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Using Hypnotherapy in Addiction Treatment

Written by Rob Alston

& Medically Reviewed by Dr. Trisha Sippel, PhD

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Last Updated - 07/15/20

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Hypnotherapy is a holistic approach to addiction treatment where the person is made susceptible to change. It can approve the outcomes of comprehensive treatment plans for substance use disorders.

Hypnotherapy is a holistic therapy that can be used to treat a variety of ailments, including for addiction treatment. Therapeutic hypnosis involves the use of hypnosis to alter the way a person unconsciously approaches their disorder and the factors that influence their decisions. Hypnosis for addiction treatment can be used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan that includes therapy, group support and/or maintenance medication.

What Is Hypnotherapy?

Hypnotherapy has been used for mental health treatment, including hypnotherapy for addiction. Hypnotherapy involves using hypnosis to unconsciously inform a person on how to make changes in their life. Hypnosis is a state of relaxation where a person is extremely focused and highly susceptible to suggestions. Under normal circumstances, a person may be resistant to change, even when it could have a positive effect on their life. Hypnosis helps to break down that barrier and make a person more open to suggestions.

There are two types of hypnotherapy: traditional and Ericksonian hypnosis. Traditional hypnosis uses the belief that someone can be told what to do through direct commands while under hypnosis, while the Ericksonian hypnosis method uses suggestions rather than direct orders.

During a hypnotherapy session, a hypnotherapist will first speak with the person about their disorder. They will learn about the challenges the person faces and what changes they would like to make in their life. The therapist will then help the person to achieve a hypnotic state. While in this hypnotic state, the therapist will give the person suggestions about changing their life that they want them to implement later on after the hypnosis session is over.

What Does Hypnosis Feel Like?

There are many myths about hypnosis, mostly brought on by the stage performances where people from the audience are hypnotized and told to do ridiculous things. Unlike these performances would suggest, hypnosis will not make you do things against your will. However, it can help you let your guard down and be more receptive to suggestions that will be helpful to you.

A person gets into a hypnotic state when a hypnotherapist helps the person deeply relax. They will get to a point where they are open to suggestions the therapist is making and will take them into consideration later after the session is over and after they have returned to their normal state.

How Is Hypnotherapy Used in Addiction Treatment?

Hypnotherapy can help with the treatment of substance use disorders in a number of ways. Hypnosis for drug and alcohol addiction can:

  • Reduce withdrawal symptoms
  • Help reduce cravings
  • Ease emotional or physical pain associated with recovery
  • Help the person make changes to behaviors that are fueling their disorder
  • Improving emotional health; making it easier to cope with change

Benefits of Hypnotherapy in Drug Programs

There are many advantages of using hypnosis in substance use treatment programs, such as using hypnosis for alleviating the symptoms of opiate withdrawal. When combined with therapy and/or medications, the person may be more susceptible to changing their life for the better and sticking to their treatment plan. If the hypnotherapist is aware of the treatment plan a person is using, they can make suggestions while the person is in a hypnotic state to encourage them to stick to their treatment.

Hypnotherapy can also be used for anxiety, which a person may experience during a substance use treatment program. Using hypnosis to relax and relieve the stress associated with changing their life and avoiding drug use may help them achieve their goals.

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Effectiveness of Hypnotherapy

Hypnosis can be used as a holistic substance abuse treatment in combination with other treatment methods. Hypnosis on its own is not considered a valid treatment method for substance use disorders. However, when used in combination with a comprehensive treatment program that involves therapy and/or medications, it may help to improve the outcomes of these methods.

The effectiveness of hypnotherapy for treating substance use disorders was suggested early on, and a few studies have looked at how effective it can be. One study found that using group hypnosis as an added treatment for people with opioid use disorders who were currently on maintenance medication therapy. They found that:

  • After 10 weekly sessions of group hypnotherapy, all 10 participants stopped the use of street drugs and continued abstaining from drug use for six months.
  • At two years, 78% did not return to heroin use but 67% had returned to the occasional use of benzodiazepines.

One of the disadvantages of hypnosis to treat substance use disorders is that it is not effective for everyone. Some people are more susceptible to change than others, making them a better candidate for hypnotherapy.

Finding Drug Addiction Treatment

The decision to take control of your life and get treatment for a substance use disorder can be difficult. It is important that the type of treatment you receive fits your individual needs and gives you the most chances for success. If you are interested in therapeutic hypnosis treatment, you will need to find a drug addiction treatment center that offers this service.

If you are looking for a holistic drug rehab center in Florida, the Recovery Village Palm Beach at Baptist Health can help. We used holistic treatments in combination with therapy and medications to provide comprehensive treatment plans for individuals with substance use disorder. Contact us today to take your first step toward recovery.

View Sources

Kaminsky, D.; Rosca, P.; Budowski, D.; Korin, Y.; Yakhnich, L. “[Group hypnosis treatment of drug addicts].” Harefuah, August-September, 2008. Accessed on September 23, 2019.

Harman, B. J; “The Use of Hypnosis in the Treatment of Drug Addiction.” Journal of the National Medical Association, January, 1972. Accessed on September 23, 2019.

Matthews, William J.; Conti, James; Starr, Lorrie. “Ericksonian Hypnosis: A Review Of the Empirical Data.” Sleep and Hypnosis, 1999. Accessed September 23, 2019.