Hypnotherapy as Treatment for Addiction

Hypnotherapy, or guided hypnosis, is a form of psychotherapy that has been used to help treat addiction in some patients. What is it and what does it feel like? This guide to hypnosis and substance and alcohol abuse recovery answers these questions and more.

Last Edited: 04/10/2021

Author: Melissa Knight Melissa Knight

Clinically Reviewed:

04/22/2021

Medical Reviewer:

Dr. Ahmad Alsayes

Dr. Ahmad Alsayes

For years, hypnosis was viewed as a mystical practice rooted in rituals and the unknown. However, with the help of experts in the field, it is becoming less frightening and more therapeutic than many imagined possible. Now, we find ourselves asking – is it possible to be hypnotized out of addiction?

It turns out that hypnosis might actually be an effective form of addiction therapy, especially when combined with other forms of treatments.

There are many ways that substance abuse is treated. Between 12-step models, holistic or alternative therapies, and Medication-Assisted treatment, also known as MAT, there are plenty of options for those that need to overcome an addiction. What’s even better is that mixing and matching can be even more effective, because each therapy addresses a different aspect of the addiction.

Hypnotherapy has become a type of alternative treatment option that many are choosing to at least try. This form of therapy is fairly new in the treatment of a variety of substance addictions, however, it has been used for years to treat nicotine addiction and help individuals quit smoking. What’s more, hypnosis hails all the way back to Ancient Egyptian medicine.

Of course, we are now talking about modern hypnotherapy, which has become much more advanced, and there is much to learn about what it is, and how effective it can be in helping to overcome addictions.

What Is Hypnotherapy?

Hypnotherapy is when a person is brought into a state of high focus and relaxation. It is almost like being in a trance, and the person that has been hypnotized is very open to suggestions. It is sometimes thought of as suggestive therapy.

Research even backs the power of suggestion, and many experts feel that this can be a very helpful method to treat conditions that include eating disorders, depression, and even addiction. Thus, this holistic therapy can be helpful with many different conditions.

What Hypnosis Feels Like During Hypnotherapy

Many describe being under hypnosis as a relaxed feeling that is somewhere between being awake and asleep. While being hypnotized may lead to sleep, usual hypnotherapy sessions will give patients just enough stimulation that they stay conscious and calm.

Simply put, the person who undergoes hypnotherapy will likely experience sensations such as:

  • A relaxation of the muscles
  • Drooping eyelids
  • Slowed heart rate and breathing
  • A state of calmness
  • An openness to suggestion

Being hypnotized often feels a bit like getting lost reading a book or watching a movie, especially when the sessions provide the individual with extreme focus.

How Hypnotherapy Helps With Addiction

Hypnotherapy has been shown to help people with addiction in many ways, including:

Battling co-occurring disorders

Many of those that struggle with substance abuse disorders have additional associated mental health conditions. In some cases, anxiety and depression can trigger an increase in the severity of the addiction. Hypnotherapy might be helpful to those that have co-occurring disorders, in that it may decrease triggers and target the root cause of the substance abuse disorder..

Increasing motivation for sobriety

Many feel that a hypnotic state is a tool that helps to open the mind through suggestion. Hypnotherapy can be used to help “plant” thoughts into the subconscious such as the desire to avoid using substances or alcohol to overcome addiction, and feeling strong enough to overcome the challenges that life can throw at a person.

Aid for stress reduction

Drug detox, combined with continued cravings for the source of addiction can cause a person’s anxiety to increase. Further anxiety and stress is likely to complicate the recovery process. Hypnotherapy can help to reduce stress, and when combined with other lifestyle changes such as exercise and nutrition, might be helpful in preventing relapse due to stress.

Benefits Of Using Hypnotherapy In Addiction Treatment

There are many benefits to using hypnotherapy as part of an addiction treatment program:

  • Very few, if any, side effects: Hypnotherapy is a type of treatment that uses no medications, so the process is completely natural. While some patients do report feeling a bit drowsy or dizzy, these effects go away quickly.
  • Perfect for those that prefer alternative treatments: Some people don’t necessarily do well with the usual types of treatment for substance abuse disorders. These individuals might choose to try other non-12-Step methods to help them overcome their addictions. Hypnotherapy can be a solid addition to their recovery plan.
  • Improved sleep: Under hypnosis, the body becomes very relaxed, and researchers believe that hypnotherapy can boost time spent in the deeper stages of sleep . Since getting enough sleep is an important part of overcoming substance abuse disorders, boosting the quality of sleep is important to general health and recovery.
  • Eases chronic pain: Withdrawal from drugs and alcohol can often include chronic pain. Hypnotherapy can play a significant role in managing that pain by giving the patient greater levels of control over their perceptions of pain.

Does Hypnosis Cure Drug Addiction?

Many who are working to overcome addiction often believe that hypnotherapy is the end-all-be-all of recovery. While it can definitely be helpful, there is no one way to cure addictions. Most of the time, it will take personal effort to engage in a a combination of methods to fully overcome substance or alcohol abuse.

In general, hypnotherapy is a supplemental treatment for substance or alcohol addiction, and it is often used secondary to other treatments. Stronger evidence-based therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) are often used as the primary type of treatment. However, when combined with these other methods, hypnotherapy can significantly increase the odds of a successful recovery.

Should Hypnosis Be Used As Part Of Drug Addiction Treatment?

Hypnosis can be effective in combating many mental health conditions including substance abuse. It is often included in the many options that one can choose from when enrolling in a high-quality rehab center.

Some things to consider when deciding whether to incorporate hypnotherapy in a treatment plan include:

  • How do I feel about non-conventional addiction treatments?
  • Do I want to work with a hypnotherapist on a regular basis?
  • Do my beliefs line up with the use of hypnotherapy?
  • Do I understand the possible side effects of hypnotherapy?

While hypnosis is a relatively low-risk treatment, it might not be for everyone. Some people struggle to go into a hypnotic state or resist the hypnotherapy, making hypnosis ineffective. Substance abuse specialists will do a full assessment to determine which treatment methods will be the most effective for each individual.

Hypnotherapy: An Alternative Treatment With Many Possibilities

Hypnotherapy is a growing addiction treatment method that is showing great promise. Although it is not the only thing that one will need to enjoy a full recovery, it can be a solid building block in an effective substance abuse treatment program that includes other types of evidence-based therapies.

Sources

  1. Johnmongiovi.com – “A History of Hypnosis: from Ancient Times to Modern Psychology”
  2. Medicalxpress.com – “The power of suggestion: Researchers look at why suggestive therapy may prompt false memories”
  3. Mentalfloss.com – “11 Reasons Why Being In Nature is Relaxing”
  4. Science.howstuffworks.com – “What Is Hypnosis?”
  5. Pennmedicine.org – “6 Surprising Health Benefits of Hypnosis”

Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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