Hypnotherapy is increasingly popular as a treatment for stress. This article discusses how it works, the evidence behind it and where to find a hypnotherapist.

How it works

Hypnotherapy, like CBT, aims to change our response to problems, but it attempts to do this while we are in a deep sleeplike relaxation state. The hypnotherapist tries to adjust a negative reaction to a problem to a positive, beneficial one while talking to our unconscious mind, in the hope that when we are back to normal we adopt a more positive outlook.

What it could help

Hypnotherapy is perhaps best known for its use in the treatment of insomnia. It has, however, also shown promise for treating stress-related IBS, aches and pains.

Evidence base

Little research has looked into the effectiveness of hypnotherapy specifically on stress management, but there is some into stress symptoms such as chronic pain, smoking, IBS and hypertension, which proved somewhat successful.

Evidence suggests it can be effective in the short term, but it is unclear whether this is simply down to spending time with a therapist in a calming environment. How and why hypnosis works is still unclear because scientists do not know what exactly is being “hypnotized” within the brain and what changes occur.

What to expect

Hypnosis is only a short-term treatment and a course of three to six sessions is advised, with most patients noticing a difference in the way they think after the initial session. Sessions start with a discussion about what you believe your problems are and what you can do about them.

There will be exercises in breathing and visualisation to help you relax before the hypnosis begins. Therapists believe this is particularly important because deepening relaxation will help the effect of hypnosis last longer.

Many therapists teach self-hypnosis techniques so that you can practise the exercises yourself.


Anyone thinking of trying hypnotherapy should seek medical advice from his or her GP first. This is particularly important if they suffer from mental disorders such as clinical depression, epilepsy or schizophrenia.

Ensure the therapist you see is registered with one of the governing bodies and is qualified to practice (see below). Hypnosis requires you to get into a deep state of relaxation so you should be fully comfortable with your therapist.

Find out more

Find a therapist


Some clinics allow a free initial consultation. Most sessions will cost about £60 and the number depends on your needs and the hypnotherapist’s experience and advice.

How does hypnotherapy work?

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