Hypnotherapy for Depression
Hypnotherapy is considered an effective treatment for depression. According to a 2007 study, hypnotherapy treatments proved to be more helpful than cognitive-behavioral therapy for reducing depression, anxiety and hopelessness, and the positive outcomes continued for at least one year after the study ended. Hypnotherapy assists patients with taking positive steps toward better coping skills, healthier behavior and happier moods.
How Does Hypnotherapy Treat Depression?
Hypnotherapy teaches people with depression to mentally counter and refute negative, pessimistic thoughts. Through the use of imagery and suggestion, the process imprints new coping skills directly into the subconscious mind. During hypnotherapy sessions, patients also learn to modify their behavior, refocus their attention and practice deep breathing. They can use their new skills and positive mental messages to psychologically inoculate themselves against depressing thoughts.
Hypnotherapy can also help patients discover the root causes for their depression and explore negative thinking and experiences that contribute to their depression. Then, through hypnotherapy, they can re-process their memories and past experiences. With this new inner freedom, they can choose how to respond rather than react to triggering situations. Overall, hypnotherapy assists patients by providing positive self-suggestions, by enabling the release of guilt and self-blame, and by shifting to more positive perspectives of their negative experiences.
What Happens During a Hypnotherapy Session for Depression?
If depression is caused by a situation in a person’s life, hypnotherapy can effective as the patient learns how to respond differently to whatever triggers the depressive feelings. During a hypnotherapy session, the patient moves through various stages. Reaching deeper levels of consciousness. The patient remains in control during the entire process, and has the freedom to participate or withdraw at any time during the hypnotherapy session.
The hypnotherapist combines relaxation techniques with guided imagery to help patients move into deep, meditative levels of consciousness, similar to the awareness one experiences during a trance. The patients’ breathing, heart rate and blood pressure slow down. At the deepest levels, clinical hypnotherapists are able to access forgotten events, emotions and memories. This stage is often used to help those who have undergone severe psychological trauma. Memories of depressive situations might arise. The skilled hypnotherapist can use a variety of techniques to help patients approach their issues in transformative ways to release their depression. For example, the hypnotherapist might help the patients separate the learned behaviors from the memories. Then the hypnotherapist assists the patients with constructing new, healthier thought processes and behaviors to use when mentally encountering the depressive events. Finally, the clients are brought back to normal waking consciousness and reflect on the process. The patients should begin to experience more positive responses to the depression-causing events or objects.
People who are more trusting and comfortable with a hypnotherapist are more easily hypnotized, although most people can be placed in a trance. Hypnotherapy sessions last about an hour, and most people start to see changes within four to 10 sessions. Children ages 9 – 12 usually are easy to hypnotize, and may respond following their first or second visit.
What Is Depression?
Feelings of sadness normally pass within a few days. With a depression, however, people find it difficult to function normally, and the mental state affects not only the patients but those involved in their lives. People experience depression in different ways, and the frequency, severity and duration depend on a variety of factors. Depression is serious, and most people need treatment of some kind to feel better.
Symptoms of depression that occur nearly every day, all day, for at least two weeks, include:
- Thoughts of death or suicide
- Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, guilt and/or pessimism
- Persistent anxious, sad or empty feelings
- Irritability and restlessness
- Difficulty concentrating, making decisions or remembering details
- Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities
- Change in weight
- Energy loss
Other issues might arise, such as headaches, digestive issues and problems with sex.
What Causes Depression?
Depression is caused by a combination of biochemical, genetic, psychological and environmental factors that affect the brain. Brain-imaging technologies, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), show that the parts of the brain responsible for regulating mood, sleep, thinking, appetite and behavior appear to function differently among people who experience depression. The chemicals that brain cells use to communicate appear to be out of balance as well. Some types of depression tend to run in families, suggesting a genetic link for some individuals. In addition, grief, trauma, or stressful events can trigger depression. Substance abuse, taking medications, and illnesses can also contribute to the issue.
Are There Any Risks Associated With Hypnotherapy?
Always obtain a proper diagnosis for depression from a physician before considering hypnotherapy. If the depression is psychological in nature, be sure to get an evaluation by a psychiatrist. Without a proper diagnosis, hypnotherapy may exacerbate symptoms of depression. Also, in unusual cases, hypnotherapy prompts the development of false memories created by the unconscious mind. Hypnotherapy is not suitable for people who use drugs or alcohol or experience delusions and hallucinations. Up to 10 percent of the population cannot be hypnotized.
How Can I Find a Hypnotherapist?
Because many states do not regulate hypnotherapy, be sure to seek a clinical hypnotherapist who is specially trained and licensed to treat mental health issues.
The Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, American Association of Professional Hypnotherapists, and the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH) are professional organizations that seek to advance the clinical use and benefits of hypnotherapy. The International Certification Board of Clinical Hypnotherapy offers training and certification in clinical hypnotherapy.
National Institute of Mental Health on Depression
Yapko, Michael D. Treating Depression with Hypnosis