Hypnotherapy for depression is a short-term, solution-based treatment that takes a natural approach to problem-solving. By entering the physically and mentally relaxed state of hypnosis, people are more easily able to make emotional and behavioral changes. In conjunction with other therapies, hypnotherapy has been shown to be effective treating depression, as well as anxiety and seasonal affective disorder.
A typical course of hypnotherapy treatment tends to be short, with clients attending 60 minute sessions weekly over the course of several months. Hypnotherapy is often not covered by insurance. Check with your insurance provider before committing to a course of hypnosis treatment if you are unable to pay out of pocket.
How Can Hypnotherapy Help Someone With Depression?
Hypnotherapy differs from other therapeutic treatments in that it focuses on solutions to problem states and behaviors rather than simply seeking to alleviate symptoms of depression. Some of the areas a hypnosis treatment might address are resolving subconscious causes, changing behaviors, and improving self-image and core identity.
Resolving Subconscious Elements of the Depression
Some people report feeling depressed with no obvious or apparent reason. In these cases, there may be hidden, subconscious causes for the depression. One of the main objectives of hypnosis is to bring subconscious elements of the mind to the foreground. In the relaxed state of hypnotic trance, it is possible to recall long-forgotten memories, recognize unhealthy thought patterns or beliefs, and identify previously unconscious biases and assumptions.
The therapist will then guide the person to find ways to resolve these subconscious elements in such a way that emotional change occurs more easily.
Addressing Depressive Behaviors
Depression can sometimes be linked to various behavioral factors such as diet, sleep, and exercise.3 If the client is amenable, they can first work on these issues with their hypnotist. In some cases, behavioral changes are enough to alleviate the symptoms of depression.
Improving Self-Image & Self-Esteem
Whether they are found to be the cause or result, self-image and self-esteem can play a major role in depression.4 Hypnosis can help a person recognize and change flawed, habitual thinking about their inherent value and increase their sense of self-worth and self-love. This can be accomplished through guided imagery, positive affirmations, and post-hypnotic suggestions given while in the trance state.
Who Is Hypnotherapy Right For?
Most people who are willing and ready to change can benefit from hypnotherapy. However, because many people suffering from depression also experience low self esteem, believing that change is possible can be difficult.1 Regulations for hypnotherapy vary by state, country, and region. Some regulatory agencies limit how hypnotists can treat mental disorders. However, it is still possible to receive hypnotherapy as an adjunct treatment (perhaps alongside therapy and/or medication) for depression and other co-occurring issues when referred by a licensed health provider.
You Have to Be Willing to Change
Self-efficacy, the belief that a person has the ability to succeed in achieving his or her goals, plays an important part in the outcome of any program involving hypnosis treatment.2 If a person is lacking that kind of self-confidence, the hypnotherapist will take that into account and work with the person to reframe any doubts or hesitations that may limit the effectiveness of the treatment.
Because hypnotherapy is a solution-based therapy, much time will be spent addressing underlying subconscious causes of depression rather than the symptoms.
Some of these causes addressed in hypnotherapy may be related to:
- Stressful life events such as divorce or losing a job
- Grief and loss
- Physical and emotional abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Early childhood losses and trauma
- Alcoholism and addiction
- Chronic stress and anxiety
- Nutritional or exercise deficiencies
Any of these issues can be serious in and of themselves. As a result, it is important to consider all methods of treatment that are available. Consulting with a variety of medical, mental health, and other professionals can increase the chances of success.
How Hypnosis Works for Depression
A typical course of hypnosis treatment for depression or other mood disorder will include an initial assessment, a series of hypnosis sessions, as well as some kind of follow-up and support.
During the initial assessment a person may be asked about their past and current experience with depression. As this can be a serious medical and mental health issue, a hypnotherapist will likely ask about any past or current treatments so they can coordinate with other providers as needed. These may include counselors, primary care physicians, and other mental health therapists.
Some other areas that may be explored before treatment begins include:
- Recent major life events
- Noticeable patterns of mood swings
- Diet and exercise routines
- Sleep issues
- Relationship issues
- Medication history
Using all this information, the person will then work with the therapist to create hypnotic suggestions and a plan of treatment that will best work towards alleviating the depression.
What Is a First Session Like?
During the first session, the therapist will induce the hypnotic trance, guiding the person into a state of deep relaxation and focused awareness. In addition to the strategies mentioned above, a therapist can then employ various techniques to relieve the symptoms of depression as well as address the underlying causes.
Some of these hypnosis techniques for depression may include:
- Post hypnotic suggestions that encourage and reinforce positive beliefs and behaviors.
- Anchoring positive resource states such as confidence and optimism that can be accessed after formal sessions.
- Memory regression to address any correlation between the depression and past experiences.
- Teaching pattern interruption techniques that help a person break out of depressive thought cycles.
How Many Sessions Can I Expect?
The number of actual hypnosis sessions needed will vary from person to person. Some people experience satisfying results after two or three sessions while others benefit from a longer program of treatment.
Is Hypnotherapy Effective for Depression?
There has been a great deal of promising research that suggests that hypnotherapy can be effective for treating depression and other mood disorders:
- A meta analysis of studies of hypnosis for depression found that hypnosis significantly improved symptoms. It concluded that hypnotherapy can be a viable alternative to pharmacological treatments.5
- A 2008 study showed that self-hypnosis treatment for depression was comparably effective to other treatments. The study concluded that self-hypnosis should be considered more regularly as an option in primary care.6
- A study done in 2001 showed that hypnosis is helpful in reducing common symptoms of major depression, such as agitation and rumination, and thereby may decrease a client’s sense of helplessness and hopelessness.7
- A large meta analysis of 13 studies done in 2018 showed that participants on average reported more improvement in depression symptoms than 76% of the control groups. The study concluded that hypnosis is a very effective treatment for depression and recommended that clinicians consider it when working with depressive patients.8
Pros & Cons of Hypnotherapy for Depression
Hypnotherapy is an all-natural and non-intrusive alternative treatment for depression. However, as with any course of treatment, all the pros and cons should be considered.
Some of the pros of utilizing hypnosis to help with depression can include:
- Drug free: Pharmacological solutions are common when treating depression. These carry the risk of unpleasant side effects including sleep problems, sexual side effects, and in some cases may make the mood disorder even worse.
- Safe: Hypnosis is a non-invasive form of treatment. In addition, the person in trance is always aware of their experience and is in no danger of doing anything against their will. A 2016 review of 5 major meta-analyses concluded that hypnotherapy is safe and effective for treating a variety of issues.9
- Self empowering: Most hypnotherapy treatments will include learning some form of self hypnosis. This is an effective way of treating many issues and allows the person to take their mental health and well-being into their own hands.
The cons of using hypnosis for depression can include:
- May not solve all the issues: Although hypnosis has been proven to be effective for depression, not every case will yield successful results. As a result, additional therapy for depression, or medication for some, should be considered with the advice of a medical professional.
- Insurance: Hypnotherapy is not currently commonly covered by most insurance companies. Check with your insurance provider before committing to a course of hypnosis treatment if paying out of pocket is prohibitive.
- Results vary: Not all hypnosis treatments are the same. As of yet there are no definitive industry-wide standards for how to treat any given issue. Ask your therapist about their specific treatment plan for sleep issues when deciding what course of action to take.
How to Find a Hypnotherapist to Help With Depression
The mental health consumer has more choices available to them than ever before. This applies to all forms of treatment, including hypnotherapy. Therefore, it is helpful to begin looking for a hypnotherapist armed with as much information as possible to help with your depression symptoms.
Here are four suggestions to guide your search for a certified hypnotherapist:
1. Educate Yourself
A little knowledge goes a long way when it comes to making decisions about your health and well-being. Before you begin to shop for a therapist, learn the basics of hypnosis. See some of the resources at the end of this article for more information including by articles, books, and YouTube videos.
2. Check Credentials
The requirements for practicing hypnosis vary from state to state and country to country. Check the credentials of any prospective therapist and make sure they are qualified to practice in your state or region. Credentials can include degrees in other fields, or the types of hypnosis training your prospective therapist has received.
3. Compare Services
Begin your search with hypnotherapists who offer initial consultations for free. Take advantage of these to meet a number of different therapists and compare their services. You can also “get the feel” of the person through your conversation.
- Do you feel comfortable sharing your issues with them?
- Do they seem to have empathy for you?
- Do you feel like you have good rapport with them?
4. Conduct an Interview
Since you are about to hire a person to perform a valuable service, treat your initial consultation like a job interview.
- Ask them about their experience with helping people with depression.
- What kind of success have they had with past clients?
- Do they offer any additional support before and after your sessions?
- Ask them to describe their ideal client.
There are also several professional organizations that maintain directories of hypnotists and hypnotherapists in your area. Some respected ones include:
For Further Reading
- Mental Health America is a non-profit organization founded in 1909. They provide information, resources, and support for anyone in need of mental health services.
- Hypnosis Basics is a helpful video explaining some of the basic principles of hypnosis.
- HMI College of Hypnotherapy offers free videos on hypnosis for health and self-improvement.
- The Anxiety and Depression Association of America is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to the prevention, treatment, and cure of anxiety, depression, OCD, PTSD, and co-occurring disorders through education, practice, and research