People experience trauma, addiction, mental breakdowns every day. Whether it is obsessive behavior, trying to make one's self fit into a model mystique so worshipped by the masses, or even just breaking the cycle of abuse, people time and time again have needed assistance in facing their demons. Hypnotherapy, before commercials and the movies that hyped it turned it into what is perceived as a "faux science," was actually once thought of as a useful form of treatment. "Hypnosis was once a viable treatment approach for addictions. Then, due to hypnosis being used for entertainment purposes many professionals lost confidence in it" (Potter, 2004, pp. 21). It is, to some extent. In fact doctors have found hypnotherapy useful in conjunction with traditional therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy. New research suggests that although hypnotherapy may not be a viable singular treatment option, it can help in a host of mental disorders and even improve self-esteem, the main component of substance abuse recovery.
What does hypnosis do to patients? Hypnosis attempts to trigger subconscious reformation. It allows the person to delve into emotions, thoughts, and actions within the brain that they could otherwise not be able to do on their own. As Hyunh (2008) states:
Hypnosis means sleep in Greek, and can be defined as a state of heightened concentration in which a patient who is willing and motivated may experience alterations in sensations and perceptions and may be more responsive to suggestions from the therapist that are consistent with the patient's own wishes (Huynh, 2008, pp. 377-378).
Therefore, permission from the patient, the hypnotherapist can alter subconscious thought patterns through suggestions performed under hypnosis only if the patient is willing and receptive.
How can Hypnosis Help People with Substance Abuse Problems or Mental Disorders?
Huynh describes hypnotherapy as useful for the following disorders: ADHD and conduct disorder, anxiety disorders/emotional disorders, autism-spectrum disorders, dissociative (conversion) disorders and PTSD, eating disorders, enuresis, encopresis, and urine retention, learning disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, pain (such as headache, abdominal pain, and acute pain), psychotic disorders, sleep disorders, and Tourette's syndrome (Huynh, 2008, pp. 379-384). These disorders, mostly mental, though some have physiological factors, offer a glimpse into how hypnotherapy may prove useful to certain patients suffering from mental disorders and perhaps even in its more traditional purpose, substance abuse therapy. Going back an earlier mention, hypnotherapy is only effective if the patient being hypnotized accepts the hypnosis and becomes receptive to the suggestions of the hypnotherapist. Many of the disorders given are based on the choices and self-suggestions of the people who suffer from them. For instance, anxiety and emotional disorders often use self-induced negative thought patterns to create negative reactions and cyclical negative behavior. Hypnosis can therefore, theoretically, breakthrough these negative formation and reaction cycles and help form new, positive ones.
In an article by Kankaanpa (2007), the author discusses GHB and its variety of uses. "G-Hydroxybutyrate (GHB) is an increasingly popular drug of abuse that causes stimulation, euphoria, anxiolysis or hypnosis, depending on the dose used" (Kankaanpa, 2007, pp. 133). GHB, although potentially lethal, may aid in altering the state of a patient into a more receptive one for hypnotherapy. Altered states are the means of achieving proper hypnosis. Patients who cannot achieve a relaxed, receptive state during hypnosis, fail to reap the benefits of such therapy.
Why Hypnosis fails
Further research lends to evidence against hypnotherapy as a sole treatment option for addiction. In a study by Golabadi (2012), the writer attempts to prove the efficacy of hypnotherapy in patients suffering from opium addiction. The first session helped the hypnotherapist and patient build rapport therefore lending higher efficacy with regards to hypnotherapy. The write details the second session: "In the second session after induction of hypnosis and trance deepening, the hypnotherapist induced deep relaxation by having the participant imagine a desirable and relaxed situation based on the individual's visualization of a peaceful setting, such as a beautiful garden or the seaside" (Golabadi,, 2012, pp. 20). The positive image during the second session lends to the participant feeling calm and relaxed, lending to overall experience and strengthening the desired state of hypnosis which is to be relaxed and receptive. The third session was improvement of participant's self-confidence and therefore self-esteem suggesting self-esteem does play an integral part in hypnotherapy.
