Does hypnotherapy really work?

I’m often surprised by the number of people who will say to me (knowing that I’m a qualified hypnotherapist for over 17 years) “does hypnotherapy really work?” Given that I’ve been doing this so long and that much of my work comes from word-of-mouth recommendations, it seems obvious to me just how effective hypnotherapy can be.

In fact in many ways it seems like a strange question to ask me, as I can’t imagine someone walking up to dentist and asking “does dentistry really work?”

So this conundrum got me wondering, what is it about hypnosis and hypnotherapy that means that people are more likely to ask this ‘does it really work’ question?

A few hypnotherapy misnomers


There are plenty of misnomers around what hypnosis is which I suspect may come from the following sources:

  • Televised stage hypnotists getting people to cluck like chickens.
  • Hollywood movies that depict the hypnotist as a malevolent mind controlling voodoo expert.
  • Social chat with friends when out for a drink who report to trying hypnosis for stopping smoking and it didn’t work.

Whilst of course these 3 examples above are not an exhaustive list of how people are exposed to incorrect understandings about hypnosis, they do demonstrate the typical themes of misunderstands that are often held. These misunderstandings tend to:

  • Create the idea that hypnosis and hypnotherapy is something that is done to you.
  • Portray it as a strange mindless state where you’re under someone’s complete control…
  • And the only reason someone wasn’t able to stop smoking was perhaps the ‘supposed’ hypnotist failed to put them ‘under’.

If the above ideas are all someone has come across about hypnosis then of course I can see why people might now approach with me with that question, “does hypnotherapy really work?”

So now the answer to this question is actually best demonstrated by first covering “what actually is hypnosis?”.

So what actually is hypnosis?


If I asked 100 different hypnotherapists this question I may end up with 100 different answers. Therefore, all I can give you is what I believe hypnosis to be (based on 17 years of practice helping over 2500 people with a wide range of issues – weight loss, insomnia, depression, stopping smoking, fears and phobias, anxiety and panic attacks and more besides).

The way I look at it is this…

Hypnosis is when you become so absorbed in something imagined, your body responds as if it’s real.

Let me give you a quick example.

Have you ever had the experience where someone takes a blackboard and scratches their fingernails down it. You know that sound as the nail screeches down?

Now, I will often give people this example and notice that as I say it to them they physically squirm and shiver. (In fact, many of you just reading this may of had a real squirmy feeling inside too).

So what would that squirmy feeling have been in relation to? It can’t have come from the blackboard or fingernails because they weren’t really there. All that has happened was that when you read this, at some level you likely imagined the blackboard and fingernails interacting and became so absorbed in this unconsciously that your mind-body system began to respond as though it were really happening.

That is hypnosis.

Now notice that this didn’t need for you to have your eyes closed in order for this to happen. Nor did you have to be in a state of deep profound relaxation to get the response. Nor did you have to do walk down a mental / metaphorical set of stairs, deeper and deeper.

All that happened was you imagined something and the mind-body system interpreted as really happening. Additionally this all happened in the blink of an eye quite naturally.

So how does hypnotherapy work?

Ironically sometimes people will come and sit in front of me and say “I don’t think I can be hypnotised”. However they then proceed to tell me they want help (for example) with a fear of dogs.

The reason I believe this is ironic is found by looking at how they are doing their fear of dogs.

More often than not they are simply imagining some terrible and scary interactions with dogs and becoming so absorbed in these imagined scenes that their mind-body system is responding as though these scenes are real.

(Interestingly this also means it’s not really the dog that was creating the fear but simply the images in their head that they had labelled “dog”. Check out my blog post called “are you really afraid of spiders” for more information about this way of thinking.)

In other words, the mechanism of hypnosis is the thing that’s creating the fear. So those people who tell me they don’t think they can be hypnotised have already been successfully hypnotising themselves into the “dog phobia trance” for many years.

Therefore the job I have (as I see it) is either to help people become absorbed into a better and more positive mental narrative (more positive hypnotic state). Or to give people the strategies to de-hypnotise themselves out of their current self-hypnotic problem state. Doing this also tends to work much more effectively than techniques most people suggest to overcome difficulties (see the blog post on ‘Why do people struggle to beat anxiety’ for more about the reasons why many traditional methods aren’t effective.)

So this is not really a question of does hypnosis or hypnotherapy work

Hypnosis, as I have defined it, is working all the time and is a naturally occurring phenomenon. There are mechanisms of hypnosis at work in the very essence of how you make meaning within the world so the better question to ask is this…

Now you know it works, and you have likely already been using it (without giving it that ‘hypnosis’ label) how can you harness this naturally occurring phenomena to work better for you?


#hypnotherapy #hypnosis #rapidchangeworks

Would you like to explore how hypnotherapy can work for you? If so, then schedule your FREE 15-min initial chat where we can explore how this can work for you.