In hypnotherapy for alcoholism, the hypnotist leads the alcoholic into a trance-like state into which the person being hypnotized “can become more imaginative and better at problem solving. In short, they’re in prime position to sort out strategies for conquering their own addictive behaviors.”1 The person must want to stop drinking and must be sober at the time of hypnosis because clear thinking is essential.

The American Society of Clinical Hypnosis reports that there are many common misconceptions and myths about hypnosis. However, in reality, a person who is hypnotized

  • remains completely conscious
  • is very relaxed
  • is not asleep
  • is not weakened in any way
  • cannot be made to do anything against their will
  • will not reveal anything they wish to keep secret
  • remains in control of their behavior
  • does not lose their willpower 2

It has been suggested that “The effectiveness of hypnotherapy depends on several factors, such as

  • how long time the patient has abused alcohol
  • the seriousness of the alcoholism
  • whether the patient have (sic) been hypnotized before and the effectiveness of this treatment
  • whether the patient is suggestible or tends to be resistant and hard to cooperate with
  • the amount of alcohol consumed
  • whether the alcohol is consumed alone or in a social setting
  • which specific beverage consumed (liquor, wine or beer) in relation to the amount
  • last, but not least: how committed the patient is to stop drinking” 3

Hypnotherapists sometimes teach their client or patients how to hypnotize themselves. They believe that self-hypnosis (or autohypnosis) can be helpful in overcoming urges to drink and, therefore, in reducing relapse.

Hypnosis has demonstrated its ability to have great influence on a person’s perceptions and behaviors. Hypnotherapy is sometimes used to treat pain, anxiety and phobias. It has demonstrated the ability to reduce the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and the evidence is encouraging regarding its possible effectiveness in treating anxiety, stress, hypertension and insomnia.

Although widely used in treating nicotine addiction and promoting smoking cessation, the evidence is clear that it is not at all effective for this purpose. Hypnotherapy has no greater effect on rates of quitting the use of tobacco than no treatment.

Given its failure to help people quit smoking, it should not be surprising that there is no scientific medical evidence that hypnotherapy is effective in helping alcoholics or drug abusers either achieve sobriety or maintain it.

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  • Abbott, Neil C., Stead, Lindsay F., White, Adrian R., and Barnes, Jo. Hypnotherapy for smoking cessation. Cochran Tobacco Addiction Group. Published online October 6, 2010.. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001008
  • Floyd, Anthony S., Monahan, Susanne C., Finney, John W. and Morley, Jeanne A. Alcoholism treatment outcome studies, 1980-1992. Addictive Behaviors, 1996, 21(4), 413-428.
  • Stoil, Michael J. Problems in the evaluation of hypnosis in the treatment of alcoholism. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 1989, 6(1), 31-35.
  • Wadden, Thomas A. and Penrod, James H. Hypnosis in the treatment of alcoholism: a review and appraisal. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 1981, 24(1), 41-47.
  • Webb, Annette N., Kkururuzovic, Renata, Catto-Smith, Anthony G., and Sawyer, Susan M. Hypnotherapy for treatment of irritable bowel syndrome, Cochrane Inflammatory Bowel Disease andFunctional Bowel Disorders Group. Published online October 17, 2007. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD005110.pub2

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