The fourth session utilized drug-aversion visualization and suggestions, endeavoring to disrupt the negative subconscious thought patterns and responses of the participants. The fifth session allowed for recap of everything prior as well as tips for performing self-hypnosis at home. The study however did not prove the efficacy of hypnotherapy. "The study's results did not support a significant effect on relapse rate for adding hypnotherapy to consulting psychotherapy in the treatment of opium addiction" (Golabadi,, 2012, pp. 19). Although it failed to provide any positive evidence for the effectiveness of hypnosis, it did provide insight into several things such as: self-confidence or self-esteem being a major component of substance abuse treatment, and the participant's willingness to accept and cooperate with treatment as seen with the self-hypnosis instruction session. As suggested earlier combining hypnotherapy with traditional therapies may prove more useful than using hypnotherapy alone to treat patients, especially patients with substance abuse problems as stated by Potter (2004), "Combining the intensive treatment of daily sessions with hypnosis appears to strengthen treatment for many people who are suffering from addictions" (Potter, 2004, pp. 22).
How Hypnotherapy Methods Treat Substance Abuse
In order to see how effective hypnotherapy is when it comes to treating patients, first it's important to measure how much a person can be hypnotized or the extent at which a person is open to hypnosis. The PCI-HAP is one such tool that measures a patient's receptiveness to hypnosis. "The PCI-HAP provides a measure to estimate a patient's hypnotic ability for clinical purposes in about 35 minutes of administration time" (Pekala, 2009, pp. 414). Second, it's important to note what happens within a hypnosis session to better understand its supposed efficacy. "Positive emotional experiences are common in hypnosis and specifically when it is employed in a standardized testing format" (Pekala, 2009, pp. 414). As Pekala stated in his article, following standard protocol during a hypnosis session achieves a positive result. Perhaps that is why the opium addiction study had negative results, the self-hypnosis section did not offer a standard protocol for the patients to practice at home or the patients failed to follow instructions.
Self-esteem has been mentioned several times in this paper to show that is one of the main purposes of hypnotherapy. Hypnosis, if done well, generates positive emotions within a patient/participant. It also helps with building self-esteem and self-confidence. "When self-esteem enhancement is the primary goal of hypnosis treatment, it has typically been referred to as ego strengthening" (Pekala, 2004, pp. 285). As the author states, ego strengthening appears to be an integral aspect of hypnotherapy and more specifically hypnotic inductions. Thus, self-hypnosis may bolster self-esteem. Self-esteem, as suggested by Gaffney and Sapp, plays a role in averting relapse within a substance abuse populace.
In an article by Gruzelier (2006), he presents evidence for neurophysiological vicissitudes in frontal and lateralized purposes with hypnosis, vicissitudes which have distinguished high from low hypnotically vulnerable subjects, and which led to a functioning model and neuropsychological conversion of the hypnotic induction procedure. New evidence is delineated from an fMRI/EEG study: "This study also disclosed the importance of neural efficiency in left lateral frontal and anterior cingulate structures, and their connectivity, for distinguishing high from low hypnotic susceptibility both in hypnosis and in the everyday state" (Gruzelier, 2006, pp. 15). For hypnosis to achieve better results, first hypnotherapists must identify the hypnotic vulnerability of patients and then if the patient is identified as highly vulnerable to hypnosis, proceed with standard hypnotherapy protocol. The protocol, which revolves around building self-esteem can then prove some efficacy in regards to treatment, and specifically in regards to substance abuse treatment.
Substance abuse is not like the disorders treated successfully with hypnosis, it is after all fueled by both choice and physical need of the body for the drug. With this in mind, adopting identification methods and strict adherence to standard procedures should yield positive treatment results for substance abuse patients. The article by Gruzelier among others in recent years prove the success of hypnotherapy and how to identify hypnotic susceptibility. Think of hypnotic susceptibility as an immunological response. Some people with a high level of immune response will react severely to for instance, a peanut. Someone who is not allergic to the peanut, who has a low level of immune response, will have no reaction to ingesting the peanut. Hypnosis works like this. Hypnotherapists must determine the level of hypnotic susceptibility to determine the success rate of the treatment.
Hypnosis offers yet another alternative treatment option for people who suffer from mental disorders and perhaps even substance abuse. But, like with many alternative treatments, it fairs better with a combination of treatment and traditional treatments. In regards to substance abuse it needs…