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Hypnotherapy for Drug Addiction: An Effective Treatment?

When thinking about hypnotherapy, we often picture someone dangling a shiny pocket watch in front of another person’s eyes, compelling them to fall asleep in order to control them or get them to behave in ways that would normally be against their nature. In movies, they often cluck like a chicken or bark like a dog when they hear a certain phrase or word. Despite the stereotypical portrayal of hypnosis or hypnotherapy in pop culture, this treatment has real health benefits. In fact, some research supports the efficacy of hypnotherapy for drug addiction recovery.

What Is Hypnotherapy?

As you might suspect, real-life hypnotherapy doesn’t work as it does in the movies. During a hypnosis session, the trained hypnotherapist guides the patient into a relaxed state of mind. When the patient arrives at this state, the therapist will discuss past experiences or problematic behaviours, such as substance abuse. Theoretically, because the patient turns completely inward while in a hypnotic state, his or her unconscious mind is open to suggestion. The hypnotherapist is unable to actually control their patient’s behaviour since the person is not really asleep but rather in a meditative state.

During hypnotherapy for drug addiction, the therapist portrays the substance as unappealing and associates the drug of choice with unpleasant imagery. When the person emerges from the hypnotic state, his or her cravings for the substance are often replaced with revulsion.

Though hypnotherapy has been around for hundreds of years, it has only been recognized as a legitimate psychological tool relatively recently. 

Is Hypnotherapy Effective?

hypnotherapy for drug addiction

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Many people who struggle with substance abuse can really benefit from the recovery speed associated with hypnotherapy. People with addiction issues could potentially recover from their addiction in a matter of weeks rather than months or years. However, is this an evidence-based therapy that actually provides long-term treatment for addiction to drugs and alcohol?

Right now, studies are mixed about the efficacy of hypnotherapy for behaviour change. We do know, however, that many people have successfully recovered from substance abuse by combining hypnosis with traditional behavioural therapy. So far, hypnotherapy seems to be most effective in helping smokers quit using tobacco and nicotine.

How Can I Get Started With Hypnotherapy?

If you are thinking about hypnotherapy to treat an addiction, it is important to remember that this treatment method does not work for everyone. Until you try this method, it is impossible to know whether it will succeed for you.

For the best results, approach your first hypnotherapy session with an open, relaxed mind. Choose a therapist you trust and with whom you feel a rapport. Otherwise, you may be unable to relax enough for hypnotherapy to work as intended.

Choose a trained hypnotherapist who is also a licensed psychologist or counsellor. He or she should have extensive knowledge and experience with this method and belong to a relevant professional association. For example, the Canadian Federation of Clinical Hypnosis is a great place to start when looking for a licensed hypnotherapist.

It’s also important to know that hypnotherapy is not a magic cure for drug addiction. Long-term sobriety is more likely when you also develop meaningful connections with others in the recovery community, so it’s also important that you talk to others about their addictions and the treatments they have tried. Though a therapist can be helpful, having fellow addicts to discuss their issues with can make recovery more manageable.

Addiction is a multi-layered issue, and it would be unwise to assume that a single pronged approach to recovery will be effective. Hypnotherapy can potentially complement a thorough substance use treatment plan.


Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay