Hypnosis and Phobias: Can It Help?

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If you have wondered if hypnosis can help your phobias, the answer is yes, with a qualified practitioner. Hypnosis has a long history of successfully treating a myriad of physical and psychological issues, and for those experiencing phobias, it is one of many treatment options. It is important to note that hypnosis is safe; it cannot make anyone do anything they don’t wish to do.

How Hypnosis Works

Hypnosis usually begins with a hypnotic induction or a relaxed, non-trance state. While hypnosis is usually associated with a trance state, some researches contend that an altered state of consciousness is not necessary for suggestion to occur. In either case, the person performing hypnosis will encourage the client to relax and begin a series of suggestions that direct the client to become absorbed in imagery, accompanied by thoughts and feelings of relaxation.

While in the trance or relaxed state, which should feel comfortable and pleasant, the hypnotist may guide the client to remember the cause of phobia. Not all hypnotists will care to look at the source, and not all clients will remember and describe the first experiences that led to the creation of a phobia. If, however, the client can remember a clear beginning, the hypnotist will most likely use that information to begin understanding the client’s fear.

In either case, the hypnotist will focus on rewiring the associations between the person, place, or thing generating fear and the sense of fear. This reconnection or rewiring involves correcting distorted thoughts, much as in conventional cognitive behavior therapy. A distorted thought might be, “If spiders are around, it means I’m going to die.” A corrective thought might be, “Some spiders can cause a nasty bite, only very rare spiders can be dangerous, and most spiders I’ll see are harmless.” The corrective thought must be true and balanced or it will be rejected. All phobias arise from the some thought process gone astray, and all treatments attempt to disarm or dissemble that thought.

In addition to corrective thoughts, a hypnotist may wish to help the client quickly achieve self-relaxation in a number of ways. The hypnotist may suggest that whenever the client sees spiders, for example, the client immediately begins deep breathing exercises to calm him or herself. The therapist may suggest that the client’s heart rate is slow, even and steady in the presence of the phobia. The hypnotist may suggest phrases such as, “I’m calm, balanced, and in control in all situations.”


Hypnotherapists are often psychotherapeutic or medical professionals who are qualified to treat anxiety without hypnotherapy, but who have gained credentials in this field as one of many therapy options. The most respected hypnosis organization in the U.S., the American Society for Clinical Hypnosis, offers extensive training and certification only for licensed health care professionals. They have in-depth training requirements and publish ongoing research in the field.

The Course of Therapy

The time you need for hypnosis therapy may vary depending on the professional you consult. A therapist who uses many treatment modalities may suggest hypnotherapy after meeting with you three to four times to better understand you and your phobia. A professional who exclusively uses hypnosis may treat you in one session. Some individuals experience excellent results in one session, while others will undergo several hypnosis sessions. Undoubtedly, one specific phobia with a clear cause may be easier to treat than a generalized social phobia that affects the individual across many situations.

Hypnosis is a good treatment option for phobias. While no treatment option guarantees success, hypnosis is a simple, non-invasive option that may quickly yield results.

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