Having done over 5000 therapy sessions over the last 11 years as a clinical hypnotherapist, I’ve encountered all kinds of clients, and naturally most of them will have asked at some point: ‘Does hypnotherapy work?’.
Some people are eager and open to the hypnotherapeutic process, while others are sceptical and resistant to the whole idea. But there’s one type of client that fills me with a sense of despair – the person who thinks hypnotherapy is a waste of time.
It’s not uncommon for people to come to seek out clinical hypnosis only because a loved one has implored them to go. Or because they’ve tried everything else to improve their mental health and nothing seems to work.
They come in with an almost combative attitude, expecting little to no results, and this can be a huge obstacle to overcome.
Why? Because the placebo effect is real. The more you believe that hypnotherapy will work for you (hint: take a look at some of my reviews!), the better the outcome.
The power of the placebo effect
Hypnotherapy relies heavily on the placebo effect. In fact, it’s one of the most powerful tools we have at our disposal.
The placebo effect is the phenomenon where a person experiences a positive change in their health or well-being simply because they believe they are receiving a treatment, even if the treatment itself is inactive or ineffective.
In clinical trials, for example, people often get better after taking a pill that they were told was a powerful new drug.
I agree – it sounds slightly ridiculous. But the more our minds believe something will work, the more likely it is to be the case.
In hypnotherapy, the placebo effect is amplified by the power of suggestion. When a client is under hypnosis and in a hypnotic state, they are highly suggestible and open to new ideas and beliefs.
This makes it easier for them to believe in the efficacy of the treatment, which in turn increases the power of the placebo effect.
The importance of belief in your hypnosis session
The placebo effect is so powerful because it’s based on belief. When a person believes that a treatment will work, their body and mind respond accordingly. This is why the opposite of the placebo effect, the nocebo effect, can be so detrimental.
The nocebo effect occurs when a person experiences negative side effects or worsened symptoms simply because they believe they will. In a clinical setting, it’s being given a placebo and told that the pill – under the guise of a real drug – often causes headaches as a side-effect.
As a result, the nocebo effect could result in you feeling a headache – just because you’ve been told that it will happen.
During a hypnotherapy session, the nocebo effect can derail a session’s chances of success. If a client is resistant, they are less likely to believe in the treatment, which in turn decreases the power of the placebo effect.
This can result in a less effective treatment and a frustrating experience for both the client and the hypnotherapist.
Frustration with resistant clients
As a trained therapist with thousands of successful cases to refer back to, it can be incredibly frustrating to work with resistant clients.
I’ve had clients who come in with a closed mind, convinced that hypnotherapy is a waste of time. They may be there only because someone else has encouraged them to try it, or because they’ve exhausted all other options.
Those who have embraced the idea, meanwhile have seen improvements with sleep problems, PTSD symptoms, losing weight, anxiety, dealing with stressful events and phobias. I have also used hypnotherapy to help hundreds of people to quit smoking.
It’s important for clients to understand that hypnotherapy is not a magic cure-all, though. I can’t just walk up to a random person in the street, click my fingers and cure them of anxiety or insomnia.
Hypnotherapy requires an open mind and a willingness to engage in the process and the therapist’s suggestions. If a client is resistant, it can be difficult to achieve the desired results, which can lead to frustration and disappointment for both the client and the hypnotherapist.
Encouraging belief and openness when working on your mental health
While it’s ultimately up to the client to believe in the process, there are ways that hypnotherapists can encourage openness and increase the power of the placebo effect. One way is to provide education about the process and the science behind it.
When a client understands how hypnosis therapy works and the power of suggestion, they may be more likely to believe in the process.
Another way is to build rapport and trust with the client. When a client feels comfortable with their hypnotherapist and trusts their expertise, they may be more willing to engage in the process and believe in its efficacy.
It’s why I offer a free consultation to all new clients. This process is as much about letting me test the water with you as it is for you getting a feel for me and how I work. If we both match and see a positive outcome, the results will usually be better.
In some cases, it may also be helpful to set realistic expectations. Hypnotherapy is not the work of moments, and it may take several sessions to achieve the desired results.
By setting realistic expectations and helping the client understand the process, they may be more likely to believe in the process.