Hypnotherapy for PTSD

Dealing with the stress caused by a traumatic event can feel crippling. While there are several treatment options available—cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), cognitive processing therapy (CPT), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)—they don't work for everyone.

Hypnotherapy can be a great alternative for those struggling with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as symptoms of other anxiety disorders.

Female therapist guiding patient through hypnotherapy
B. BOISSONNET / BSIP / Getty Images 

Hypnotherapy and PTSD

When you're hypnotized, you're in a trance-like state. Although this state appears similar to sleep, you're fully awake and aware of what's going on around you. You're able to relax and shut out the everyday world.

While in this trance-like state, your therapist will help you safely access your memories to better understand the emotions surrounding your trauma. Guided by your therapist, you'll identify your triggers and tame the way you react or feel about them.

It has been suggested that hypnosis may help prevent or reduce dissociation following exposure to a traumatic event, reduce symptoms of anxiety, and help people get in touch with memories and feelings associated with their traumatic experience.

Is Hypnotherapy Effective?

Many case studies and a few clinical studies have been done to demonstrate the success rate of hypnosis as a treatment option for PTSD. A meta-analysis of these studies concluded that hypnosis appears to be effective in alleviating PTSD symptoms.

A few studies have even been done comparing the effectiveness of hypnotherapy to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and psychodynamic psychotherapy in treating PTSD. One study found that when used on its own, hypnotherapy was as successful as psychodynamic psychotherapy, sometimes even more so. Another study showed that hypnosis used in conjunction with CBT was just as effective as CBT alone in improving PTSD symptoms up to two years following treatment.

How to Find a Therapist

Hypnotherapy is a complex and controversial technique and it may not be for everyone. Your doctor or therapist will be able to help you determine if hypnotherapy is the right treatment option for your particular needs. If you are currently seeing a therapist who is not trained in hypnosis, you can ask them to provide you with a referral.

You can find more information about treatment providers in your area who might offer hypnotherapy through professional organizations like the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis and the American Association of Professional Hypnotherapists.

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