Hypnosis for addiction recovery treatment – what is it?

Hypnosis has been on the fringe of psychology and mental health treatment for centuries. Seen as a pseudo-science by the medical establishment, hypnosis has been gaining evidence-based ground recently. But can suggestions made during a hypnotic state really release old patterns of thinking? Can hypnosis transform our fears and break our addictive tendencies? Is hypnosis a verifiable science or an art?

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Hypnosis is defined as a trance-like state of mind.  Trance is a natural state and occurs in everyday life.  Like when you get absorbed into reading a good book, zoned out when you’re driving, or stare blankly at a television screen.  The hypnotic trance, however, differs from everyday trance activity in that it is an intentional shift into an altered state of awareness, into a state of highly concentrated attention and absorption.

During a hypnosis session, a person is open to extreme suggestibility, relaxation and heightened imagination.   This is why the suggestions of a hypnotist (or your own ideas) can be considered as real.  In fact, studies of hypnosis have demonstrated that major changes in thinking patterns and behavior can be accomplished purely by the psychological technique of suggestion.  The end goal is that the patient follows suggestions to achieve an alternative way of experiencing the suggested focal point of attention.  For addicts, this means observing or reacting to compulsive thoughts in a new light … and gaining mastery over them.

This is great news for addicts looking to master an addiction.  Given that addiction is at base a physical illness with mind-body interactions, hypnotherapy seems a natural fit to re-programming both the mind and the body.  Psychiatrists theorize that the deep relaxation and focusing exercises of hypnotism relax the conscious mind so that it takes a less active role in your thinking process, allowing you to access the deeper subconscious, which controls automatic behaviors and processes the physical information your body receives.

I look at it this way: HYPNOSIS is a crash course in setting strong intentions.

I think hypnosis is a great option for addicts and speak from experience about the receptivity of a truly relaxed mind.  Hypnosis has helped me investigate the roots of stress and anxiety, and to begin to experience freedom.  For all addicts, treatment plans are flexible can vary from groups to individuals, and results are trackable.  Again, as with other modalities, it is not the end-all-be-all of treatment modalities, but hypnosis can complement ANY treatment plan.  Relaxing the mind can get to the heart of unhealthy thoughts and beliefs…and we can begin to re-program our habits by replacing our thoughts.

But it’s not all advantage.  The major issue for me is TRUST.  Trust is implicit to this process.  You’ve got to trust the person you’re following to ensure that your subconscious reinforces positive messages.  But how to know which hypnotherapists you can trust?  Additionally, I see potential problems for people who are not open-minded.  I think that hypnotherapy will only work for those who can suspend disbelief and allow the process to happen.

What do you think?  Given these basic precepts of hypnosis, do you think that addicts can benefit from hypnosis?  How open minded should addicts be?  Is hypnosis a hoax?  Are there particular risks for addicts that would make this therapy unhealthy?

About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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