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Common Failures and Criticisms of Hypnotherapy

By: Mike Watson - Updated: 20 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Hypnosis Hypnotherapy Anxiety Dealing

Hypnotherapy often comes up for criticism. The following article presents a few of them, along with a balanced look at how seriously we should take them.

Guilt by Association

Due to the nature of hypnotherapy (for further explanation see related articles) and due to its early links with mysticism and spirituality, it is often criticised and discredited by people on the grounds that there is no basis in fact to presume that it is an effective means if curing ailments. To refute this argument it is worth considering that scientific medicine has a history characterized by dubious medical practices such as ‘bleeding’ (where patients had their body pierced and blood drained to let out the illness), to name one among many other equally grim and ineffective practices. Many of these treatments were based on poor science, some, it seems, upon gut instinct.

Prior to this, all medicine and healing finds its common ancestor in magic ritual and mystical healing practices. It is true to say that hypnotherapy has something in common with some of these practices – the repetition of phrases over and over to calm the patient, for example. Yet this does not necessarily disprove hypnotherapy’s effectiveness as a healing method; rather it may suggest that some early magic and mystical practices were indeed as successful as many of our contemporary medical treatments! Anxiety, for example, may be treated by the hypnotherapist in much the same way as a mystic, working within an ancient tradition, would still treat it - by calming the mind through using breathing techniques and positive affirmation.

Difficulty in Testing Results

Hypnotherapy is a form of healing subject to much skepticism in the medical and scientific professions. Whilst it can often be clearly ascertained that a course of hypnotherapy can coincide with the improvement of a patient’s medical condition, it is not easy to draw a direct correlation between that improvement and the process of hypnotherapy itself. This is partly because there are few visible or extreme changes to metabolism during hypnotherapy.

Further to this, patients react very differently from one another and so a representative sample may not be all that representative at all! In contrast to well trusted treatments, like Paracetamol for cold symptoms, hypnotherapy dos not to a similar degree across the majority of the population. Thus makes it difficult to ascertain of those who react well to hypnotherapy may have simply have had a natural propensity to recover from the ailment that they were treated for.

All in the Mind

Many tests show that hypnotherapy may help to a given patients condition in conjunction with Western medicine on a purely psychosomatic basis – that is to say that a patient has a positive mental response to treatment, but that this has little to do with the treatment itself.

However, this need not be a criticism at all, as, in contrast to drugs like Prozac, which are said to be completely ineffective apart from their psychosomatic benefits, hypnotherapy is precisely intent on producing these benefits, The hypnotherapist aims to heal the patient by suggesting to their subconscious mind that they are capable of healing themselves. Therefore any suggestion that ‘it’s all in the mind’ shows a clear misunderstanding of what is at stake. Unfortunately this is a by product left over from Western medicine's outdated and lingering propensity to suppose that all treatments must act on the physical body, whereas New Age Medicine and Eastern methods understand the duality of body and mind.

Media Speculation

So people fear that hypnosis can be used to make the patient behave in ways that they would not normally behave in. These fears have to a large extent been fanned by hypnotist stage shows, where participants are made to act in strange and amusing ways. It must be noted that this kind of stage show hypnosis has nothing in common with hypnotherapy, and whilst the critic will argue for tighter control over hypnotherapeutic practice, it is worth remembering that such practice is perhaps no more open to abuse than conventional medicine, even in spite of the latter's strict regulation.


Whilst there are doubts about the reliability tests concerning hypnotherapy as a method of healing, or, indeed as a method for helping one to deal with stress or to quit smoking,there seems no reason to doubt the effective results it no doubt seems to produce in some patients. If you believe it may work for you it is well worth giving it a try, though with the proviso that if it doesn't work you knew from the beginning that it was not 100% guaranteed as effective.!

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I want to learn about using hypnosis, specifically self-hypnosis, to mprove memory and brain functions, and to cure addictions such as smoking.
Mike - 26-Apr-12 @ 3:47 PM
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