Hypnotherapy

Our rating
 Question mark: This treatment has not been properly researched. It is not possible to say whether they are useful or not.

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The rating system

  • 3 smiliesThese treatments are very useful. They are strongly supported as effective by scientific evidence.
  • 2 smiliesThese treatments are useful. They are supported by scientific evidence as effective, but the evidence is not as strong.
  • 1 smileyThese treatments are promising and may be useful. They have some evidence to support them, but more evidence is needed to be sure they work.
  • No smiley On the available evidence, these treatments do not seem to be effective.
  • Question markThese treatments have not been properly researched. It is not possible to say whether they are useful or not.
  • These treatments are not recommended and could be dangerousSafety or other concerns have been raised for the use of these treatments.

What is it?

Hypnotherapy involves the use of hypnosis in treatment. Hypnosis is a mental state in which a person focuses their attention and they become more receptive to suggestions. The state of hypnosis is rather like becoming engrossed in a good film or book. The person becomes so involved in the film or book that they respond to the emotions of the story, even though they know that the events in the story are not real.

How does it work?

Hypnosis can be used in various ways to help treat depression. Two of the most common uses are:

  • To promote relaxation and reduce anxiety. People who are depressed often experience anxiety as well.
  • To help overcome negative thoughts. If the person undergoing hypnosis can substitute their negative thoughts with more positive thoughts, this might help to improve their mood.

Is it effective?

There is some scientific evidence on hypnotherapy for the treatment of depression, however more studies of better quality are needed. A number of studies have found that hypnotherapy has a moderate positive effect on people’s mood, however there are very few studies which have looked at people with diagnosed depression.

However, hypnotherapy might be helpful when added to a proven form of talk therapy called cognitive behaviour therapy (or CBT for short). Canadian researchers found that hypnotherapy combined with CBT reduced depression symptoms 6% more than CBT alone. The benefits remained for at least 12 months.

Are there any disadvantages?

Some people can enter a hypnotic state more easily than others. Hypnotherapy will be difficult for those who are hard to hypnotise. If you see a hypnotherapist there may be some cost associated with treatment that is not covered by Medicare. If you see a psychologist who provides hypnotherapy, Medicare may provide a rebate for visits under the Better Access to Mental Health Care scheme.

Where do you get it?

Hypnotherapists are listed in the Yellow Pages. Some psychologists are trained in providing hypnotherapy. In Australia, you can use the “Find a Psychologist” service on the Australian Psychological Society website to find a psychologist in your area. The results can be filtered to show psychologists who offer hypnosis along with other therapies.

Recommendation

There is not enough good evidence at this stage to recommend hypnosis as a treatment for depression.

Key references

  • Alladin A. Cognitive Hypnotherapy for Major Depressive Disorder. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis. 2012; 54(4): 275-93.
  • Alladin A, Alibhai A. Cognitive hypnotherapy for depression: an empirical investigation. The International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis. 2007; 55(2): 147-66.
  • Shih M, Yang Y-H, Koo M. A Meta-Analysis of Hypnosis in the Treatment of Depressive Symptoms: A Brief Communication. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis. 2009; 57(4): 431-42.

Last reviewed and updated: 1 November 2019