Does Hypnotherapy Work to Treat Mental Illness?

Many doctors are not convinced that hypnosis works and therefore do not use it in their practices. It is also not commonly taught in medical schools. However, evidence indicating that it may be effective is growing stronger.

Hypnosis Studies

Several studies have been conducted to determine the effectiveness of hypnosis. Here are some findings:


A 2016 study involving 57 participants showed that hypnosis affected areas of the brain making for increased emotional control and decreased feelings of self-consciousness that can contribute to mental illness.

A 2017 review found that hypnosis has a significant, immediate, and lasting effect in reducing anxiety in people with cancer.

However, hypnosis appears to work best in relieving anxiety if it is combined with CBT or exposure therapy.

Fear and Phobias

Hypnosis has been shown to reduce fear in people with phobias and other fear reactions. It lowers the blood pressure and produces a calm state that allows the mind to focus away from fearful thinking.


A review of two randomized controlled trials and one case study showed that hypnotherapy produced an improvement in BAI, BDI-II, and BHS scores that contribute to depression.

It also found that hypnosis was more effective than antidepressants in treating depressions.

The case study provided evidence that hypnotherapy can be even more effective when it is used on both the patient and their family.


A 2011 study involving the children affected by the 2002 attacks in Bali showed a 77% improvement of symptoms after hypnosis was integrated into treatment.

A 2013 review of 6 experiments conducted on hypnotherapy used to treat PTSD and showed it can provide long-term and short-term positive results.

A 2001 report detailed the treatment of a British war veteran who had been dealing with PTSD for over 40 years. He was reported to be symptom-free after undergoing hypnotherapy sessions.


Here are some factors to consider in determining if hypnotherapy is right for you:

● Not Everyone Can Be Hypnotized: According to research, only about 10% of the population is highly hypnotizable. Others may be able to achieve a hypnotic state, but they won’t be as receptive to suggestions.

● Hypnotherapy Will Be More Effective Over Time: Hypnotherapy is an ongoing process and results may not always be immediate. It is common for patients to start with 4–5 sessions. Then the therapist will decide how many more are needed.


There are many types of therapy that are recommended for the treatment of mental health issues.

Though hypnosis is not a treatment that is traditionally well accepted, if you are considering it as an option, this is also a good opportunity to prompt discussion about other treatments of mental illness with your primary care provider or professional licensed therapist.




Dr. Alddo Molinar is an anesthesiologist, based in Martins Ferry, OH, who received his medical degree from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School.

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Alddo Molinar

Alddo Molinar

Dr. Alddo Molinar is an anesthesiologist, based in Martins Ferry, OH, who received his medical degree from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School.

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