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Depression and Hypnotherapy

A study by Alladin and Alibhai found that combining hypnotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapy (termed "cognitive hypnotherapy) produced enhanced outcomes by way of reductions in depression, anxiety and hopelessness for the patients exposed to the treatment1. This improvement was maintained at 6 and 12 months of follow up and therefore warrants further studies to prove the efficacy of this combination of treatments.

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Effect of Hypnotherapy on Depression

Hypnotherapy is therapy done while the patient has undergone hypnosis or a sleep-like state ("hypnosis" is derived from the Greek term "hypno" meaning sleep). Also sometimes referred to as a trance state or altered state of consciousness, undergoing this altered state can be considered a natural part of psychotherapy controlled and guided by the therapist.4 Hypnotherapy is often applied to patients looking to change their behaviors or alter their emotions. Modern hypnotherapy is used in the treatment of depression symptoms like anxiety, insomnia and stress or for depression itself.

Cognitive Hypnotherapy (CH) is a specific form of hypnotherapy developed for use in the treatment of depression. CH combines the cognitive restructuring and reframing of negative thoughts as used in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) with the direct manipulation of thoughts brought on by the trance state of hypnosis.1 It is thought to be important to address both the symptom of anxiety while also treating depression, as is done with the combination of CBT with hypnosis.2

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Research Evidence on Hypnotherapy

Alladin and Alibhai note that further studies are required addressing the efficacy of cognitive hypnotherapy for it to be recognized by the American Psychological Association as a legitimate treatment for depression.2 However, the authors note that being a extremely idiographic (or distinctive and individual experience for each patient and practitioner) therapy, the therapist's creativity should not be curtailed by an evidence-based practice.2 Regardless, further study is warranted.

Safety Issues

In the hands of a competent practitioner, hypnotherapy should present no more risks than any other form of psychotherapy. These risks might include worsening of the original problem and temporary fluctuations in mood.

Contrary to various works of fiction, hypnosis does not give the hypnotist absolute power over his subject. However, as with all forms of psychotherapy, the hypnotherapist does gain some power over the client through the client’s trust; an unethical therapist can abuse this.

Other Uses

Hypnotherapy is being studied for use in the treatment of many emotional disorders and/or their symptoms including: anxiety, behavioral, personality and-as discussed- depressive disorders.


  1. Phillips, M. (2003). Cognitive Hypnotherapy (2003). American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis. Retrieved from does it work?
  2. Alladin, A., Alibhai, A. (2007). Cognitive Hypnotherapy for Depression: an empirical investigation.t J Clin Exp Hypnosis (55) 147-166.How does it work?
  3. Alladin, A. & Heap, M. (1991). Hypnosis and Depression. M Heap, W Dryden (eds) Hypnotherapy: A Handbook. Milton Keynes: Open University Press, 49-67.
  4. Godoy, P.H.T. (1999). The Use of Hypnosis in Posttraumatic Stress Disorders, Eating Disorders, Sexual Disorders, Addictions, Depression and Psychosis: An Eight Year Review (Part Two). Australian Journal of Clinical Hypnotherapy an dHypnosis 20(2) 73-85.**

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