 57, no. 50, pp. 607-612.

Cardena, E 2000, ‘Hypnosis in the treatment of trauma: A promising, but not fully supported, efficacious intervention’, International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, vol. 48, no. 2, pp. 225-238

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