I want to comment on a post I made recently about the effectiveness of using CBT with hypnosis. In that post it mentions how research has confirmed that CBT and hypnosis, when used together, are more effective than either approach applied separately when treating women with breast cancer.

Something we must consider when we think about integrating therapy techniques, is the degree to which one technique influences the other. For example hypnosis itself is not a therapy. Hypnosis when combined with psychotherapy becomes hypnotherapy, in other words it is psychotherapy utilising the hypnotic state, but hypnosis on its own is not a psychotherapy, it is only a means to an end. So in the research, what did hypnotherapy, or hypnosis actually contribute to the effectiveness of CBT? Likewise CBT is a therapy, but it lacks the power of hypnosis to get patients to instantly change beliefs, perception and behaviour or to commit to the procedures and outcomes of therapy.

In the previous post the conclusions were that CBT helped patients reduce their worries and anxieties while the hypnotherapy helped patients feel more relaxed and optimistic. I believe that in this research, hypnotherapy was not being used as psychotherapy, or even used to enhance the effectiveness of CBT, but was being used primarily as a way of relaxing the patient.

Hypnotherapy can relax patients, but relaxation is not the primary goal of hypnotherapy. The goal of hypnotherapy is psychotherapeutic change. Hypnosis itself, without any therapeutic content, is a form of adhesive or glue, in other words, it makes suggestions stick, but it is not therapy, it is just a carrier for therapy with a relaxing side-effect. So hypnosis when applied with CBT, or any other therapy for that matter, will make that therapy more effective because of its potential to make that therapy ‘stick’.

CBT on the other hand, will only make hypnotherapy more effective if the hypnotherapy lacks effective psychotherapeutic content. So in the research quoted, the CBT offered the psychotherapeutic content and the hypnotherapy was not actually hypnotherapy, it was hypnosis used in the secondary role of inducing relaxation and comfort. I believe that in this research CBT and hypnotherapy were actually applied as separate disciplines. So although the combination enhanced the overall effectiveness of the treatment, they were not used to their maximum potential. So more research is need.

CBT as a treatment has become the first choice in many instances within the health professions. However, what it lacks is the strength of hypnosis to motivate patients, get them to commit to treatment and to their new ways of thinking.

Hypnosis is the very best way of motivating patients in therapy, because hypnosis acts like a psychological adhesive or glue. I believe that if cognitive behavioural therapists were to think seriously about studying hypnosis then CBT could be even more effective, likewise for many other therapies.

Stephen Brooks