The American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis released an article which reported numerous studies done on the effectiveness of hypnosis in substance abuse treatment. In the 19th century, hypnosis was an effective treatment for alcoholism and cigarette smoking, however as hypnosis became a party trick, people stopped taking it seriously. It is starting to make a comeback as studies have been conducted on it’s effectiveness as well as the effectiveness of neurolinguistic programming.

One study reported in the article followed 16 patients of alcoholism over a 7 year period. Their success rate with hypnosis was 77%. They also included AA meetings and psychotherapy in treatment so it’s important to look at hypnosis as one aspect of healing treatment that can be used in conjunction with other treatments.

An interesting finding in one of the studies reported was that there is a reward center in the brain where positive experiences of consuming alcohol are stored. When that reward center is triggered, people have a tendency to relapse. However, hypnosis has been proven to redirect the neural pathways in that reward center so people have a lower risk of relapse into addiction. This is done through metaphors and positive imagery. It’s essentially like giving the brain new memories that are associated with not drinking.

There are techniques that are able to track when the brain fires in conjunction with a high from a drug like cocaine. The hypnosis practitioner can then teach the patient to resignal the brain when it has a craving or urge by doing a simple movement like putting two fingers together every time they get a craving. Believe it or not, these methods have proven to be effective in preventing relapse in cocaine addicts. There are many components to addiction. Triggers can be emotional, environmental, chemical and spiritual. Hypnosis attacks addiction on all fronts.

When treating addiction with hypnosis, it’s not something that most people think of which is just going in once and being cured. It can take many sessions and years of therapy to heal addiction. The brain can have confusion for many years as well as triggers that can land someone in a relapse. It takes time to uncover the triggers and rewire the neural connections. It takes dedication and consistency. Each person will respond slightly different because no one person has the same responses.

People can have emotional reactivity and sleep disturbances as well as problems with their memory and coordination due to addiction. These issues can be helped as well. At the root of addiction is decision making and the triggers that guide a person to say yes or no. Those decisions are based in the subconscious and hypnosis works in the subconscious realm.

The process of treating addiction with hypnosis is very involved. The therapist must know about addiction therapy and apply appropriate techniques. The first stage in the process is creating a new self image which comes from planting language in the brain while in a deeply relaxed state that help a person associate positively with this new self image of being free from addiction. The next step is giving the patient self strengthening techniques. These steps help anchor the change into the person’s life. The sessions will address living a healthy life and what is blocking them from doing so. There are books that are recommended for recovery that bolster the new neural connections of their new identity and help them understand the common pitfalls and how to not fall into them when in recovery.

Therapists will build a person’s self esteem and motivation by using what is called direct suggestion. This helps them look forward to their sobriety and overcome the frustration of adopting a new lifestyle. The deeply relaxing hypnosis sessions also greatly help addicts overcome stress and develop tools like deep breathing that can help them cope with stress and triggers for the rest of their lives.

Ultimately putting people on a planned recovery program, holds them accountable and puts more on the line. If they are spending their own money on therapy, they probably won’t want to waste their money. If they develop a relationship with their therapist, they won’t want to let them down. They also have a structure for their mind to help make sense of their emotions and time in a new territory.

Many people don’t use hypnotherapy because they don’t understand the mechanisms employed and they frankly don’t trust it. There are specific techniques that work with the subconscious to reprogram it. Methods such as creating what are called "anchors" can be employed with strong positive language and a simple touch to the shoulder. This helps generating feelings in a person are stored subconsciously. The subconscious brain also works in metaphors so that type of technique is also used. Finally, the follow up is a crucial ingredient to the success of addiction treatment when using hypnotherapy. The patient is not cut off from therapy but slowly weaned away from intensive therapy. Some people may have infrequent sessions for the rest of their lives.

Because many people have a misconception that hypnosis is an instant healing, they miss out on the opportunity of using it effectively as an intense daily treatment. The hypnosis relaxes the patient and helps counteract stress in the body which can lead to relapse if not dealt with and quelled. If you would like to study this further, you can read more about the methods and studies in the article titled, “Intensive Therapy: Utilizing Hypnosis in the Treatment of Substance Abuse Disorders.” The article is written by Greg Potter and can be found in The American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis.

If you are struggling with addiction of substances or behavioral addiction, hypnosis is a viable technique that can provide long-term results. If you remove a person from the circumstances that surrounded them in addiction, they are likely to recreate similar circumstances if they do not undergo some form of neuro linguistic programming treatment. Many addiction recovery programs work on the physical level but fail to get to the decision making center, the brain. If you know of someone struggling with addiction, remember that they may be in excruciating mental and physical anguish that they do not know a way out of. A simple suggestion may be a life changing gift to them. Many former addicts have turned their lives around and become extremely successful contributing members of society. Remember, it’s never too late to start the recovery process.

Suncoast Hypnosis is at 18316 Murdock Circle, suite 109, Port Charlotte. For more information, call 941-716-7876 or


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