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Hypnotherapy is a mind-body intervention that uses guided hypnosis to help a client reach a state of heightened suggestibility with the intent of treating a medical or psychological disorder or problem.

Psychology Today defines hypnosis as a mental state of highly focused concentration, diminished peripheral awareness, and heightened suggestibility. Although techniques may vary, hypnotists usually bring about a state of hypnosis through mental imagery and soothing verbal repetition, easing the subject into a trance-like state. When relaxed, a subject's mind is more open to transformative messages.

Therapists use hypnosis to help people relax, reduce pain sensations, and bring about a desired behavioral change, such as treating addiction. The process is known as hypnotherapy when used to promote health and wellness, as opposed to parlor hypnosis.

Traditional hypnotherapy is the form practiced by most Victorian hypnotists. This type uses direct suggestion of symptom removal, some use of therapeutic relaxation, and sometimes aversion to drugs, alcohol, or whatever the addiction being treated might be.

Ericksonian hypnotherapy is based on the concept that social tension defines dysfunctional behaviors. In this form, the hypnotherapist first coopts the subject's behavior to establish rapport, then uses an informational conversational approach to direct awareness. Neuro-linguistic programming adapts this approach.

Similar in many respects, solution-focused therapy focuses on what the client hopes to achieve rather than the issues that led to the client seeking help.

Curative hypnotherapy was developed by Dr. Peter Marshall, who held that people suffering from depression and some other neuroses are already living in a trance, so the therapy is focused on helping clients understand this, then leading them out of it.

Mindful hypnotherapy combines hypnotherapy with mindfulness, which is the practice of purposely bringing the client's attention to the present through meditation or other training. It is generally used to treat anxiety and stress.

Gut-directed hypnotherapy is used to help patients with irritable bowel syndrome to control and normalize their gastrointestinal functions.

Other than those mentioned above, hypnotherapy is used in the treatment of menopause, childbirth, bulimia, post-traumatic stress disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dementia, depression, and reduction of nausea and vomiting in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.

Hypnosis has often been used to improve memory, particularly in cases where law enforcement authorities are seeking to enhance a witness' recollection of a crime. However, research suggests that these effects have been greatly exaggerated, and that hypnosis sometimes results in false or distorted memories.

Hypnotherapy is usually a complementary therapy.

Accreditation requirements and regulation of hypnosis and hypnotherapy differ from place to place. Some states have mandatory licensing and registration requirements in the United States, while others have no specific regulations governing hypnotherapy. The American Psychological Association and the American Medical Association have recognized hypnotherapy as a legitimate procedure since 1958, and the National Institutes of Health has recommended it as a treatment option for chronic pain since 1995. The United Kingdom has developed occupational standards and certification requirements for hypnotherapy, while there are currently no government regulations pertaining to the practice in Australia.

Research suggests that from ten to fifteen percent of people are very responsive to hypnosis, while about ten percent of adults are difficult or impossible to hypnotize. Children are more susceptible than adults, and people who are easily absorbed in fantasies are much more responsive to hypnosis. However, hypnosis requires voluntary participation on the part of the subject, and hypnotists cannot make a subject perform actions contrary to their core values.

Harmful effects are rare, although hypnosis may be unsafe for some people suffering from severe mental illness. Otherwise, harmful reactions are uncommon but may include dizziness, headaches, nausea, drowsiness, anxiety, and sleep problems.


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