How Hypnotherapy Heals
The benefits of hypnotherapy for trauma.
Posted November 14, 2020 | Reviewed by Gary Drevitch
Hypnotherapy is often combined with other trauma therapies and may be used during all stages of recovery, with specific methods geared toward safety, uncovering, or integration. It can be an effective tool to engage the body and to explore imagery about the body before actually incorporating movement or touch. There are simple approaches to hypnotherapy that practitioners can incorporate as well as comprehensive training and certification programs and professional societies.
What Is Hypnotherapy?
Hypnotherapy is defined as a patterned use of communication designed to elicit an altered state of consciousness (Gleason, 1992) characterized by cognitive, perceptual, and sensory changes (Brown & Fromm, 1987). Also referred to as ideodynamic healing, it is based on the relationship that words and ideas have with dynamic physiological function (Rossi & Cheek, 1988). Forms of ideodynamic healing date back to 1500 BCE (Rossi, 1986). Hypnotherapy has broad application for integrative posttrauma therapy in areas of body image, pain, and health. Hypnotherapy provides an important conceptual link between the mind, body, dissociation, and trance states. People with dissociative symptoms are often capable of an unusual degree of psychological control over various somatic functions (Spiegel, 1994) making them good candidates for hypnotherapy. As a method of trance induction for clients, hypnotherapy is isomorphic, facilitating a dissociative-like (hypnoidal) consciousness familiar to victims of abuse. However, the difference is that the locus of control is with the client. Thus hypnotherapy can help a client utilize this control for his or her benefit.
Hypnotherapy bridges the use of words with visual imagery and engages the ultradian rhythm to help reestablish systemic equilibrium and integrate cognitive-affective-somatic changes. Hypnotherapy that is nondirective and nonsuggestive uses the natural trance of the 90-minute ultradian rhythm as a psychotherapeutic tool.
Clinical Exercise: Creating a Hypnotherapeutic Recording
Utilization of the ultradian rhythm, both in therapy and through methods for home use, helps to access the mind/body’s innate capacity to self-regulate the autonomic nervous system. Creating a hypnotherapeutic recording is an effective method to help a client reduce pain, fear, and anxiety or to reduce body image distortions.
During the treatment process, a client may hear about age regression hypnotherapy and become eager to uncover early life memories; he or she may ask about, or even insist on, doing hypnotherapy. An experienced hypnotherapist should do this type of therapy. In evaluating the variety of options for supporting self-regulation strategies with clients, I consider the portal—that is, does one enter via the body, the mind, or spiritual or energetic methods? They all lead to the same place. However, much like the house with several entries, so do the strategies or technologies become more effective when they are linked to the specific needs of the individual and their stage of recovery.
Read more about trauma-informed treatments in my book Rhythms of Recovery: Trauma, Nature, and the Body.
Gleason, G. (1992). Mutual hypnosis. Whole Earth Review, 75, 28-30.
Brown, D., & Fromm, E. (1987). Hypnosis and behavioral medicine. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Rossi, E.L. (1986). The psychobiology of mind-body healing: New concepts of therapeutic hypnosis. New York: Norton.
Rossi, E.L., & Cheek, D.B. (1988). Mind-body therapy: Methods of ideodynamic healing in hypnosis. New York: Norton.
Spiegel, D. (Ed.). (1994). Dissociation: Culture, mind, and body. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press.