Hypnosis Enhances Results Of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: Updated Science and Evidence
It’s always a pretty exiting day when you discover that some hot-off-the-press hypnosis research has just been published (at least it is a good day in my world!!). As the world of therapy and psychology continues to grow, develop and advance, I believe that it’s important that, as far as we are able to, we draw upon scientific knowledge, research and evidence to inform what I do and how I strive to help you.
It always saddens me when I read hypnotherapy forums and look at hypnotherapist websites, how little knowledge there is of the research and evidence for hypnosis among many therapists. In a world where we are all very aware of fake news and false science (during this Covid-19 pandemic), it’s disappointing to find so many therapists who never follow the science or ever read a research paper. But enough of this for now or I may never get around to covering the main point of this article, which is about what happens when you add hypnosis to cognitive behavioural therapy.
The hypnotherapy field (and broader psychological field) has an ever growing amount of scientific research to support it. Hypnosis can help you with issues such as anxiety, depression, fear, pain and stress (amongst many other things!). We now also have even more evidence that supports adding hypnosis to cognitive behavioural therapy to improve the results you get.
As I cover here, cognitive behavioural therapy with hypnosis leads to better, and more enduring, positive results, than just using cognitive behavioural therapy on it’s own.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy with Hypnosis
Before I move on to talk about the latest scientific research on the benefits of adding hypnosis to cognitive behavioural therapy, it’s useful to quickly look back at the evidence to date.
Kirsch (1995), analysed existing evidence in which cognitive behavioural therapy was compared with the same therapy supplemented by hypnosis. He found that, “the addition of hypnosis substantially enhanced treatment outcome, so that the average client receiving cognitive behavioral hypnotherapy showed greater improvement than at least 70% of clients receiving non-hypnotic treatment.”
That is, adding hypnosis to cognitive behavioural therapy led to much better results than just using cognitive behavioural therapy on its own.
Hypnosis added to cognitive behavioural therapy tends to enhance results. I’ve written more on this subject and the scientific evidence behind it in some previous articles. If you want to know more then take a look at these posts:
There is also research that shows that adding hypnosis to mindfulness also increases improved results (than mindfulness treatment alone). I’ve covered this research here: Mindful Hypnotherapy to Reduce Stress
The Kirsch research looked at the evidence across a whole range of issues, including weight loss, anxiety and insomnia. Adding hypnosis to cognitive behavioural therapy tends to lead to better results than if you just have cognitive behavioural therapy on its own (which is why I use ‘cognitive behavioural hypnotherapy’ with my clients)..
Clinical Hypnosis as an Adjunct to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
There is a whole wealth of scientific evidence supporting the effectiveness of hypnosis in the treatment of issues such as anxiety, depression, stress, irritable bowel syndrome, pain and a whole range of other conditions.
And as mentioned above, there is strong evidence that supports the value of adding hypnosis to other treatments, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to improve it’s effectiveness and results. In these sorts of studies, both treatment groups get identical treatment (e.g. CBT) except that one treatment also incorporates hypnosis as well (making it possible to compare and evaluate the benefit of adding the hypnosis)
As twenty five years have passed since the Kirsch meta-analysis that showed the benefits of adding hypnosis to cognitive behavioural therapy, Ramondo (2021) undertook a comprehensive and updated analysis of all the evidence.
Based upon their analysis of the evidence, they found that adding hypnosis to cognitive behavioural therapy can help you to achieve more a more positive result, and a more long lasting one.
“This investigation suggests that the adjunctive use of clinical hypnosis can help make CBT a more efficacious and enduring treatment, with 66% of participants at post treatment, and 72% at follow-up, experiencing better outcomes than their CBT counterparts”.
To my mind, that’s pretty awesome! And I would argue there is scope for even greater positive results when you work with a therapist (rather than as part of research) because of the relationship between therapist and client, the commitment and motivation you have, the ability to draw upon an even wider range of therapeutic skills and techniques to meet your individual needs and so forth.
As mentioned above, there is a lot of evidence supporting the effectiveness of hypnosis/hypnotherapy with issues such as anxiety, depression, stress and IBS. This research shows that, even when compared to another active treatment (here, CBT), adding hypnosis improves results. The analysis here particularly provided evidence for the efficaciousness of cognitive behavioural therapy in the management of depressed mood and pain at post treatment. And, there was more evidence for it’s superiority in the treatment of obesity at follow-up (that is, the CBT with hypnosis participants continued to lose more weight than their CBT counterparts),
“These results further support the adjunctive use of hypnosis as an enhancer of CBT’s efficaciousness and endurance as a treatment” (Ramondo et al)
We have evidence that supports the effectiveness of hypnotherapy for many, many issues. We now have even more support for the additional benefit that comes when you incorporate hypnosis with other psychological interventions, such as CBT.
With so much disinformation being published, it becomes more important than ever to follow the science *(whether for your physical or mental health) in choosing the treatment path that you follow.
Therapy involves time, money, commitment, motivation, engagement and expectation. Therapy brings you hope when you may feel you have none. It falls upon hypnotherapists to make sure we keep updated and incorporate the science and evidence into what we do. And it means that if you want to increase your likelihood of a positive result from your therapy, then it remains as important as ever to talk to your potential therapist beforehand, to understand what they do and how they do it, and to assure yourself that they do indeed know their science.
To your health and happiness,
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Alladin, Assen, and Alisha Alibhai. “Cognitive hypnotherapy for depression: An empirical investigation.” Intl. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis 55, no. 2 (2007): 147-166.
Bryant, R.A., Moulds, M.L., Guthrie, R.M. and Nixon, R.D., 2005. The additive benefit of hypnosis and cognitive-behavioral therapy in treating acute stress disorder. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 73(2), p.334.
Kirsch, I., Montgomery, G. and Sapirstein, G., 1995. Hypnosis as an adjunct to cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy: a meta-analysis. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 63(2), p.214.
Kirsch, I., 1996. Hypnotic enhancement of cognitive-behavioral weight loss treatments—Another meta-reanalysis. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 64(3), p.517.
Montgomery, G.H., Kangas, M., David, D., Hallquist, M.N., Green, S., Bovbjerg, D.H. and Schnur, J.B., 2009. Fatigue during breast cancer radiotherapy: An initial randomized study of cognitive–behavioral therapy plus hypnosis. Health Psychology, 28(3), p.317.
Montgomery, G.H., Bovbjerg, D.H., Schnur, J.B., David, D., Goldfarb, A., Weltz, C.R., Schechter, C., Graff-Zivin, J., Tatrow, K., Price, D.D. and Silverstein, J.H., 2007. A randomized clinical trial of a brief hypnosis intervention to control side effects in breast surgery patients. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 99(17), pp.1304-1312.
Olendzki, N., Elkins, G.R., Slonena, E., Hung, J. and Rhodes, J.R., 2020. Mindful hypnotherapy to reduce stress and increase mindfulness: A randomized controlled pilot study. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 68(2), pp.151-166.
Ramondo, N., Pestell, C., Byrne, S. and Gignac, G., 2021. Clinical Hypnosis as an Adjunct to Cognitive Behavior Therapy: An Updated Meta-Analysis. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis.